Titus Andronicus

by: William Shakespeare

Act II, Scenes i-iii

One of the most nagging problems about this Act is the behavior of Lavinia when she and Bassianus discover Tamora in the arms of her lover Aaron. Considering that Lavinia spends most of the play mute, her few words here are particularly jarring for being so uncouth. Critics have found this unappealing side of Lavinia to be an unforgivable fault, interfering with her character's role as a tragic heroine. For the insults she unleashes on Tamora, some even believe that her rape is fitting retribution. However, others argue that her behavior is completely in keeping with the standards and behavior of ladies during the Elizabethan era, and that taking offense at her coarseness is just the prudish reaction of a contemporary reader. Because of the overall contradictory representation of Lavinia, as victim and as attacker, she becomes a good study of the place and agency of the female in the Rome of Titus Andronicus.

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