In Act One, Scene One, Marcus
with a white robe and asks him to don it as emperor. In ancient Rome, it was the custom for those seeking political office to wear a white garment, signifying moral purity. (As “candidatus” means white in Latin, this practice gives us the English word “candidate”.) While the robe does not appear elsewhere in the play, it is worth thinking about this ideal connection between moral uprightness and political power. Over the course of the play, power seems much more connected with ruthless bloodshed. One may wonder if, at the end of the play, any
character’s virtue is so unstained that he can be a valid “candidate” to lead Rome. The unstained, white robe may also be seen as symbolizing more generally the relative innocence of the characters at the beginning of the play (especially the chaste Lavinia
), which will gradually become more and more sullied by the bloody acts of revenge that fill the tragedy.