Reading between the Bloodied Lines and Bodies: Dissecting Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus and Vesalius’s De Humani Corporis Fabrica
Titus Andronicus is infamously Shakespeare’s first, and bloodiest, tragedy, but only a few scholars link this violence with the Renaissance culture of anatomy and dissection. Although scholars mention the anatomical language in Titus Andronicus, their analyses stop short of more fully developing the rich relationship between dissection and Shakespeare’s play. To remedy this oversight, this paper explores the debt that Titus Andronicus owes to contemporary anatomy and dissection culture by comparing Titus Andronicus (est. 1590) with Andreas Vesalius’s revolutionary anatomy textbook, De Humani Corporis Fabrica (1543). Specifically, this paper will identify four major intents of the Fabrica: 1) to display, 2) to instruct, 3) to interpret, and 4) to aestheticize the interior of the human body, and illustrate how these four traits figure in the representation of Lavinia’s body in the play. By mirroring the Fabrica’s four intents in both anatomy text and play, as well as examining the Fabrica’s images and text itself, this analysis reveals a pertinent difference. While in many ways Titus Andronicus celebrates the De Humani Corporis Fabrica, the play applies a heavy dose of skepticism to Vesalius’s underlying epistemological assumption that the body is knowable.
College and Department
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Gamblin, Hillary, "Reading between the Bloodied Lines and Bodies: Dissecting Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus and Vesalius’s De Humani Corporis Fabrica" (2014). Theses and Dissertations. 5249.
Titus Andronicus, dissection, anatomy, Vesalius, De Humani Corporis Fabrica