Titus Andronicus is one of Shakespeare’s earliest plays, a Roman tragedy that takes place after a war with an Assyrian army, the Goths. Rome’s soldiers were led to victory by their general Titus Andronicus, but not without casualties. Having lost twenty-one of twenty-five sons to the violent conflict, Titus decides one of his hostages of war should also feel the pain of losing a child. After sacrificing the eldest son of Tamora, the Goth’s Queen, he starts a violent cycle of retribution that underscores several key themes in the story. With Rome’s emperor also passing away during the period of war, the process of filling an imperial power vacuum becomes important to the plot. The deceased emperor’s two eldest sons are left vying for power, and romantic interests relating to naming an empress. This results in political ambition and corruption driving the acts of violence as the play develops. Through a variety of text-analysis software tools, we believe that Rome’s descent into carnal violence and deceit gives us an interesting platform to represent the themes of Titus Andronicus graphically.
We used AntConc for its concordance plot feature; searching through Titus Andronicus and six other Shakespeare plays across the genres (Comedies, Histories and Tragedies) for words of the form “veng”. This truncation in this way allowed us to not only search for “revenge”, but also “vengance” and “avenge”.
The plots above show us that ‘Titus Andronicus’ has a substantially higher use of words of form “veng” compared to the other 6 plays used for comparison, one of which is ‘Hamlet’ which is Shakespear’s longest play and focuses on similar issues as ‘Titus Andronicus’; and yet Andronicus contains more than double the use of such words.
According to some of the most frequent words in this play- “silent” “sweet” “innocent”, we can easily tell the qualities women are appreciated for in Elizabethan Age.
The submissive and silent Lavinia turned out to be the object of man’s lust and the disgrace of the family until her death. She was only an appendage of male as the word “shame” appeared for a large amount of times.
Tamora subconsciously launched a challenge to the patriarchy and tried to win the dominant position, which caused men’s aversion and fear and also became the victim of patriarchy. After all, women in this play could not get rid of the mercy of men. As a male playwright, Shakespeare’s unintentionally misogynistic tendency and the popularity of such bloody plays at this time reflected the social situation of women in an age when patriarchal culture was so deep-tooted.
Potential Topics For Future Research
- Hands, and what they symbolise in the act of dismembering.
- Silencing in the role of laviniad: wider themes of feminism and social rule.
- Look further into 'Emperor' and 'Emperess' most significant words in word cloud, theme of power?
- Dialogue of tamora and lavinia stats used to generate additional graphic analysis.