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Title page for ETD etd-07102006-223639

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Packard, Bethany Martie
URN etd-07102006-223639
Title Lavinia, the Unacknowledged Co-Author of Titus Andronicus
Degree Master of Arts
Department English
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Professor Kathryn Schwarz Committee Chair
Professor Lynn Enterline Committee Member
  • Shakespeare William 1564-1616. Titus Andronicus
  • Shakespeare
  • rape
  • hybridity
  • collaboration
  • Shakespeare William 1564-1616 -- Characters -- Women
Date of Defense 2006-06-01
Availability unrestricted
The continuing debate over the potentially collaborative status of Titus Andronicus is symptomatic of Shakespeare’s exploration of collaboration within the play through the character of Lavinia. He creates a Rome in which multiple narratives about purity, rape and sacrifice circulate. It is not the pure ideal society that Titus imagines, but a hybrid. Lavinia’s rape results from conflict between the many tales striving to inscribe her, prominently those of Philomela and Lucrece, and her violation enables her to recognize them. Becoming aware of her own composite nature and the hybridity of the state, Lavinia rejects the strategy of reading employed around and used on her. Rather than inserting herself into one tale and attempting to repeat it, reiterating Roman glory or sacrificing herself in order to restore it, Lavinia’s awareness of the many circulating stories enables her to manipulate them.

Lavinia becomes the play’s figure for collaboration and the co-author of her own story, asserting her place as an “impure” hybrid in Rome. Her collaborative skills uniquely fit Lavinia to help her contemporaries survive in the state they are coming to realize is not, and never was, an unadulterated haven from confusion. In claiming a place for herself in society, Lavinia risks being drawn back into the dominant narratives of purity and sacrifice, a danger that comes to fruition in her murder. Unsuccessful for herself, Lavinia leaves her story in circulation, an assertion of the hybridity that neither her surviving family nor the society as a whole can ignore.

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