Titus Andronicus is a play of revenge. It’s a horror show.
But it is also Shakespeare’s first tragedy, a play in which–according to our old friend Aristotle–our tragic hero is subjected to a reversal of fortune (almost always from good to bad). This reversal is supposed to create fear and pity in the audience, finally resulting in a catharsis, a release of emotions, an emotional cleansing.
Continue reading It’s a Tragedy
Around the beginning of this year 2009, long before I got this wild hair that has become the BSP, I was in Target, shopping with my family. I was in the magazine section and picked up Rolling Stone. [I used to be a subscriber in younger days… now (old man alert) I often don’t know who is on the cover… (Lady Gaga? really?). I try to discover new bands, and late last year, I happened upon The Gaslight Anthem, a GREAT band out of New Jersey, the home of my favorite rocker/writer, Springsteen.]
Anyway, as I flipped through the new album reviews, this caught my eye:
Continue reading Titus Andronicus Rocks!
And I’m not talking Kate Moss. … I’m talking Senecan Tragedy.
Seneca (the Younger) was a Roman playwright (as well as politician and philosopher), who worked in the first century A.D. Some of his plays reworked stories of earlier Greek writers (like Sophocles), but in his hands, the plays had a greater focus on the terrible deeds that precipitate the tragic hero’s fall. Sometimes witches and ghosts were employed to bring about actions (or reactions) by the characters, often prompting them to revenge.
So what does a first century Roman playwright have to do with Titus Andronicus?
Continue reading The Tragic Model of the Day
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 9:43 — 3.5MB)
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This week’s podcast includes a synopsis of Titus Andronicus, as well as a review of the Playing Shakespeare DVD.
3:57 — Text should be “… since Bassianus will marry Lavinia…”
8:22 — Text should be “Judi Dench”
Continue reading Podcast 07: Titus Andronicus Overview
OK, so first read-through done… ready to begin the second, deeper reading.
Continue reading Digging through the bodies
As Act Five of Titus Andronicus begins, things are coming to a head. Somewhere on the outskirts of Rome, Lucius is mustering his troops, his army of Goths. It’s a little unclear why the Goths would join Lucius since Titus was once their “terror” (V.i.10), but the reason seems to center around their former queen: they want to “be avenged on cursed Tamora” (V.i.16).
Continue reading Act Five: Uh, Just Death (and no pity)
Act Four of Titus Andronicus begins with a domestic scene in the Andronicus household. And as is befitting this play, it begins with fear: grandson Lucius is running, yelling for help. Who is he running from? Aunt Lavinia. She means him no harm, but let’s face facts: if you were a little boy, and your aunt, handless and grunting, was chasing you… well, you’d run, too. Why is she chasing him? It turns out he has dropped his school books, but she isn’t trying to return them (she couldn’t pick them up if she did). No, it’s because she recognizes one of the books, and realizes it (Ovid’s Metamorphosis) can help her tell her story.
Continue reading Act Four: Life and Death (in which a baby is born, and two–maybe three–people die)
Act Three, Scene One of Titus Andronicus begins with a procession of Judges and Senators heading to the trial of Martius and Quintus. Titus, attempting to get them to hear his pleas, prostrates himself before them and gives a long (26 line) speech. What he doesn’t know is that the audience isn’t there, they’ve walked on by.
Continue reading Act Three: Can You Give Me a Hand (or 3)?
As Act Two of Titus Andronicus begins, we hear from Aaron the Moor for the first time. He is named in the list of characters as “Aaron, a Moor, lover of Tamora.” Most critics state that Aaron is her slave, but there isn’t much to support this in Aaron’s opening speech, the play’s first soliloquy. [is Aaron the only character to have monologues? we’ll have to wait and see] Aaron makes reference to his “slavish weeds and servile thoughts” (II.i.18), but this is less than clear-cut; and if he is her slave, his job to “wait” on her turns out to be to “wanton” with her (II.i.21), then he would be her sex slave. This may be the appearance, but he says that Tamora is his “prisoner held, fettered in amorous chains, // And … bound to Aaron’s charming eyes” (II.1.15-16). So it’s an interesting relationship to say the least.
Continue reading Act Two: Three Gothic Villains, One Roman Baddie, and the Moorish Puppetmaster
OK, as I mentioned on Saturday, Act One, Scene One, of Titus Andronicus is the longest first scene in all of Shakespeare (at 498 lines, it’s longer than five plays’ entire first acts; the next longest is Much Ado About Nothing, at 312 lines). With all that length, you might suspect a quiet opening, a slow expositional build to content. And you’d be wrong. It begins with a flourish, literally, as the Roman Senators and Tribunes enter, then followed onstage–through opposite doors–the late (and unnamed) emperor’s sons, Saturninus and his younger brother, Bassianus, and THEIR soldiers.
That’s a boatload of people on stage… more than enough to grab the audience’s attention.
Continue reading Act One: Immediately into the Blood
July is now behind us… the laughter from The Comedy of Errors is fading… and the ugliness (or cool goriness, depending on your take on horrorshows) rises like an incoming tide…
Titus Andronicus begins today!
Continue reading Titus Andronicus