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Titus Andronicus

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Raymond Titus Andronicus by Wm. Shakespeare-G.B. Harrison ed.

My review

rating: 1 of 5 starsBlood & Guts, courtesy of Shakespeare

Titus Andronicus, conqueror of the Gauls, begins the tale of revenge by sacrificing the captive Gaul Queen Tamora’s eldest son as part of a funeral rite for his own dead son, who died in the war. Tamora pleads for her son’s life, but is refused.

Meanwhile, Saturninus, son to the late Emperor pleads for his acceptance as the new Emperor, but a faction partial to Titus presents a case to the people for the election of the victorious Titus. Titus however bows graciously out and offers his daughter Lavinia to the new emperor as wife.

Bassinius, brother to Saturninus, however claims his prior betrothal to Lavinia and kidnaps her. Titus is outraged, and finding his way blocked by a son in league with Bassinius claim, kills the son. Saturninus, till now, politic, turns on Titus, citing him for embarrassing him before Rome by having to accept the crown after Titus’s refusal of it, and for Titus’ sons conspiring with Bassinius to embarrass him a second time.

“No, Titus, no. The emperor needs her [Lavinia:] not
Nor her, nor thee, nor any of thy stock.
I’ll trust by leisure him that mocks me once-
Thee never nor thy traitorous haughty sons,
Confederates all thus to dishonor me.”

Saturninus then asks Tamora to be his empress. She agrees. Her secret desire is to revenge herself upon Andronicus for the death of the first of her three sons.

Thereafter the plot unfolds until the death-strewn end.

What I would have liked to see was the reaction of Tamora when she realizes she has eaten a portion of her remaining sons. Shakespeare does not provide us with any dialog that would express her shock or grief. He, too quickly, has her killed.

I was not much moved by the play and I labored to finish reading it. The majority of the characters lack depth. The only character of any real interest is Aaron, the black moor slave and secret lover to Tamora, and this only because he strives to protect his child, born of Tamora, from death because the child is black and would betray Tamora’s dalliances with Aaron.

“Now by the burning tapers of the sky,
That shone so brightly when this boy was got,
He dies upon my scimitar’s sharp point
That touches this my first born-son and heir!

This is a passion that feels real.

I will note an interesting portion of dialog that is in the opening moments of Act 1, “Romans, friends, followers, favorers of my right”… Shakespeare obviously kept notes and rewrote lines to use again.

The Tragedy of Titus Andronicus is judged as one of Shakespeare’s minor plays by those more competent than myself. I cannot disagree with them. It is not much performed, anymore, although a film adaptation, Titus, directed by Julie Taymor, was released in 1999.

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