Physical Trauma and (Adapt)ability in Titus Andronicus

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  • 1 University of Western Ontario
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The homology between the fragmented body politic and its suffering physical bodies in Titus Andronicus seems to suggest that Shakespeare represents physical disability negatively: as corruption, disorder, incapacity. By relying upon a corporeal metaphor of fragmentation to characterise the political state of Rome, Shakespeare makes the traumatised or dismembered body bear a negative ideological burden; political inefficacy seems to be equated with the violated body. Inversely, and to the same effect, Titus and Lavinia's violated bodies seem to render their access to political and social agency difficult, if not impossible. However, at both the metaphorical and material level, Shakespeare endows the dis-abled body with the capacity to heal or adapt itself under the most extenuating circumstances. Overcoming physical barriers to communication and action, Titus and Lavinia enable themselves to enact revenge. This essay argues that the adaptability of the political and physical body in Titus suggests a potentially affirmative way of reconceptualising the physically incomplete body - not as a disabled entity but as a body that can suffer partial losses and still survive, succeed even, if its constituent parts form their own internally coherent body.

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