As appearances play an important role in society, so they also play an important role in William Shakespeare's play Titus Andronicus. From the first scene to the last, Shakespeare elaborates on the theme of appearance versus reality through plot and character. The play’s plot is full of incidents and events that are not what they appear to be: from Titus' “mental breakdown” and Tamora's extended deceitfulness, to Aaron's declared deeds. Each case presents a contrast between what the senses perceive and what reality presents. Some characters are defined better by their actions than their speech.
Tamora is a veritable mold for the perfect Machiavellian character. She lusts not for power as her marrying the emperor would at first suggest, but for revenge. However, she is fatally flawed since she cannot perceive the obvious signs that Titus is at some level aware of the reality around him. She is too wrapped up in her own plans, and thus denies the signs of his lucidness. Her extensive cunning and plotting are one-sided. She acknowledges but does not fully comprehend Titus' state of mind:
TAMORA Act 5, Scene 2 (Lines 1-8)
Thus, in this strange and sad habiliment,
I will encounter with Andronicus,
And say I am Revenge, sent from below
To join with him and right his heinous wrongs.
Knock at his study, where, they say, he keeps,
To ruminate strange plots of dire revenge;
Tell him Revenge is come to join with him,
And work confusion on his enemies.
In line 6 she explicitly states that she is aware of Titus' plotting revenge against her, yet she does not believe that he will carry his plans out as evidenced by the word "strange." Her reas...
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... reality of their state of affairs and characters. The play is swathed in deceit on diploid levels, both the plot and the underlying personalities and motivations bear disparities between appearance and reality.
Works Cited and Consulted
Bate, Jonathan. "Introduction." Titus Andronicus. The Arden Shakespeare. London: Routledge, 1995. 1-121.
Carducci, Jane. "Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus: An Experiment in Expression." Cahiers Elisabethains 31 (1987): 1-9.
Danson, Lawrence N. "The Device of Wonder: Titus Andronicus and Revenge Tragedies." Texas Studies in Literature and Language 16 (1974): 27-43.
Hulse, S. Clarke. "Wresting the Alphabet: Oratory and Action in 'Titus Andronicus."' Criticism 21(1979): 106-18.
Shakespeare, William. "Titus Andronicus" The Norton Shakespeare. Ed. Stanley Wells & Gary Taylor. New York/London, W.W. Norton Company, 1997.
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