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Titus’s Breaking Point, Essay Example

Pages: 1

Words: 352

Essay

The character of Titus in Shakespeare’s play is undoubtedly complex. Yet there is also a lucid path which may be traced in the character’s development through the course of the narrative, according to which a descent of madness is clearly discernable. Arguably, the point when this madness becomes linear and almost inevitable is when Titus partakes in the revenge bargaining with the Goths’, the result of which he is made indirectly responsible for the deaths of his own sons, offering their hands as a sacrifice to the Goths, but ultimately finding out that his sons have already been killed. Hence, his gesture of sacrifice is for not, and this arguably pushes Titus over the edge.

The reason why this becomes a distinct moment in Titus’ descent into madness coincides with the previous remarks concerning his complex character: Titus seems to be at once honorable and also treacherous, at least at the outset of the play. Hence, on the one hand, Titus refuses mercy to the Goths and their Queen Tamora, killing her eldest son. On the other hand, Titus also refuses to become emperor of Rome, citing his own unfitness for the role.

Titus’ sense of duty, merit and responsibility thus conflict with his occasional cruelty. It could be argued that the sacrifice of Tamora’s son is merely the result of his sense of honor, since he initiates this sacrifice to avenge his own son’s death. This however overlooks Tamora’s pleas for mercy, and in this sense Titus appears cruel. Yet his refusal to become ruler of Rome, however, shows a consciousness of his own limits, limits which he does not display in the slaying of Tamora’s son.

Hence, the descent into madness of Titus arguably occurs when all these tensions come together in a breaking point. Titus expresses such a breaking point lucidly in the following crucial lines, as the entire situation “hath hurt me more than had he kill’d me dead. For now I stand as one upon a rock, Environ’d with a wilderness of sea”. It is at this point that Titus realizes his profound solitude and thus falls into madness.

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