Titus Andronicus Analysis

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Visuals and the Violated: Women in Julie Taymor’s Titus

Up until the past few decades, Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus was never taken seriously by critics or audiences. As a revenge tragedy set in ancient Rome, the story is one of never-ending, over the top violence, which viewers may find hard to sit through without rolling their eyes, or at least becoming entirely desensitized. When Julie Taymor created the film version of this text, Titus, in 1999, she attempted to utilize visual violence in a way that an audience can make sense of. Just as Shakespeare used allusions to literature to more convincingly build the world of his Roman Titus Andronicus, Taymor weaves Titus together as a pastiche of references to history and pop culture,
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One of the most infamously hated scenes from Titus Andronicus is that in which Marcus discovers Lavinia after she has been raped and mutilated. While there are many disturbing visual elements surrounding Lavinia’s rape, including her attackers Chiron and Demetrius dancing around her in the mud and mocking her, perhaps the most disturbing is the fact that she has been put on display for anyone to find. When Marcus comes upon her (starting at 1:06:45), the camera pans from him to a wide shot of Lavinia alone, standing on a stump in an open field, as if put on a pedestal. As he moves closer, and we switch to the camera’s gaze, we see more clearly that she wears a dirty white slip, that her hands have been cut off and replaced with twigs, and that blood surrounds her mouth. As Marcus rambles on in a speech full of literary references and lacking in emotion or any sense of urgency to help his niece, we see Lavinia moving her arms and turning away from him, as if writhing in shame. His question “why dost thou not speak to me?” is answered in one very specific shot: the camera zooms in on Lavinia as she turns to face her uncle, spreads her mutilated arms wide, and opens her mouth to reveal a missing tongue, letting forth a stream of blood rather than a

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