ces figure which evokes fear and hostility’. A

ces and lifestyles of women in sixteenth and seventeenth century Europe.  This is because she is both graceful and passive. Tamora, on the other hand, displays the negative examples of femininity seen through her vulgar sexuality and behavior. Tamora vows revenge on the AndroLaurie A. Finke suggests female characters in revenge tragedy are often depicted as both ‘ideal … object of adoration’ and ‘a figure which evokes fear and hostility’. A striking example that demonstrates this idea is William Shakespeare’s’ Titus Andronicus. The play has only two female characters, apart from the nurse who has little to do with the plot, and both of whom are presented as being at complete opposite ends of the spectrum of femininity. Tamora is represented as a vicious and scheming villain who uses her sexuality to wreak havoc. Lavinia represents everything an Elizabethan woman is supposed to be. She remains chaste, obeys her father as well as all men, who are her superiors. She is demure and scarcely gives an opinion, her only act of defiance when she runs away from Saturninus is because another man, Bassinius has told her to. She is The ‘ideal…object of adoration’ that Finke insinuates. Lavinia even establishes this notion herself to Tamora in Act Two, Scene Two, ‘No grace, no womanhood? Ah! Beastly Creature’. It is not a coincidence that Shakespeare has decided to present the only two central female characters in Titus Andronicus in such striking contrast to each other. The use of Lavinia as a polar opposite to Tamora escalates the audience’s perception of Tamora as wicked and ensures they will constantly compare Tamora to the ideal Roman woman, as a Goth, Tamora is already ostracised from the society of the plays and the contrast with Lavinia only furthers this. As well as using Lavinia in an effort to contrast their female role Tamora’s relationship with Aaron is also a device used by Shakespeare in an effort to demonise Tamora and represent her as villainous. As a black man, considered an inferior member of society, her relationship with him further muddies her character. Tamora is demonised by Titus and the Romans from the outset due to her non-Roman origin, as Queen of the Goths and a captive, Shakespeare already identifies her as an outsider and somebody to fear. In the eyes of the audience, and of the Romans, she is barbaric, as reiterated by Marcus Andronicus in his very first speech where he describes their captives as ‘barbarous Goths.'(Shakespeare, p.4). The word ‘Barbarous’ is used frequently in the play to describe Tamora, her sons, the Goths, and Aaron. This reiterates Finke’s suggestion that female characters, in this case, Tamora who is Queen of the Goths, evoke fear and hostility. After Titus murders her firstborn son, Alarbus, despite her pleas, it is clear that whatever her subsequent actions she is somebody who will not ever conform to the ideal object of desire, unlike Lavinia. Despite this, she is still regarded as an object for Saturninus, who makes her his wife very soon after her arrival as a prisoner, in Rome. Even so, she is still his second choice for marriage to Lavinia, the archetype of femininity and purity. She is described by Marcus Andronicus as ‘Gracious Lavinia, Rome’s rich ornament’ which demonstrates the objectification of her character, as Finke suggests, and highlights that she is not respected for her brains but for her appearance. It is also suggestive that she is a possession of Rome, where all those in command are men and many are her family. A parallel can be drawn here between Tamora and Lavinia and an insight into the oppression of women when Titus says to Tamora as she is handed to her new husband, Saturninus, ‘Now, madam, are you prisoner to an emperor’. Both Tamora and Lavinia are presented as belonging to men and both of them, albeit briefly in Tamora’s respect, are considered to be an object of desire. This is highlighted her when Saturninus he describes her as ‘lovely Tamora’. Although this quote demonstrates the idea that Tamora is considered to be ideal the fickleness of men is exposed, as in the expectation of women when it is revealed she is partaking in an affair with Aaron. The reaction is that of repulsion and she is immediately considered to be un-pure and tainted, and she is met with hostility. There are many elements to Tamara’s character than ensure she is represented as the antithesis of the subservient Elizabethan woman. She is promiscuous in maintaining an affair, despite her marriage to the new Emperor. Not only does she engage in adultery but she does so with a Moor, Aaron. ‘Believe me, queen, your swarth Cimmerian. Doth make your honour of his body’s hue, Spotted, detested, and abominable.’ as demonstrated here Aaron is seen as inferior due to his race and Tamora is considered tainted and as having lost her honour because of his race. As well as his race he also has a part in almost all the violence and destruction on stage as Marcus reflects in the final act when he says of Aaron ‘Chief Architect and Plotter of These Woes’. Shakespeare uses Aaron much like he uses Lavinia, as a means to elevate Tamora’s evil and highlight to the audience the fear she inflicts upon people. Much like the contrast with Lavinia, Tamora’s relationship with Aaron aids the audience in perceiving Tamora as a sexual deviant. It is clear that she has used sexual persuasion in order to impose her revenge, ‘Let us sit down and mark their yellowing noise’ (Shakespeare, p.27). Tamora manipulates men throughout the play to exact her revenge. This affirms a trope of Revenge Tragedy and is useful in exploring the role of women in such texts. Women who are powerful and shameless are not adhering to societal gender roles and Tamora’s behaviour ensures that she is seen as someone to fear which affirms Finke’s statement.For all of Tamora’s plotting and manipulation in her role of the obverse of the archetypal tragic heroine, her actions ultimately ensure her downfall and she loses both her sons, her newborn, her lover as well as her own life. Shakespeare does not spare her and she is not victorious. It could be said that despite questioning gender norms and ideals of the time, Shakespeare is suggesting that women should not step out of their expected role and they should let the men do the dirty work.  In fact, both Lavinia and Tamora meet horrible violent ends at the hands of men, which demonstrates the notion that women are inferior humans who will never escape the misogynistic and patriarchal society in which they exist, regardless of their behaviour. Both Tamora’s and Lavinia’s relationship with Titus gives an insight into the representation and expectations of women in revenge tragedy. Titus is more than willing to give Lavinia away to Saturninus when he becomes emperor despite her betrothment to Bassinius. A parallel to this is when he gives Tamora to Saturninus to marry in much the same way he was happy to hand his only daughter over to him. There is little difference in the way he treats both women despite one being his own daughter and another being a prisoner of war that he considers barbaric. To him they are just objects. Titus murders his daughter because he believes she has been tainted due to her rape by Demetrius and Chiron, ‘Die, die, Lavinia, and thy shame with thee; And, with thy shame, thy father’s sorrow die!’. This quote highlights the notion that a woman should always please men, and demonstrates that without the approval of men they are not worthy of living. It also emphasises the idea that women exist to please men, Titus feels shame that Lavinia has been raped with little consideration how devastating it may have been for her. It seems as though Titus kills Lavinia for himself not because he feels he is doing the right thing by her. The character of Lavinia one is particularly significant one when discussing Finke’s point as she begins the play as the incarnation of the ideal woman and an object of desire, however through no fault of her own this changes. She undergoes a traumatic event and she is now someone to be feared and met with hostility as exhibited when Titus compares Lavinia to someone ‘stain’d and deflower’d’ (Shakespeare, p.86). The language used here, although a metaphor for losing virginity, suggests that Lavinia has gone from a flower, associated with nature and beauty to something dirty. Both Tamora and Lavinia are humiliated in the play and neither recover from this and this reflects sexist attitudes towards women.Tamora exhibits certain Machiavellian traits in Titus Andronicus which further the perception of her as the anti-woman.  As emphasised very early on, she is shown to be considered an object of sexual desire and all belonging to a man ‘If Saturnine advance the queen of Goths, she will a handmaid be to his desires.’However, Tamora using this sexuality in order to driver herself into a more powerful position. This is a repeated theme in the play a her relationships both with Saturninus and Aaron are shown to be her sexually manipulating men in order to achieve greater political power, to the detriment of her womanliness, her motherhood. The culmination of the lengths Tamora will go for revenge culminate when she orders the rape of another woman, Lavinia, while she leaves to engage in adultery with Aaron. In clear contrast to the ideal role of women and to the figure of Lavinia who conforms to such ideals, Tamora manipulates her own children in order to exact revenge on Titus. ‘Revenge it, as you love your mother’s life, Or be ye not henceforth call’d my children.’ (2.3.5). Tamara exhibits the ultimate barbarism in her demands not only does she call for the rape of another woman but she threatens her own role as a mother here, a significant and defining duty of the ideal Elizabethan woman. The repeated theme of family is central to the plot of Titus Andronicus and much of the violence occurs as vengeance for actions towards a family member or close acquaintance. Tamora actions here acts as the opposition to the ideal woman of adoration, she is willing to negate the very paramount duty of a woman in order to behave in a barbaric way. Again, this further escalates Tamora’s immorality and is seen as even more horrifying that when Titus murders his own son, because the social expectations of her gender signify otherwise. Similarities certainly exist in other texts too. One notable example is the epic poem, Beowulf, which shares many elements with Titus Andronicus regarding the representation of women. As with Titus Andronicus, there are very few female characters in Beowulf and they all exist in a man’s world, where men rule and women are beholden to them. True to form fo the revenge tragedy the poem is predominantly concerned with the tale of male heroism, and the women are mostly minor characters who exist solely as the ideal gracious woman or as villain, as indicated by Laurie A. Finke. For example Grendel’s mother is illustrated as a terrible monster and her strength is looked upon is an unsympathetic way, ‘The hero observed that swamp-thing from hell, the tarn-hag in all her terrible strength’ (105). The contrast in the representation of male and female characters here is clear, when a female is strong it deemed unsuitable and wrongbut the archetype of the heroic man does not exist without strength and it is reputed as a necessity. She is awarded no sympathy for her actions in avenging her son’s death, much like Tamora. Both mothers who have lost children and wish to  seek revenge for that labelled as evil and barbaric, Grendel’s mother seeking to claim back her son’s arm that is taken as a trophy. When a man is fighting for justice, such as Beowulf does for all the men murdered by Grendel, their motives are considered just and fair. Their roles as mothers is not permitted exploration or consideration, they both are simply designed as immoral and wicked females and that is the extent of their character. Grendel’s mother is not even given a name, she is just described as ‘hag’ and swamp-thing’. This acts as evidence to Finke’s statement as neither characters are merited with any form of exploration into the explanation for their behaviour, when the main plot of these texts revolve around the reason for the men’s behavious. The two Queens in Beowulf, Hygd, wife to Hygelac and Wealhtheow, wife to Hrothgar both commit to Finke’s interpretation of the ideal woman in revenge tragedy. They are both typified as the gracious and attractive Queen that wait on their King and his Kingdom. Their characters are described in such ways that stress their decency and propriety. ‘her mind was thoughtful and her manners sure’ is how Hygd is described, with Wealhtheow described as ‘queenly and dignified’. The description of both these characters assume the notion of the consummate wife and reiterate the impression that female characters in revenge tragedy are lacking in depth, and only really commit to two moulds, that of the object of adoration and someone fearful and hostile. The setting Seamus Heaney describes when discussing the Queens exhibits contrast to that when Grendel’s mother home is described. Grendel and his mother’s home is described in words that evoke a feeling of darkness such as ‘lair’ (Heaney 105), ‘swamp’. The word ‘gold’ is used frequently in relation to royalty and the Queens which alludes to courage, wisdom and wealth and this manipulates the audience into considering those characters as good and worthy.Another character in Beowulf presented in a problematic way is Modthryth, an evil Queen of myth and legend whose character exists purely as a contrast to Wealhtheow and Hygd. Heaney’s description of her character lacks any depth or justification for her actions as seen in the depiction of Tamora and Grendel’s mother too. Both Grendel’s mother and Modthryth are monsters of legend and this defines them immediately, as they do not conform to the conventional image of femininity, physically or characterfully. ‘A queen should weave peace, not punish the innocent with loss of life for imagined insults.’ as highlighted here the ideal role of a Queen is emphasised in direct contrast with Modryth, who is represented as the very antithesis of the desired female. It is interesting to note that the characters of Modryth and Grendel’s mother are both powerful in their own right without men and it must be considered that this contributes to their perceived hostility and the perception that they are wicked and worthless. Modthryth kills any man who looks her in the eye, and her actions are violent much like a considerable amount of male-derived violence in the rest of the poem.It is interesting that she is hostile towards men and a factor in why she is perceived as evil. The difference being that violence is see as a positive thing when a man does it but it is seen as un-ladylike when a female does it as they should be docile. An affirmation of the notion that women exist in order to serve men is alluded to in the story of Modthryth, ‘she was less of a bane to people’s lives, less cruel-minded, after she was married to the brave Offa’ (Heaney, 133). This also demonstrates the ‘taming’ of a woman due to a man, and reiterates Finke’s theory that women in revenge tragedy are marginalised. Interestingly after Modthryth is married she ill illustrated using the word ‘gold’ (Heaney, 133) highlighting that when a woman is married, under the command of men and demure only then is she awarded and worthy of nice things, and she possessing a slight similarity to the Queens of Beowulf after she is tamed by man. This theory by Laurie A. Finke not only demonstrates the lack of depth that female characters have in revenge tragedy texts but also suggests that the only presentation of females can be good and evil. A woman who is looked upon in fear, who is powerful and commits revenge must be bad. This also highlights a rife double standard in this texts, as mentioned before, men who behave in the same way are considered heroes and their action celebrated. Women are rarely awarded with redeeming features unless they fit the mould of ideal woman. It is interesting to note that Modthryth, Grendel’s mother and Tamora ad depicted as the ‘other’, inhuman as if the writers are already suggesting that the reader or audience should dehumanise them from the first instance.