Masculinity and Barbarism in Titus Andronicus

Eugene Giddens
Anglia Ruskin University

Eugene Giddens. "Masculinity and Barbarism in Titus Andronicus". Early Modern Literary Studies 15.2 (2010-11):1.1-35 <URL:>
  1. In the prose “History of Titus Andronicus,” the anonymous analogue of Shakespeare’s play, villainous Goths are defined simply as “a barbarous People, Strangers to Christianity.”[1] Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus clearly complicates this easy characterisation, labelling all represented groups – Romans and Moors as well as Goths – “barbarous” by the end of act two.[2] Such name-calling highlights one strategy of cultural othering, disclosing how “barbarian” is a linguistic construct.[3] But the frequency of the term also encourages consideration of the play’s Roman, Gothic, and Moorish identities, and especially, what might make one culture “more” barbarian than another.

  2. There has been a long history of reading the play’s comparative barbarisms. Critics have typically framed this cultural multiplicity by linking the Romans with early modern English culture and, by extension, othering as barbarian the Goths and Moors. As Ronald Broude notes, earlier criticism of the play is united in the assumption “that Rome represents goodness, civilization and order, and the Goths evil, barbarism and chaos.”[4] Such attempts at creating an artificial binary of good and evil have been steadily eroding, however, so it is now axiomatic to note the similarities between Romans, Goths, and Moors, and especially how their respective quests for revenge are equally brutal. John Rooks, for instance, argues that “…the play challenges simple notions of civility and barbarism, of civilization and wilderness, of the normal and the alien”.[5] Dorothea Kehler gives a longer reading of the “interchangeableness” of Romans and Goths in the play, and sees the strategy of “Representing the fundamental likeness of natives and aliens…” as common to Titus and other of Shakespeare’s plays.[6]

  3. The critical movement towards a balanced reading of culture in Titus has, however, not changed the longstanding tendency to identify Romans as crypto-Elizabethans. Louise Noble’s trenchant examination of cannibalism offers a good recent example of this combined attempt to link and differentiate the play’s cultures:
    …descriptions of the vicious barbaric Otherness of Aaron and the Goths are called into question by the polluting savagery of the civilized Romans. Furthermore, Rome’s confrontation with, and treatment of, a barbaric culture – the catalyst for the play’s bloody furor – stages issues crucial to an early modern Europe negotiating its own barbaric encounters.[7]
    Romans and Goths are here similarly savage or vicious, yet Romans remain apart because they are more like early modern Europeans. It is not surprising that critics are reluctant to disassociate Romans and Elizabethans; the resemblance is deeply entrenched. As early as 1612 Thomas Heywood claimed in An Apology for Actors that:
    If wee present a forreigne History, the subject is so intended, that in the liues of Romans, Grecians, or others, either the virtues of our Country-men are extolled, or their vices reproved.[8]
    More recently, Coppélia Kahn’s reading of masculinity in the Roman plays is structured around this interconnection: “…Rome was familiarized for the English by being represented in terms of its past kinship with Britain and as a model for England’s present and future.”[9] Willy Maley similarly argues for Cymbeline that: “The solution to Britain’s Roman legacy is not to shake it off, not to renounce Rome, but to succeed it, to step into its shoes...”[10] Following Heywood, there is a strong and justifiable tendency towards seeing the Elizabethanness of staged Romans. Yet, as I will argue, this tradition may have a distorting effect when negotiating the complex cultural dislocations of Titus Andronicus.[11]

  4. This article seeks to understand the play’s paradoxical locations of culture through their intersections with early modern gender ideologies. By examining some of the play’s contemporary markers of gender, including honour, weeping, and duelling, I trace how associations between cultures might be complicated by emergent Elizabethan categories of difference and gender, especially masculinity. Masculinity is in itself a term that implies hierarchical differentiation. Andrew P. Williams notes that it excludes the other by conjuring up a singular discourse of “white, heterosexual men of wealth”.[12] Robert Appelbaum goes further in arguing that marginal masculinities struggle to exist in the early modern period, because hegemonic manliness erases non-conforming behaviour:
    We might find a different kind of masculine subjectivity “at the margins” now and then; but it would have to be rare, a masculinity without masculinity, an inadequate masculinity – even though it is just such a condition, 1 Henry VI seems to argue, that leads us into civil disorder and decay and the end of both manhood and men.[13]
    This article will explore the unusual, marginal masculinities that Williams and Appelbaum underline, suggesting ways that manly behaviour adapts to changing conditions of gender, including encounters with other religious and cultural groups. I further aim to show that circulations of masculinity in Titus Andronicus challenge such fixed classifications of marginal (and by implication hegemonic) manliness.[14]


  5. Gender historian Elizabeth Foyster has argued that: “The language of ‘honour’ was how men and women talked about their gender roles. By examining the use of this language we can measure the bearing that prescriptive codes had on actual behaviour.”[15] Honour, as a marker of gender, has an especially prominent place in Titus Andronicus, where the word is mentioned 45 times. Because the cultural inconsistencies that permeate the play often have male honour as their locus, honour becomes a boundary marker for both gender and otherness. In other words, levels of familiarity or otherness represented in the play’s various factions are disclosed through the negotiation of honourable behaviour.

  6. There are several examples in the first scene of how the Roman stance on male honour is unsettled. Titus’s first words in the play, for instance, effeminise his military glory:
    Lo, as the bark that hath discharged his fraught
    Returns with precious lading to the bay
    From whence at first she weighed her anchorage,
    Cometh Andronicus, bound with laurel boughs,
    To re-salute his country with his tears (1.1.71-5, italics mine).
    Titus is a metaphorical ship, carrying his honours to port. But the idea of discharging and reloading freight suggests that honours are not intrinsic to his character or a product of his achievement, and thus may be removed from him. The metaphor for Titus and his honour is also explicitly, and very unusually, feminized. It moves from masculine, or gender-neutral, to feminine, in the transition between his to she and her, and this slip might highlight anxiety about Titus’s gendered identity. Any such effeminisation is given further visual reinforcement through Titus’s tears, especially as he later displays a gendered unease about crying by claiming that: “For two-and-twenty sons I never wept,/ Because they died in honour’s lofty bed” (3.1.10-11). Lavinia’s and Tamora’s first words, too, point to their “tears”, further effeminising the gendered position of weeping (1.1.159, 1.1.105). Although male crying does not necessarily effeminise in early modern culture (cf. Macbeth, 4.3.221ff.), most allusions to it reflect Lear’s anxiety: “…let not women’s weapons, water-drops,/ Stain my man’s cheeks” (2.2.451-2), or Aufidius’s insult that Coriolanus’s tears are: “women’s rheum” (5.6.45). Tears and weeping become characteristic of the Romans, and in act 3, scene 1 they refer to their crying 20 times in the first 150 lines. The honour and gender of Titus’s opening lachrymal discourse disclose the potential alterity of Roman masculinity, an alterity visibly reinforced through repetitive moments of weeping.

  7. Further ambiguities about gendered honour emerge in the first scene’s leadership dispute. Saturninus and Bassianus, the former Emperor’s sons, contend to be the new Emperor of Rome.  Saturninus claims that his status as elder brother deserves the honour:
    I am his first-born son that was the last
    That ware the imperial diadem of Rome;
    Then let my father’s honours live in me,
    Nor wrong mine age with this indignity (1.1.5-8).
    Although this appeal would theoretically secure rule in Shakespeare’s England, it must suffer Bassianus’s equally strong argument in favour of virtue:
    …suffer not dishonour to approach
    The imperial seat, to virtue consecrate,
    To justice, continence, and nobility;
    But let desert in pure election shine,
    And, Romans, fight for freedom in your choice (1.1.13-17).
    The important early modern debate between birth and virtue here frames a conflict of governmental form, hereditary monarchy versus limited democracy. Renaissance honour theorists tried to simplify arguments over the relative merits of blood and breeding by advocating the combination of both.[16] For instance, Richard Brathwaite asserts that: “…vertue may receiue the first impression by means of an in-bred noble disposition, seconded by helpes of Education”.[17] Virtue and birth, however, disjoin in Saturninus, as he is apparently less virtuous than his younger brother. A problem easily solved in Tudor England via primogeniture is complicated in Rome because the rules are not fixed, and each brother has a large mob of supporters, making the stage picture suggestive of potential civil war.

  8. The arrival of Titus further complicates the leadership dilemma.  In accordance with one canon of Renaissance orthodoxy, Titus’s military success deserves the highest honours.[18] Marcus, representing the Roman citizens, asserts:
    Know that the people of Rome, for whom we stand
    A special party, have by common voice,
    In election for the Roman empery,
    Chosen Andronicus, surnamèd Pius
    For many good and great deserts to Rome.
    A nobler man, a braver warrior
    Lives not this day within the city walls (1.1.20-26).
    Owing to his military triumph, “honour” is connected with Titus’s name as frequently as “honest” is with Iago’s (1.1.36, 39, 49, 67). He has achieved the highest military glory, and according to Renaissance and Roman theory, deserves great honour. Titus ultimately refuses the honour, yet he prevents civil unrest by deciding in favour of primogeniture, and Saturninus takes the throne. Rome’s ambivalence towards honour, in its sense of reward for virtue, is registered in the three candidates’ qualifications for rule – birth, virtue, and military skill. And difficulties in appointing the “fountaine of honour” foreshadow the instability of all honour in the play.[19]

  9. The first scene also foregrounds an alien masculinity when the Andronici sacrifice the Goth prince, Alarbus. That sacrifice, more than any other Roman action, figures them as other within a framework of their gendered pursuit of military honour. It also strangely combines religion with this honour, in that their quest for revenge attempts to appease the ghosts of the dead Andronici. Titus says of his sons:
    These are their brethren whom your Goths beheld
    Alive and dead, and for their brethren slain
    Religiously they ask a sacrifice (1.1.122-24).
    The slaying of Alarbus represents one of the greatest crimes against early modern honour, as killing the captured – unless necessitated by battle-field emergency – was universally condemned by early modern military theorists. Sir John Ferne’s Blazon of the Gentrie, a guidebook for civil and military behaviour, outlines four “vices terminable… [or] such, as wil determine, and end… gentility.” One of these is “To slea [a] prysoner [who is] (humblye yeelding).”[20] Critics have long debated to what extent Henry V’s killing of prisoners at Agincourt affects his heroic stature,[21] but Shakespeare makes the Andronici sacrifice more grotesque, and more alien, subject, as it is, to Titus’s unusual religious directive.[22] Even within Titus Andronicus, a gentler treatment of prisoners is advocated by the enamoured Roman Emperor, who says to the Goths: “Princely shall be thy usage every way” (1.1.266). Shakespeare offers a telling contrast between models of dealing with prisoners within Roman society, making Roman ethics seem confused or even contradictory.

  10. The boundaries of honour-induced violence are pushed further in this scene with the betrothal of Lavinia, Titus’s daughter. To celebrate the appointment of the new emperor, Titus unreservedly gives her to Saturninus (1.1.244-52), but, unbeknownst to Titus, Bassianus had already been betrothed to her. A fray ensues, in which Titus’s sons carry Lavinia away from him, while Marcus protests: “Suum cuique is our Roman justice;/ The prince [Bassianus] in justice seizeth but his own” (1.1.280-81). The stakes of the dispute increase until Titus kills Mutius, his son, for protecting Lavinia. When one of the other sons reprimands him, Titus responds: “Nor thou, nor he, are any sons of mine;/ My sons would never so dishonour me” (1.1.294-95). As with the election of the Emperor, the represented stances on honour are mutually exclusive. Titus claims:
    Marcus, even thou hast struck upon my crest,
    And with these boys mine honour thou hast wounded.
    My foes I do repute you every one,
    So trouble me no more, but get you gone (1.1.364-7).[23]
    The murder of Mutius is a powerful dramatic moment, and Titus makes no question about honour being his motive.[24] He refers to his honour seven times in this context (a high proportion of the word’s appearances in the play). But Lucius, Titus’s eldest son, maintains a different version of honour: “…what we did was mildly as we might,/ Tend’ring our sister’s honour and our own” (1.1.475-76). The family even disagree about the dead son’s right to burial, in another extended debate about honour (1.1.354ff). For this third contention of the opening scene, Romans again advocate opposed ideas of male honour (surprisingly in an inconsistent stance on sexual ownership). This honour, especially in the attempt to overturn a prior betrothal, is also strongly at variance with early modern practice. As C. L. Barber points out: “When a couple are engaged to be married, either of them loses honour by withdrawing from the engagement.”[25] In Titus, a conflicted approach to betrothal does not affect the Andronici alone. Bassianus and Saturninus, members of another Roman family, also react differently to this point of honour. Bassianus fights for Lavinia, but Saturninus does not, saying to Titus: “go, give that changing piece/ To him that flourished for her with his sword./ A valiant son-in-law thou shalt enjoy” (1.1.309-11). The situation obviously does not grow out of Saturninus’ lack of concern for his honour, which he defends in the same scene because of the “mocks” (1.1.299-303) of the Andronici.[26] Shakespeare pointedly represents contested Roman ideas of betrothal and revenge in a doubled dispute that divides two families.

  11. These examples of a confused Roman honour, at times hyper-masculine and at others feminised, come from the opening of the play. More are developed later, as when even suicide, the traditional Roman end, is problematized: in act three Titus wants Lavinia to commit it, yet Marcus protests (3.2.21-2). The Romans rarely agree on the honourable response to any situation, and debate characterises their interaction. In a metatheatrical parody of this repeated scenic structure, the added folio scene, 3.2, has the Andronici debate the honour of killing a fly.

  12. Falstaff answers his rhetorical question, “What is honour?”, with the humorously vague “A word” (1 Henry IV, 5.1.133-34). Honour had all the semantic variation of “a word” and all the ideological vagary of a contested ethical system.  Robert Ashley notes the contemporary confusion about its definition in his treatise, Of Honour:
    I haue heard some say sometimes that they cold not skyll of this thing called honour, and that they knew not what yt meant bicause they thought that indeed there was no such thing but only a name and tytle which people had taken vp.[27]
    Despite the apparent difficulties of pinning down the term, most Elizabethan writers define it as “the reward for virtue.”[28] As such, honour becomes especially problematic, if the “virtue” end of the equation is inconsistent.  It therefore becomes radically destabilised in Titus Andronicus, where different versions of honour oppose one another, where dissimulation contends with display, and where the Emperor has clearly differing standards to the Andronici. Finding tensions relating to honour is to be expected, because it was not a fixed or unified code, but differences of such extremes and within such a small social group, as we find in Titus, are unusual. The honour of these Romans ranges from hyper-masculine, as in the killing of family members, to effeminacy, as in their tears. In both cases otherness is represented through the contradictory extremes of masculinity. Romans find it honourable to hack apart a captive, stab a son, and leave his body unburied. These deep-rooted violations of Elizabethan mores make Roman honour in the play particularly alien.

  13. My reading here is working specifically against the critical tradition that associates Romanitas with English honor or masculinity. Francesca T. Royster’s article on whiteness in the play, for instance, argues:
    Given Titus’s kaleidoscopic depiction of cultural insiders and outsiders, just where would Shakespeare’s audience have located its loyalties? It is not surprising that Titus Andronicus invites its viewers to identify with the Romans – England traced its origins to the Trojan Brut and represents Goths as well as Moors as barbaric, uncivilized, and racially other.[29]
    Given the peculiarities of Roman masculinity, it is difficult to see how such early modern identification might function. The discontinuity of Roman honour makes their masculinities not only difficult to pin-point, but also difficult to connect to early modern gendered behaviour. In Shakespeare’s first portrait of Roman honour, we might expect to find a hint (although perhaps an embryonic one) of his conception of stage Romanitas. In this one respect, however, the play should be separated from Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra, and Coriolanus, as Roman honour in Titus Andronicus is alien not only to the early modern, but also to the more identifiably Roman traditions of masculinity that Shakespeare stages later in his career. [30]


  14. While Roman honour in Titus is confused and at odds with Renaissance ideologies, the same cannot be said for the honour of the Goths. Chiron and Demetrius fairly consistently reflect familiar ideals of early modern English manliness. Admittedly, it is difficult to discuss Goth honour, because these characters certainly eschew ideals of virtue, but Goths follow early modern ideas of honour, albeit contentious ones, much more closely than the Romans.

  15. Hints at Goth early modernness emerge in act two, scene one, the first scene in which they are alone on stage. Here the Goth princes disturbingly compete for what they see as their right to rape Lavinia. They enter “braving”, soon after “They draw” (2.1.25sd, 45sd), and throughout their argument they use the terms and actions of courtiers trained in early modern duelling theory. When Aaron advises them to put away their weapons, for instance, Demetrius says:
                 Not I, till I have sheathed
    My rapier in his bosom, and withal
    Thrust those reproachful speeches down his throat,
    That he hath breathed in my dishonour here (2.1.53-56).
    The lie in the throat was an emergent early modern form of insult, providing the entire basis for Vincentio Saviolo’s theory of duelling justification (and Saviolo is probably Shakespeare’s eventual source on matters of the duel).[31] Pierre La Primaudaye reveals the typical response that the new fashion for giving the lie would provoke:
    nothing but the death of the one, or of both together, and oftentimes of their dearest and best friends is able ... to repaire the preiudicate and supposed offence….[32]
    “The lie,” therefore, as Chiron and Demetrius’s impetus to fight, provides a powerful early modern register here.

  16. The use of rapiers offers further evidence that their masculinity is more early modern than ancient. Rapiers are connected with the Goths three times (2.1.39, 54, 4.2.85), whereas the Romans always carry swords (which are mentioned 10 times in connection with them in the first scene).[33] In the early 1590s, rapiers were still contentious weapons, having been imported from Italy or Spain fairly recently. Craig Turner and Tony Soper place the development of English rapier use around the 1570s and 1580s.[34] Rapiers continued to be contentious weapons until at least 1599, when George Silver produced his Paradoxes of Defence, a treatise attacking the new sword. Rapiers were particularly loathed because of their dangerousness: “kill or be killed,” says Silver, “is the dreadfull issue of this diuellish imperfect fight.”[35] The new weapons appear on the English stage a few years before Titus – as early as 1584 in John Lyly’s Sapho and Phao,[36] but their consistent inclusion in this Roman play sparks associations with contemporary honour. Shakespeare in this and his other Roman works is careful to associate “swords”, not rapiers, with Romans, probably because Renaissance theorists knew that duelling did not appear in ancient Rome. Although Jennifer Low claims that “the ethos of the duel was informed by both the romance and the texts of classical antiquity”,[37] Renaissance duelling advocates and anti-duellists recognised that duelling had no classical precedent. Saviolo, for instance, writes that: “…there is ... muche difference betweene the defiances vsed in auncient times, and oures, which being in no vse or custome, [were] scarse knowen vnto the Romanes….”[38] Francis Bacon’s anti-duelling polemic similarly argues that:
    …all memory doth consent that Grecia and Rome were the most valiant and generous Nations of the world, and in that which is more to bee noted they were free estates, and not vnder a Monarchy, whereby a man would thinke it a great deal the more reason that perticuler persons should haue righted themselues; and yet they had not this practise of Duells, nor any thing that bare shew thereof.[39]
    Shakespeare recognises the anachronism of using inappropriate weapons on stage in Henry 5, when the Chorus excuses the “...four of five most vile and ragged foils,/ Right ill-disposed in brawl ridiculous” (4.0.50-51).[40] In that play the dramatic context requires that the anachronism be ignored. This happens fairly frequently in the histories (for instance, rapiers are mentioned twice in 3 Henry 6), but their use in Shakespeare’s other plays is not connected with a specific group (say, the French or English) like it is in Titus. It is also interesting that the Goths are associated with the poniard (2.3.120). The play’s reference to this edgeless, stabbing dagger, provides the first citation of the word in the OED.[41] Aaron’s cry for “Clubs, clubs!” is also a common Elizabethan call to suppress a brawl (2.1.37). These early modern material markers of male honour are, like the lie, tied specifically to the Goths and Aaron.

  17. The Goth duelling scene gives one more hint at early modern honour.  Lawrence Stone notes that duelling received special condemnation when undertaken near the monarch: “Physical assault at Court came under the jurisdiction of the Marshal’s Court, and was always regarded as an exceptionally grave offence, since it might easily endanger the personal safety of the monarch”.[42] In his 1590 treatise on duelling, Sir William Segar exemplifies Stone’s claim: “If any man shall offer the same [an injury] in place of priuiledge, or in presence of the Prince; in that case it hath been thought fit that no Lie or other repulse should be”.[43] Shakespeare demonstrates his awareness of this statute in a play contemporary with Titus, 1 Henry VI.  In it, Gloucester refuses to fight Winchester at court: “Presumptuous priest, this place commands my patience,/ Or thou shouldst find thou hast dishonoured me” (3.1.8-9).  Similarly, in Henry V, when Williams challenges the disguised King Harry, the king humorously responds: “Well, I will do it, though I take thee in the King’s company” (4.1.217-18).  Given the previous links to early modern honour found in act two, scene one of Titus Andronicus, it is no surprise that Aaron provides another with his knowledge of the admonition against court duelling: “Why, how now lords?/ So near the Emperor’s palace dare ye draw,/ And maintain such a quarrel openly?” (lines 45-47).  His reluctance to fight at “the court of Rome” (line 52) provides a marked contrast to the Romans of the previous scene.

  18. The first independently Goth moments seem to involve a cultural shift. The play conspicuously attaches early modern male honour to Goths, bringing them closer to their Elizabethan audiences. There are further examples in the play of this connection. Anxiety about sexual infidelity is much more prominent among the Goths, for instance. Aaron argues:
                            …know ye not in Rome
    How furious and impatient they be,
    And cannot brook competitors in love? (2.1.75-77).
    But Saturninus never seems jealous, even though his wife’s infidelities, according to Lavinia: “have made him noted long” (2.3.86). “No greater shame to a man than to be a cuckold” was proverbial,[44] yet Shakespeare’s Romans do not become very exercised about this basic tenet of Elizabethan and historical Roman values, while the Goths are consistently alert to it. Such Goth anachronism is balanced against the Romans having non-contemporary, yet also ahistorically brutal, honour.

  19. Though Goth honour horrifies as much as its Roman counterpart, the horrors are familiar examples of early modern masculinity pushed to the extremes of rape and duelling, as opposed to the alien and barbaric masculinities of Roman human sacrifice and Procnesque revenge. When viewed through the construct of masculinity, the polarities of barbarism in Titus become reversed. Shakespeare represents the other who is not other, as the Goths, barbarians from the Roman perspective, resemble Elizabethans.[45]


  20. I have so far argued that tropes of masculinity in Titus Andronicus effect a distancing of the Romans and familiarisation of the Goths. It is hardly surprising that masculinity might play a pivotal role in strategies of identity differentiation in this period. From Baldassare Castiglione’s The Courtier of 1528 to Richard Brathwait’s Complete Gentleman of 1630, hardly a year went by in which a new conduct book for men was not printed. These conduct books served as “how to” manuals for the performance of appropriate masculinity, and thus othered inappropriate male behaviour. Male outsiders in early modern drama typically embody an excess, not a deficiency, of those traits usually idealised as heroic masculinity. So, for instance, Titus’s keenness to uphold his patriarchal authority is articulated by killing a son who blocks his way. The position of the other thus becomes problematized by expressions of aggressive masculinity. This excess in part explains why the other is just as often not-other, as the familiar discourses of masculinity become pushed to their extremes, and male others become problematic only insofar as they transmute the more deviant traits of manliness. Within this range of masculinity, sometimes otherness is expressed through effeminacy, as with Titus’s tears (and the French in Shakespeare’s history plays), but in those cases the other becomes far less of a threat and is positioned more closely to women in systems of oppression.

  21. This masculinity and otherness nexus also has clear implications for the othering of female characters. And Titus Andronicus invokes complications in conceptualising difference by incorporating a female other, Tamora.[46] While formal fabrications of male identity were in flux and quite sophisticated in this period – the contention between pro-duelling and anti-duelling pamphlets provide just one example – female identity was likely to revolve simply around the reputation for chastity. Controlling female sexuality is overwhelmingly the most important issue in conduct manuals for women, and, in those idealisations at least, a woman was either chaste or not. [47] In addition, there was an increasing anxiety about the separation of male and female honour, as Charles Barber has shown:
    there is a decreasing tendency to attribute ‘men’s honour’ to women, for whom honour becomes more and more exclusively concerned with chastity; in other words, the men’s and women’s codes became more strictly differentiated…[48]
    Even though social historians Laura Gowing and Garthine Walker have worked to show how female honour could sometimes extend into an asexual domestic sphere, the constraints placed upon female behaviour meant that the articulation of a range of femininity, and particularly degrees of feminine difference, was not as sophisticated as the equivalent discourses of manliness.[49] This division of gendered honour seems to be one reason why it was difficult to formulate national or racial identity through femininity, in part explaining the phenomenon Lynda Boose has labelled the “unrepresentable black woman”. Nabil Matar offers an additional possible explanation:
    …the Muslims who were seen in England were all men. In all the surviving records of captured Moors and Turks, there is not a single reference to a Muslim woman. While numerous British women were captured and sold in North Africa, no Muslim woman seems to have ever set foot on English soil, either as a refugee or a prisoner.[50]
    Although this claim might require qualification in the light of recent work by Imtiaz Habib, it was difficult for early modern England to imagine the existence of the rarely encountered female other.[51]

  22. In Titus, Tamora is placed in a threshold between other and non-other, Roman and Goth. This liminal status is in keeping with Lynda Boose’s argument that:
    In the Shakespeare plays that include prominent outsiders, the disqualifying features that define men like Othello, Aaron, Shylock, and Caliban as aliens are not likewise invoked to disinclude the women marked as belonging to the outside. The Otherness of Jessica in The Merchant of Venice or of Tamora in Titus Andronicus is presumed to be convertible, as it would have to be if such women were to be incorporated into the group of insiders and go on to bear Lorenzo’s or Saturninus’s sons within that enclosure.[52]
    Tamora is certainly convertible to an extent, or at least Saturninus thinks she is, because she is made Empress of Rome. I would like to extend and complicate Boose’s argument, however, by suggesting that othered women are acceptable also because they would find it difficult, in early modern thinking, to generate the threat of excessive or alien masculinity that the period was using to delimit the other. Instead of being “convertible”, othered women were difficult to imagine outside of strict gender roles.

  23. Tamora becomes an interesting example of these contemporary tensions surrounding female otherness and masculinity. The character is in a position of power, taking on the role of the king in a tyrant drama, and the play discloses unease about this gendered identity.[53] She is almost invariably characterised in just three ways: begging for mercy, behaving lustfully, or dissimulating, three activities traditionally associated with the feminine. However, only her lust, as a “lascivious Goth”, seems to define her as barbarian within the other characters’ discourse.[54] Even so, the play problematizes a simple link between barbarism and lustfulness. When Tamora conducts her affair with Aaron, she compares her infidelity to: “…conflict such as was supposed/ The wand’ring Prince and Dido once enjoyed” (2.3.21-2). As Aaron is African like Dido, Tamora as Empress in effect becomes an Aeneas, and her positioning at once Romanises and reconfigures the gender of her transgression.[55] When Tamora is later on stage instructing her sons to rape Lavinia, another occasion in which she might be figured as “manly,” her violation of the roles of “mother” and “woman” is heavily emphasised: she bears “a woman’s face” (2.3.136) and is entreated to “show a woman’s pity” (ll. 147). Tamora’s otherness is configured most strongly through masculine tropes. She even negates any potential maternal associations as a pregnant woman and new mother by recommending, with the power of a Roman paterfamilias, that her newborn child be killed. The Nurse brings Aaron the child with a message to: “christen it with [his] dagger’s point” (4.2.70) in a Goth parody of Christian values. But Aaron offers a telling opposition to Tamora by taking on a nurturing role himself: “I’ll make [the child] feed on berries and on roots,/ And feed on curds and whey, and suck the goat” (4.2.177-8). Tamora’s or the Nurse’s milk has been denied the child, so Aaron will supply a harsh alternative. Much of Tamora’s political success stems from suppressing what the play calls her maternal or feminine characteristics, and adopting a sophisticated masculinity. Her political achievements, though sinister, are in keeping with Richard Barckley’s argument in his Discovrse of the Felicitie of Man:
    … why should men glory so much in high dignities and honorable estate, whether they haue attained the same by their owne vertue, or by their parents, as a matter in their opinion proper to their sex, when there hath not bene so high a dignitie or honourable estate, how great soeuer that hath bene gotten by the vertue and valour of any man, but by the same vertue the like hath bene gotten and kept by women: whom we seeme to haue in contempt, as insufficient and vnworthy to atchieue so great matters, in respect to the opinion we haue of ourselues.[56]
    The duelling-master Saviolo provides another example of recognizing female potential, saying “women can learne whatsoeuer men can”.[57] Alongside their validation of female potential, these examples reflect a cultural anxiety in relation to the boundaries of male and female honour. Barckley and Saviolo’s arguments, especially in their contextual discussions of violent masculinity, are made in the face of larger cultural claims for women’s separate sphere.

  24. Such anxiety appears to be at work in Titus’s representation of the Empress. Despite her ability to adopt masculine roles successfully, it is telling that Tamora is largely made other through her lust. Her “honour” is purely a sexual one, and it is represented as especially gross by Bassianus, as “Spotted, detested, and abominable” (2.3.74). Even the Goths unite to locate Tamora’s honour only within sexual discourse. When Aaron’s child is delivered, Demetrius exclaims:
    Demetrius:      By this our mother is forever shamed.
    Chiron:           Rome will despise her for this foul escape.
    Nurse:            The Emperor in his rage will doom her death.
    Chiron:           I blush to think upon this ignomy (4.2.112-15).
    It is particularly interesting here that Demetrius and Chiron seem to think that Tamora’s infidelity is a greater crime than her instigated rape and murders. Romans seem to share this belief. When Marcus justifies the deaths of the Emperor and Empress, at the end of the play, he holds up Aaron’s child and says:
    Of this was Tamora deliverèd,
    The issue of an irreligious Moor,
    Chief architect and plotter of these woes (5.3.119-21).
    These words are the only clear statement of Tamora’s crime, which is represented to the Roman citizens simply in terms of her infidelity. Marcus and Lucius situate all other misdeeds as the product of Chiron, Demetrius, and, mainly, Aaron. This characterisation highlights how the dichotomising of femininity in the period works towards a more simple strategy of othering. Chaste versus sluttish, or Lavinia versus Tamora, figures neatly in the early modern bifurcation of female sexuality, rather than working as an expression of otherness here.

  25. There is one hint that Tamora is recognised by the Romans to have appropriated masculine behaviour at the end of the play: she is punished in the final lines principally for her violation of a woman’s role. Lucius reasons:
    As for that ravenous tiger, Tamora,
    No funeral rite, nor man in mourning weed,
    No mournful bell shall ring her burial;
    But throw her forth to beasts and birds to prey;
    Her life was beastly and devoid of pity,
    And being dead, let birds on her take pity (5.3.194-9).
    The recollection of pity points back neatly to Lavinia’s injunction that Tamora should “show a woman’s pity”; it seems to be a feminine trait in Rome. And the rejection of pity had been a masculine stance associated with Titus and the Tribunes earlier in the play. That Tamora is punished for adopting a masculine role hints that she is taken to have transgressed gendered boundaries. This hint does not change the fact that her greatest crime is seen as her lust, but it does reinforce the idea that her demonization relates most strongly to her gender.[58] The male characters tend to re-write Tamora’s moral, masculine violations into more typical female transgressions,[59] yet masculinity for both male and female characters remains the central field for contesting barbarism and civilisation. The conceptual limitations for identity in the early modern period are disclosed in the attempt to redefine Tamora’s successful manipulation of aggressive masculine tropes within the narrow confines of sexual excess and lack of pity.


  26. So far I have concentrated on differences in the representations of Roman and Goth and male and female identities in Titus, and my picture of Roman and Goth masculinity has been drawn largely from the early part of the play. Late in the play, however, the construction of Romanness radically shifts, as they move closer to the Goths. This change manifests itself in two ways: first, in a new model for familial relations, and second, and more importantly, in a more sophisticated response to the politics of masculinity. Interestingly, this response is necessitated in part because a female and foreign enemy, Tamora, has successfully penetrated Roman manliness.

  27. In the beginning of the play, disruptions caused by honour serve to fracture the Andronicus family bonds, yet this fracture becomes healed soon after Lavinia returns from her brutal rape and dismemberment. The Andronicus family gradually begins to emphasize its interrelations over external ideas of honour. An indication of this shift comes after Titus’s initial reaction to Lavinia. He is at first selfish, but soon comes to consider her plight: “Gentle Lavinia, let me kiss thy lips,/ Or make some sign how I may do thee ease” (3.1.120-21).[60] The next scene represents the Andronici in a shared domestic moment, “A banquet” (3.2.0sd). The Andronicus family appears in a domestic setting for the first time, when public honour or even the public world is suggested only by the intrusive fly.[61] The world in Titus Andronicus here shifts from public Rome to a private vision of two contesting families, where a greater bond within the Andronicus family emerges. For instance, Titus expresses a desire to communicate with his daughter, in some of his most tender words to her: “Speechless complainer, I will learn thy thought;/ In thy dumb action will I be as perfect/ As begging hermits in their holy prayers” (3.2.39-41). Also in this scene, the audience first meets the third generation of Andronici, Young Lucius, who tries to comfort Titus, saying: “Good grandsire, leave these bitter deep laments;/ Make my aunt merry with some pleasing tale” (46-47). Seeing the Boy’s discontent, Marcus sympathises: “Alas, the tender boy, in passion moved,/ Doth weep to see his grandsire’s heaviness” (48-49). The scene stresses family relations throughout, and the cyclical abundance of sympathy emphasises its previous absence. The closing lines of the scene reinforce the sense of domestic harmony:
    Come, take away.  Lavinia, go with me;
    I’ll to thy closet, and go read with thee
    Sad stories chancèd in the times of old.
    Come, boy, and go with me; thy sight is young,
    And thou shalt read when mine begin to dazzle (80-84).
    Three generations reading bedtime stories together, with such overt intimacy, closes an altogether novel depiction of compassion and interconnection in the Andronicus family.

  28. This stronger union is also reflected in Titus’s ability to limit his once absolute pursuit of honour, which is signalled by the fact that occurrences of the word “honour” decline sharply. Variants of it appear 35 times in the first act, but only a total of 10 times in the four remaining acts.[62] “Honour” as an expression of masculinity nearly disappears from the play after its initial excess, whereas normally “honour” would be a central early modern concern in the trauma that follows rape.

  29. Alongside the decline of “honour” in Titus is a correlative change in the Andronici use of dissimulation. A willingness to dissemble, as Coriolanus shows, violates the honourable man’s desire for a one-to-one relationship between merit and reward. For dissimulation to co-exist with masculine identity demands a distancing of honour from its station as the reward for virtue, at a time in which conduct manuals were insistent that “Vertue it selfe ought to be honoured, and not the image of vertue.” [63] Anxiety about dissimulation stems, in part, from the injunction that the honourable man must be truthful, as revealed in Fulke Greville’s praise of Sir Philip Sidney:
    …and this was it which, I profess, I loved dearly in him, and still shall be glad to honour in the great men of this time – I mean that his heart and tongue went both one way, and so with every one that went with the truth, as knowing no other kindred, party or end.[64]
    With truthfulness so important to honour, dissimulation could be taken as its opposite.  Montaigne, for instance, argues: “…touching this new-found vertue of faining and dissimulation, which now is so much in credit, I hate it to the death: and of all vices, I finde none that so much witnesseth demissenesse and basenesse of heart”.[65] Gilles Corrozet has similarly strong words: “Honour ought to be gotten by vertue, and not by deceipt: for the one is the office of wicked and leude persons, and the other of good and honest men”.[66] Titus’s ability to favour appearance demonstrates a marked rejection of the honour that had compelled him earlier in the play. Brian Gibbons says of Titus Andronicus that “Persecution educates”.[67] Titus receives his education in a new masculinity from his enemies, Tamora and Aaron, and begins to dissimulate in Act 3.

  30. Titus’s first foray in dissimulation is unsuccessful. It is perverted by Aaron, who comes with a message from the Emperor, offering to ransom Quintus and Martius for one of the Andronici’s amputated hands (3.1.150ff.). Titus, Lucius, and Marcus characteristically argue over who should make this sacrifice. But while Lucius and Marcus exit to “fetch an axe” (3.1.184), Titus decides: “Come hither, Aaron. I’ll deceive them both;/ Lend me thy hand, and I will give thee mine” (3.1.185-6). Aaron highlights the weakness of Titus’s first act of deception: “If that be called deceit, I will be honest,/ And never whilst I live deceive men so” (3.1.187-8). Titus’s altruism fails because Aaron had brought a false message; in effect, Aaron has out-deceived him. But Titus from this point seems to learn from his initial mistake. In the escalating competition over manipulating appearance, his strategies of dissimulation grow in sophistication.

  31. Titus articulates an understanding of this lesson in act four. After learning that Chiron and Demetrius are the rapists, Marcus expresses a desire to kill them outright, but Titus perceives the danger of direct confrontation:
    Marcus:                                       …swear with me…
         That we will prosecute by good advice
         Mortal revenge upon these traitorous Goths,
         And see their blood, or die with this reproach.
    Titus:’Tis sure enough, an you knew how;        
         But if you hunt these bear-whelps, then beware:
         The dam will wake an if she wind ye once;
         She’s with the lion deeply still in league,
         And lulls him whilst she playeth on her back;
         And when he sleeps will she do what she list (4.1.88-99).
    Marcus advocates an open revenge, where the Andronici “prosecute by good advice”. But Titus is more wary of Tamora’s ability to win such a public competition with her secretive methods, and he sees the necessity of deploying dissimulation himself. Young Lucius simply wants to attack Chiron and Demetrius directly “with [his] dagger in their bosoms”, but Titus instructs him otherwise: “No, boy, not so; I’ll teach thee another course” (4.1.117-18). Titus apparently does teach Young Lucius “another course,” and the boy employs his new-found tactical knowledge while delivering a message from Titus. Young Lucius covers his true feelings in an aside-filled courtly speech to Chiron and Demetrius, saying “And pray the Roman gods confound you both” only under his breath (4.2.6). This speech offers the first instance of any member of the Andronicus family speaking in aside. Such indirection, though potentially opposed to honour, is at least a recognisable masculine strategy of the period, as typically adopted by the revenge hero.

  32. It is significant that Titus’s new-found gendered behaviour is considered unusual by the other Romans, again showing how they are never quite in accord when it comes to their masculinities. The family has been so accustomed to direct action for revenge (like the sacrifice of Alarbus) that Marcus does not understand Titus’s behaviour; he believes that Titus has no desire for revenge:
    ...attend him [Titus] in his ecstasy,
    That hath more scars of sorrow in his heart
    Than foemen’s marks upon his battered shield,
    But yet so just that he will not revenge.
    Revenge the heavens for old Andronicus! (4.1.124-28).
    Titus realises what Marcus does not: the direct opposition employed on the battlefield will not work when confronted with dissimulation. So Titus further belies his true feelings by feigning madness:
    I knew them all, though they supposed me mad,
    And will o’erreach them in their own devices,
    A pair of cursèd hell-hounds and their dame (5.2.142-4).
    To begin staging this “madness”, Titus shoots arrows carrying pleas to the gods. These represent an indirect means of confrontation, yet are a strange enough conveyance to have Saturninus think him crazy:
    And what an if
    His sorrows have so overwhelmed his wits?
    Shall we be thus afflicted in his wreaks,
    His fits, his frenzy, and his bitterness? (4.4.9-12). 
    Tamora, outwitted by Titus’s pretended “madness”, rejoices: “Now will I to that old Andronicus/ And temper him with all the art I have” (4.4.107-8).

  33. By the play’s end, Tamora and Titus compete to see who can out-dissemble whom.  Titus’s new method, of course, proves very successful in obtaining his revenge.  Chiron and Demetrius stay unprotected at his house, where he can easily capture them and “play the cook” (5.2.204).  His feminised revenge imitates a mythic, victimised woman and completes his transformation from using direct confrontation to indirection. In the course of the play, honour completely disappears from Titus’s mindset, to be replaced by a more politic masculinity. His actions become no more virtuous, but distance from honour allows him, paradoxically, to re-establish an honoured lineage. In a period with a play called Revenge for Honour, it is somewhat ironic that Titus’s honour paralyses him in redressing his wrongs (as in the Tribune scene, 3.1), while his rejection of that honour leads to a successful revenge.

  34. The Romans, as the dominant others at the opening of the play, are forced to become more like the real dominant culture. In their quest for justice, Romans exchange their honour for more sophisticated, politicised (and in some respects more early modern) masculinity. This transition, making the Romans more akin to the Goths, also facilitates the union of Romans and Goths at the end of the play. But it should be noted that Lucius, who brings the Goth army to the gates of Rome, does not benefit from Titus’s new perspective on masculinity. The younger Andronicus maintains his concern for honour, relying on it to secure the support of the Roman people:
    I am the turned-forth, be it known to you,
    That have preserved her welfare in my blood,
    And from her bosom took the enemy’s point,
    Sheathing the steel in my advent’rous body.
    Alas, you know I am no vaunter, I;
    My scars can witness… (5.3.108-13).
    Sounding very much like Titus at the beginning of the play, Lucius claims honour because of the wars he has fought for Rome. And there is a danger that Lucius will disrupt his new union with the Goths (much as Coriolanus does at Corioles), by mentioning the wounds he has suffered at their hands. The play has been working throughout to unify the Romans and Goths, but this is potentially a very fragile union.


  35. Otherness in Titus Andronicus is constructed through the performance of masculinity, and that performance is made explicitly performative by being changeable. Masculinity seems to function similarly to construct alterity in many of the period’s plays, becoming the foundation for emergent categories of otherness. In Henry V, for instance, it is significant that the multinational encounters between the Irish, Welsh, Scots, and English are shaped around issues of loyalty to the monarch, strategies of war, and personal honour quarrels, in other words, areas of contention for early modern masculinity, while French effeminate otherness reflects the opposite extreme of masculinity. In Othello, it is possible to read the hero as less other than Iago, as Ian Smith has shown.[68] And this familiarity and othering, too, is fought through the masculinities of Othello and Iago. Othello fits into the Venetian culture of masculinity well, but this fitting in clearly makes him other, perhaps Italianate, to an early modern English audience. Otherness is thus complicated in the play by the reversals enacted by Iago and Othello, and by the Italian setting, but the complications are situated in the contestation of masculinity, whether it be on the battlefield or in the bedroom. Titus Andronicus suggests that practices of masculinity do not necessarily disclose consistent locations of dominant culture, and such locations are better considered moment-by-moment, as different masculine tropes fail or succeed to shape power, leading to potentially reversible hierarchies of difference.[69]

Drafts of this work have benefited from the responses of Sarah Annes Brown, Ian Donaldson, Paul Edmondson, John Jowett, Barbara Ravelhofer, Elke Schuch, Catherine Silverstone, Ann Thompson, Martin Wiggins, and audiences at the Renaissance Graduate Seminar, English Faculty, Cambridge University; the ‘Shakespeare and the Barbarians’ conference, University of Surrey Roehampton, 26 October 2002; and The Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham.

[1] In Geoffrey Bullough, Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare, 8 vols. (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1966), 6: 35.

[2] E.g. at 1.1.28, 1.1.131, and 2.3.78, William Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus (Oxford Shakespeare), ed. Eugene M. Waith (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984, 1994). All references to the play cite this edition.

[3] For an analysis of the rhetorical construction of barbarism in the period, see Ian Smith, in “Barbarian Errors: Performing Race in Early Modern England,” Shakespeare Quarterly 49 (1998), 168-86.

[4] Ronald Broude, “Roman and Goth in Titus Andronicus,” Shakespeare Studies 6 (1970), 27-34, 27.

[5] John Rooks, “Mental and Moral Wilderness in Titus Andronicus,” Shakespeare and Renaissance Association of West Virginia: Selected Papers 16 (1993), 33-42, 33.

[6] Dorothea Kehler, “Titus Andronicus: From Limbo to Bliss,” Shakespeare Jahrbuch 128 [East] (1992), 125-31, 126. See also: Broude, passim; J. A. Bryant, Jr., “Aaron and the Pattern of Shakespeare’s Villains,” Renaissance Papers 1984 (1984), 29-36; and Douglas E. Green, “Interpreting ‘her martyr’d signs’: Gender and Tragedy in Titus Andronicus,” Shakespeare Quarterly 40 (1989), 317-26.

[7] Louise Noble, “‘And make two pasties of your shameful heads’: Medicinal Cannibalism and Healing the Body Politic in Titus Andronicus,” ELH 70 (2003), 677-708, 689.

[8] Thomas Heywood, An Apology for Actors (London, 1612), sig. F3v.

[9] Roman Shakespeare: Warriors, Wounds, and Women (London and New York: Routledge, 1997), 4.

[10] “Postcolonial Shakespeare: British Identity Formation and Cymbeline,” in Shakespeare’s Late Plays: New Readings, ed. Jennifer Richards and James Knowles (Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 1999), pp. 145-57, 150.

[11] Here I follow Homi K. Bhabha’s assertion that: “The representation of difference must not be hastily read as the reflection of pre-given ethnic or cultural traits set in the fixed tablet of tradition”, in The Location of Culture (London and New York: Routledge, 1994), p. 2.

[12] Andrew P. Williams, “Introduction,” The Image of Manhood in Early Modern Literature: Viewing the Male, ed. Andrew P. Williams (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1999), pp. xi-xv, xi.

[13] Robert Appelbaum, “‘Standing to the wall’: The Pressures of Masculinity in Romeo and Juliet,” Shakespeare Quarterly 48 (1997), 251-72, 260.

[14] The collection, Masculinity Studies and Feminist Theory: New Directions, ed. Judith Kegan Gardiner, also works to destablise such binaries of ‘victims and oppressors, difference and dominance, and hegemonic (or socially validated) and alternative masculinities’ (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002), p. 2.

[15] Elizabeth A. Foyster, Manhood in Early Modern England: Honour, Sex and Marriage (Longman: London and New York, 1999), p. 5.

[16] For a detailed discussion of the tensions surrounding honour gained through birth or virtue, see Mervyn James, Society, Politics and Culture: Studies in Early Modern England (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1996), 375ff.

[17] The English Gentlewoman (London, 1631), 191.

[18] Cf. Eugene Giddens, “Honourable Men: Militancy and Masculinity in Julius Caesar,” Renaissance Forum 5.2 (2001), 1-34; <>.

[19] Francis Bacon situates the monarch as the “fountaine of honour” in his argument that no individual has honour that is not derived from the king. Cf. The Charge of Sir Francis Bacon Touching Duells (London, 1614), p. 36.

[20] The Blazon of Gentrie: Deuided into two parts.  The first named The Glorie of Generositie.  The second, Lacyes Nobilitie (London, 1586), 96-7.

[21] For a good analysis of the historical legal and moral positions on killing prisoners, see Theodor Meron, Henry’s Wars and Shakespeare’s Laws (Oxford: Clarendon P, 1993), esp. ch. 9.

[22] For an attempt to see the relevance of this sacrifice in terms of Elizabethan culture, see Nicholas R. Moschovakis, “‘Irreligious Piety’ and Christian History: Persecution as Pagan Anachronism in Titus Andronicus,” Shakespeare Quarterly 53 (2002), 460-86, esp. 463-5.

[23] Eugene Waith notes how Titus stands alone in justifying this deed: “To everyone else it is a piece of wilful violence based on a hideous error of judgement,” “The Ceremonies of Titus Andronicus,” Mirror up to Shakespeare: Essays in Honour of G. R. Hibbard, ed. J. C. Gray (Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1984), pp. 159-70, 163.

[24] James C. Bulman notes: “…Titus lets a point of honor supersede even a bond of blood: he kills his son Mutius in order to confirm his loyalty to the emperor,” The Heroic Idiom of Shakespearean Tragedy (Toronto and London: Associated UP, 1985), p. 45.

[25] The Theme of Honour’s Tongue: a Study of Social Attitudes in the English Drama from Shakespeare to Dryden (Göteborg, Sweden: Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis, 1985), p. 38. The sanctity of betrothal pertains in Roman tradition as well. See Niall Rudd, “Titus Andronicus: The Classical Presence,” Shakespeare Survey 55 (2002), 199-208, 201.

[26] Aaron and the Goths, too, do not appear to be sexually possessive. Aaron discloses no anxiety about Tamora’s relationship with the Emperor, and Demetrius and Chiron agree to “share” Lavinia in their brutal double rape.

[27] Robert Ashley, Of Honour, ed. Virgil B. Heltzel (San Marino, CA: Huntington, 1947), p. 31.

[28] That honour is the reward for virtue is proverbial, and the typical justification for systems of honour. See Morris Palmer Tilley, A Dictionary of Proverbs in England in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1950), H571; Francis Markham, The Booke of Honovr, or Five Decads of Epistles of Honovr (London, 1625), 1; and Annibale Romei, The Courtiers Academie, trans. John Kepers, 1595 (Facsimile; Jerusalem: Israel UP, 1968), 82.

[29] Francesca T. Royster, “White-limed Walls: Whiteness and Gothic Extremism in Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus,” Shakespeare Quarterly 51 (2000), 432-55, 436.

[30] Here I’m working against Jane Carducci’s assertion that: “…Titus is a thoroughly representative Roman play, anticipating the masculine code of military honor embodied in all of Shakespeare’s Roman men,” “Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus: An Experiment in Expression,” Cahiers Élisabéthains 31 (1987), 1-9, 2.

[31] In Vincentio Saviolo his Practise (London, 1595). For Shakespeare’s knowledge of Saviolo, see Joan Ozark Holmer, “‘Draw if you be men’: Saviolo’s Significance for Romeo and Juliet,” Shakespeare Quarterly 45 (1994), 163-89.

[32] Peter [Pierre] De La Primaudaye, The French Academie, trans. T. B[owes] (London, 1586), 380.

[33] The Longleat House Peacham drawing gives a rapier to Titus, probably not in an accurate reflection of staging.

[34] Methods and Practice of Elizabethan Swordplay (Carbondale and Edwardsville, IL: Southern Illinois UP, 1990), 10.

[35] Paradoxes of Defence (London, 1599), leaf inserted between A4 and B1.

[36] Cf. John Lyly’s Sapho and Phao, ed. David Bevington (Manchester: Manchester UP, 1991), 1.2.80.

[37] Jennifer Low, Manhood and the Duel: Masculinity in Early Modern Drama and Culture (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2003), p. 22-23.

[38] Saviolo, Y2v.

[39] The Charge of Sir Francis Bacon Touching Duells, p. 22.

[40] All quotations from Shakespeare’s works, with the exception of Titus Andronicus, cite The Oxford Shakespeare, ed. Stanley Wells, et al. (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1986).

[41] But there are earlier uses. The weapon appears in Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy. It is also used anachronistically in an earlier Roman play, Thomas Lodge’s The Wounds of Civil War, in The Complete Works of Thomas Lodge, ed. Alexander B. Grosart, vol. 3, (1882; New York: Russell and Russell, 1963), 3.1.42.

[42] Lawrence Stone, The Crisis of the Aristocracy, 1558-1641 (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1965), 232.

[43] William Segar and Richard Jones, The Booke of Honor and Armes: wherein is discovered the causes of Quarrel, and the nature of Injuries, with their Repulses (London, 1590), sig. C2v.

[44] Tilley, S270.

[45] This resemblance of Elizabethans and Goths is in keeping with Samuel Kliger’s argument for a tradition of viewing the Goths positively in early modern England. See The Goths in England (1952), esp. 72-79.

[46] Bruce R. Smith points to a connection between being effeminised and being other in Shakespeare and Masculinity (Oxford Shakespeare Topics) (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2000), pp. 105ff.

[47] Charles Barber notes that “for women, the main demand of honour remains the preservation of their chastity and of their reputation for it” (47). And Romei argues that the only route towards honour for a woman was by preserving her chastity (126).

[48] Barber, 47-8.

[49] Cf. Laura Gowing, “Women, Status and the Popular Culture of Dishonour,” Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 6, 6th series (1996), 225-34; and Garthine Walker, “Expanding the Boundaries of Female Honour in Early Modern England,” Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 6, 6th series (1996), 235-45.

[50] Matar, 40. Ian Smith argues that barbarism and racialization were inherently masculine because they were products of a perceived lack of eloquence: “…the nation’s validated subjects, mostly at educated, male (and in many cases urban) elite, come to identify with the English nation and its racialized correlative, whiteness, through a range of linguistic performatives. Inseparable, then, from this intersection of language, race, and color is masculinity, or the Lacanian hommosexual regulation that excludes women from the enterprise of eloquence…” (173). For the attempt to recover the wider European iconography of the early modern black woman, however, see Kim F. Hall, “Object into Object?: Some Thoughts on the Presence of Black Women in Early Modern Culture,” in Early Modern Visual Culture: Representation, Race, and Empire in Renaissance England, ed. Peter Erickson and Clark Hulse (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000), 346-79.

[51] See Imtiaz Habib, Black Lives in the English Archives, 1500-1677: Imprints of the Invisible (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007).

[52] Boose, 40-41.

[53] Carolyn Asp argues that: “...Tamora, operating from within the Imaginary Order of maternal power, functions as a subject, i.e., as an agent within the patriarchal order. Because agency is coded ‘masculine,’ she is seen as ‘usurping’ power and creating disorder in the highly patriarchal Symbolic Order”, “‘Upon her wit doth earthly honor wait’: Female Agency in Titus Andronicus,” in Titus Andronicus: Critical Essays, ed. Philip C. Kolin (New York and London: Garland, 1995), 333-46, 335.

[54] “Tamora may be seen as a particularly vicious representation of a stereotype soon to become a major presence in Jacobean drama—the lusty widow,” Dorothea Kehler, “‘That Ravenous Tiger Tamora’: Titus Andronicus’s Lusty Widow, Wife, and M/other,” Titus Andronicus: Critical Essays, ed. by Philip C. Kolin (New York and London: Garland, 1995), 317-32, 317.

[55] Emily C. Bartels discusses Tamora and Aaron’s classical allusions at length in “Making More of the Moor: Aaron, Othello, and Renaissance Refashionings of Race,” Shakespeare Quarterly 41 (1990), 433-54, 444-5.

[56] Sir Richard Barckley, A Discovrse of the Felicitie of Man: Or His Summum Bonum. (London, 1598), 257-8.

[57] Saviolo, LL1v.

[58] Bruce R. Smith is thus able to position Tamora with Shakespeare’s other exemplars of tragic female agency: “Tragedy portrays the female other as a destructive force. With respect to male protagonists Desdemona keeps company with a disparate group that includes Eleanour Duchess of Gloucester and Queen Margaret in the Henry VI plays, Tamora Queen of the Goths in Titus Andronicus, Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, Gertrude…Helen and Cressida…Goneril and Regan…Lady Macbeth…Cleopatra…and Volumnia…” (113).

[59] As Kehler argues, her very overdetermination allows us to understand Tamora as a simulacrum modeled out of a patriarchal society’s fears and to note the fissures in her construction” (1995, 328).

[60] C. L. Barber and Richard P. Wheeler read this scene differently: “Titus in response to her keeps turning from her and her mutilated body, her sighs and tears, to himself, his body, his tears,” The Whole Journey: Shakespeare’s Power of Development (Berkeley, CA: U of California P, 1986), p. 152.

[61] This movement from public to private fits Brian Gibbons’s argument that: “In Titus Andronicus… the scope of the action and its focus shrink progressively” in Shakespeare and Multiplicity (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1993), p. 113.

[62] These figures include “honour,” “honoured,” “honours,” “honourable,” and any of these forms with the “dis” prefix. As John Jowett has pointed out privately, these figures may have implications for the authorship of the play. Certainly, such a huge shift occurs here that it may be authorial. There is little difference, however, in the occurrence of “honour” in Peele’s (the most likely candidate’s) and Shakespeare’s canons. Brian Boyd suggests nonetheless that such repetition may be indicative of Peele’s “preferred verbal putty, always at hand to fill any gap”, “Common Words in Titus Andronicus: The Presence of Peele,” Notes and Queries 240 (1995), 300-7, 302.

[63] Gilles Corrozet, Memorable Conceits of Diuers Noble and famous personages of Christendome of this our moderne time (London, 1602), 394.

[64] Fulke Greville, A Dedication to Sir Philip SidneyThe Prose Works of Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke, ed. John Gouws (Oxford: Clarendon P, 1986), 22.

[65] Michel Montaigne, Essays and Belles Lettres, trans. John Florio, 1603, 3 vols. (London: Dent, n.d), 2: 373.

[66] Corrozet, 315.

[67] Gibbons, 80. Gibbons also touches upon the idea that Titus learns dissimulation but does not develop it: “He is taught by Tamora’s tortures to be double, ironic, witty, instead of slow, orderly, and pious” (115).

[68] “…if Othello aspires after ‘cultural whiteness,’ then Iago is conceived indeterminately according to stereotypes of ‘blackness’” (Ian Smith, 178).

[69] Peter Erickson makes a similar argument for patriarchy, which I take to be a sub-set of masculinity, but one which applies particularly to my argument here about negotiations of power: “patriarchal control has to be negotiated each time, and the outcome is variable and uncertain… [P]atriarchy is not monolithic but multivalent. Even within a historical period it has multiple versions rather than one version”, in “The Order of the Garter, the cult of Elizabeth, and class-gender tension in The Merry Wives of Windsor,” in Shakespeare Reproduced, ed. Jean E. Howard and Marion O’Connor (London: Methuen, 1987), pp.116-40, 116.


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