USF St. Petersburg campus Master's Theses (Graduate)


Jay S. Looney

First Advisor

Major Professor: Lisa S. Starks, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Julie Armstrong, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Morgan Gresham, Ph.D.


University of South Florida St. Petersburg

Document Type


Publication Date


Date Issued

June 28, 2019


In Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus and King Lear, notions of identity, power, violence, madness, disability, transformation, and problematic masculinity are used to complicate culpability and comment on the societies within these plays and on Shakespeare’s own society. In both plays, the main characters’ identities ultimately break down as they attempt to rigidly conform to irreconcilably conflicting values. Additionally, the stage villains in both plays provide interesting insights into culpability and social commentary. I explore these themes individually in each play, and I also explore and argue for the connections between these themes in both plays. I argue that the social commentary and culpability issues in Titus, one of Shakespeare’s earliest plays, are repeated in other plays and in various ways, and that the ways in which these repetitions manifest, especially in King Lear, provide insights into Shakespeare’s ideas of culpability in his tragedies and reveal certain critiques of societal values.


A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Liberal Arts Department of Verbal and Visual Arts College of Arts and Sciences University of South Florida, St. Petersburg

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