Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus is the most brutal and violent play written between 1590 and 1593 (Shakespeare and McDonald xxviiii). It is considered to be one of his earlier attempts to tragedy as it foreshadows many themes for his later plays. Themes of love, family relations, death, and power in Titus Andronicus emulates in plays like King Lear, Hamlet, and Macbeth; however, Titus Andronicus makes readers’ question the authorships of this play as, the later plays are compared to be well written. Yet, the word “black” appears numerously in Titus Andronicus, especially with the character of Aaron, a Moor. “Black” is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as “Designating the darkest colour possible, that of soot, coal, the sky on a moonless night in open country, and a small hole in a hollow object; of or having this colour; (also) so near this as to have no recognizable colour, very dark” (black, adj. and n).
This “black” character is well written and well characterized in Titus Andronicus. This character is not expressed in any other plays written by Shakespeare. In Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, “black” associates itself with Aaron, a Moor, whom plays a minor character but is the topic of discussion amongst himself and other characters because of his dark and “black” coloured skin, hence, associating his character to be malevolent through the various racist remarks using animal and mythological imagery towards him, as being barbarous, his transformation to a “black” character, and numerous Judeo-Christian emblems with suggestions to the word “black”.
Racist remarks towards Aaron a Moor using animal imagery in Titus Andronicus expresses his character as a savage figure because he is different. A moor is “Originally: a native or inhabitant of ancient Mauretania, a region of North Africa corresponding to parts of present-day Morocco and Algeria” (Moor, n.2.). Just by the definition we can characterize Aaron as being different from the Romans and the Goths in Titus Andronicus. At the end of Act 3 Scene 2, Marcus finishes killing a fly (Shakespeare 3.2.53), yet the black- humour against Aaron, a Moor, is apparent when Marcus says, “Pardon me, sir; it was a black ill-favored fly, / Like to the empress’ Moor; therefore I killed him” (3.2.66-67). This comparison of Aaron a Moor to a black coloured fly characterizes him as weak and feeble. When Marcus says “black ill-flavored” (3.2.66) he means black and ugly. Marcus suggests Aaron a Moor is unimportant and less powerful in status amongst the Goths and Romans. He is seen as a fly on a wall that cannot do anything but follows Tamora’s orders. Titus heightens the humor when he says,
Give me thy knife, I will insult on him,
Flattering myself as if it were the Moor…
Yet, I think, we are not brought so low
but that between us we can kill a fly
That comes in likeness of a coal-black Moor. (3.2.71-78)
Titus makes fun of Aaron a Moor by saying they are better than him, and that they...