The descriptions of nature in Titus Andronicus have equal parts beauty, exoticism, and horror. They enhance the violence and brutality in the play through contrast and juxtaposition. The assemblage of both the actions of the characters and the setting gives many characters and even the setting agency and identity.
Demetrius and Chiron use the hunting as an opportunity to rape Lavinia in the middle of the forest. When Demetrius gleefully announces “we hunt not, we, with horse nor hound, / But hope to pluck a dainty doe to ground” (2.1.1), he uses hunting as a metaphor for sexual violence, casting Lavinia in the role of prey. Lavinia is referred to as a “doe” several times throughout the play, and after the rape, Marcus compares her to a mortally wounded animal “seeking to hide herself, as doth the deer / That hath receiv’d some unrecurring wound”(3.1.4). For the rest of the play, Lavinia is seen as a mortally wounded animal and her eventual death is a mercy.
Tamora is compared to animal and nature several times, and many of her actions can be seen as beastlike. Titus final interaction Tamora places back in her beginning role as a mother and a savage inhuman Goth, by her feeding the remains of sons, returning them to her womb literally. And not giving her a proper burial. Titus’s eulogy of Tamora gives the audience her last identity as a savage beast.
“As for that heinous tiger, Tamora,
No funeral rite, nor man in mourning weeds,
No mournful bell shall ring her burial;
But throw her forth to beasts and birds of prey:
Her life was beast-like, and devoid of pity;” (5.3.9)
Where both of these scenes differ is their immediate setting. Lavinia’s rape is steeped nature, while Tamora’s death and the death of her son’s takes place in the heart of Rome. In a play where the violence happens indiscriminately no matter the setting, a theme that can probably be taken from this is that no matter what people build, cultivate, and reside in our collective nature doesn’t change. In that same breath it could also be said that it is natural for humans to be violent and savage to each other, but also caring and compassionate. Both of these types of actions within and out of nature in the play.