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Dara Miller

Dr. Royster
ENG 428
15 April 2012
The gnawing vultures of feminine revenge
In her article The gnawing vulture: Revenge, Trauma Theory, and Titus
Andronicus, Deborah Willis offers an interpretation of Titus Andronicus that addresses
the psychological effects of the violent revenge that defines the play through the lens of
modern Trauma theory. Additionally, she pays special attention to the role of women
throughout the play, reexamining the traditional interpretation of the female characters as
either victims or monsters and instead restoring to Lavinia and Tamora the destructive
power and control that accompanies revenge. She claims that in Elizabethan dramas,
women are sometimes active participants in revenge plots[that] actively engage in
honor-driven quarrels or exhort others to do so and that in Titus Andronicus, revenge
has a leveling aspect[and offers] to members of both sexesa perverse therapy for
traumatic experience (25). Throughout her analysis, she attempts to reclaim some of the
blind spots in recent feminist criticism that imply a recognition of the plays
embeddedness in patriarchal structure require[s] a disavowal of womens complicity in
revenges excess (26). In her thesis, she sets out to prove that the perverse therapy of
revenge eventually consumes the self it tries to save[it] acts as a container for traumatic
emotion, enabling characters to bypass or transmute major PTSD symptomswhile also
helping them recover a sense of agency, cohesion, and meaningful action.