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Ancient Tragedy

CLA 9-364-2001

Titus Andronicus Study Questions:

  • The play involves two cycles of revenge Tamora's against the Andronici and Titus's against Tamora and her sons. We have talked about revenge and due proportion - how do the cycles of revenge fit in with this pattern? Does the play demonstrate that revenge only serves to cause more revenge - is this a pattern of violence that can only spiral out of control?

  • How do you respond to the character of Titus throughout this play? Does he develop as a character or is he essentially static? Compare him to Hecuba - both suffer what seem to be an endless succession of blows in a short space of time - do they respond to the situation in similar terms, is one more deserving of their suffering than the other?

  • Parent-child relationships play a large role in the play: Titus and his children; Tamora and her sons; Aaron and his child. Compare these relationships with each other - how can these relationships be characterized, how do they inform the action?

  • What do you think of the character of Aaron? Is he a quintessential villain? What are his motivations for doing what he does? Does he have any redeeming features?

  • How do racism and hate feature in the play? How do they motivate and enable the action?

  • What picture of Roman society emerges from the play?

  • There are many classical references in this play. How do myths and examples from Rome's legendary past influence characters in the play?

  • The play, although tremendously popular in Shakespeare's own day, has generally been panned by critics from the 18th cent. onwards. It has enjoyed something of a revival recently with Julie Taymor's screen version. Why do you think the play has generally not been well received and do you see something in the work that might appeal particularly to a contemporary audience or speak to concerns of the present?

Last Update: May 25, 2000
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