Muted Daughters, Powerful Performance in Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus And The Merchant of Venice

Date of Award


Degree Name

M.A. in English


Department of English


Kirsten Mendoza


This thesis explores questions of agency, embodiment, silence and performance, and disability, in two of William Shakespeare's plays Titus Andronicus and The Merchant of Venice. I examine the ways in which directors and producers of contemporary adaptations of Shakespeare's works, specifically the stage adaptation of Titus Andronicus by Lucy Bailey (2015) and the film adaptation by Julie Taymor (1999) and the stage adaptation of The Merchant of Venice by Polly Findlay (2015) and the film adaptation by Michael Radford (2004), alter the meaning of scenes for a modern audience, and help us to better understand the play texts themselves. In addition, these stage and film adaptations bring into question the wills and responsibilities of daughters during the early modern period in Europe that complicate meanings of power and identity. In The Merchant of Venice, the audience is confronted with a father-daughter relationship between Shylock and Jessica, that places Jessica's will and religion in question when she wishes to marry a Christian instead of a Jew, which during this period, meant legally converting to Christianity. This play tackles concerns about violence, will, agency, and silence that audiences also see in the father-daughter relationship of Titus and Lavinia in Titus Andronicus. Furthermore, these relationships are shaped by larger structures like Christian hegemony, the Roman empire and antiquity, and patriarchy. Adaptations allow for a shift in emphasis and create meaning through action, not just words. For early modern audiences, and for us today, performance is fluid, contingent, and adaptive which allows for variances in interpretation. I argue that examining performances of Lavinia and Jessica side by side, allow for audiences to question issues of class, race, and violence enacted upon women's bodies. Women's voices, especially those of minorities, are heard or acknowledged only after the tragedy happens.


Women’s Studies, Literature, Fine Arts, Titus Andronicus, The Merchant of Venice, adaptations, daughters, silence

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