Rape, I fear, was root of thy annoy: The Politics of Consent in Titus Andronicus
"Rape, I fear, was root of thy annoy": The Politics of Consent in Titus Andronicus
Sid Ray, Pace University
Scholars cannot resist the temptation to analyze the startling and eerie succession of hand severings in Titus Andronicus.1 What distinguishes the current study from others is its focus not solely on the hands but on the combined impact of Lavinia's injuries—her rape and the amputation of her hands and tongue—and how they figure within the political context of the play and within early modern ideologies of marriage and monarchy. Only after Lavinia pages through Ovid's Metamorphoses, comparing herself to the raped Philomel, does Titus begin to grasp the range of meaning implied by her injuries. His statement to Lavinia, "rape, I fear, was root of thy annoy" (4.1.49), signals that the rape carries a metonymical significance at least as important as the severed hands and tongue.2 Read collectively, the hand (the body part that demonstrates consent), the tongue (the body part that voices consent), and the rape (non-consensual intercourse) reflect profound anxiety over abrogated rights of consent. Lavinia's initial status as unmarried commodity suggests, more specifically, that her injuries address a bride's right to consent to marriage. If, however, we acknowledge Lavinia as a symbol of Rome and factor in her suitors' political motives, it becomes apparent that themes of political consent, the right of the people to consent to the authority of the monarch, find expression in the same ravished and mutilated body. Exploring both possibilities, this essay argues that in Titus Andronicus Shakespeare associates the right of a woman to consent to marriage with the ancient right of the social body to consent to the ruling power of the monarch. Because he figures the abrogation of those rights so violently, I contend that, in this early play, Shakespeare betrays republican leanings and sympathy for a constitutional form of government.
The assault on Lavinia, which occurs outside the city of Rome some time after Saturninus and Bassianus have articulated their competing philosophies of rulership, seems at first to bear little relevance to the issue of good governance. But an understanding of the analogy contemporary writers evoke between the household and the state and a close reading of Shakespeare's play of language indicate that Lavinia's injuries do, in fact, hold a great deal of political meaning. Before proceeding with an analysis of the play itself, I will therefore examine connections Renaissance theorists make between private and public policy, looking initially at an account of Elizabeth I's infamous directive for the amputation of the hands of two subjects, which took place during her marriage negotiations with the duke of Alençon. Although not the first to note this event's relevance, I hope to extend its significance by demonstrating how Lavinia's mutilated body dramatizes the people's right not only to consent to be ruled but also to advise their ruler. The interwoven marital and political ideologies revealed by this analysis and by a parallel between the Protestant marriage ceremony and the Tudor recognition ritual allow me to theorize a relationship between the domestic and the political in early modern treatises addressing consent.
The issue of consent was made a matter of public debate in 1579 when Elizabeth I demanded the amputation of the right hands of John Stubbs and William Page after they wrote and published a treatise decrying the queen's proposed marriage to the duke of Alençon. Outraged by the publication, Elizabeth "declared that she would rather lose a hand herself than mitigate . . . [the] punishment."3 While the treatise in question, The Discoverie of a Gaping Gulf, brashly displays its author's presumption, particularly as Stubbs. assumes a paternalistic view of the queen's marriage negotiations, it also reflects his deep concern for the welfare of the state. Stubbs feared that the queen's future husband would consider himself her ruler and head, "As the wife is subject to hir husband: so is her country to hys land."4 Stubbs, and by all accounts the English people in general, dreaded that the queen's marriage would position her as inferior to the long-time enemy of England, and they thought that if Elizabeth gave her hand in marriage to an heir of France, she would be handing over the people of England as well. Unfortunately for Stubbs and Page, the queen did not care to be reminded that marriage entails a transfer of dominion involving the bride's submission to her husband's governance. Elizabeth's prenuptial situation, unusual in its implications for a female monarch, forced England to confront the incompatibility of Protestant marriage ideals with female governance. Besides troubling marital ideology, Stubbs and Page's pamphlet collapsed domestic concerns into political ones. In their publication, marital issues became a vehicle for the constitutionalist notion that subjects, or at least magistrates, have some responsibility to voice concern about governmental policy.5
Elizabeth's orders to cut off the hands of Stubbs and Page may seem a drastic way to ensure a woman's right to choose a spouse. But that was not the issue for the queen; she was angered primarily by the challenge to her royal authority. So while domestic reformers and defenders of women may have sympathized with Elizabeth's right to choose her own husband, the larger issue of her subjects' right to question such a serious decision was critical, especially in light of contemporary debates about advice and consent. Many of Elizabeth's judges, like many modern historians, considered the punishment excessive; and in his eyewitness account of the mutilation, William Camden offers three possible motives for the crowd's unusual silence:
either out of horror at this new unwonted kind of punishment or out of commiseration towards the man, as being of an honest and unblemished repute; or else out of hatred of the marriage, which most men presaged would be the overthrow of religion.6
This violent event, confronting, as it did, issues of marital politics and political marriage in a significant, theatrical display of power, strikingly resembles the rape and dismemberments in Titus Andronicus.
Like Titus, which opens with a contested election and two disputed marriages, the Stubbs case raises important questions about the viability of marital ideals within lived political contexts, especially given shifting theories of authority's origins in the early modern period. When a woman "gives her hand in marriage," the metaphor implies, she consents to the marital transaction. In the hand-fasting tradition, the bride and groom display their mutual consent to the union and agree to carry out their respective marital duties.7 Henry Smith notes: "As they are handfasted, so they must be heartfasted, for the eye, and the tongue, & the hand, will be her enimies, if the hart be not her friend."8 But in sixteenth-century England the dynamic of the wedding ceremony, specifically the offering of hands, enacted rituals of exchange rather than rituals of mutuality. The bride's father, who owned his daughter during her premarital existence, transferred possession of her to the bridegroom, whereupon the groom became the bride's "head" and continued dominance over her. The coronation ritual enacted a similar process of exchange and consent. Analyzing that similarity is critical to understanding Titus because the father's tyrannical intervention in his daughter's marriage parallels his intervention in the election of the emperor.
While hand-fasting rituals emphasized mutual consent, the wedding ceremony of The Book of Common Prayer, 1559 carefully stages the father's transfer of the daughter to the husband. Instead of a mutual giving of hands, the bride gives her hand and the groom takes it. This act of "taking" asserts the groom's ascendancy in the relationship, symbolizing the bride's sacrifice of a part of her body which the groom incorporates into his own. Thomas Gataker explains this yielding and incorporation in A Good Wife God's Gift: "She was at first taken out of man; and is therefore by Creation as a limbe reaft from him. And she was afterward ioyned againe in Mariage with Man, that by Nuptiall coniunction becoming one flesh with him, she might be as a limbe restored now and fastened againe to him."9 As a "limbe restored," the bride becomes a part, or member, of the man, a person without autonomy, ruled by her protector. Renaissance divines preferred men and women to have their marriages consecrated in a church by a minister who would dictate the prescribed ritual in which the bride "gives her hand in marriage" to her father, who then gives it to the groom.10 Though hand-fasting accompanied by the appropriate vows between a man and woman past a certain age constituted a valid marriage in Renaissance England, Protestants urged couples to consecrate the union in church because the church ceremony involved their parents. The bride's father would have to agree to the marriage, ensuring that the union was neither hasty nor illicit. Indeed, his presence would also ensure that the proper financial negotiations had been completed.
In spite of Protestant reformers' professed distaste for arranged marriage, the exchange between father and husband staged the private processes involved in arranged marriages, namely the transfer of ownership of the bride and her dowry. A wealthy father would engage a girl, often at a very young age, to an economically or politically suitable boy. Upon coming of age, the bride-to-be would or would not have the right of refusal, depending on her father's disposition. If the queen had married the duke of Alençon, her consent to the arrangement would have been a foregone conclusion; if the queen did not want to marry, she would simply have refused to do so because that was her prerogative as a supreme ruler. But the situation for all other aristocratic women was not comparable. In some cases a father would coerce his daughter into marriage, forcing her to extend her hand in a show of consent. This situation was not uncommon for aristocratic and even some of the poorer women in Renaissance England.11 Indeed, "a system of arranged or enforced marriages was kept in existence until the abolition of wardship in the middle of the seventeenth century."12 In domestic situations where property was at stake, parental consent or consensus nuptialis was profoundly important, especially given the financial instability of the aristocracy at the turn of the century.13 Smith states, for example, "if a virgin make a vow, it should not be kept, vnlesse her father approue it, because she is not free: therefore if she did vow to marrie, yet the Father hath power by this law to breake it."14 Though Protestant marriage-tract writers argued for parental consent, they claimed that if the girl rejected a man her parents had chosen, she should not be forced into the marriage. But, as Margaret King records, "even with the advance of the notion of consent, many young women (and men) were compelled against their will or preference to marry persons chosen for them by their families."15 Parents would often apply a great deal of pressure to gain their children's consent to a match and in some instances would resort to beating, abducting, or imprisoning the unwilling bride.16 The history of such coercion may explain why Lavinia, already betrothed to Bassianus, remains silent in Titus Andronicus when her father agrees to marry her to Saturninus (1.1.244).
Officially the church required the bride's consent to the marriage and, by extension, her consent to be ruled by her husband—she did have a degree of agency in this regard. In The Christen state of matrimoneye Miles Coverdale writes: "Wedloke must be coupled togither with the good consent of both the parsonnes."17 In a more overtly political treatise, An Heptameron of Civili Discourses, George Whetstone writes, "the office of Free choise, is the roote or foundation of Marriage."18 During James's reign William Perkins writes, "The second thing required to the making of a [marriage] contract, is the free and full consent of the parties, which is indeed the very soule and life of the contract."19 Adding a legal perspective, T. E.'s The Lowes Resolvtions notes that common and civil law in England dictate that both bride and groom consent to the match: "The full Contract of Matrimonie, is when it is made by words de praesenti in a lawfull consent, and thus two be made man and wife existing without lying together, yet Matrimonie is not accounted consummate until there goe with the consent of mind and will Coniunction of body."20 While consent in theory was a primary concern, in practice it was often circumvented.
The importance of the bride's consent, even if it was coerced, suggests that its emphasis in early modern marital tracts had a purpose other than ensuring the bride's voice in her domestic arrangements. It is possible that, in their writings on domestic issues, sixteenth-century Protestant reformers were measuring how consent operates in the political paradigm in which the ruler is thought to be wedded to the kingdom. Through such debates regarding free choice in marriage, their constitutionalist contemporaries did find a subtle means of promoting political consent. They had a reason to do so; during the Tudor period the ritual of consent at the accession of a new monarch was altered dramatically. Changes in the coronation ceremony show that political consent was a heavily charged issue in Renaissance England, and one that could be more safely broached through its less-controversial marital analogue.
The transfer of daughter from father to husband that occurs in the marriage ceremony is similar to the transfer of power that occurs in the royal succession when the deceased monarch transfers governance to a younger version of him or herself as if that ruler were there. Thus the natural body of the ruler dies, but the mystical body lives in the successor. Indeed, the coronation ring represents the marriage of a ruler to the kingdom just as the wedding ring represents the marriage of husband and wife. To defend herself from those who wanted her to marry, Elizabeth I often raised her hand and displayed her coronation ring to indicate that she was already wedded to the people.21 As the consent of the bride to be ruled by her husband is a critical element of the marriage ritual, so the consent of the people to accept their new ruler is also ceremonially significant. From the early reigns of Edward the Confessor and William the Conqueror up to the coronation of Edward VI, the "election" ritual in which the people were asked if they consented to the new ruler was vital to the coronation. But at the Tudor boy-king's accession the election ritual was changed into a simple "recognition" ritual in which the people of England, represented by the peers of the realm, were merely asked if they "recognized" the new ruler. The ritual was altered because "election" implied that the monarch had a profound obligation to the people, an implication that did not accord with the Tudor claim to absolute power. Historian Bertie Wilkinson writes that Edward VI "was not presented in the Abbey as elected by anybody: the people were asked only to give their good will and assent 'as by your duties of allegiance ye are bound to do.'"22 At Edward's coronation, the election ritual had metamorphosed into a simple question put to the spectators: "Will you serve at this time, and give your good wills and assent to the same consecration, enunction, and coronation?"23 This significant alteration of the ritual is, as William Jones observes, "a curious proof of the solicitude displayed by the Tudors, as it was much more by the next family, to suppress every recollection that could make their sovereignty appear to be of popular origin."24 Such an alteration must have infuriated constitutionalists, Theodore Beza for one, who believed that "authority to rule is founded mostly on the consent of Parliament" rather than on the king's birth-right.25 Despite the alteration from "election" to "recognition," the ritual "preserved a tradition of voluntary allegiance by a free people to the new ruler."26 In this way the recognition ritual mirrors the wedding ritual in which a woman "gives her hand in marriage" as a sign of her consent to be ruled. For Protestant marriage-tract writers and for anti-absolutist political theorists the right to consent to be ruled by anyone—a husband or a monarch—even if only ceremonial, is a critical component of social stability.
In regard to domestic politics, however, Protestantism "increased [the] authority of the husband and father" and "enhanced men's need to control women and power to do so."27 If household governance is truly analogous to political governance, then such an argument would seem to contradict Protestant constitutionalist efforts to limit the monarch's absolute power. In reality, however, Protestant reformers did seek to limit absolute power in governance, even though their theories about marriage inflated paternal and husbandly power in the household. The reason for the discrepancy is that, in the sixteenth century, the access to and deployment of power by husbands and fathers (domestic patriarchalism) differed pointedly from the way monarchical power operated, despite the often-cited analogy between them.28 Political theorist Richard Hooker, for example, believed that "patriarchal authority existed only within families; its political significance was limited to having predisposed men to monarchical government."29 It was only later, in the seventeenth century, that King James and Robert Filmer fully promoted patriarchalism, a theory of governance in which the people are viewed as children to their ruler.30 Protestant reformers recognized that children, as opposed to wives and subjects, are given no opportunity to consent to their "ruler's" authority, marking a fundamental difference between patriarchalism and monarchy. Indeed, the broadening of husbandly and paternal power in the household did not mean that Protestants advocated increased authority in the political arena. Queen Elizabeth considered radical Puritans to be threats to her power because they wanted to introduce reforms in the Anglican church even more substantial than those mandated by the crown. Members of Parliament were constitutionalist allies of the Protestant reformers in that both groups were seeking to impose limits on Tudor absolutism. John Ponet, a Puritan who fled England during Mary's reign, boldly declared that a prince should be resisted in the name of the true religion. He argued, along with John Knox, that the obligation to resist "extends not only to the people's magistrates but, if need be, to every individual."31 Ponet was a close associate of Thomas Becon, who, in addition to writing the preface to Coverdale's The Christen state of matrimonye, was a political theorist. Like Ponet, Becon suggested that the people owe no obedience to a ruler if the ruler's laws and practices contravene God's laws. In his Catechism, Becon writes: "We must obey God more than men."32
Despite the significant differences between domestic and civil governance, marriage-tract writers did adopt various political paradigms to construct household hierarchies, just as political theorists adopted familial paradigms as models for monarchical rule.33 Marriage theory was so malleable that political theorists could manipulate it to support their ideals. Susan Amussen writes, "Marriage was an accessible model for contract theorists. The political questions were obvious, if problematic: if there was an original contract between King and people, what were its terms?" Notably, the increased emphasis by humanist and Protestant writers in the sixteenth century on the bride's consent to be ruled by her husband coincides with writings by political radicals which insist that a monarch's power derives not from divine right but from the consent of the governed. In the mid-seventeenth century, Amussen notes, member of Parliament Henry Parker used the domestic model to argue against divine right. According to Amussen, Parker "reminded his readers that in cases of marital breakdown the ecclesiastical courts protected both partners, and argued that the wife could be almost equal to her husband. . . . 'And if men, for whose sake women were created, shall not lay hold upon the divine right of wedlock, to the disadvantage of women: much less shall Princes, who were created for the people's sake, challenge any thing, from the sanctity of their offices, that may derogate from the people.'"34 But absolutists in the early seventeenth century claimed that husbands did not derive power from the consent of their wives to marry; they derived it instead from their position as husbands. In the same way, kings derived power from their position as heirs to past kings, with a power that in essence came directly from God instead of from the people. Because sixteenth-century marriage theorists had positioned women, children, and servants in descending order as the governed or subservient members of the household, the connection between female marital consent and the consent of the governed in the political spectrum may have been more than analogous for philosophers even before the turn of the seventeenth century.35 Constance Jordan propounds this compelling theory: "it may be that the language of the rights of the subject derives from discussions concerning the limits of wifely obedience."36 If writers could prove that husbands derived their ruling power from the consent of their wives, then a constitutionalist, limited monarchy would be easier to advocate. Thus Shakespeare, by demonstrating the ill effects on the individual female body of abrogated consent, subtly imparts the necessity of consent rituals for the collective social body.
Shakespeare was doubtless familiar with the writings of sixteenth-century political theorists such as Desiderius Erasmus, John Ponet, and George Buchanan, who drew on the writings of Sir John Fortescue. In Governance of England, Fortescue differentiates between governments in which the king rules by divine right and those in which he rules by the consent of the people. The former, dominium regale, is a form of government conducive to tyrants because it allows the ruler to make decisions without the consent of the people. The latter form of government, dominium politicum et regale, is one in which the ruler derives power from the people, and thus it requires him or her to act for the people's benefit. One hundred years after Fortescue's tract was published, Ponet and Buchanan reiterate the virtues of dominium politicum et regale, arguing from a basis in ancient law that kings have no absolute claim to governance but derive their power from the consent of the people. Even though many such constitutionalist treatises were considered radical, they were available to the English people, many of them in the English language—notably Ponet's Politike Power and Smith's De Republica Anglorvm.37 In 1591, two years prior to the first production of Titus Andronicus, Richard Hooker was writing Laws of ecclesiastical polity, which also articulated the theory that the queen ruled by consent of the commonwealth.38 Likewise, Matthew Sutcliffe, Dean of Exeter, published the constitutionalist De presbyterio, noting that the monarch's power derived from the people's consent. Like these influential contemporary tracts, Titus Andronicus supports the analogy between marital consent in the little commonwealth of the household and political consent in the governance of states: the struggle for Lavinia's hand in marriage, the question of her consent to marriage, and her subsequent rape and mutilation by the Goths are bound up with issues of the emperor's access to power through the consent of the people.
At the beginning of the play, Lavinia resists her father's authority to bestow her on Saturninus and gives her hand instead to Bassianus, a man she had earlier consented to marry. Three short scenes later, the Goths return her to the stage, having amputated her hands, cut out her tongue, and raped her. Such a violent fate visually reinforces the sense that the underlying struggle for dominance in Titus, whether it be the struggle for Rome or the struggle for Lavinia, is played out through "maimed" rituals of consent. When Titus attempts to "give his daughter's hand in marriage" to Saturninus, his action both ignores Lavinia's desire to be Bassianus's wife and flouts the prior betrothal agreement. Titus's disregard for his daughter's betrothal contract parallels his disregard for the people's right to political consent. Playing the role of tyrannical father in both private and public realms, Titus chooses the emperor of Rome without heeding the voice of its subjects.
As "Rome's royal mistress" (1.1.241), Lavinia personifies the state, which implies that her consent ought to go to the man chosen as Rome's emperor. As Leonard Tennenhouse writes, "Rather than make Lavinia serve as the object of illicit lust, Shakespeare uses her body as the site for political rivalry among various families with competing claims to power over Rome. For one of them to possess Lavinia is for that family to display power over the rest—nothing more nor less than that."39 Because Lavinia's body acts as an instrument of political power, the two candidates for emperor must not only deliver campaign speeches to the people of Rome but also fight for Lavinia's hand. The symmetry of the events encourages the audience to make an analogy between the struggle for power over Rome and the struggle for dominion over Lavinia.
In order to validate his claim on the empery, Saturninus enlists the law of primogeniture in his opening campaign speech: "I am his first born son that was the last / That ware the imperial diadem of Rome" (11. 5-6). His claim is strong; in sixteenth-century England "the prime factor affecting all families which owned property was .. . the principle and practice of primogeniture, for the preservation and protection of which the entail was designed."40 Primogeniture was also a rallying cry of absolutist monarchs who argued that their power derived from the mystical transference of power from the father-king to the heir, rather than from the consent of the people. J. P. Sommerville writes, "A number of claims to authority were commonly recognized as legitimate. These included original election by the people, victory in a just war, and gift from a sovereign ruler. It was widely agreed that the best form of government was a monarchy in which succession proceeded by primogeniture in the male line, but no one argued that this was the only valid type of government."41 By invoking primogeniture, Saturninus demonstrates an absolutist's belief in divine right.
Bassianus has an equally persuasive platform—one that rests on a more democratic or constitutional principle. He states that succession should not be automatic, based on mystical traditions of first-blood but that the people themselves should choose their ruler: "But let desert in pure election shine; / And, Romans, fight for freedom in your choice" (11. 16-17). His claim, however, results in a stand-off, since neither brother's cause is heeded by the people. Marcus explains:
Know that the people of Rome, for whom we stand
A special party, have by common voice,
In election for the Roman empery,
Chosen Andronicus, surnamed Pius
For many good and great deserts to Rome.
But Titus declines the empery—"What should I don this robe and trouble you?" (1. 189)—though he seems to invent the prerogative to do so. Instead of ruling, he adopts a paternalistic role and arranges a marriage for Rome by unilaterally choosing the new ruler. This breach of custom in the succession rings of tyranny in that it deprives the people of their voice in two ways: it prevents them from electing the emperor freely, and it prevents them from voicing their consent to his authority. An unorthodox representative of the people, Titus privileges patriarchal principles, heredity, and divine right over election and public opinion.42 Once Titus favors hereditary right over the people's voices, the emperor is no longer obliged to satisfy the needs of the social body, to rule, in Fortescue's paradigm, according to dominium politicum et regale, with public consent. Instead he may interpret his authority as unlimited. According to the author of Vindiciae contra tyrannos, this situation imperils the state: "we should always remember that kings were created for the people's benefit, that rulers are called 'kings' when they promote the people's interest and are called 'tyrants', as Aristotle says, when they seek to promote their own."43 Saturninus proves to be such a self-promoter, yet Titus plainly agrees with his claim: "Content thee, Prince, I will restore to thee / The people's hearts, and wean them from themselves" (11. 210-11). These telling lines show Titus's tendency to see the people of Rome as children to be "weaned" from their choice of Bassianus and from their right to consent to another's power just as he later thinks to "wean" his daughter from her betrothal contract with him. Since Titus claims patriarchal prerogative in both the election and the marriage, the fate of Rome is the fate of the daughter in an arranged marriage.44
Titus, ignoring the people's desire for him to rule, unilaterally opts instead to arrange a match between the people of Rome and the man of his choosing. Indeed, both the structure and the language of the scene in which Titus names the emperor reflect the structure and language of contemporary marriage transactions. The choice of words in this electoral context recalls Ephesians, wherein St. Paul insists that "the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church." Titus's words, "A better head her glorious body fits / Than his that shakes for age and feebleness" (11. 187-88), deliberately evoke the analogy between marital and political models of governance. Thus his error in choosing Saturninus becomes apparent when Bassianus elopes with Lavinia.
Marriage and primogeniture were two of the most important and obvious ways in which wealth and power could be passed down in Renaissance England.45 Because Saturninus's claim to Rome rests gon primogeniture, Bassianus confounds that claim by enlisting marriage. He cannot have Rome, but he will have Lavinia; and the brothers who, a few moments earlier, were rivals for the empery now vie for the bride. Saturninus commands: "Lavinia will I make my empress, / Rome's royal mistress, mistress of my heart, / And in the sacred [Pantheon] her espouse" (ll. 240-42). Though Titus agrees to the match, Bassianus interjects, "Lord Titus, by your leave, this maid is mine" (1. 276) and whisks the silent Lavinia offstage. His actions, interpreted by Titus as traitorous, are justified by the betrothal contract—Bassianus "owns" Lavinia by virtue of a previous legal agreement. Despite the imperial prerogative, Lavinia does indeed belong to Bassianus, as Titus's sons bravely demonstrate: "That is another's lawful promis'd love" (1. 298). Importantly, Bassianus waits to enunciate his claim to his betrothed until after Saturninus "courts Tamora in dumb show" (1. 275 s.d.) and proves by his lechery to be unworthy.46 Meanwhile the suddenness of Saturninus's desire for Tamora further forewarns of a reckless regime. According to contemporary constitutionalist writers, the lust of a ruler often signaled poor statecraft; a ruler who could not control his desires would perhaps elevate his own needs over the needs of the state and its people.47 Thomas Smith defines a tyrant as "he, who is an euill king, & who hath no regard to the wealth of his people, but seeketh onely to magnifie himselfe and his, and to satisfie his vicious and cruell appetite, without respect of God."48 Saturninus's sexual attraction to Tamora obscures his sense of duty to the Roman people and causes him foolishly to place the enemies of Rome too near the heart of its power.
Initially, of course, the audience suspects Saturninus of absolutism when he places the principle of primogeniture over that of the people's "voice." When he thinks Titus will take the throne, he impetuously begins to stage a rebellion: "Romans, do me right. / Patricians, draw your swords, and sheathe them not / Till Saturninus be Rome's emperor" (11. 203-5). Once named emperor, Saturninus demands Lavinia as his wife without asking Lavinia herself and only flippantly acknowledges Titus's paternal jurisdiction over her. He says, "Lavinia will I make my emperess. . . . Tell me, Andronicus, doth this motion please thee?" (11. 240-43). Saturninus adheres to what Smith calls the "verie daungerous" paradigm of absolute power "whereof the cause is the frailtie of mans nature, which (as Plato saith) cannot abide or beare long that absolute and uncontrowled authoritie, without swelling into too much pride and insolencie."49
If Smith's definition of tyranny applies to Saturninus, it also characterizes Titus, who is equally prideful and tyrannous; he and Saturninus prove to be doubles in their political philosophies. By having Titus unhesitatingly kill his own son Mutius when he assists the elopement of Bassianus and Lavinia, Shakespeare underscores the extent to which Titus is also invested in absolutism; his intertwined sense of patriarchalism and politics prefigure King Lear. Like Lear, the aged Titus shirks the responsibility of leading his people, yet hopes to retain his absolute power as father. Renaissance writers who argued that a ruler's power derives from divine right theorized that fathers were the original rulers in ancient communities. Fathers, like absolutists, receive their power not from their subjects—in this case, wives and children—but from God. As Sommerville writes,
It was widely accepted that power over a family was in the hands of the father. But the father's power was often regarded as non-political, since it did not include the power to execute his wife or children. By claiming that fathers had at first possessed the right to inflict the death penalty upon members of their families, a number of authors tried to show that the earliest political societies were not self-governing democracies, but monarchies ruled over by a father and king.50
Titus adopts this ancient paradigm of father as absolute ruler with the right to inflict capital punishment on his family. His paternalism explains why he chooses Saturninus as emperor in the first place and why he deferentially consents to the new emperor's wishes to marry his daughter. He believes in divinely ordained succession of the first-born son, and the irony of that belief is unmistakable. During the remainder of the play, Titus becomes a victim of his own narrow philosophy of absolutist rule.
The consequences of Titus's choice of Rome's emperor and his choice of husband for Lavinia (which she rebels against) are displayed on Lavinia's body in the second act. Meanwhile the political and marital themes of the play become intertwined: Titus's disposition of the empery carries domestic resonances of a marriage negotiation, while his bestowal of Lavinia's hand carries political resonances of tyranny and insurrection. Such reciprocity only reflects the overlapping imperatives of political and marital consent in early modern treatises. Martin Luther himself believed that marriage and government operate in conjunction: "On the one hand, though not technically a sacrament, marriage is described as holy, a* 'most spiritual' status, 'ordained and founded' by God himself. It is the source of domestic and public government, the foundation of human society, which without it would 'fall to pieces.'"51 Luther's metaphor operates quite literally in Titus Andronicus; as a result of maimed consent rituals, both Rome and Lavinia fall to pieces, the former symbolically, the latter literally. Correspondingly, Saturninus and Bassianus's struggle to wed Lavinia and, later, Chiron and Demetrius's contest over who will rape her mirror the struggle between constitutionalists and absolutists in the early modern period.
As the site of contention, a "map of woe" (3.2.12), Lavinia endures radical disfigurement as the play unfolds. The ill-conceived nature of Saturninus's marriage manifests itself when the treacherous Tamora, now empress, announces plans to undo Titus, exploiting the instability of his family relations to do so. Chiron and Demetrius, as sons of the empress and newly empowered step-sons of the emperor, have broad claims to power. They project their political ambitions onto Lavinia's body, desiring her because they recognize her as the emblem of imperial power. Aaron, after all, lewdly encourages Chiron and Demetrius to "revel in Lavinia's treasury" (2.1.131). His terms forge an analogy between the rapist and the monarch who would raid the state coffers for his own indulgence rather than for the benefit of the people governed. In many ways, then, Chiron and Demetrius stand for the tyranny of an absolute monarch.
Like Bassianus in Act 1, Chiron stakes his right to Lavinia's body by challenging primogeniture, subordinating it to merit:
Demetrius, thou dost overween in all, . . .
Tis not the difference of a year or two
Makes me less gracious, or thee more fortunate;
I am as able and as fit as thou
To serve, and to deserve my mistress' grace,
And that my sword upon thee shall approve,
And plead my passions for Lavinia's love.
Chiron takes the chance that Lavinia will desire him and choose him above his brother. His words "serve" and "deserve" underscore his younger-brother politics of merit. Meanwhile, Demetrius calls upon Saturninus's model, that of primogeniture: "Youngling, learn thou to make some meaner choice, / Lavinia is thine elder brother's hope" (2.1.73-74).
Replaying Titus's role as the interfering patriarch and arbiter of imperial power, Aaron intervenes in this moment of sibling rivalry. As Tamora's long-time lover, he acts as a father figure to the brothers, and his superior intelligence, cunning, and worldliness invest him with might and authority just as martial deeds grant Titus power when the play opens. Aaron, however, opts for an overtly abusive solution to this competition: "strike her home by force, if not by words" (1. 118). He encourages Chiron and Demetrius to combine strengths, overpower Lavinia, and rape her. Aaron effectively "hands" Lavinia over to two people she neither desires, nor gives consent to. Rape, from the Latin rapere, meaning "to seize," is a powerful figure for the repudiation and violation of consent. When Lavinia reappears, the stage directions read: "Enter . . . LAVINIA, her hands cut off, and her tongue cut out, and ravish'd" (2.4.0 s.d.). Thus Shakespeare dramatizes the horror of rape and political tyranny through the visual horror of Lavinia's disfigured body.
Besides the primary purpose of silencing Lavinia, the rape and mutilation grotesquely exaggerate the oppression of the aristocratic Elizabethan wife forced to consummate marriage with a man she does not desire. Lavinia's severed hands and tongue further dramatize the loss of consent, displacing internal and mental injuries onto conspicuous limbs. In combination, the injuries spectacularly figure absolute political power. Just as the people of Rome are rendered voiceless, in that the "common voice" (1.1.21 and 5.3.140) holds no sway in the accession of Saturninus, Lavinia is able neither to protest the Goths' tyranny nor to accuse them of their foul deeds. Where Rome figuratively falls to pieces and becomes a "wilderness of tigers" (3.1.54) at the hands of Saturninus, Lavinia's body is "lopp'd and hew'd" (2.4.17) because of her father's domestic tyranny.
Significantly, Chiron and Demetrius's glee when they rape and mutilate Lavinia is at odds with their initial protestations of love for her. Chiron's wish to "serve" and "deserve" Lavinia at the beginning of Act 2 contrasts dramatically with his fiendish delight at the sight of her maimed body, expressed in his coldhearted taunt: "Write down thy mind, bewray thy meaning so, / And if thy stumps will let thee play the scribe" (11. 3-4). The brothers' rapacity emerges only after Aaron patronizes them with his commanding presence and sexual energy, and when they discover Lavinia is not the demure, ideal woman they believed her to be. Despite the fact that Lavinia speaks only ten lines in all of Act 1, she proves quite vocal and even caustic in Act 2. When she surprises Tamora with Aaron, Lavinia sneers at her, "'Tis thought you have a goodly gift in horning" (2,3.67) and proceeds to insult her, in front of her sons, with the name Semiramis, a Babylonian goddess sometimes thought to be an oversexed woman, sometimes thought to have seduced her son.52 Lavinia's efforts to resist the Goths only anger them, adding zeal to their subsequent abuse. Shown to be merely an object of exchange in Act 1, Lavinia now threatens Chiron and Demetrius as much as Aaron does, and for that she is brutally punished. What happens pleases the otherwise insatiable Tamora and helps Chiron arid Demetrius to regain a sense of masculinity imperiled when they were "brought to yoke" (1.1.69) by Titus—"yoked" being a common metaphor for "wedded"—and utterly lost when they were mocked by Aaron. Part of their glee derives from their ability to turn Lavinia into the exaggeratedly passive, silent woman they took her for in Act 1. In a twisted parody of the marriage ceremony, they each take a hand, literalizing the marital metaphor and reestablishing their position as members of the dominant sex. Moreover, the injuries remind us that their brutality can be traced back to Saturninus's decision to free them and even further to Titus's abrogation of the people's consent.
Shakespeare reiterates the brutal consequences of Saturninus and Titus's absolutist philosophy when he adds another hand severing, this one staged in full view. Prior to this scene, Titus must confront the spectacle of Lavinia's mutilation and recognize his own impotence vis-à-vis Saturninus's tyranny. "Give me a sword, I'll chop off my hands too" (3.1.72) is his immediate reaction to the sight of his daughter's body. Only when he sees in graphic detail the devastating impact of tyranny on his daughter does he begin to grasp the perverted possibilities of a system of governance based on an exaggerated binary of authority and subordination which is figured in this play as tyrant and rape victim. Titus wonders: "Or shall we cut away our hands like thine? / Or shall we bite our tongues, and in dumb shows / Pass the remainder of our hateful days? / What shall we do?" (11. 130-33). Expressing his desire to mirror Lavinia and become an emblem himself of abrogated consent, Titus offers to effect his own dismemberment. In doing so, he shows he misunderstands the significance of her mutilation. Unlike Lavinia, Titus is the willful agent of his own victimization whose self-mutilation parodies the actions of a woman consenting to marry; as such, he exempts himself from Lavinia's hidden injuries, the tongue severing and the rape.53
Ironically, the words Titus utters in the intimate moment shared with Aaron before the amputation lend themselves to a comparison with the marriage ceremony. After he tricks Lucius and Marcus into believing that one of them will give their hand to Aaron, Titus says, almost seductively, "Come hither, Aaron. I'll deceive them both; / Lend me thy hand, and I will give thee mine" (11. 186-87). His language typifies consensual wedding vows exchanged between characters in a number of Shakespeare's plays.54 Thus when Aaron amputates Titus's hand, he feminizes the once great warrior "train'd up in arms" (1.1.30) and plays the husband to Titus's bride.55 In addition, Titus's severed hand ironically metonymizes his relationship to the people of Rome, whom he defended with arms on the battlefield but refused to protect as their chosen ruler. Titus recognizes that the hand remaining is a tyrannizing limb, not a protective one: "This poor right hand of mine / Is left to tyrannize upon my breast" (3.2.7-8), as it can no longer tyrannize his daughter or the people of Rome.
Literally dis-membered from the empire as a useless citizen, a warrior without a hand, Titus asks, "Then which way shall I find Revenge's cave?" (3.1.270), and the play proceeds through the stages of Senecan revenge drama. During the unfolding of the revenge plot, Shakespeare continually reminds the audience of Lavinia's and Titus's injuries through indecorous puns and repetitions. An allusion to the rapist Tarquín (1. 298) and repeated references to hands and severings indicate Shakespeare's investment in these tropes as an aural means of conveying his criticism of tyranny. Tyranny, we are reminded, can "dis-member" individuals figuratively; it strips them of their membership within the social realm and takes away their human rights. This suggests why Lavinia rarely leaves the stage; her disfigured body speaks volumes against political and domestic tyranny, and Titus's chastening of Marcus for a verbal pun on hands ironically sustains the similarly dis-figured word-play:
MARCUS Fie, brother, fie, teach her not thus to lay
Such violent hands upon her tender life.
TITUS How now! has sorrow made thee dote already?
Why, Marcus, no man should be mad but I.
What violent hands can she lay on her life?
Ah, wherefore dost thou urge the name of hands. . . .
O, handle not the theme, to talk of hands. . . .
As if we should forget we had no hands,
If Marcus did not name the word of hands!
The spectacle is unforgettable: Titus and Lavinia exiting the stage in Act 4, Titus carrying the severed head of one son, and Lavinia taking her father's severed hand in her mouth. Indeed, even when they have left the stage, other characters continue to pun cruelly on their tragedy. For example, Aaron confesses his evil deeds to Lucius and can't resist recounting the details:
'Twas her two sons that murdered Bassianus;
They cut thy sister's tongue, and ravish'd her,
And cut her hands, and trimm'd her as thou sawest.
Lucius replies, "0 detestable villain! call'st thou that trimming?" To which Aaron answers, "Why, she was wash'd, and cut, and trimm'd, and 'twas / Trim sport for them which had the doing of it" (11. 91-96). Punning on both rape and mutilation, "trim" focuses appropriate attention on the cumulative impact of Lavinia's injuries.
Such puns answer the purpose in the final scene when Marcus displaces Lavinia's mutilation onto the troubled city of Rome and, in the process, translates the literal injuries into figurative ones. He says to Lucius, "O, let me teach you how to knit again / This scattered corn into one mutual sheaf, / These broken limbs again into one body" (5.3.70-72). The puns escalate into tautologies; like Rome, Lavinia is a "map of woe"; her body is a raped country, voiceless, lacking hands to wash, feed, or defend itself. Lavinia's abused body, which has served as an overdetermined emblem of marital oppression, now figures the "civil wound" of Rome and its people "[b]y uproars sever'd" (11. 87, 68).
At the same time, Marcus's choice of words to describe the rebirth of Rome, words such as "knit" and "these broken limbs," echo Renaissance marriage rhetoric like Gataker's: "one man and one woman are coupled and knit togeather in one fleshe and body," or an unattached woman is a "limbe reaft" from man, "that by Nuptiall coniunction . . . might be as a limbe restored. . . ."56 Thus Lucius rehabilitates the dismembered body of Rome by proposing a consensual marriage between head and body, ruler and people. He even displaces Rome's ravishment onto himself when he claims to have "preserv'd her welfare in my blood, / And from her bosom took the enemy's point, / Sheathing the steel in my advent'rous body" (5.3.110-12). Using repetition to emphasize the connection between Lavinia and Rome, Marcus announces that the "new" Rome will be complete and strong with new tongues and hands: "Speak, Romans, speak, and if you say we shall, / Lo hand in hand Lucius and I will fall" (11. 135-36, emphasis added). The true leader of the freshly rehabilitated Rome begins to right the wrongs committed in Act 1 by allowing the citizens their "voice" instead of investing himself with absolute authority. Aemilius sums up, "bring our emperor gently in thy hand, / Lucius our emperor, for well I know / The common voice do cry it shall be so" (11. 138-40, emphasis added). In their descriptions of the new Rome, Aemilius and Marcus dare to "handle the theme"; they emphasize the body parts Lavinia has lost during the play. Ultimately, however, by recalling Lavinia's appalling fate and underscoring the legitimacy of the "common voice," they reject the precedent set by her father to abrogate the people's consent by unilaterally naming the emperor. Resolved with such didacticism, the play on the whole issues a clear warning: absolute monarchy abuses the people and causes the state to "fall to pieces."
Interpreted in this way, Titus Andronicus becomes less a clumsy and excessively gory first attempt at tragedy than a glimpse into the political consciousness of the young Shakespeare, perhaps not yet masterful enough to obscure his progressivism.57 Though Shakespeare was himself the first-born son and heir to his father's assets, it appears that, as he explores the political dimensions of desire and marriage, he condemns rapacious, nonconsensual political rulership. When Shakespeare wrote this play, ten years after Stubbs and Page were punished for publishing The Discoverie of a Gaping Gulf, Queen Elizabeth had assured the English people that she would never compromise her position through marriage. Lavinia is not so circumspect. After resisting her father's authority "to give her hand in marriage," she is forced to yield her hands, tongue, and chastity, becoming a, walking caricature of wifehood at the mercy of an unwanted husband and a personification of the state at the mercy of unchecked power.
1 See Albert H. Tricomi's seminal article, "The Aesthetics of Mutilation in Titus Andronicus, " Shakespeare Survey 27 (1974): 11-20; David Willbern's enormously suggestive psychoanalytic reading, "Rape and Revenge in Titus Andronicus, " English Literary Renaissance 8 (1978): 159-82; Mary Laughlin Fawcett's erudite "Arms/Words/Tears: Language and the Body in Titus Andronicus, " ELH 50 (1983): 261-78; and Gillian Murray Kendall's instructive analysis of metaphor in "Lend me thy hand': Metaphor and Mayhem in Titus Andronicus, " Shakespeare Quarterly 40 (1989): 299-316. For more recent articles, see Katherine A. Rowe's "Dismembering and Forgetting in Titus Andronicus;" SQ 45 (1994): 269-303, which argues compellingly that the severed hand acts as an emblem of disabled agency; and Michael Neill's edifying study of hands in Shakespeare's canon, "'Amphitheaters in the Body': Playing with Hands on the Shakespearian Stage," SS 48 (1995): 23-50.
2 Quotations of Titus Andronicus follow the Riverside Shakespeare, ed. G. Blakemore Evans (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1974).
3 Anne Somerset, Elizabeth I (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1991), 313; Wallace MacCaffrey, Elizabeth I (London: Edward Arnold, 1993), 200-204; J. B. Black, Reign of Elizabeth 1558-1603, 2d ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1959), 350. See also Neill's subtle reading of this event and its resonances (40-41).
4 John Stubbs, The Discoverie of a Gaping Gulf Whereinto England is Like to be Swallowed by an other French mariage, if the Lord forbid not the banes, by letting her Maies tie see the sin and punishment thereof (London, 1579), sig. D3v.
5 The tradition of advice and consent in the English monarchy has a long history; Parliament is meant to advise the monarch, and the people are supposed to consent to the new monarch's rulership before he or she officially accedes to the throne. In John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi, which has its own memorable scene featuring a severed hand, Antonio observes that kings need to be counselled and advised: "Though some o'th' court hold it presumption / To instruct princes what they ought to do, / It is a noble duty to inform them / What they ought to foresee" (quoted here from John Russell Brown's Revels edition [Manchester, UK, and New York: Manchester UP, 1974], 45).
6 William Camden, Annales (1610), quoted here from MacCaffrey, 203. See also Black, 350.
7 Man and woman were considered married in Renaissance England if both participants spoke their vows in the present tense. If, for example, a woman said to her lover, "I am your wife" and he said, "I am your husband," the legal system would have recognized the marriage as valid and binding, even if the vows were uttered in private. These de praesenti contracts often made for confusing situations. For instance, if the vows were spoken in the future tense, "I will have you," signifying a de futuro contract, the couple would be betrothed rather than married. Obviously de praesenti marriages foiled the arrangements of many an ambitious father. Sadly, there is evidence that some men would utter de praesenti vows to convince women to have intercourse with them and would later deny having made any promise; see George Eliot Howard, A History of Matrimonial Institutions, 3 vols. (Littleton, CO: Fred B. Rothman, 1994), 1:400.
8 Henry Smith, A Preparative to Manage (London, 1591), 49.
9 Thomas Gataker, A Good Wife Gods Gift: and, A Wife in Deed. Two Marriage Sermons (London, 1623), 9.
10 Josephine Roberts writes, "the church courts gradually became more reluctant to confirm disputed marriage contracts and moved towards recognition of a church wedding as the only satisfactory guarantee of a legally acceptable marriage"; see "'The Knott Never to Bee Untide': The Controversy Regarding Marriage in Mary Worth's Urania" in Reading Mary Worth: Representing Alternatives in Early Modern England, Naomi J. Miller and Gary Waller, eds. (Knoxville: The U of Tennessee P, 1991), 109-32, esp. 115.
11 Margaret King elucidates: "Pressure to marry the parental candidate was surely most fierce in elite circles, where only the most determined and fortunate of heiresses could hope to choose her own marital destiny. Those completely free of property, and thus of any basis for negotiations in the marriage market, clearly had the most freedom to choose. But even among poorer families, family design and economic strictures dictated marriage partners" (Women of the Renaissance [Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1991], 34-35, esp. 35).
12 David Atkinson, "Marriage under Compulsion in English Renaissance Drama," English Studies: A Journal of English Language and Literature 67 (1986): 483-504, esp. 484.
13 Lynda E. Boose writes, "Until the thirteenth century, when the church at last managed to gain control of marriage law, marriage was considered primarily a private contract between two families concerning property exchange. The validity and legality of matrimony rested on the consensus nuptialis and the property contract, a situation that set up a potential for conflict by posing the mutual consent of the two children, who owed absolute obedience to their parents, against the desires of their families, who must agree beforehand to the contract governing property exchange" ("The Father and the Bride in Shakespeare," PMLA 97 : 325-47, esp. 326).
14 Smith, 35.
15 King, 34.
16 See King, 34.
17 Heinrich Bullinger, The Christen state of matrimonye . . . , trans. Miles Coverdale, preface by Thomas Becon (London, 1543), sig. Elv.
18 George Whetstone, An Heptameron of Civili Discourses (London, 1582), sig. Ylr.
19 William Perkins, Christian Economy: or, A Short Survey of the Right Manner of Erecting and Ordering a family According to the Scriptures, trans. Thomas Pickering (London, 1609), 68.
20 T. E., The Lawes Resolvtions of Womens Rights: or, The Lawes Provision for Woemen (London, 1632), 52.
21 See Leah S. Marcus, "Erasing the Stigma of Daughterhood: Mary I, Elizabeth I, and Henry VIII" in Daughters and Fathers, Lynda E. Boose and Betty S. Flowers, eds. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1989), 400-417, esp. 413.
22 Bertie Wilkinson, The Coronation in History (London: George Philip and Son, 1953), 20-21. See also William Jones, Crowns and Coronations: A History of Regalia (London: Chatto and Windus, 1902), 220-24.
23 Jones, 223n.
24 Jones, 222n.
25 Theodore Beza, Right of Magistrates (1574), quoted here from Constitutionalism and Resistance in the Sixteenth Century: Three Treatises by Hotman, Beza, & Mornay, ed. Julian H. Franklin (New York: Pegasus Press, 1969), 100-135, esp. 118.
26 Wilkinson, 17.
27 Patricia Crawford, Women and Religion in England 1500-1720 (New York and London: Routledge, 1993), 40 and 43.
28 For an incisive discussion of the domestic analogy to political governance, see Constance Jordan, "The Household and the State: Transformations in the Representation of an Analogy from Aristotle to James I," Modern Language Quarterly 54 (1993): 307-26.
29 Gordon Schochet, Patriarchalism in Political Thought: The Authoritarian Family and Political Speculation and Attitudes Especially in Seventeenth-Century England (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1975), 52.
30 For a thorough analysis of the emergence of patriarchalism in Renaissance political thought, see Schochet, 37-84.
31 Franklin, ed., 31.
32 Thomas Becon, The Catechism of Thomas Becon ... , ed. John Ayre (Cambridge: The University Press, 1844), 329.
33 John Hayward, for example, writes, "the whole worlde is nothinge but a greate state; a state is no other then a greate familie; and a familie no other then a greate bodye. As one GOD ruleth the worlde, one maister the familie, as all the members of one bodye receiue both sense and motion from one heade. . . . So, . . . one state should be gouerned by one commaunder" (An Answer to the First Part of a Certame Conference, Concerning Svccession [London, 1603], sig. B4r).
34 Susan Dwyer Amussen, An Ordered Society: Gender and Class, in Early Modern England (New York: B. Blackwell, 1988), 58. See also Henry Parker, Jus Populi (London, 1644).
35 See, for example, Robert Cleaver's statement "The gouernours of families, if (as it is in marriage) there be more then one, vpon whom the charge of government lyeth, though vnequally, are, first the Cheefe gouernour, which is the Husband, secondly a fellow helper, which is the Wife" (A Godlie Forme of Hovseholde Government: for the Ordering of Private Families, according to the direction of God's Word [London, 1598], sig. B2r). No matter how marriage-tract writers entitle the wife, she must obey the "Cheefe gouernour," just as for absolutists, the people must obey their monarch.
36 Constance Jordan, Renaissance Feminism: Literary Texts and Political Models (Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1990), 5.
37 Many anti-absolutist tracts were written during this period. Vindiciae contra Tyrannos and Buchanan's Powers of the Crown of Scotland, published in Latin as De Juri Regni, were bestsellers; Sir John Fortescue's treatises, Erasmus's Education of a Prince, Theodore Beza's Right of Magistrates, Thomas Smith's De Republica Anglorum: The Maner of Gouernment or policie of the Realme of England (London, 1583), and Ponet's Politike Power were also well known. Further, John Aylmer's Harborowe for Faithful and True Subjects argued that the queen was not an absolute ruler, and, in the early 1590s, Matthew Sutcliff's De presbyterio expressed anti-absolutist sentiments, as did Hooker's Laws of ecclesiastical polity. For a more thorough discussion of these tracts, see J. P. Sommerville, Politics and Ideology in England, 1603-1640 (London and New York: Longman, 1986), 10-11.
38 See Sommerville, 11. See also Jordan, "The Household and the State," 323-24. Jordan observes that "Hooker locates the origins of a father's subjection not in sovereignty itself, as [Jean] Bodin had done, but in an act of deliberate agreement on the part of the people to be ruled by a king, much like the consent a woman gives when she becomes a wife and agrees to be ruled by her husband" (324). This consent differs from marital consent only in that the people, having consented, must then fully submit to their ruler; the consent cannot be revoked.
39 Leonard Tennenhouse, Power on Display: The politics of Shakespeare's genres (New York and London: Methuen, 1986), 108.
40 Lawrence Stone, The Family, Sex and Marriage In England, 1500-1800 (New York: Harper and Row, 1977), 87.
41 Sommerville, 26.
42 As Wilkinson notes, Titus's abrogation of any recognition ritual "not only reflects the evolution of the community's assent to the coronation of its rulers, it also shows, beneath the formal expressions of assent, the interaction of two dominant factors in any succession, 'election' and hereditary right. These were the main elements, in harmony or conflict, which determined the people's voice in the accession of a ruler and which, indeed, went far to determine the nature of the monarchy itself (17).
43Vindiciae contra tyrannos, sive de principis in populum, populique in principem, legitima potestate, quoted in Franklin, ed., 172.
44 For a discussion of Rome as a feminized city-state, see Linda Woodbridge, "Palisading the Body Politic" in True Rites and Maimed Rites: Ritual and Anti-Ritual in Shakespeare and His Age, Linda Woodbridge arid Edward Berry, eds. (Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1992), 270-98, esp. 272-74.
45 On the importance of primogeniture and marriage in the transmission of wealth, see Stone, 88.
46 This stage direction was apparently invented by Nicholas Rowe in his 1709 edition of the Works. Though he strikes it from the new Arden edition of the play, Jonathan Bate agrees that Saturninus must pay some courtesy to Tamora during this scene to warrant his missing the elopement; see Jonathan Bate, ed., Titus Andronicus (New York and London: Routledge, 1995), 145n.
47 Rebecca Bushneil persuasively argues that lust accompanies tyranny and effeminates the ruler to his lustful desires. Bushneil writes, "The association between femininity and tyranny thus is to be perceived in two related images: the lustful and shrewish woman as the mirror images of tyrannical rule, and the 'effeminated' prince subjected to his lust while he rules others tyrannically. The latter image occurs more frequently in the literature of the period, especially in the parade of Renaissance stage tyrants whose only vulnerability is their lust for women or their uxoriousness, recalling the 'effeminate' Hercules and Omphale Tragedies . . ." (Tragedies of Tyrants: Political Thought and Theater in the English Renaissance [Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1990], 68).
48 Thomas Smith, 9.
49 Thomas Smith, 7-8.
50 Sommerville, 22.
51 Martin Luther, "Das siebend Capitel St. Paul zu den Corinthern ausgelegt" (1532), quoted here from Howard, 387.
52 The various versions of the Semiramis story are fascinating; see Brewer's Book of Myth and Legend, ed. J. C. Cooper (London: Cassell, 1992). For evidence that Semiramis seduced her son, see Lisa Jardine, Still Harping on Daughters: Women and Drama in the Age of Shakespeare (Sussex, UK: Harvester Press, 1983), 76.
53 Michael Neill sees Titus's sacrifice in a subtly different light. He reads Titus's consent to the amputation as "recall[ing] one of the most celebrated demonstrations of Roman virtus—the sacrifice of his right hand by the captured warrior Gaius Mucius Scaevola. . . . Just as Scaevola's mutilation of his right hand expresses his contempt for Rome's royal enemy, so Titus sacrifices his left as a defiant offering to his own tyrannic emperor, Saturninus" (39). Neill, too, reads Titus's offering as an outward recognition that tyranny reigns.
54 Shakespeare often uses the metaphor of "giving one's hand in marriage" to enact betrothal agreements. In King Lear, for example, when Burgundy begs Lear to reconsider disowning Cordelia, he says, "Royal King, / Give but that portion which yourself propos'd, / And here I take Cordelia by the hand, / Duchess of Burgundy" (1.1.242-44). Likewise Claudio says to Hero in Much Ado About Nothing, "Give me your hand before this holy friar—/ I am your husband if you like of me" (5.4.58-59). In Romeo and Juliet, Romeo implores Friar Lawrence, "Do thou but close our hands with holy words, / Then love-devouring death do what he dare, / It is enough I may but call her mine" (2.6.6-8).
55 Katherine Rowe locates this scene within both the heroic tradition and the marital one. She argues that it "grotesquely parodies the ritual gesture of handclasping that often accompanies gift-exchange in the heroic tradition" and that it tropes on "the image of two hands clasped in marriage" (291 and 293).
56 Hermann of Wied, The Glasse of godly Loue in Thomas Pritchard, The Schoole of honest and vertuous Lyfe (London, 1579), 77; and Gataker, 9.
57 I am not alone in detecting Shakespeare's progressive politics in this play. Bate, for one, remarks in his introduction to the Arden Titus that "Shakespeare's earliest tragedy may be shot through with an unexpected vein of republicanism" (21).
Source: " 'Rape, I Fear, Was Root of Thy Annoy': The Politics of Consent in Titus Andronicus," in Shakespeare Quarterly, Vol. 49, No. 1, Spring, 1998, pp. 22-39.