'Headless Rome' and Hungry Goths: Herodotus and Titus Andronicus

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Title: 'Headless Rome' and Hungry Goths: Herodotus and Titus Andronicus
Authors: Grogan, Jane
Permanent link: http://hdl.handle.net/10197/7737
Date: Dec-2013
Abstract: This essay argues for the intertextual contribution of Book I of Herodotus's Histories to Titus Andronicus. Translated by B.R. in 1584, Herodotus’ account of the rise and fall of the founder of the ancient Persian empire, Cyrus the Great, holds topical resonances for the first audiences of Shakespeare's Roman play, resonances that the play seems to invite. Modeling Tamora on Herodotus' Tomyris and borrowing crucial elements of plot from the narratives surrounding Cyrus, Shakespeare's most productive response to Herodotus is his adaptation of the figure of the 'swallowing womb' from the well-known Herodotean account of Tomyris' revenge on Cyrus. Through it, Shakespeare explores the contentious and topical subjects of female rule and England's imperial aspirations. The essay further explores possible connections between Tamora and Queen Elizabeth through their shared iconography in the mold of the just avenger, Tomyris. Ultimately, I argue, the Herodotean allusions facilitate a position sympathetic to the Goths in the play, one that tackles the dominance of Roman cultural models in late-sixteenth-century English culture, and that responds defiantly to the vexed and embarrassing subject of Britain's own barbarian history as a colony of Rome.
Type of material: Journal Article
Publisher: Wiley
Journal: English Literary Renaissance
Volume: 43
Issue: 1
Start page: 30
End page: 61
Copyright (published version): 2013 the Authors
Keywords: Literary studies
Subject LCSH: Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616
DOI: 10.1111/1475-6757.12001
Language: en
Status of Item: Peer reviewed
Appears in Collections:English, Drama & Film Research Collection

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