Civilization And Savagery In Shakespeare's 'Titus Andronicus'

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Natalie Bauer Professor Glenn Simshaw Shakespeare’s Tragedies SC Core March 9th, 2018 Ceasing Civilisation Titus Andronicus, William Shakespeare’s play, is known for its violence. It focuses on horror and violence, gruesome suffering, savage mutilations, multiple slaughters, vengeance, and evil. The play includes fourteen deaths, one burial alive, four severed body parts, cannibalism, and one rape. All of this violence is demonstrative of the theme of savagery. The play presents the idea that peace is an artificial state, suggesting that war is the natural way of being. This explains the setting of Rome, an empire which was at war for the vast majority of its history. The play depicts the Roman conversion from civility to barbarism, and poses the question “is anyone truly civilised?” The polarities of civilisation and savagery are examined through the presentation of the Romans and the Goths, their polarity and merging, and their acts of extreme violence. The theme of civility and its blurred lines is introduced in the opening scene of the play. Rome is presented initially as the epitome of society, and all outsiders, such as the Goths, are regarded as “barbarous.” In the opening dialogue, Markus comments on the disparities between the two groups. A nobler man, a braver warrior, Lives not this day within the city walls: He by the senate is accit 'd home From weary wars against the barbarous Goths; (1.1.1) Shakespeare establishes the Roman stigmatization of Goths as

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