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In ancient Greek culture, Dice is the goddess of justice and the spirit of moral order and fair judgment based on the society’s enforced norms and conventional rules. I strongly believe that the true meaning of justice lies in what the society believe is right or wrong and according to the values prevailing in the society. People holding a contrary view to mine may opine by stating that justice is what the individual believes is right or wrong and not what the society as a whole.
However, as accentuated in Shakespeare’s play Titus Andronicus, justice is a mere word that is prevalent in the society, but it not served to all the people. Not only do the characters in the play seek justice, they at times want revenge as well.
In the words of Sir Francis Baron “revenge is a kind of wild justice”. He adds that justice provides balance, is achieved through logic, is neutral, and leads to closure.
Therefore, through numerous instances in the script and the production, it becomes clear that the characters of are ultimately seeking revenge and not justice. To begin with, we are going to talk about those rare occasions in the play where justice is served according to what the society believes. For instance, I believe that Justice is served in the end of the play, when Titus feeds Tamora’s own children to her. In that specific act, justice is served to Lavinia as she was raped and horribly disfigured. This is one such scene in which justice does not change throughout the productions.
When Titus says “Come, come, Lavinia; look, thy foes are bound.
Sirs, stop their mouths, let them not speak to me; But let them hear Gupta 2 what fearful words I utter.”, reflects that justice is being granted to the poor Lavinia. However, as shown in this particular production, you also believe that she was given justice when she was killed by Titus. She was freed from all her pains and sufferings. Some people might say that it was unjust that she was killed because there was no fault of her, but I strongly feel that when Titus asks Saturninus “Was it well done of rash Virginius, To slay his daughter with his own right hand, Because she was enforced, stain’d, and deflower’d?” and Saturninus replies by saying that it was. This is when I believe justice was also served as the society believed that it was right to kill your own daughter if her dignity had been taken away from her.
Moving ahead, there are a countless occasion on which justice was made mockery of and was not provided to the characters in the play. For example, when in Act 3, Titus pleads for his sons to be given justice because they did not commit the crime. He even cuts off his hand for their lives to be spared. However, when the messenger says, “Here are the heads of thy two noble sons; And here’s thy hand, in scorn to thee sent back”, it becomes clearly evident in the plot that justice was denied and Titus’ sons were wrongfully sentenced. It shows that justice was not provided by the king because he was seeking revenge for his brother’s murder. His judgement was swayed over by his emotions, which led to him making a wrong decision.
Furthermore, in the production, when Marcus asks the Roman people, “Have we done aught amiss?” but he might as well be asking the audience. While it seems clear that justice has not been served in the tragedy, Shakespeare also asks us to confront our own ideas of justice. If all the characters in the play act according to their own ideals, then how can we truly understand the true meaning of justice. This end scene in the production reflects that justice was gone missing throughout the play and our perception of justice is highly skewed and according to our individual beliefs whereas it should be according to society’s norms and values. Gupta 3 Lastly, revenge and justice run parallel to each other and thus are one of the play’s most important themes.
It is the motivation behind most of the characters’ decisions. Many of the characters believe justice will only be served if those who caused harm are punished in a similar fashion. They pray to the gods for this justice but then give out the punishment themselves. Revenge and justice are similar in the sense that both of them serve to punish the wrongdoer. In the production, Titus’ acting in the first act showcases how he wants revenge by asking for Tamora’s eldest son, Alarbus, to be sacrificed. Despite Tamora’s pleadings for mercy and begging, Alarbus is slain, beginning this play’s revenge cycle.
Moreover, Tamora says “I’ll find a day to massacre them all……beg for grace in vain”, it can be highlighted how she has sought comfort in revenge as justice. She wants to physically and bloodily harm Titus and therefore does seek justice but revenge so that she can inflict a lot of pain to him. In essence, justice and revenge can be used interchangeably but by analyzing them carefully, we can find out that revenge is harmful and is directed towards pain and suffering whereas justice is pointed towards being more balanced and neutral. There is a very fine line between the two concepts as justice is from heaven and revenge is from hell.
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