When Tamora and Lavinia first appear in the play they seem to be quite similar. Both the women are treated like property to be traded between men. Lavinia is traded between Saturninus and Bassianus and at one point Bassianus says “this made is mine” (1.1.279). In this moment Lavinia is not her own person, but is the property of a man, and she appears to have no will of her own. Slightly later in the same scene, Tamora seems to be in the same position as Lavinia. Saturninus, after losing Lavinia to Bassianus, decides “I choose thee, Tamora, for my bride and will crate thee Empress of Rome” (1.1.322-23). Tamora does not seem to have a choice in the matter of marrying Saturninus, just like Lavinia did not seem to have a choice in marrying Bassianus. The men are the ones who are making the choices for the women’s future in this part of the scene. This fits into the idea of traditional femininity of the time. It would have been seen as the right and feminine thing to do to give the power to the men. However, it is soon shown that Tamora is not the helpless being that Lavinia appears to be a...
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...ore of a difference between her and Lavinia.
When presenting these two characters, Shakespeare is giving two versions of femininity that exist on two completely different ends of the spectrum. Tamora is full of power and sexuality, while Lavinia is passive and virtuous. While working with these two different stereotypes of femininity, Shakespeare is able to explore two extreme opposites. These two women do not seem to represent a middle ground between being completely sensuous and completely virtuous. Tamora gaining too much power is what leads to her downfall and Lavinia loosing the only thing that is valued about her is what leads to hers. Shakespeare could be making a comment about how in extremes, the qualities these two women possess are not good, and women need to possess aspects of both Lavinia and Tamora, but in moderation, instead of living as n extreme.
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