Terence's Reviews > Titus Andronicus

Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
Jan 17, 2009

liked it
bookshelves: shakespeare-stuff, audio-books, the-plays-the-thing
Recommended to Terence by: Mr. Hartman, 12th grade English
Read in January, 2009 , read count: 3+

Titus Andronicus is one of Shakespeare's earliest tragedies. A detail that comes through in many aspects of the play, particularly its over-the-top, in-your-face violence. Little is left to the audience's imagination except for the rape and mutilation of Lavinia and the execution of Quintus and Martius, Titus' sons.

Many would like to distance Shakespeare from this play. As if it were a piece of hackwork he threw together to pay the rent but it's actually quite Shakespearean, if a bit rough around the edges. One can see glimpses of Iago and Othello in Aaron the Moor, King Lear in Titus and Cordelia in Lavinia. And many of the tropes one comes to expect in Shakespeare are also adumbrated: Revenge (of course), Order out of Chaos (like Octavian in Julius Caesar, Edgar in King Lear, or even Oberon in A Midsummer Night's Dream), or the ability to speak as a sign of full humanity (Lavinia).

My favorite character is, of course, Aaron the Moor. Unrepentant in his villainies and instigator of truly vile crimes (rape, murder, mutilation), nevertheless I can't condemn him as utterly evil since it was Titus who began this cycle of tragedy when he hacked Tamora's oldest son Alarbus limb from limb as a sacrifice. Are his deeds any more "evil" because they are not sanctioned by honor and law?

Julie Taymor filmed a marvelous adaptation (Titus), starring Anthony Hopkins (Titus) and Jessica Lange (Tamora), which deserves a look.

It's a telling comment on our own times that Majorie Garber considers Titus Andronicus the most "modern" of Shakespeare's plays, and, of his tragedies, the one most easily accessible to today's audience. ("Titus Andronicus," Shakespeare After All pp. 73-88)
9 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Titus Andronicus.
Sign In »

Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

Terence I'm not so sure it's that far removed from his other tragedies. As I recall there's quite a bit of blood spilled in Macbeth and Coriolanus, among others. Maybe it's just that he gets more circumspect and versatile (as you mention) as he got more experienced. Better able to judge when the blood needed to be spilled on stage and when it could happen behind the curtain (as in Macbeth).

I must admit to a soft spot in my heart for this play - My 11th/12th grade English teacher Mr. Hartman liked to be a bit of an iconoclast and showed our class a version of this play rather than any of the more standard works. (He also introduced me to Akira Kurosawa and opera - overall, one of my better teachers.)

message 2: by Lori (new)

Lori Oh Titus Andronicus, yes very VERY dark and bloody.

I've never seen a production of this. Maybe I should write a letter to Kenneth Branaugh? All that blood and gore will certainly attract a different demographic than the usual Shakespeare crowd? Oh, I can just see it, the Titus Andronicus console games. Rated M of course!

Terence Lori,

Julie Taymor did an incredible version called just Titus with Anthony Hopkins in the lead; Jessica Lange as Tamora, queen of the Goths; and Alan Cumming as Saturninus.

message 4: by Lori (last edited Jan 17, 2009 12:10AM) (new)

Lori Oh my was it theatre or film? That sounds incredible. If it's on film, I will definitely rent it. I adore Jessica Lange (altho Queen of the Goth, she's so vulnerable!), and Hopkins has such a presence it's chilling.

I saw a productions of hers, hmmm, Shakespeare, was it Dream? This was in 81 or so and it was incredible, I think it was even at NYU, anyway you could tell this woman was going to go very far. Oh wait, it was 12th Night with Elizabeth Mastrantonio. She was fantastic as Viola, you could tell she was going to go far too. She did for awhile, I wonder what's happened with her.

Oh OK, she's now living in London doing lots and lots of theatre.

Terence Lori wrote: "Oh my was it theatre or film? That sounds incredible. If it's on film, I will definitely rent it. I adore Jessica Lange (altho Queen of the Goth, she's so vulnerable!), and Hopkins has such a prese..."

It's a film - 1999, I believe, or around that time.

message 6: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell There's also a pretty amazing BBC dramatization with Trevor Peacock as Titus. http://www.screenonline.org.uk/tv/id/...

back to top