Civilization And Barbarism In Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus

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The relationship between civilization and barbarism is a prominent theme in the ancient times, where civilizations concerned themselves with shunning the barbarous. Whether it was the Goths, Greeks, Romans, or Scythia, barbarous behavior was considered beastly, and their supposed superiority to the beastly was a source of pride. Rome was one of the most civilized empires in the ancient world to rule, but in Shakespeare’s most brutal tragedy of Titus Andronicus, the Roman characters in the play both explicitly and implicitly define civility as slaughtering the Goths and many other Romans in the name of Rome. The Romans consider the Goth’s to be barbarous people, but in reality, they too are ruthless in their actions. Shakespeare allows the…show more content…
In this scene, Titus shows no mercy for Tamora when she kneels and begs for Titus to show mercy for her son. She even tells Titus that “sweet mercy is nobility’s true badge” (1.1.119). Although the Romans claimed Titus to be the noblest of them all, he shows no mercy for a begging mother trying to save her son which explicitly shows the contrast between civility and barbarism in Titus. Titus ironically believes that he is being civil when he tells Tamora honorably to patience herself and to pardon him, but when he allows Lucius to commit the barbarous act, it complicates his civility. The complication that arises is whether to ask the question if Titus is being civil by doing his religious sacrifice or if the religious sacrifice is an “irreligious piety” (1.1.130) according to Tamora. To be civil, one must be able to show mercy which Titus clearly did not, complicating his and our idea of civility. Titus’s idea of civility is giving reason to such heinous deeds while ours is to show mercy to the living rather than show mercy to the…show more content…
After Bassianus and Lavinia run away together and Mutius helps them escape, Titus finds this as a traitorous act because it is treason against the new emperor of Rome, Saturninus. Titus also finds this shameful that his own sons become traitors after all he has done for Rome. After Titus promises to bring Lavinia back to Saturninus, he finds Mutius guarding the door protecting Lavinia and Basianus. Titus says “ Barr’st me my way in Rome?” (1.1.291) then continues to stab his son. Titus, in this scene, has started to lose his civility when he stabbed his own flesh and blood. Titus’ civility is diminishing because he showed no reason or thought into his careless action of killing his son, it was a senseless act. This act of murder was not civil because he murdered his own kin which is also seen as a barbaric act because barbarism is killing with no reasoning. Titus explicitly defines barbarism by not assessing the matter before stabbing his son for no other reason than for being in his way. Titus’ slow crawl into the realm of barbarism is shown in this scene as he is showing no logic in his actions and no forgiveness to his sons for betraying Rome. This wild action Titus has displayed has refuted his civility because of the lack of forgiveness and
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