Hamlet and Titus Andronicus
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Character Analysis: Hamlet and Titus Andronicus by Shakespeare
Titus Andronicus is one of the most important Shakespearean tragedies. In the play, we can see how well the Bard assimilated the influences of is time, adjusting the morality plays into a new format, creating history. Titus Andronicus characters, such as Aaron, foreshadow Othello, and Iago’s actions. Characters such as Cleopatra and even Lady Macbeth have vestiges of Tamora. As we can see, the play gave the bard plenty psychological material to expand in further characters.
Hamlet, on the other hand, is regarded by the critic, and the public eye as one of the most applauded plays the Bard ever wrote. Hamlet can be regarded as a tragic hero, a man who wants what considers fair, and does what it is necessary to attain it. The main motive in the play is revenge, and how the protagonist goes to extensive lengths to attain it. Nevertheless, Hamlet is not a killer, and the moral repercussions of his actions haunt him throughout the play.
In this essay, we shall conduct a character analysis and comparison between Titus Andronicus and Hamlet concerning honor, and moral duty. In the same way, we shall analyze the issue of power and women, by analyzing Gertrude and Lavinia’s actions throughout the play.
HAMLET AND TITUS ANDRONICUS COMPARISON
Titus Andronicus on Morality and Duty. It seems clear that the main drive for Titus’ actions is to avenge his daughter’s rape and dishonor. Titus is a dutiful man, fighting the enemies of Rome and bringing honor and stability to the empire. However, all those battles have taken its toll on the man, as he seems tired, and unable to rule an empire that wants him to be the new emperor. Nevertheless, we can also see a man that has been consumed by his desire for revenge, after the rape of his daughter. At first, he wants to take action to wash his family’s dishonor, and avenge his daughter, when he says: “What shall we do? let us, that have our tongues, /Plot some deuce of further misery,/To make us wonder’d at in time to come.” (Shakespeare II, 2). Nevertheless, Titus suffering is belittled as Tamora emasculates him, and the enchants of the Goth queen enthrall him. “Almost impregnable, his old ears deaf,/Yet should both ear and heart obey my tongue.” (III, 2). In this line, we see Tamora’s desire of revenge, as a way to avenge his son’s dead. Ultimately, Titus followed his duty until the end, even opposing his emperor in the process, and receiving a destiny he did not deserve. Dying by the hand of the country he loved.
Hamlet on Morality and Duty. Like Titus Andronicus’ tribulations, Hamlet’s are also moral. However, in Hamlet, we see a whole different motivation. Religion plays an important part in the protagonist’s mind. He wants to see Claudius paying what he did, but at the same time, he is not willing to risk his soul in the process, as he debates on the morality of his crime, and the possibilities of his action. “Why, what an ass am I! This is most brave,/That I, the son of a dear father murder’d,/Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell,/Must, like a whore, unpack my heart with words,/And fall a-cursing, like a very drab” (Shakespeare II, 2). However, in Hamlet we see a powerless grief. We see the willing to take action, but also the impossibility of doing so. Many scholars have theorized on the possibility of Hamlet suffering from depression, and links it with his inability to take action, and regain what is rightfully his. At the end of the play, we see a transfixed Hamlet, a man who finally found an escape goat to justify morally his actions. That is why fate plays a central role in the play. The man uses fate as the ultimate executor. He is not doing his will; he is a fate’s tool to conduct what was written beforehand.
LAVINIA AND GERTRUDE: WOMEN AND POWER
Lavinia’s figure and Power. In the play, Lavinia is seen as an object, rather than a person with an agency of her own. Strictly speaking, Lavinia is a ploy, a device used by Titus to attain his revenge. Lavinia’s rape and mutilation are not a shame to her, but to Titus. It is the heart of Titus that the true repercussions of the tragedy can be felt. The tragedy is never portrayed from the woman’s eyes. Instead, it is seen as a ruse done to upset, Titus. In that light, Lavinia’s mutilation only confirms her state as a speechless, ominous presence throughout the play. Upon placing himself as the avenger, Titus cleans his name and executes his deed for the sake of a greater good. In the same way, when Titus murders his daughter, he is trying to contend the “disease” of dishonor, from spreading (Packard 8)
Gertrude’s Figure and Power. Hamlet and Gertrude, are pretty different. While her son can be seen as a scholar, Gertrude is portrayed as a shallow woman. It is this situation, as a superficial and sexual being what sets her son so violently against her. In the same way, her late husband’s ghost does not consider her guilty of being with Claudius, to him, she is a victim. “Ay, that incestuous, that adulterate beast,/With witchcraft of his wit, with traitorous gifts,–/ O wicked wit and gifts, that have the power/So to seduce!–won to his shameful lust/The will of my most seeming-virtuous queen:” (Shakespeare 1, 3). That is why although Hamlet is incredibly mad at her, she remains faithful to her son, protecting him from Claudius and keeping both apart from each other. Gertrude does not know what she has done, yet she wants to repair it, trying to offer Hamlet motherly comfort and solace. In a strict sense, Gertrude is a torn woman, separated by the two beings she loves. The men in her life are irreconcilable, and she knows that the only outcome is that one of them die by the other’s hand. Knowing that makes her sad, but she understands that it is the fate of men to die. However, when she chooses the same destiny, she is taking the same chance as their loved ones. As if she could not live a life without them.
Hamlet and Titus Andronicus Comparison. Both men are forced to take the decisions they make. They have a moral debt that needs to be repaid. In Titus case, he uses her daughter as an excuse because he knows he cannot take revenge without a proper excuse. The same goes to Hamlet. He cannot prove that Claudius killed his father, yet he finds in the destiny the reason he needs to convey his final fate. What glues both men together is that their moral orientations do not let them kill without a proper reason, making them unable to do an action they consider evil, without an appropriate ruse. Nevertheless, they do not realize they are just pawns in a larger game that moves without them noticing.
Lavinia and Gertrude. Here we are in front of two voiceless women, trying to understand what is happening around them. Lavinia is dishonored and crippled, turning into an object of scorn in the eyes of her father. After that, she turns into an object, used as the excuse he needed to do what he wanted from the beginning. Lavinia remains as an ominous presence; a central character cleverly put there to cast a shadow over Tamora’s crimes. Gertrude suffers from a similar fate. Her husband dies and being a vain woman she falls for the attention of Claudius, his brother-in-law. From that moment, she is forced to live in two waters, trying to appease both her loves, Hamlet, and Claudius, knowing that tragedy is at the end of the corner. Her shallowness puts her in a position of being unable to take genuine and efficient action to save her men’s lives.
Packard, B. “Lavinia, The Unacknwoledged Co-Author Of Titus Andronicus.” Vanderbilt University Library. Graduate School of Vanderbilt University, 1 Aug. 2006. Web. 1 July 2015. <http://etd.library.vanderbilt.edu/available/etd-07102006-223639/unrestricted/MAThesis.pdf>.
Shakespeare, W. “Titus Andronicus: Entire Play.” Titus Andronicus: Entire Play. MIT. Web. 1 July 2015. <http://shakespeare.mit.edu/titus/full.html>.
Shakespeare, W. “Hamlet: Entire Play.” Hamlet: Entire Play. MIT. Web. 1 July 2015. <http://shakespeare.mit.edu/hamlet/full.html>.
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