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"I'll find a day to massacre them all": Tamora in Titus Andronicus and Catherine de Medicis.

Queen of the Goths, Empress of Rome, Machiavellian and monstrous monarch: what literary, historical, or contemporary counterparts lurk behind Shakespeare's Tamora in Titus Andronicus? Critics have associated Tamora with the many classical tyrants or vengeful women the play invokes, including Semiramis and Hecuba; with Shakespeare's current monarch, Elizabeth I, whose subjects were often threatened by the anomaly of a woman on the throne; or with the widespread cultural unease about female unruliness that marked the sixteenth century. (1) While Shakespeare had examples of transgressive female power aplenty to draw upon--whether fictive or factual--this essay argues for a contemporary female monarch as prototype for Tamora: Catherine de Medicis, who ruled as queen consort, queen regent, and queen mother of France from 1547 to 1589 and whose legendary status as archetypal wicked queen had already gathered currency in her own life time.

This argument does not propose a political allegory or a unidirectional correspondence of the "old historicist" variety, for Shakespeare was seldom that explicit or reductive. But the resemblances between Catherine's reputed monstrosity and Shakespeare's articulation of the wicked queen in Titus--for he would go on to create other variations in later plays--are striking, and suggest another example of the intertextual transmission so central to his creative process. Shakespeare, as Stephen Greenblatt puts it, "does not conceal his indebtedness to literary sources," nor does he conceal the input of collective beliefs, cultural practices, and early modern foundational narratives, even if the latter influences are more challenging to trace. (2) In this case, I argue that Shakespeare's Tamora powerfully evokes the Catherine de Medicis understood by popular and political discourse in late Elizabethan England as well as the Catherine de Medicis represented in two pre-texts or co-texts: Anne Dowriche's narrative poem, The French History, and Christopher Marlowe's play, The Massacre at Paris.

Catherine was born in 1519 into the powerful Medicis family of Italy but came to France in 1533 as a pawn in a politically arranged marriage. When she was just fourteen, she married the Duke of Orleans, who became King Henri II of France in 1547. After Henri's untimely death in a jousting accident, Catherine ruled as queen mother and regent during the reigns of her sons Francois II (1559-60), Charles IX (1560-74), and finally Henri III (1574-89). In the last years of his reign, Henri III wrested some of the political control away from Catherine, but she nonetheless remained a dynamic force at court, and was arguably the most powerful woman in Europe for the latter half of the sixteenth century. (3)

Catherine died in January of 1589; Dowriche's poem was printed later that year. Scholars date the composition of Marlowe's The Massacre at Paris between 1589 and January of 1593, its first recorded performance, and Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus anywhere from 1589 to January of 1594, when it was first performed. That these three works were written in such close proximity points to an intriguing intertextual relationship; that they were published so soon after Catherine's death suggests that her long and influential role in the politics of nearby France kept her in the forefront of English consciousness. Even more present than the collective perception of Catherine as a domineering matriarch and monarch was the most notorious event that occurred on her watch: the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre in August of 1572.

The massacre took place on the occasion of the wedding festivities for Catherine's daughter, Marguerite de Valois, and Henri de Navarre, the next in line to the French throne after Catherine's sons, the Dukes of Anjou and Alencon. In marrying the Catholic Marguerite to the Protestant Navarre, Catherine hoped to end years of devastating religious conflict through a symbolic union of the two factions. Instead, a large-scale bloodbath ensued when French Catholics brutally murdered Gaspard de Coligny, leader of the Protestant Huguenots. Catholic troops and mobs then began to slaughter the many unarmed Protestants who had come to Paris for the royal wedding, and within days, "the streets were covered with dead bodies; the river tinted with blood; and door and entrances to the king's palace painted the same color," according to one contemporary account. (4) The massacre spread from Paris to its environs, and, by the time it was over, the death toll of Protestants was in the thousands. Sir Philip Sidney and Francis Walsingham, Elizabeths principal secretary, were among the many English who were in Paris at the time and brought back accounts of the horrors they had witnessed. (5)

Scholars continue to debate the details of this tragedy: the massacres political and religious ramifications in France and beyond; the extent and timing of the governments involvement under Charles IX; and, for our purposes, the nature of the queen mother's participation, particularly when it was understood that Catherine was as powerful and directive as Charles was ineffectual. In the aftermath of the massacre, much criticism was leveled at the court for allowing the atrocities to escalate after Coligny's murder, while others went further in blaming the royal government for deliberately planning the massacre in advance. (6)

Whether justified or not, the Protestant view laid much of the blame for the massacre directly on the queen mother. Diatribes against Catherine had already begun early in her reign, largely propelled by anti-Italian xenophobia, but, as Elaine Kruse explains, the construction of "the Black Legend of the wicked Italian queen" began in full force after 1572: "Following the massacre, Protestant polemics proclaimed that Catherine was malevolent to the core, the wicked queen who master-minded the massacre, poisoned her enemies, taught her children Machiavellian political strategies, and corrupted their morals." (7) The French Protestant characterization parallels depictions of Catherine in contemporary English discourse and in Dowriche's and Marlowe's works; it just as pointedly encapsulates the character of Tamora in Titus Andronicus.

If Protestants on the continent loudly denounced Catherine, in England the official response was initially directed at Charles. Elizabeth was appalled at news of the massacre, protesting that "women, children, maids, young infants and sucking babes, were ... murthered, and cast into the river" and that the perpetrators were not appropriately tried by law. (8) However, as Nate Probasco argues, while Elizabeth did not hide her outrage, her "religious convictions and her astute diplomacy tempered her reaction ... so as not to jeopardize Anglo-French amity." (9) Probasco demonstrates how the massacre substantially influenced Elizabeths religious policy at home, her foreign relations with France and Spain, and her marriage negotiations with Catherines son: the English queen turned her fury into proactive diplomacy and protective measures to ensure the safety of her own people. Furthermore, aiming her criticism at Charles rather than Catherine was perhaps in keeping with Elizabeths reluctance to openly criticize another female monarch. Indeed, throughout their almost simultaneous reigns, Elizabeth and Catherine maintained a cautious and at least publicly respectful relationship. (10)

While Elizabeth navigated a firm but circumspect response to the massacre, the English popular press exploded with inflammatory rhetoric against the French government. Most of these works were French-authored, and were published in French, or in English or Latin translations, and the pamphlets were inexpensive and plentiful. Lisa Parmelee examines the increase in French Protestant propaganda imported into England when authors "formed networks to disseminate their writings to a number of European countries.... In England, where large numbers of refugees ... were permitted to settle on the Channel Islands, the southern coast, and various cities, some London printers took an interest in producing editions of massacre writings either authored by, or, as was more likely in most cases, brought over by these refugees." Parmelee adds that in the mid-1580s, when Catholic-Protestant relationships became increasingly tense, a corresponding surge of French works again appeared in England: "This flood was at its peak in 1589 and 1590, when at least fifty and possibly as many as seventy translations were published." (11) The English government did not try to quell these tides of propaganda, a signal of its willingness to use the nascent print industry to advance anti-French and anti-Papal discourse when the court itself had to be more diplomatic.

However, one pamphlet that attacked the French monarchy and Queen Catherine in particular for the 1572 massacre did not escape the notice of English government censors. This pamphlet was by an English author, the Puritan John Stubbs, and was one of the most conspicuous written during Elizabeth's reign. Stubbs's The Discoverie of a Gaping Gulf Where into England is Like to be Swallowed (1579) was a critique of the marriage negotiations between Elizabeth and Catherine's son, the Due d'Alencon. Stubbs was hardly alone in objecting to Elizabeth's marriage to a prince of Catholic France, but his diatribe was one of the most explicit and elaborate. However, it was Stubbs's outspokenness about the proposed marriage and, as Ilona Bell puts it, "his overt paternalism and barely concealed antifeminism" that outraged Elizabeth far more than his complaints about the French. (12)

Discussions of Stubbs's pamphlet have focused on his subversive comments about the queen's body and the body politic, but the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre and Catherine de Medicis's perfidy are central to his rhetorical strategy. Indeed, one of the earliest uses of the word "massacre" in English was in Stubbs's treatise; according to Graham Hammill, "Stubbs argues that, far from preventing 'more massacres' in France, Elizabeth's marriage to Alencon will bring these massacres to England, since slaughter of the Huguenots was itself the result of the 'massacring marriage' between Navarre and Margaret." (13) Stubbs aims much of his anti-French invective directly at Catherine, citing her Italian--and especially her Florentine--origins as a source of her villainy. He focuses on her participation in the massacre: "In this tragedy she played her part naturally and showed how she governs all France.... The mother, as setter-forth of this earnest game, stood holding the book (as it were) upon the stage and told her children and every other player what he should say; the last act was very lamentable." (14) The theatrical metaphor that Stubbs employs is revealing, especially as we consider the popular representations of Catherine on the English stage. According to Stubbs, Catherine is at once author, director, and anti-hero of the narrative whose "last act" fulfilled its design as tragedy. Stubbs then offers an overview of the massacre's events, continuing to invoke the theatrical metaphor as he discusses how Catherine's children each played "their parts." In employing the analogy to drama, Stubbs becomes an early link in the subsequent intertextual representations of the monstrous queen by Dowriche, Marlowe, and Shakespeare. Stubbs also aligns himself with the many French writers who portrayed Catherine as the chief architect of all French abominations as well as the massacre, for Catherine is "the mother practicer of France" who directs "the great ones in France [who] do move as a hundred hands to effect her purpose." (15)

Sir Philip Sidney, who also voiced his opposition to the Alencon marriage in a letter to Elizabeth, echoed popular perceptions of Catherine. Sidney had been in Paris at the time of the massacre and memories of the atrocities were still recent. The English, Sidney warned his queen, "will be galled, if not aliened, when they see you take to husband a Frenchman, and a Papist ... [and] that he is the son of the Jezebel of our age; that his brother made oblation of his own sister's marriage, the easier to make massacres of all sexes." (16) Both Stubbs's and Sidney's arguments depicted a conniving and whorish Catherine de Medicis; the aristocratic Sidney incurred the queen's wrath and exile from court for his outspokenness, while Stubbs lost a hand and spent several months in prison.

The widespread sentiment against Catholic France and its queen continued throughout the 1580s in the midst of uncertainties over the balance of religious and political power. One of the more radical members of Elizabeth's Parliament, Job Throckmorton, delivered an anti-French tirade in February of 1587. Throckmorton's speech came shortly after the death of Mary Stuart, when fear of reprisals from Catholic Europe over her execution made for an anxious political climate. Catherine was not the only target of Throckmorton's rant--he took on the Pope, Philip II of Spain, Charles IX, and Henri III as well--but his attack on Catherine was particularly gendered. Throckmorton rejoices that Catherine has no more "left of her loins to pester the earth with. And those that she hath yet living, truly ... she may have as much comfort of them as the adder hath of her brood. Whether they sucked their mother's breast, I know not; but sure, if they did not, it seemeth their nurses were greatly to blame, instead of milk to suckle them up with blood from their infancy." Throckmorton adds that while Catherine may boast "that she hath brought us into this world such a litter," her children have produced nothing but "hypocrisy, filthiness of life, and persecuting of the church of God." (17) For Throckmorton, it is the French queen's female reproductive body that is especially threatening: not only is she a beast herself but her "loins" produce yet more monsters, a "litter" and a "brood" who perpetuate her evil designs.

Clearly, while the massacre itself occurred nearly twenty years before Dowriche, Marlowe, and Shakespeare wrote their works, collective memory of the event perpetuated the foundational narrative of Catherine's monstrosity. In Protestant England, the ongoing influx of thousands of French Huguenot refugees and the continuing specter of religious conflict rendered the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre a vivid symbol of Catholic threats past, present, and future. In this context, Catherine's death in 1589 should not be seen as simply reigniting memories of the 1572 massacre, for those images had been kept alive in the constant flood of anti-French, anti-Catholic, anti-Medicis discourse. Her recent death, however, may have propelled authors to incorporate popular representations of the wicked queen into their own work.

Dowriche, Marlowe, and Catherine de Medicis

Anne Dowriche's place in the literary landscape was far less prominent than Marlowe's or Shakespeare's: as a female, she positioned her authorship more modestly, and her chosen genre, poetry, reached a smaller audience than plays enacted on the public stage. Dowriche was, however, well-connected and visible: her husband, Hugh Dowriche, was an active Puritan preacher in Devon and her brother, Piers Edgcumbe, served in six English Parliaments. Dowriche's works were not simply circulated in manuscript but were published and accessible to a wide readership, particularly her most famous work, The French History, which was printed both in London and near her home in Exeter. Micheline White situates Dowriche amidst an active and well-educated circle of Puritan writers in the West Country, many of whom were women with "shared ideological and literary goals." (18) Elaine Beilen also connects Dowriche to various Puritan Parliamentarians, including Peter Wentworth and Job Throckmorton, through Edgcumbe, the dedicatee of The French History. Beilen notes the similarities between Dowriche's advocacy of parliamentary free speech in The French History and incendiary speeches delivered by Wentworth and Throckmorton. (19) Certainly, their representations of Catherine de Medicis were similarly vituperative.

The French History is a long narrative poem in three parts; the subtitle, A Lamentable Discourse of three of the chiefe, and most famous bloodie broiles that have happened in France for the gospel of Jesus Christ, proclaims its author's fervent devotion to the Reformation cause. The first two sections of the poem recount episodes in the French civil wars prior to 1572; the third part is Dowriche's narration of the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, for which she relied heavily on several sources, especially the French author Jean de Serress Commentaries on the Civil Wars of France (1574) that had been translated into English by Thomas Timme.

In the first two sections, Catherine is referred to as a strategizing and treacherous "Mother Queen as chief" (209), but in the St. Bartholomews narrative, Catherine becomes the full-blown instigator and architect of the massacre. (20) Echoing Stubbs, Dowriche also employs the theatrical metaphor to depict Catherine in action:
   The Mother Queene appears now first upon the stage,
   Where like a devilish sorceress with words demure and sage
   The King she calls aside, with other trusty mates
   Into a close and secret place, with whom she now debates
   The great desire she had to quit them from all care,
   In planting long a bloody plot, which now she must declare.

Catherine assumes command not with an overt display of authority, but with feminine wiles, "words demure and sage." She draws Charles and his advisors "into a close and secret place," a clearly gendered and sexualized space where "bloody plot(s)" are revealed. In the long monologue that follows, Catherine rejoices that fortune has delivered up "our long desired prey" (1402): the wounded Coligny, Elenri de Navarre, and other Protestant leaders. Continuing the hunting metaphor, she insists that since the "prey" are now "close within our walls, we have them in a trap," the court must seize the "proffered time" (141 l).To justify their vengeful action, Dowriche's Catherine adds: "For wisdom does allow the prince to play the fox / And lion-like to rage" (1419-20), a blatant allusion to Machiavelli: A prince, therefore, being compelled knowingly to adopt the beast, ought to choose the fox and the lion." (21) Many of Catherines detractors linked her to Machiavelli, pointing out that The Prince was dedicated to her father. Catherine allegedly treated the book as her Bible and inculcated her children with its political philosophy at every turn. (22)

In yet another metaphor, this one of the body personal and the body politic, Catherine urges Charles and his men to "Cut off therefore the head of this infectious sore," and thus end the Protestant threat for good (1427). Then the queen produces her most inspired rhetorical display:
   Pluck up therefore your spirits, and play your manly parts,
   Let neither fear nor faith prevail to daunt your warlike hearts.
   What shame is this that I (a woman by my kind)
   Need thus to speak, or pass you men in valour of the mind?
   For here I do protest, if I had been a man,
   I had myself before this time this murder long began. (1431-36)

Catherine has moved from an appeal to her council's religious faith to provoking their masculinity as call to action. As Elaine Beilen points out, "Dowriche makes [Catherine] into a vivid Popish villain, a prototype Lady Macbeth taunting men to possess her own warlike courage and embark on ambitious action.... In this memorable fictional appearance, Catherine de Medici may be the first female character created by a woman writer of this period." (23) Dowriche's larger agenda in writing The French History may well have been to appropriate the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre to promote the Protestant cause in England, but in so doing, she also helps to perpetuate the diabolical image of Catherine. Randall Martin argues further that Dowriche's portrayal of Catherine offers a complex view of "women's capacities for public leadership" and the potential for female agency, even if those energies are directed towards nefarious ends. (24)

Catherine appears on stage in another work written around the same time as Dowriche's The French History: Marlowe's The Massacre at Paris. The play concludes with the assassination of Henri III, which occurred in August of 1589, so Marlowe composed it between that date and its first recorded performance in January of 1593. Critics have given The Massacre at Paris less attention than Marlowe's other plays, most likely because the surviving text is corrupt and incomplete: it consists of only 1,250 lines, about half the length of a typical Elizabethan drama. (25)

Like Dowriche, Marlowe recounts the events of the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, but his play more luridly dramatizes actual killings: nearly twenty violent, sadistic deaths occur on stage during the course of the short play. As Graham Hammill points out, the word "massacre" was particularly resonant in Marlowe's work, as he "uses it an impressive fifteen times." (26) Marlowe's obsession with the 1572 massacre and Catholic-Protestant strife may have resulted, as David Riggs suggests, from seeing the Huguenot refugees flood into Canterbury when he was a young boy, or as Hammill suggests, from his interest in understanding how massacres functioned as political aggression. (27)

In Marlowe's narrative, the Queen Mother plays a supporting role to the principal arch-villain, the Duke of Guise, an ambitious overreacher in the tradition of Marlowe's Barabas and Tamburlaine. Nonetheless, Randall Martin argues that Dowriche's "presentation of Catherine de Medici influenced Marlowe," not only in The Massacre at Paris but in other Marlovian works, by introducing the figure of the Machiavel. (28) In Marlowe's play, the Guise and Catherine are collaborators in planning and executing the atrocities. The Guise admits that Catherine supplies the resources, but refers to her in negative scatological and deathly imagery:
   The Mother Queene works wonders for my sake
   And in my love entombs the hope of France,
   Rifling the bowels of her treasury,
   To supply my wants and necessity. (2.133-36) (29)

While the Massacre, and subsequent critical discussion, has relegated Catherine to a supporting role, her position is nonetheless diabolical. She asks the Guise directly: "What order will you set down for the massacre?" (4.27), and she proclaims her relentless drive for power even if it means killing her own child, the ultimate in perversion of her maternal role. She is annoyed at Charles for being too sympathetic to the Protestant cause:
   For Catherine must have her will in France:
   As I do live, so surely shall he die,
   And Henry then shall wear the diadem;
   And if he grudge or cross his mother's will,
   I'll disinherit him and all the rest;
   For I'll rule France, but they shall wear the crown,
   And if they storm, I then may pull them down. (11.38-44)

Charles's death of natural causes obviates the need to murder him, but Catherine then finds herself in political conflict with his successor, her son Henri. When Henri assumes the throne, Catherine tells her advisors that she can control him:
   And if he do deny what I do say,
   I'll despatch him with his brother presently ...
   Tush, all shall die unless I have my will,
   For, while she lives, Catherine will be Queen. (14.62-66)

Catherine's insistence on having her "will" and maintaining her power even at the cost of killing her own sons is a refrain throughout the play but she does not ultimately prevail. King Henri establishes his own authority by flouting his mother and ordering the murder of the powerful Guise. Catherine is devastated and repudiates Henri, again from a position of monstrous maternity:
   I cannot speak for grief. When thou wast born,
   I would that I had murder'd thee my son!
   My son? Thou art a changeling, not my son.
   I curse thee, and exclaim thee miscreant." (21.143-46)

While the Catherine de Medici represented in Massacre at Paris may be less instrumental than in Dowriches work, both representations of the French queen perpetuate some of the most egregious stereotypes received from previous anti-Catherine sentiment: the queen as conniving, calculating, and vengeful, a powerful mother figure who nonetheless values her own political interests over her children.

Shakespeare, Tamora, and Catherine de Medicis

In their works, Dowriche and Marlowe specifically address recent history and controversial events, claiming Catherine and the Medicis as their topical subject. Other Elizabethan and Jacobean dramatists also reference the contentious Medicis legacy in their works, though less explicitly; critics have pointed to allusions to the "Black Legend" and the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre in the works of Kyd, Mason, Massinger, and Middleton. (30)

Scholarly discussion has, however, overlooked the specter of Catherine de Medicis in Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus. Certainly, Shakespeare was more cautious in taking on the current political climate so directly, keeping a safer distance between his works and the censors. But he wrote his first tragedy, with its depiction of a monstrous queen, in close proximity to Dowriche and Marlowe and amidst an abundance of blistering popular discourse about Catherine.

The connections between Marlowe and Shakespeare have been extensively analyzed by Thomas Cartelli, Robert Logan, James Shapiro, and numerous others. (31) Marlowe and Shakespeare, close in age, were producing plays at the same time; they worked in the same theatrical milieu; and numerous textual correspondences between their plays have been exposed and analyzed. Arguments have been made that the influence was two-directional, but it is probable that in the case of The Massacre at Paris, Marlowe's text made the first impression on Shakespeare; for example, the villainous Duke of Guise has been seen as one model for Richard III, and the line, "Thus Caesar did go forth" from Massacre (21.87) appears in Julius Caesar (2.2.28). But it is the connection between Massacre and Titus that is of interest here.

Robert Logan is more circumspect than many critics regarding Marlowe and Shakespeare's supposed rivalry and mutual influences, and he productively redirects analysis to intertextual transmissions more than direct lines of correspondence. Nonetheless, Logan sees strong connections between Massacre and Titus, particularly in the similarities between Guise and Aaron: both plays "[feature] a self-styled Machiavellian villain--canny, ambitious, and ruthless to the point of savagery--and each partakes of unspeakable atrocities and violence." Logan also points to the principals' "high-pitched language and rhetoric" as well as several verbal echoes. (32) But while Logan and others have considered the similarities between Aaron and the Duke of Guise, and in turn their stamp on Barabas, Tamburlaine, Richard III, and Macbeth, the startling connections between Tamora and Catherine--as depicted in the works of Dowriche, Marlowe, and so many others--have been neglected.

In Titus Andronicus, the eponymous hero returns to Rome victorious from battle, with his prisoners of war in tow: Tamora, Queen of the Goths, her three sons, and her lover, Aaron the Moor. In quick succession, Titus has killed Tamoras first born son, turned down the empery and handed it to Saturninus, along with his daughter, Lavinia. Before the first act is over, the world has turned upside down: Saturninus has rejected Lavinia, taken Tamora as his wife, and the Andronicus family has fallen out of favor, in spite of Titus's many years of military heroism. The drastic reversals of the first act set the tone for the horrific acts of revenge to follow, and while Aaron is the stock villain in this play, Titus, Tamora, and Saturninus are all implicated in the atrocities as well.

In a play in which tradition, spectacle, and eloquence are jarringly juxtaposed with extreme sadism and violence, the catalyzing act is the killing of Tamoras eldest son, Alarbus. Although Titus argues that this ritual sacrifice is a justified response to the many Romans slain by the Goths, Tamora still begs for her sons life:
   Victorious Titus, rue the tears I shed--
   A mother's tears in passion for her son--
   And if thy sons were ever dear to thee,
   O, think my son to be as dear to me! (1.1.105-8) (33)

Tamoras appeal to Titus on the basis of mutual parenthood is fruitless, for at least initially Titus puts the concerns of the state above his own family interests. Alarbus is mutilated and fed to the "sacrificing fire" and the machinery of revenge is set in motion. Tamoras fortunes quickly rise when Saturninus chooses her over Lavinia as his consort; she has gone from prisoner of Rome to Empress of Rome, and she is now in a position to retaliate for the loss of her son. When Saturninus feels dishonored by the Andronicus family and considers appropriate punishment, Tamora counsels him to bide his time and let her orchestrate the revenge. Just as Catherine was depicted as the architect of the Medicis's heinous acts, the proverbial power behind the throne, Tamora--in an aside--urges the Emperor to concentrate on his public reputation and leave the plots of vengeance to her: "My lord, be ruled by me ... / Dissemble all your griefs and discontents" (1.1.439). Tamoras calculating and duplicitous style as master planner mirrors that of the anti-Catherine rhetoric. The connection to Catherine is made even more apparent as Tamora outlines her plans against Titus:
   I'll find a day to massacre them all,
   And raze their faction and their family,
   The cruel father and his traitorous sons
   To whom I sued for my dear son's life,
   And make them know what 'tis to let a queen
   Kneel in the streets and beg for grace in vain. (1.1.447-52)

The most significant word, of course, is "massacre." We have seen the frequency and import of the word in Marlowe's works, as well as its pointed use by Stubbs and Sidney While Shakespeare uses it eight times to Marlowe's fifteen, it is notable that it appears in his early plays, written during the wave of anti-Medicis sentiment. For Shakespeare's audience, "massacre" would certainly have echoed the events on St. Bartholomew's Day, but the fact that it is Tamora who employs the word in such a conspiratorial manner furthers the association with Catherine.

Second, the depiction of Tamora as a powerful, controlling mother invokes Catherine's complicated maternal reputation. Tamora is an intense embodiment of motherhood, grieving for her first-born and protective of her remaining sons. Marguerite Tassi discusses the associations Shakespeare makes between Tamora and an "ancient line of female avengers," particularly Hecuba, whose source of vengeance came as a bereaved mother: "Like Hecuba, Tamora feels compelled, justly, to 'quit' the bloody wrongs done to her and her son." (34) At the same time, Tamora orders Aaron to kill the child they had together in order to preserve her power: "The Empress ... / ... bids thee christen it with thy dagger's point" (4.2.69-70). Tamora's is an overwhelming maternal presence, comprising fierce vigilance and murderous opportunism--a strong parallel to Marlowe's Catherine, who is willing to kill both of her sons to further her political ends.

When Lavinia's husband, Bassianus, is killed by Tamora's sons, Chiron and Demetrius, Lavinia, fearing her imminent torture, begs Tamora to intervene as a woman and a mother. Tamora responds by inciting the cruelty, ordering her sons: "Revenge it as you love your mother's life, / Or be ye not henceforward called my children" (2.3.114-15). Lavinia continues to plead with Tamora and her sons for mercy, even as she invokes a perverted version of maternity:
   When did the tiger's young ones teach the dam?
   O, do not learn her wrath! She taught it thee.
   The milk thou suckedst from her did turn to marble,
   Even at thy teat thou hadst thy tyranny." (2.3.142-45)

Lavinia continues in this vein, her imagery of reproduction and nurture Bestial--breeding, hatching," and "nests." When Tamora refuses to yield, Lavinia charges her with having "no grace, no womanhood--ah,

beastly creature" (2.3.182), likening her to tigers, lions, and ravens who would let "their own birds famish in their nests" (2.3.154). According to David Wilbern, Tamora "in psychoanalytic terms ... is the catastrophic enactment of maternal malevolence: the dreaded devouring mother." (35) In the cannibalistic banquet scene of the final act, Tamora literally becomes the "devouring mother."

Lavinias language echoes the parliamentarian Throckmorton's tirade against Catherine de Medicis's relationship to her children, quoted above: "she may have as much comfort of them as the adder hath of her brood. Whether they sucked their mother's breast, I know not." Throckmorton imagines them being "suckled ... with blood" instead of milk. This is not to suggest that Shakespeare necessarily knew of Throckmorton's speech, but that the notions of Catherine as the epitome of monstrous mother were pervasive. As Kruse points out, "according to her detractors, she deliberately corrupted her children, introducing them to Italian sexual perversions and encouraging them to be cruel through cock fights and other nasty court diversions." (36) Catherine, like Tamora, was said to school her children in violence but could also unleash her destructive powers on them.

While the late sixteenth century portrayals of Catherine as wicked mother were clearly hyperbolic, Catherine did fashion herself very deliberately as mother. In the first decade of her marriage, Catherine remained childless, but she persisted in resolving her infertility and once she did, she gave birth to twelve children, seven of whom survived to adulthood. (37) But for Catherine, the personal and the political were never separate: she was a tireless protector, defender, and advisor for her children, assuming much of the rule throughout the reigns of her sons. Catherine certainly appeared to love her children but she also directed them in their proper roles of furthering the Medicis dynasty. Indeed, as Katherine Crawford argues, "Catherine staked her political career on being considered above all to be a good mother," and in the merging of her maternal status with political ambition "she asserted a new definition of the queen mother in politics." (38) Just as Catherine appointed herself as queen matriarch, particularly before her sons came of age, Tamora controls her sons--and to some extent Aaron--as well as Saturninus. When Tamora becomes the Empress, she assures Saturninus that she will be his "loving nurse, a mother to his youth" (1.1.329), and Shakespeare portrays him as an inept, infantilized king dependent upon his consort.

While Tamora is a powerful maternal force, even giving birth during the course of the play, she is also depicted as highly sexualized, a "most insatiate and luxurious woman" (5.1.88), a duality that would not necessarily have been seen as a contradiction given early modern anxiety about female agency. As Susan Dunn-Hensley puts it, "Perhaps more than any of Shakespeare's other queens, Tamora illustrates male fear of the transgressive, contaminating female." (39) Her liaison with Aaron, even after she marries Saturninus, broadcasts her licentiousness. In 2.3, just before the murder of Bassianus and the rape of Lavinia, Tamora meets with Aaron and tries to seduce him: even then her language conflates motherhood and sexuality, as she imagines that "each wreathed in the others arms" the birds will "be unto us as is a nurse's song / Of lullaby to bring her babe asleep" (2.3.25-29). In spite of the stereotypical associations with lust laid upon Aaron as Moor, even he resists Tamora's forceful advances "Venus governs [her] desires" and she is the threatening sexual aggressor (2.3.30).

Similarly, Catherine's court had a reputation for loose morality. Catherine was famous for her lavish entertainments, which included her retinue of some eighty ladies-in-waiting, described as "the flying squadron" by the Venetian ambassador. It was reported that Catherine encouraged these women to seduce powerful courtiers and guests to gather useful intelligence. (40) This claim extended to Catherine as well: Katherine Crawford points out that when Henri III ascended the throne, he had to wrestle with popular perceptions that he was weak and effeminate, an image driven by notions of the queen mother as masculine and powerful but also as "a lusty, sexually domineering virago." (41)

Charges of sexual promiscuity may seem surprising, given Catherines carefully crafted self-presentation as loyal widow. During their marriage, Catherine carefully maintained her persona as Henris devoted, loving wife, even though his affections were reserved for his mistress, Diane de Poitiers. After Henri's death in 1559 Catherine made a dramatic show of her widowhood: she ordered the building in which he died entirely destroyed, draped her own residence in black, and adopted the mourning clothes which she would wear for the rest of her life. However, as Dorothea Kehler demonstrates, in the early modern period the lascivious woman and the grieving wife coalesced in a figure common in early modern popular culture: the sexually unrestrained widow. Kehler argues that the source of Tamora's villainy may be not her Gothic origin, but a "particularly vicious representation of a stereotype [in drama] ... the lusty widow." In the chapbook that provided a probable source text for Titus, Tamora's counterpart is a widow, and "although Shakespeare's Tamora is never referred to as a widow, an Elizabethan audience seeing a queen with her three sons and no husband would surely have conjectured her widowhood." (42) The fear of the widow was widespread, for she was seen as sexually practiced but independent, outside the confines of male control.

Two other pronounced associations between Tamora and Catherine deserve mention: one, they were both seen as aliens in their adopted cultures. Tamora's outsider status, as queen of the conquered Goths, is highlighted at the outset, but she quickly assimilates into Roman culture. When she becomes Empress, she reminds Titus, "I am incorporate in Rome, / A Roman now adopted happily" (1.1.459-61). In spite of the high position she has achieved, she is still seen as the quintessence of exoticism, in a play obsessed with otherness. Similarly, Catherine's foreign origins were often cited disparagingly; even though she came to France as an adolescent, she was continually associated with negative Italian stereotypes. This xenophobia was evidenced not only in English propaganda, but began with the French themselves. One of the more prominent but representative examples comes from a pamphlet by Henri Estienne in 1574, attributing Catherine's malevolent nature to her lineage: "Catherine de Medici is Italian and Florentine. Amongst the nations, Italy takes the prize for cunning and shrewdness.... Now when a person without conscience has the art of deception, as often seen in that country, imagine how much evil you can expect." (43) Even as monarchs of their new countries, neither Tamora nor Catherine overcame their representations as barbaric other.

Finally, one of the most memorable passages in Titus involves the burial of Tamoras remains. Shakespearean tragedy leaves us with numerous dead bodies, not all of whose burial plans are specified, but in the final act of Titus Andronicus, as Titus's son Lucius assumes power in Rome, his closing remarks address the burial of the dead. While Titus and Lavinia will be properly buried in the Andronicus tomb, Tamora deserves no such honor:
   As for that ravenous tiger, Tamora,
   No funeral rite nor man in mourning weed,
   No mournful bell shall ring her burial;
   But throw her forth to beasts and birds of prey. (5.3.194-97)

Reference to burial rites at the play's end return us to the similar concerns of the first act, and in this case, Tamora's ignoble end reinforces her ubiquitous bestial connections.

When Catherine de Medicis died in 1589, a contemporary chronicler, Pierre L'Estoile, wrote that "she had no sooner passed away than she was treated with as much consideration as a dead goat." (44) The embalming of her body was mismanaged and as her corpse began to decay, it was buried in an unmarked grave near Blois. The irreverent treatment of Catherines remains was recognized at the time of her death, but it was not until twenty-one years later that her husband's illegitimate daughter moved Catherine's remains to Saint-Denis. During the French Revolution mobs destroyed the tombs of most royals, including Catherine's, throwing them into a mass grave. (45)

In this type of analysis, one must beware of overstating correspondences between fictional and historical figures. Titus Andronicus is not an allegory, and Shakespeare's practice was seldom to create simplistic one-to-one identifications. But it was his practice to avail himself of collective beliefs and topical situations as departure points for his plays. Catherine de Medicis's unrelenting presence in Shakespeare's England and the currency of her death in 1589 spawned an abundance of anti-Catherine discourse, most visibly in the works of Dowriche and Marlowe. As precedence for the depiction of a monstrous tragic queen, the first of many, Shakespeare did not have to look far.

The College of New Jersey


(1) See Sara Hanna, "Tamoras Rome: Raising Babel and Inferno in Titus AndronicusShakespeare Yearbook 3 (1992), 11-29; Dorothea Kehler, "'That Ravenous Tiger Tamora: Titus Andronicus's Lusty Widow, Wife, and M/other," in Titus Andronicus: Critical Essays, ed. Philip Kolin (New York: Garland, 1995), 99-113; Eugene Waith, "The Metamorphosis of Violence in Titus Andronicus" in Kolin, 317-32; Susan Dunn-Hensley, "Whore Queens: The Sexualized Body and the State," in High and Mighty Queens of Early Modern England: Realities and Representations, ed. Carole Levin, Debra Barrett-Graves, and Jo Eldridge Carney (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), 101-16; Marguerite Tassi, Women and Revenge in Shakespeare: Gender, Genre, and Ethics (Cranbury: Susquehanna University Press, 2012).

(2) Stephen Greenblatt, Shakespearean Negotiations (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), 5.

(3) See Katherine Crawford, Perilous Performances: Gender and Regency in Early Modern France (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004); and R. J. Knecht, Catherine de'Medici (New York: Longman, 1988).

(4) From an anonymous pamphlet, "The Wake-Up Call for the French and Their Neighbors," quoted in The Saint Bartholomews Day Massacre: A Brief History with Documents, ed. Barbara B. Diefendorf (New York: Bedford/St. Martins, 2009), 113.

(5) For Walsingham's witnessing of the Massacre, see John Cooper, The Queens Agent: Francis Walsingham at the Court of Elizabeth I (London: Faber and Faber, 2011).

(6) See Robert Kingdon, Myths About the St. Bartholomews Day Massacres: 1572-1576 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988).

(7) Elaine Kruse, "The Woman in Black: The Image of Catherine de Medici from Marlowe to Queen Margot," in High and Mighty Queens of Early Modern England: Realities and Representations, ed. Carole Levin, Debra Barrett-Graves, and Jo Eldridge Carney (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), 224. See also N. M. Sutherland, "Catherine de Medici: The Legend of the Wicked Italian Queen" Sixteenth Century Journal 9 (1978): 45-56.

(8) Dudley Digges, The Compleat Ambassador: Or Two Treaties of the Intended Marriage of Queen Elizabeth of Glorious Memory (London, 1655), 298.

(9) Nate Probasco, "Queen Elizabeth's Reaction to the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre," in The Foreign Relations of Elizabeth I, ed. Charles Beem (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), 77-78.

(10) See Elaine Kruse, "The Virgin and the Widow," in Queens and Power in Medieval and Early Modern England, ed. Carole Levin and Robert Bucholz (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2009), 126-40.

(11) Lisa Farraro Parmelee, "Printers, Patrons, Readers, and Spies: Importation of French Propaganda in Late Elizabethan England," Sixteenth Century Journal (1994): 853-72 (856, 857).

(12) Ilona Bell, '"Souereaigne Lord of lordly Lady of this land': Elizabeth, Stubbs, and the Gaping Gulf' in Dissing Elizabeth: Negative Representations of Gloriana, ed. Julia M. Walker (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1998), 99-117. See also Susan Doran, Monarch and Matrimony: The Courtships of Elizabeth I (New York: Routledge, 1996).

(13) Graham Hammill, "Time for Marlowe," ELH 75 (2008): 291-314 (303).

(14) John Stubbs, Gaping Gulf with Letters and other Documents, ed. Lloyd E. Berry (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1968), 26.

(15) Ibid., 28, 75.

(16) Sir Philip Sidney, "A Letter to Queen Elizabeth," in Miscellaneous Prose of Sir Philip Sidney, ed. Katherine Duncan-Jones and Jan Van Dorsten (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973), 48. See also Blair Worden, The Sound of Virtue: Philip Sidney's Arcadia and Elizabethan Politics (New Haven: Yale University Press), 41-42, 112-14.

(17) Quoted in J. E. Neale, Elizabeth I and Her Parliaments: 1584-1601 (New York: Norton, 1958), 2:170. (18) Micheline White, "Women Writers and Literary-Religious Circles in the Elizabethan West Country: Anne Dowriche, Anne Lock Prowse, Anne Lock Moyle, Ursula Fulford, and Elizabeth Rous," Modern Philology 103 (2005): 187-214 (191). "Anne's poem was printed with two imprints: one was sold in London while the other was sold by 'William Russell, dwelling at Exeter,' an imprint that was no doubt read by members of the Edgcumbe family, by the landed families near Mount Edgcumbe, and by like-minded readers from Exeter and other parts of the West Country" (193).

(19) Elaine Beilen, "Resistance in Dowriche's French Historie," in Women, Writing, and the Reproduction of Culture in Tudor and Stuart Britain, ed. Mary E. Burke et al. (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2000), 119-40.

(20) Anne Dowriche, The French History, in Women Poets of the Renaissance, ed. Marion Wynne-Davies (New York: Routledge, 1999), 18-57. Quotations are from this edition and are cited by line number parenthetically in the text.

(21) The full quote from Machiavelli: "Since a prince must know how to use the nature of the beast to his advantage, he must emulate the fox and the lion, because a lion cannot defy a snare, while a fox cannot defy a pack of wolves. A prince must therefore be a fox to spot the snares, and a lion to overwhelm the wolves." Niccolo Machiavelli, The Essential Writings of Machiavelli, trans. Peter Constantine (New York: Modern Library Classics, 2007), 68.

(22) Kruse, "The Woman in Black," 224.

(23) Elaine Beilen, Redeeming Eve: Women Writers of the English Renaissance (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987), 106.

(24) Randall Martin, "Anne Dowriche's The French History, Christopher Marlowe, and Machiavellian Agency" Studies in English Literature 1500-1900 39 (1999): 69-87 (71).

(25) See Rick Bowers, " The Massacre at Paris: Marlowe's Messy Consensus Narrative" in Christopher Marlowe, ed. Robert A. Logan (Burlington: Ashgate, 2011), 381-91; and Julia Briggs, "Marlowe's Massacre at Paris: A Reconsideration," Review of English Studies 34 (1983): 257-78.

(26) Hammill, 292.

(27) David Riggs, The World of Christopher Marlowe (New York: Holt, 2005), 33; Hammill, 292.

(28) Martin, 71-72.

(29) Christopher Marlowe, Dido Queen of Carthage and The Massacre at Paris, ed. H. J. Oliver (London: Methuen, 1968). Quotations are from this edition and are cited parenthetically in the text.

(30) For discussion of the other representations of Catherine and the Medicis on the early modern English stage, see Frank Ardolino, '"In Paris? Mass, and Well Remembered!': Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy and the English Reaction to the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre" Sixteenth Century Journal 21 (1990): 401-9; T. S. R. Boase, "The Medici in Elizabethan and Jacobean Drama," Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 37 (1974): 373-78; and Lisa Hopkins, "Staging the Medici: the Medici Family in English Renaissance Drama, c. 1590-c. 1640," Sun Yat-Sen Journal of Humanities 27 (2010): 63-74.

(31) There is significant scholarship and debate on the reciprocal influence and rivalries between Marlowe and Shakespeare. See Thomas Cartelli, Marlowe, Shakespeare, and the Economy of Theatrical Experience (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1991); Richard Hillman, Shakespeare, Marlowe, and the Politics of France (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002); Robert Logan, Shakespeare's Marlowe: The Influence of Christopher Marlowe on Shakespeare's Artistry (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2007); James Shapiro, Rival Playwrights (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991).

(32) Logan, Shakespeare's Marlowe, 31.

(33) William Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus, in The Norton Shakespeare: Tragedies, 2nd ed., ed. Stephen Greenblatt et al. (New York: W. W. Norton, 2008). Quotations are from this edition and are cited parenthetically in the text.

(34) Tassi, 139, 140.

(35) David Willbern, "Rape and Revenge in Titus Andronicus," English Literary Renaissance 8 (1978): 159-82 (166). See also Marion Wynne-Davies, "'The Swallowing Womb': Consumed and Consuming Women in Titus Andronicus',' in The Matter of Difference: Materialist Feminist Criticism of Shakespeare (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991), 129-52.

(36) Kruse, "The Woman in Black," 224-25.

(37) See Jo Eldridge Carney, Fairy Tale Queens: Representations of Early Modern Queenship (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 20-25.

(38) Katherine Crawford, "Catherine de Medicis and the Performance of Political Motherhood," Sixteenth Century Journal 31 (2000): 643-73 (657, 644).

(39) Dunn-Hensley, 105.

(40) Knecht, 235.

(41) Katherine Crawford, "Love, Sodomy, and Scandal: Controlling the Sexual Reputation of Henry III," Journal of the History of Sexuality 12 (2003): 513-42 (522).

(42) Kehler, 317.

(43) Quoted in Kruse, "The Woman in Black," 224; and Knecht, 164.

(44) Quoted in Leonie Frieda, Catherine de Medici: Renaissance Queen of France (New York: Harper Perennial, 2003), 382.

(45) Knecht, 268-69.
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Date:Dec 22, 2014
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