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8 of Swords - Lavinia

Dramatis Personae: Lavinia.

Text & Context: Lavinia is a sacrifice. Her origin can be seen as a conflation of Ovid's stories of Philomel's mutilation and Io's rape. In the latter, Io is turned into a cow to prevent her revealing Zeus's violation, but conveys the truth to her father by scratching her hoof in the sand. Lavina's "honour killing" by her father Titus is reminiscent of the story recounted by Livy of Verginia's death at the hands of her father Claudius, and by constantly alluding to Tarquin and Lucrecia in Titus Andronicus we may be reminded of The Rape of Lucrece.

 As Shakespeare uses Marcus Brutus as a surrogate for Brutus, King of Britain, so Lavinia Andronicus is surrogate for Lavinia, wife of Aeneas, mother of Silvius Posthumus - himself father of Britain's Brutus - and Mother of the Roman people. In her we may also see the shadow of her brother Lucius, who through estrangement from his father and banishment, returned to avenge his family honour. He is kin then, to Lucius Junius Brutus, founder of the Roman Republic, and Saint Lucius, who introduced Christianity into Britain.

Subtext: We know that de Vere openly claimed that should his wife Anne become pregnant, it would not be by his doing. Queen Elizabeth herself is recorded as repeating Oxford's claim upon news of Anne's pregnancy. Also of record are Anne's fears regarding her husband's incredulity and medical inquiries towards having the fetus aborted. Burghley's subsequent counterclaim that his daughter Anne, the Countess of Oxford, was impregnated through a "bed-trick", may have either been a face-saving cover story or a fact only later revealed. Either way, Oxford may well have believed his wife had been raped.

Intertext: Death XIII Titus Andronicus

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