William Shakespeare Titus Andronicus Vs. Alice Walker the Color Purple
“I will be contrasting William Shakespeare Titus Andronicus and Alice Walker The Color Purple. I wanted to contrast this play and novel because they are completely different. They are form different time periods. They are different genders and races. I wanted to see how differently they portray trauma and religion. I also wanted to see how their characters handle their trauma and see if they figure out a way to cope with trauma. I wanted to know what was going on in the Christian community in those different time periods.
Shakespeare wrote Titus Andronicus in the late 1500s. “Like Shakespeare, Derrida is interested in religion stripped of religion, a “religion without religion,” that presses for a sustained attention to otherness, to non-Being, to that which cannot be thought—in short, the impossible (Jackson& Marotti, 2011, p.6).” During that time, “Revenge plays became popular in England at a time when Protestant reformers and state authorities were energetically denouncing the private revenges of aristocratic clans and “”brawling”” at all social levels, while seeking to expand a centralized legal system (Willis, 2002, p. 23-24).” “Elizabethan dramatists often called into question the effectiveness of this new emphasis on state-centered justice, with central authorities frequently portrayed as too weak, corrupt, or partisan to provide effective third-party mediation or just solutions to quarrels (Willis, 2002, p. 23-24).” The “Elizabethans were followers of Queen Elizabeth and they built the stage that the play Titus and Andronicus was performed on (Titus Andronicus, p.4).” The Protestant Reformation was happening around the same time as Titus Andronicus. The Protestant Reformation was a religious movement to reform the Roman Catholic Church. “Reformation hermeneutics provides a valuable lens through which to read Titus Andronicus in particular because it allows us to link three seemingly heterogeneous elements that dominate the play and its criticism: (1) its recurring play on figurative and literal meanings, (2) its insistent use of classical texts, and (3) its grotesque and lurid violence (Bhar, 2017, p.242).”
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In the novel Titus Andronicus, Titus who is the protagonist, return from war after defeating the Goths, he returns with Tamora who is the Queen of Goths, and her sons Demetrius, Alarbus, Chiron, and Aaron the Moor. Tamora oldest son is sacrificed and that is when the revenge comes in. “The sacrifice of Alarbus is presented by Shakespeare as a characteristic example of pagan vengeance, an instance of the way in which superstition and obligations of blood may combine to shake the foundations of a mighty commonweal (Broude, 1979, p.496).” Because Titus sacrificed her oldest son, she plans revenge. Demetrius and Chiron both fell in love with Lavinia, Titus’s daughter. They both raped her, and her hands are cut off and tongue is cut out so she can’t tell anyone about the rape. In Titus Andronicus, everything was seen as an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. “Although he sees his revenge as a duty prescribed by the gods, Titus does not envision it as an act which can serve any interests beyond those of his family (Broude, 1979, p.503).”
“Every deed of violence, whether justified or not, is understood to require a response, and so there is forged a potentially endless chain of vengeance in which each act of revenge is both the answer to a previous act and the provocation to a new one (Broude, 1979, p. 495).” “At the same time, in Titus Andronicus revengers seek to reenact a traumatic scene with the roles reversed: revenge has an intimate relationship with theater (Willis, 2002, p.33).” “The experience of humiliation leads the revenger not only to double his or her violent deeds but also requires a public performance to repair self-image (Willis, 2002, p.33).” Titus Andronicus has a lot of violence, murder, and revenge in it. Almost everyone died in Titus Andronicus. The revenger has a hard time dealing with their love one’s death and they want the one who committed the crime to feel the pain that they did. “Such sacrifices represent the darker side of Greco-Roman religion; they are examples of the rites called “”ceremonies of avoidance.”” (Broude, 1979, p. 496).” “It is not the gods above but rather the spirts of the dead below- the manes- who demand such offerings (Broude, 1979, p. 496).”
In an article that I have found, it brought up that there are four forms of vengeance in Titus Andronicus. “In Titus Andronicus, Shakespeare depicts four forms of vengeance, each based upon its own definition of right and wrong, each prescribing its own means of effecting retribution, and each functioning within the context of its own religious or social system (Broude, 1979, p.494).” “We encounter the human sacrifice by which the ghosts of the slain are placated with the blood of their slayers; the vendetta, in which families ruthlessly avenge past injuries in order to discourage future ones; the state justice which maintains civil order by punishing those who transgress its laws; and the divine vengeance which upholds cosmic order, and, directed by Providence, turns crime and punishment alike to the uses of an inscrutable Purpose (Broude, 1979, p.494).”
“The pagan setting of Titus Andronicus enables Shakespeare to underline the differences between “”non-Christian”” and “”Christian”” forms of vengeance (Broude, 1979, p.495).” “Unlike Christian retribution, Shakespeare’s pagan vengeance presupposes a more or less continuous state of bloody strife, a state which renders superfluous all inquiry into the circumstances surrounding any particular outrage (Broude, 1979, p.495).” The journal also brought up the concept of blood revenge and an example of blood revenge is the death of Alarbus. The journal says that “blood revenge functions in the interests of families, clans, and similar social unites, the security of which it helps to ensure (Broude, 1979, p.497-98).” “The rape of Lavinia and the murders of Bassianus, Martius, and Quintus are considered wrongs which offend not only the Andronici but also Rome and the heavens, whose laws they violated (Broude, 1979, p. 501).” “Responsibility for responding to transgressions of human and divine law rests, according to Tudor theory, with the king and magistrates, whose offices are ordained by God for the maintenance of civic and cosmic order (Broude, 1979, p.500).”
A novel that I feel sheds light on the relationship between trauma and religion is The Color Purple. The Color Purple was published in 1982 and it is about the abuse of an uneducated, black woman and her gaining power. Alice Walker made it very easy to find the religious aspects in The Color Purple. “The Color Purple redefines God, moving from a patriarchal notion toward an understanding that the Spirit must be claimed within one’s self and the Divine recognized in nature and in the world in order to have a notion of God that is not oppressive, domineering, or harmful to either an individual or a community (Thyreen,1999, p. 50).” Celie has been through a lot of trauma in her life.
Her father has raped her multiple time and she was not allowed to tell anyone about it. He also got her pregnant multiple times. From reading the novel, we know that all the trauma that Celie has endured is because she is female. We also know that all of the trauma that she receives is aimed at her body. She has been raped numerous times and impregnated twice. The males were dominate so women had to do whatever their husband or father told them to do and if they questioned them there were consequences and repercussions. “Her father stated; “You better not never tell nobody but God. It’d kill your mammy” (The Color Purple, p.1).”
“Since she wasn’t able to talk to anyone about it, she writes letters to God. Her reasoning for writing letters to God at that time of her life is because she can’t write to anyone else and she feels less ashamed in writing to God rather than speaking to him (Thyreen,1999, p.51).” “It was no wonder Celie is fearful or ashamed before “God,” given that at this stage in her life she identifies God with “man,” the source of her oppression and sexual abuse (Thyreen,1999, p.51).” I also saw repression through religion in The Color Purple. “Celie holds on to her faith in God as the only one who cares about her situation since her sister, Nettie is gone (Thyreen,1999, p.51).” Not being able to confine into Nettie can be seen as a form of trauma. Celie doesn’t have her sister anymore to actually talk to her and confine in her, not have the person you normally talk to in times of need can be very traumatizing.
“The Color Purple had been around since the first half of the twentieth century and around the late twentieth century, a period defined as “post-modern,” such concepts as Truth, man, God, Male, Female, and Nature are being problematized (Thyreen,1999, p.50).” Celie has a hard time seeing herself in God’s image and because she struggle to do that she has the sense of helplessness. God is essential for Celie to understand her trauma and learn how to deal with that trauma. Celie finds out it was her step father that raped her not her father and she finds out that her children are still alive, and she allows God back into her life. Shug tells Celie “Ain’t no way to read the bible and not think God white (The Color Purple, p.195).” “When I found out I thought God was white, and a man, I lost interest. You mad cause he don’t seem to listen to your prayers. Humph! (The Color Purple, p.195).” Shug helps Celie improve her relationship with God. Shug sees God like nature. “I believe God is everything, say Shug. Everything that is or ever will be (The Color Purple, p.195).”
“Celie’s understanding of God is formed out of the racist and sexist atmosphere in which she lives and the oppression with which she is constantly faced. Her reductive image of God as a dominant male is consistent with the life she has to live (Thyreen,1999, p.52).” “This notion of God encourages an understanding of the Divine as distant, deaf, absent, or in- different, causing Celie to see herself as a victim, as an object that must undergo suffering, for reasons she does not know (Thyreen,1999, p.52).” “As a result, she places all hope in the afterlife rather than in her present condition and since at this stage in Celie’s life her notion of God is that of a distant patriarchal figure, she assumes a stoic role (Thyreen,1999, p.52).” “In addition to her reductive notions of God in the first half of the novel, Celie relies upon Scripture in a deductive manner to deter- mine her responses to circumstances (Thyreen,1999, p.54).”
Bible say, Honor father and mother no matter what.”” Since Celie uses scripture to determine how she responds to a situation, she sees it as she can’t be mad at her father for all the trauma that he has caused her. Religion can make coping with trauma harder because you are supposed to apply scripture to your life, and you have to respond to those situations like God would. That is hard to do because in Celie’s situation she has to honor her father even after everything he has done to her and that same thing goes for her husband because he was also abusive. The bible says, “Love your enemies.”
Shakespeare’s characters have a harder time than with dealing with their trauma. Killing is their coping mechanism. By killing they’re going against everything that God stands for. The characters are more focused on making the person that caused them pain to feel the same pain that they felt. They don’t feel that they are wrong for killing the people that they killed. By killing they get rid of the emotions that they are feeling at the moment. Killing is their temporary relief. “Shakespeare presents revenge as something more than simply a dangerous medicine with which to counter a dangerous illness (Broude, 1979, p.505).” In Titus, revenge is an essential part of the regenerative process by which Rome will be cleansed of blood guilt and Romans and Goths will be reconciled and united in a harmonious and prosperous com monweal (Broude, 1979, p.505).”
The characters in The Color Purple don’t go to the extreme of killing the person that caused their trauma. The Color Purple is not as harsh as Titus Andronicus. Titus Andronicus is filled with gore. Rapes accorded in both The Color Purple and Titus Andronicus. The way the characters handle the rapes are different. Celie is told not to tell anybody, so she write letters to God and turn to him. Lavinia’s hands and tongue are cut out so she couldn’t tell anyone if she could. The rape of Lavinia caused a lot of more killing to happen. “The rape of Lavinia and the murders of Bassianus, Martius, and Quintus are wrongs which offend not only the Andronici but also Rome and the heavens, whose laws they violate (Broude, 1979, p.500).”
In conclusion there is a lot that goes into trauma and religion. From all the information presented in this paper, you can see the relationship between trauma and religion. Shakespeare’s writing is different than Alice Walkers. They both were born in different time periods and started writing at different time periods. They have different view on handling trauma and religion. Religion is not always helpful in traumatic events, sometimes it can make the situation harder to deal with, but traumatic event can draw a person closer to God and religion. Everyone has their own way with coping with traumatic events. Victims of trauma often blame God for their trauma because they think God is punishing them. Others turn to God for help and lean on him in times of hardships.
The Color Purple has a lot of religious aspects in it and it clearly stated in the novel. The characters in The Color Purple actually learn how to cope with their trauma with the help of religion. Religion doesn’t always make coping with trauma easy. In The Color Purple religion made it hard at first but as the novel continues religion helps them a lot. The characters learn a lot more about God in this novel. It’s harder to point out the religious aspects in Titus Andronicus.
- Broude, Ronald. “Four Forms of Vengeance in ‘Titus Andronicus.’” The Journal of English and Germanic Philology, vol. 78, no. 4, 1979, pp. 494–507. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/27708554.
- Bahr, Stephanie M.””Titus Andronicus and the Interpretive Violence of the Reformation.”” Shakespeare Quarterly, vol. 68 no. 3, 2017, pp. 241-270. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/shq.2017.0028
- Brockman, Sonya L.””Trauma and Abandoned Testimony in Titus Andronicus and Rape of Lucrece.”” College Literature, vol. 44 no. 3, 2017, pp. 344-378. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/lit.2017.0019
- Willis, Deborah. “”The Gnawing Vulture: Revenge, Trauma Theory, and Titus Andronicus.”” Shakespeare Quarterly, vol. 53 no. 1, 2002, pp. 21-52. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/shq.2002.0017
- Jackson, Ken, and Arthur F. Marotti, editors. “Shakespeare and Religion: Early Modern and Postmodern Perspectives.” Choice Reviews Online, vol. 49, no. 04, 2011, pp. 1–21., doi:10.5860/choice.49-1855.
- Althea, Terenzi, “”Traumatic Dualities: Religion and Recovery in African-American Women’s Writing”” (2015). Graduate Theses. 11.
- Thyreen, Jeannine. “Alice Walker’s ‘The Color Purple’: Redefining God and (Re)Claiming the Spirit Within.” Christianity and Literature, vol. 49, no. 1, 1999, pp. 49–66. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/44313596.”