Motifs In Shakespeares Titus Andronicus

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Motifs In Shakespeares Titus Andronicus



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Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare - Brief Plot Summary

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The King of Navarre and his court appear ludicrous as, one by one, they violate their vows of abstinence in conceits that gush with sentiment. Even Berowne, the skeptic-onstage, proves unable to resist the temptations of Cupid. As if to underscore the foolishness of their betters, the clowns and fops of this comic world produce an interlude featuring the NineWorthies, all of whom overdo or distort their roles in the same way as the lover-courtiers have distorted theirs. When every Jack presumes to claim his Jill at the close, however, Shakespeare deputizes the princess to postpone the weddings for one year while the men do penance for breaking their vows. The women here are victorious over the men, but only for the purpose of forcing them to recognize the seriousness of their contracts.

Presumably the marriages to come will prove constant and fulfilling, but at the end of this otherwise lighthearted piece, Shakespeare interjects a surprising note of qualification. Perhaps this note represents his commentary on the weight of words, which the courtiers have so carelessly— and sometimes badly—handled. Although he again presents pairs of young lovers whose fickleness causes them to fall out of, and then back into, love, these characters display human dimensions that are missing in the character types found in the earlier comedies. The main action, as in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, takes place in a wood, this time outside Athens and at night. The fairy powers are given free rein to deceive the mortals who chase one another there.

By the end of the play, however, the young lovers have found their proper partners, Oberon and Titania have patched up their quarrel, and Bottom, whose head was changed into that of an ass and who was wooed by the enchanted Titania while he was under this spell, rejoins his fellows to perform their tragic and comic interlude at the wedding reception. This afterpiece is a burlesque rendition of the story of Pyramus and Thisbe, whose tale of misfortune bears a striking resemblance to that of Romeo and Juliet.

His scheme is frustrated only by the superior wit of the heroine Portia during a trial scene in which she is disguised as a young boy judge. Though the settings are contrasted and the action of the play alternates between the two societies, Shakespeare makes his audience realize that Portia, like Antonio, is bound to a contract set by her dead father which threatens to destroy her happiness. When Bassanio chooses the leaden casket, she is freed to marry the man whom she would have chosen for her own. Much Ado About Nothing likewise has a dark side. The main plot represents the love of Claudio and Hero. Claudio confronts his supposedly unfaithful partner in the middle of their wedding ceremony, his tirade causing her to faint and apparently expire.

The lovers are later reunited, however, after Claudio recognizes his error. Like Claudio and Hero, they are converted into lovers who overcome selfishness and pride to gain a degree of freedom in their new relationships. The comedy ends with the marriage of Claudio and Hero and the promise of union between Beatrice and Benedick. His behavior, especially his hilariously inept handling of legal language, is funny in itself, but it also illustrates a favorite Shakespearean theme: Clownish errors often lead to happy consequences. His daughter Rosalind enters the forest world in disguise, along with her friend Celia, to woo and win the young hero Orlando, forced to wander by his brother Oliver, another usurping figure.

She proves successful in winning the support of the audience by means of her clever manipulation of Orlando from behind her mask. Two characters—Touchstone, the clown, and Jacques pronounced JAYK weez , the cynical courtier—represent extreme attitudes on the subjects of love and human nature. He remains outside the circle of happy couples at the end of the play, a poignant, melancholy figure. Twelfth Night also deals with the themes of love and self-knowledge. Motifs from other earlier Shakespearean comedies are also evident in Twelfth Night. Viola and Sebastian are twins a motif found in The Comedy of Errors who have been separated in a shipwreck but, unknown to each other, have landed in the same country, Illyria. Complications arise when Olivia falls in love with Viola, and the dilemma is brought to a head when Orsino threatens to kill his page in a fit of revenge.

Sebastian provides the ready solution to this dilemma, but Shakespeare holds off introducing the twins to each other until the last possible moment, creating effective comic tension. The scene in which Malvolio finds the letter and responds to its hints, while being observed not only by the theater audience but also by an audience onstage, is one of the funniest stretches of comic pantomime in drama.

When Malvolio attempts to woo his mistress, he is thought mad and is cast in prison. Although he is finally released not before being tormented by Feste the clown in disguise , Malvolio does not join the circle of lovers in the close, vowing instead to be revenged on all those who deceived him. In fact, both Feste and Malvolio stand apart from the happy company, representing the dark, somewhat melancholy clouds that cannot be dispelled in actual human experience. By this stage in his career, Shakespeare had acquired a vision of comedy crowded by elements and characters that would be fully developed in the tragedies.

Legend suggests that he interrupted his work on the second history cycle to compose the play in two weeks for Queen Elizabeth, who wished to see Falstaff by then familiar from the history plays portrayed as a lover. What Shakespeare ended up writing was not a romantic but instead a bourgeois comedy that depicts Falstaff attempting to seduce Mistress Ford and Mistress Page, both wives of Windsor citizens.

He fails, but in failing he manages to entertain the audience with his bragging and his boldness. This is the only strain of romance in the comedy, whose major event is the punishment of Falstaff: He is tossed into the river, then singed with candles and pinched by citizens disguised as fairies. Regardless of whether this act has a ritual purpose, the character of Falstaff, and the characters of Bardolph, Pistol, and Justice Shallow, bear little resemblance to the comic band of Henry IV, Part I.

In fact, T he Merry Wives of Windsor might be legitimately seen as an interlude rather than a fully developed comedy, and it is a long distance from the more serious, probing dramas Shakespeare would soon create. The play differs from the earlier romantic comedies, however, because the hero rejects the heroine, preferring instead to win honor and fame in battle. When Bertram finally assents to the union he bears little resemblance to comic heroes such as Orlando or Sebastian; he could be seen in fact as more a villain or perhaps a cad than a deserving lover.

Measure for Measure has at the center of its plot another bed trick, by which a patient and determined woman Mariana manages to capture the man she desires. That man, Angelo, is put in the position of deputy by Duke Vincentio at the opening of the action. He determines to punish a sinful Vienna by strictly enforcing its laws against fornication; his first act is to arrest Claudio for impregnating his betrothed Juliet. He asks for a measure of her body in return for a measure of mercy for her brother.

Thus, Angelo commits the deed that he would punish Claudio for performing. Through another substitution, however, Claudio is saved. Some critics have argued that this interpretation transforms Duke Vincentio into a Christ figure, curing the sins of the people while disguised as one of them. Whether or not this interpretation is valid, Measure for Measure compels its audience to explore serious questions concerning moral conduct; practically no touches of humor in the play are untainted by satire and irony.

For about four years following the writing of Measure for Measure , Shakespeare was busy producing his major tragedies. It is probably accurate to say that the problem comedies were, to a degree, testing grounds for the situations and characters he would perfect in the tragedies. His earliest—and clumsiest—attempt at tragedy was Titus Andronicus. From Seneca, the Roman playwright whose ten plays had been translated into English in , Shakespeare took the theme of revenge: The inflexible, honor-bound hero seeks satisfaction against a queen who has murdered or maimed his children.

She was acting in retaliation, however, because Titus had killed her son. He and the wicked queen Tamora are oversimplified characters who declaim set speeches rather than engaging in realistic dialogue. He never comes to terms with the destructive code of honor that convulses his personal life and that of Rome. With Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare reached a level of success in characterization and design far above the bombastic and chaotic world of Titus Andronicus.

Some critics have in fact faulted the tragedy because its plot lacks the integrity of its poetry; Romeo and Juliet come to their fates by a series of accidents and coincidences that strain credulity. The tireless Friar Lawrence attempts, through the use of a potion, to save Juliet from marrying Paris, the nobleman to whom she is betrothed, but the friar proves powerless against the force of fate that seems to be working against the lovers. Although it lacks the compelling power of the mature tragedies, whose heroes are clearly responsible for their fate, Romeo and Juliet remains a popular play on the subject of youthful love. At least three years passed before Shakespeare again turned his attention to the tragic form. Instead of treating the subject of fatal love, however, he explored Roman history for a political story centering on the tragic dilemma of one man.

That is, he might have presented the issue of the republic versus the monarchy as a purely political question, portraying Caesar, Brutus, Cassius, and Antony as pawns in a predestined game. Instead, Shakespeare chose to explore the character of Brutus in detail, revealing the workings of his conscience through moving and incisive soliloquies. By depicting his hero as a man who believes his terrible act is in the best interest of the country, Shakespeare establishes the precedent for later tragic heroes who likewise justify their destructive deeds as having righteous purposes.

The tragic plot is developed by means of irony and contrast. Caesar appears to be a superstitious, somewhat petty figure, but in typical fashion, Shakespeare makes his audience see that, just as the conspirators are not free of personal motives such as jealousy, so Caesar is not the cold and uncompromising tyrant they claim he is. Brutus and Cassius quarrel before the end, but they nevertheless achieve a kind of nobility by committing suicide in the Roman tradition. For Brutus, the events following the assassination demonstrate the flaw in his idealism; he could not destroy the spirit of Caesar, nor could he build a republic on the shifting sand of the populace.

In Julius Caesar , one witnesses a tragedy that is both politically compelling and morally complex. Although the revenge theme is an important part of Julius Caesar , it dominates the action of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. As a result, Hamlet delays his revenge—a delay that has preoccupied audiences, readers, and critics for centuries. These explanations, while appealing, tend to shift attention away from other, equally significant elements in the play. When Hamlet finally acts, however, he does so in the role of an avenger and scourge. He murders Claudius after the king has arranged for Laertes to slay him in a duel and after the queen has fallen dead from a poisoned drink intended for Hamlet.

Though Fortinbras stands as a heroic figure, one cannot help but observe the irony of a situation in which the son, without a struggle, inherits what his father was denied. In Troilus and Cressida , one encounters another kind of irony: satire. This strange play, which may have been composed for a select audience, possibly of lawyers, was placed between the histories and tragedies in the First Folio. The dual plot concerns the political machinations among the Greeks during their siege of Troy and the tortured love affair between Troilus and the unfaithful Cressida.

Much of the political action consists of debates: Hector argues eloquently that Helen should be sent back to Menelaus; Ulysses produces many pithy arguments urging the reluctant Achilles to fight. Many of these scenes, moreover, end in anticlimax, and action is often frustrated. Throughout, Thersites, the satirist-onstage, bitterly attacks the warring and lecherous instincts of men; even the love affair between Troilus and Cressida seems tainted by the general atmosphere of disillusion.

Although the two lovers share genuine affection for each other, one cannot ignore the truth that they are brought together by Pandarus and that their passion has a distinctly physical quality. Although probably written after the other major tragedies, Timon of Athens shares a number of similarities with Troilus and Cressida. Here again is an ironic vision of humanity, this time in a social rather than martial setting. That vision is expanded by the trenchant comments, usually in the form of references to sexual disease, of Apemantus, another cynical choric commentator.

Timon appears to be a tragic rather than misanthropic figure only if one sees him as the victim of his idealistic reading of humankind. When those on whom he has lavishly bestowed gifts and money consistently refuse to return the favor, Timon then becomes a bitter cynic and outspoken satirist. One cannot say that the hero acquires a larger view of humanity or of himself as the result of his experience; he simply seems to swing from one extreme view to its opposite.

An experiment that clearly succeeded is Othello, the Moor of Venice , an intense and powerful domestic tragedy. Based on an Italian tale by Giambattista Giraldi Cinthio, the story concerns a Moor, a black man who is made to believe by a treacherous, vengeful ensign that his new Venetian bride has cuckolded him with one of his lieutenants, Cassio. In a rage, theMoor suffocates his bride, only to discover too late that his jealousy was unfounded. Rather than face the torture of a trial and his own conscience, he commits suicide as he bitterly accuses himself of blindness. He also creates a world with two distinct symbolic settings: Venice and Cyprus.

In Venice, Othello shows himself to be a cool, rational captain, deserving of the respect he receives from the senators who send him to Cyprus to defend it from the Turks. Although some critics have ridiculed Shakespeare for depending so heavily on one prop to resolve the plot, they fail to note the degree of psychological insight Shakespeare has displayed in using it. It may be especially important to perceive Iago as another Satan, since commentators have suspected the sufficiency of his motive he says he wants revenge because Othello passed over him in appointing Cassio as his lieutenant.

Such a reading tends to simplify what is in fact a thoroughgoing study of the emotions that both elevate and destroy humankind. When the play opens, he is in the process of retiring from the kingship by dividing his kingdom into three parts, basing his assignment of land on the degree of affection mouthed by each of the three daughters to whom he plans to assign a part. Cordelia, his youngest and favorite, refuses to enter into this hollow ceremony, and Lear responds by suddenly and violently banishing her. Left in the hands of his evil and ambitious daughters Goneril and Regan, Lear quickly discovers that they plan to pare away any remaining symbols of his power and bring him entirely under their rule.

This theme of children controlling, even destroying, their parents is echoed in a fully developed subplot involving old Gloucester and his two sons, Edmund and Edgar. With Cordelia and Edgar cast out—the former to live in France, the latter in disguise as Poor Tom—Lear and Gloucester suffer the punishing consequences of their sins. Gloucester, who is also lacking insight into the true natures of his sons, is cruelly blinded by Regan and her husband and cast out from his own house to journey to Dover. On the way, he is joined by his disguised son, who helps Gloucester undergo a regeneration of faith before he expires. Cordelia performs a similar task for Lear, whose recovery can be only partial, because of his madness.

After Cordelia is captured and killed by the forces of Edmund, whose brother conquers him in single combat, Lear, too, expires while holding the dead Cordelia in his arms. This wrenching ending, with its nihilistic overtones, is only one of the elements that places this play among the richest and most complex tragedies in English. More than any other Shakespearean tragedy, King Lear also succeeds in dramatizing the relationship between the microcosm, or little world of humankind, and the macrocosm, or larger world. At the moment when Lear bursts into tears, a frightening storm breaks out, and civil war soon follows. Gloucester must learn a similar lesson, although his dilemma involves a crisis of faith. Just as he realizes that Cordelia represents those qualities of truth and compassion that he has been lacking, she is suddenly and violently taken from him.

Macbeth treats the de casibus theme of the fall of princes, but from a different perspective. Once that deed is done, Macbeth finds himself unable to sleep, a victim of conscience and guilt. Although Lady Macbeth tries to control his fears, she proves unsuccessful, and her influence wanes rapidly. Immediately, Macbeth rushes to the witches to seek proof that he is invincible. They tell him that he will not be conquered until BirnamWood comes to Dunsinane and that no man born of woman can kill him. Seeking to tighten his control of Scotland and to quiet his conscience, Macbeth launches a reign of terror during which his henchmen kill Lady Macduff and her children.

Macbeth is also depicted as a Herod figure recalling Richard III when he murders the innocent children of Macduff in an obsessive fit brought on by the realization that he is childless and heirless. Two strains of imagery reinforce this perception, featuring recurring references to blood and to children. Macduff, on the other hand, in tears over the brutal murder of his wife and children, emerges as a stronger and more compassionate man because he has shown himself capable of deep feeling.

If the play was written to honor James I, it might also be argued that the comparison between his reign and that of Christ was intended. Written soon after Macbeth , Antony and Cleopatra again traces the complex psychological patterns of a male-female relationship. Like Lady Macbeth, Cleopatra appears to control and direct the behavior of her man, Antony, but as the play progresses, she, too, begins to lose power.

Another explanation is that the poems are not autobiographical but fiction, another of Shakespeare's "dramatic characterization[s]", so that the narrator of the sonnets should not be presumed to be Shakespeare himself. In , John Benson published a second edition of the sonnets in which he changed most of the pronouns from masculine to feminine so that readers would believe nearly all of the sonnets were addressed to the Dark Lady. Benson's modified version soon became the best-known text, and it was not until that Edmond Malone re-published the sonnets in their original forms. The question of the sexual orientation of the sonnets' author was openly articulated in , when George Steevens , upon reading Shakespeare's description of a young man as his "master-mistress" remarked, "it is impossible to read this fulsome panegyrick, addressed to a male object, without an equal mixture of disgust and indignation".

Oscar Wilde addressed the issue of the dedicatee of the sonnets in his short story The Portrait of Mr. The controversy continued in the 20th century. By , the Variorum edition of the sonnets contained an appendix with the conflicting views of nearly forty commentators. In the year after "the law in Britain decriminalized homosexual acts between consenting males over twenty-one", the historian G. Akrigg published the first extended study of the Earl of Southampton, "who he had no doubt was the 'fair youth' of the sonnets. The love which he felt for Southampton may well have been the most intense emotion of his life. Stanley Wells also addressed the topic in Looking for Sex in Shakespeare , arguing that a balance had yet to be drawn between the deniers of any possible homoerotic expression in the sonnets and more recent, liberal commentators who have "swung too far in the opposite direction" and allowed their own sensibilities to influence their understanding.

A recent notable scholarly dispute on the matter occurred in the letters pages of The Times Literary Supplement in From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Overview of the sexuality of William Shakespeare. William Shakespeare : a compact documentary life. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press. ISBN Oxford: Oxford University Press. In Search of Shakespeare. London: BBC Worldwide. Shakespeare the Biography. London: Chatto and Windus. Retrieved 19 March Nichols and Sons, Ungentle Shakespeare: Scenes from his life. London: Arden Shakespeare. The tragedy of Richard the Third. The Shakespeare Folios. London: Nick Hern Books. Ultimately, there is no overriding critical consensus on the issue of the order in which the play, prose and ballad were written, with the only tentative agreement being that all three were probably in existence by at the latest.

Henslowe marked the play as "ne", which most critics take to mean "new". There were subsequent performances on 29 January and 6 February. Later in , Danter published the play in quarto under the title The Most Lamentable Romaine Tragedie of Titus Andronicus referred to by scholars as Q1 for the booksellers Edward White and Thomas Millington, making it the first of Shakespeare's plays to be printed. This evidence establishes that the latest possible date of composition is late There is evidence, however, that the play may have been written some years earlier than this. Perhaps the most famous such evidence relates to a comment made in by Ben Jonson in Bartholomew Fair. In the preface, Jonson wrote "He that will swear, Jeronimo or Andronicus are the best plays, yet shall pass unexcepted at, here, as a man whose judgement shows it is constant, and hath stood still these five and twenty, or thirty years.

If Jonson is taken literally, for the play to have been between 25 and 30 years old in , it must have been written between and , a theory which not all scholars reject out of hand. For example, in his edition of the play for the Arden Shakespeare 2nd Series, J. Maxwell argues for a date of late Honigmann, in his 'early start' theory of , suggests that Shakespeare wrote the play several years before coming to London c.

This is highly unusual in copies of Elizabethan plays , which usually refer to one company only, if any. Waith and Jacques Berthoud, for example, believe it is, it means that Sussex's Men were the last to perform the play, suggesting it had been on stage quite some time prior to 24 January The tour was a financial failure, and the company returned to London on 28 September, financially ruined. At that point, they sold the play to Sussex's Men, who would go on to perform it on 24 January at The Rose.

However, Jonathan Bate and Alan Hughes have argued that there is no evidence that the listing is chronological, and no precedent on other title pages for making that assumption. Additionally, a later edition of the play gives a different order of acting companies — Pembroke's Men, Derby's Men, Sussex' Men and Lord Chamberlain's Men , suggesting the order is random and cannot be used to help date the play. As such, even amongst scholars who favour a post date, is by no means universally accepted.

Jacques Berthoud, for example, argues that Shakespeare had close associations with Derby's Men and "it would seem that Titus Andronicus must already have entered the repertoire of Derby's Men by the end of or the start of at the latest. Another theory is provided by Jonathan Bate, who finds it significant that Q1 lacks the "sundry times" comment found on virtually every sixteenth-century play; the claim on a title page that a play had been performed "sundry times" was an attempt by publishers to emphasise its popularity, and its absence on Q1 indicates that the play was so new, it hadn't been performed anywhere.

Bate also finds significance in the fact that prior to the rape of Lavinia, Chiron and Demetrius vow to use Bassianus' body as a pillow. Bate believes this connects the play to Thomas Nashe 's The Unfortunate Traveller , which was completed on 27 June The poem was written to celebrate the installation of Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland as a Knight of the Garter on 26 June Bate takes these three pieces of evidence to suggest a timeline which sees Shakespeare complete his Henry VI trilogy prior to the closing of the theatres in June At this time, he turns to classical antiquity to aid him in his poems Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece. Then, towards the end of , with the prospect of the theatres being reopened, and with the classical material still fresh in his mind, he wrote Titus as his first tragedy, shortly after reading Nashe's novel and Peele's poem, all of which suggests a date of composition of late Other critics have attempted to use more scientific methods to determine the date of the play.

For example, Gary Taylor has employed stylometry , particularly the study of contractions , colloquialisms , rare words and function words. As such, Taylor settles on a date of mid for Titus. He also argues that 3. However, if the play was written and performed by Hughes , Maxwell , Berthoud , Waith and Taylor , or Bate , why did Henslowe refer to it as "ne" in ? Foakes and R. Rickert, modern editors of Henslowe's Diary , argue that "ne" could refer to a newly licensed play, which would make sense if one accepts Waith's argument that Pembroke's Men had sold the rights to Sussex's Men upon returning from their failed tour of the provinces.

Foakes and Rickert also point out that "ne" could refer to a newly revised play, suggesting editing on Shakespeare's part some time in late Brian Vickers , amongst others, finds Frazer's arguments convincing, which renders interpretation of Henslow's entry even more complex. The quarto text of the play, with the same title, was reprinted by James Roberts for Edward White in Q2. On 19 April , Millington sold his share in the copyright to Thomas Pavier. However, the next version of the play was published again for White, in , under the slightly altered title The Most Lamentable Tragedie of Titus Andronicus , printed by Edward Allde Q3. Q1 is considered a 'good text' i.

Q2 appears to be based on a damaged copy of Q1, as it is missing a number of lines which are replaced by what appear to be guess work on the part of the compositor. Q3 is a further degradation of Q2, and includes a number of corrections to the Q2 text, but introduces many more errors. The First Folio text of F1 , under the title The Lamentable Tragedy of Titus Andronicus , is based primarily on the Q3 text which is why modern editors use Q1 as the control rather than the usual practice in Shakespeare of using the Folio text.

However, the Folio text includes material found in none of the quarto editions, primarily Act 3, Scene 2 also called the 'fly-killing scene'. It is believed that while Q3 was probably the main source for the Folio , an annotated prompter 's copy was also used, particularly in relation to stage directions, which differ significantly from all of the quarto texts. As such, the text of the play that is today known as Titus Andronicus involves a combination of material from Q1 and F1, the vast majority of which is taken from Q1. An important piece of evidence relating to both the dating and text of Titus is the so-called 'Peacham drawing' or 'Longleat manuscript'; the only surviving contemporary Shakespearean illustration, now residing in the library of the Marquess of Bath at Longleat.

The drawing appears to depict a performance of Titus , under which is quoted some dialogue. Eugene M. Waith argues of the illustration that "the gestures and costumes give us a more vivid impression of the visual impact of Elizabethan acting than we get from any other source. Far from being an acknowledged source of evidence however, the document has provoked varying interpretations, with its date in particular often called into question. The fact that the text reproduced in the drawing seems to borrow from Q1, Q2, Q3 and F1, while also inventing some of its own readings, further complicates matters.

Additionally, a possible association with Shakespearean forger John Payne Collier has served to undermine its authenticity, while some scholars believe it depicts a play other than Titus Andronicus , and is therefore of limited use to Shakespeareans. Although Titus was extremely popular in its day, over the course of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries it became perhaps Shakespeare's most maligned play, and it was only in the latter half of the 20th century that this pattern of denigration showed any signs of subsiding. One of the earliest, and one of the most famous critical disparagements of the play occurred in , in the introduction to Edward Ravenscroft 's theatrical adaptation, Titus Andronicus, or the Rape of Lavinia.

A Tragedy, Alter'd from Mr. Shakespeare's Works. Speaking of the original play, Ravenscroft wrote, "'tis the most incorrect and indigested piece in all his works. It seems rather a heap of rubbish than a structure. Eliot famously argued that it was "one of the stupidest and most uninspired plays ever written, a play in which it is incredible that Shakespeare had any hand at all, a play in which the best passages would be too highly honoured by the signature of Peele. However, although the play continued to have its detractors, it began to acquire its champions as well.

In his book, Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human , Harold Bloom defended Titus from various critical attacks it's had over the years, insisting the play is meant to be a "parody" and it's only bad "if you take it straight. Another champion came in , when Jacques Berthoud pointed out that until shortly after World War II , " Titus Andronicus was taken seriously only by a handful of textual and bibliographic scholars. Readers, when they could be found, mostly regarded it as a contemptible farrago of violence and bombast, while theatrical managers treated it as either a script in need of radical rewriting, or as a show-biz opportunity for a star actor.

One such scholar was Jan Kott. Speaking of its apparent gratuitous violence, Kott argued that. Titus Andronicus is by no means the most brutal of Shakespeare's plays. More people die in Richard III. King Lear is a much more cruel play. In the whole Shakespearean repertory I can find no scene so revolting as Cordelia's death. In reading, the cruelties of Titus can seem ridiculous. But I have seen it on the stage and found it a moving experience. In watching Titus Andronicus we come to understand — perhaps more than by looking at any other Shakespeare play — the nature of his genius: he gave an inner awareness to passions; cruelty ceased to be merely physical.

Shakespeare discovered the moral hell. He discovered heaven as well. But he remained on earth. In his edition of the play for the Contemporary Shakespeare series, A. Rowse speculates as to why the fortunes of the play have begun to change during the 20th century; "in the civilised Victorian age the play could not be performed because it could not be believed. Such is the horror of our own age, with the appalling barbarities of prison camps and resistance movements paralleling the torture and mutilation and feeding on human flesh of the play, that it has ceased to be improbable. Director Julie Taymor , who staged a production Off-Broadway in and directed a film version in , says she was drawn to the play because she found it to be the most "relevant of Shakespeare's plays for the modern era.

Perhaps the most frequently discussed topic in the play's critical history is that of authorship. None of the three quarto editions of Titus name the author, which was normal for Elizabethan plays. However, Francis Meres does list the play as one of Shakespeare's tragedies in Palladis Tamia in As such, with what little available solid evidence suggesting that Shakespeare did indeed write the play, questions of authorship tend to focus on the perceived lack of quality in the writing, and often the play's resemblance to the work of contemporaneous dramatists.

So strong had the anti-Shakespearean movement become during the eighteenth century that in , Thomas Percy wrote in the introduction to Reliques of Ancient English Poetry , "Shakespeare's memory has been fully vindicated from the charge of writing the play by the best critics. However, despite the fact that so many Shakespearean scholars believed the play to have been written by someone other than Shakespeare, there were those throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth century who argued against this theory. One such scholar was Edward Capell , who, in , said that the play was badly written but asserted that Shakespeare did write it.

Another major scholar to support Shakespeare's authorship was Charles Knight in Several years later, a number of prominent German Shakespeareans also voiced their belief that Shakespeare wrote the play, including A. Schlegel and Hermann Ulrici. Twentieth century criticism moved away from trying to prove or disprove that Shakespeare wrote the play, and has instead come to focus on the issue of co-authorship. Ravenscroft had hinted at this in , but the first modern scholar to look at the theory was John Mackinnon Robertson in , who concluded that "much of the play is written by George Peele, and it is hardly less certain that much of the rest was written by Robert Greene or Kyd, with some by Marlow. Parrott reached the conclusion that Peele wrote Act 1, 2.

The first major critic to challenge Robertson, Parrott and Timberlake was E. Chambers , who successfully exposed inherent flaws in Robertson's methodology. Sampley employed the techniques of Parrott to argue against Peele as co-author, [75] and in , Hereward Thimbleby Price also argued that Shakespeare wrote alone. Beginning in , with John Dover Wilson, many scholars have tended to favour the theory that Shakespeare and Peele collaborated in some way. Dover Wilson, for his part, believed that Shakespeare edited a play originally written by Peele.

Hill approached the issue by analysing the distribution of rhetorical devices in the play. Like Parrott in and Timberlake in , he ultimately concluded that Peele wrote Act 1, 2. His findings also suggested that Peele wrote Act 1, 2. However, there have always been scholars who believe that Shakespeare worked on the play alone. Many of the editors of the various twentieth century scholarly editions of the play for example, have argued against the co-authorship theory; Eugene M.

In the case of Bate however, in , he came out in support of Brian Vickers' book Shakespeare, Co-Author which restates the case for Peele as the author of Act 1, 2. Vickers' analysis of the issue is the most extensive yet undertaken. As well as analysing the distribution of a large number of rhetorical devices throughout the play, he also devised three new authorship tests; an analysis of polysyllabic words, an analysis of the distribution of alliteration and an analysis of vocatives. His findings led him to assert, with complete confidence, that Peele wrote Act 1, 2.

The language of Titus has always had a central role in criticism of the play insofar as those who doubt Shakespeare's authorship have often pointed to the apparent deficiencies in the language as evidence of that claim. However, the quality of the language has had its defenders over the years, critics who argue that the play is more linguistically complex than is often thought, and features a more accomplished use of certain linguistic motifs than has hitherto been allowed for. One of the most basic such motifs is repetition. Several words and topics occur time and again, serving to connect and contrast characters and scenes, and to foreground certain themes. Perhaps the most obvious recurring motifs are those of honour , virtue and nobility , all of which are mentioned multiple times throughout the play, especially during the first act; the play's opening line is Saturninus' address to "Noble patricians , patrons of my right" l.

From this point onwards, the concept of nobility is at the heart of everything that happens. Charlton argues of this opening Act that "the standard of moral currency most in use is honour. Marcus' reference to Titus' name is even itself an allusion to his nobility insofar as Titus' full title Titus Pius is an honorary epitaph which "refers to his devotion to patriotic duty. Once Titus has arrived on-stage, it is not long before he too is speaking of honour, virtue and integrity, referring to the family tomb as a "sweet cell of virtue and nobility" l.

After Titus chooses Saturninus as Emperor, they praise one another's honour, with Saturninus referring to Titus' "honourable family" ll. Even when things begin to go awry for the Andronici, each one maintains a firm grasp of his own interpretation of honour. The death of Mutius comes about because Titus and his sons have different concepts of honour; Titus feels the Emperor's desires should have precedence, his sons that Roman law should govern all, including the Emperor. At this point, Marcus, Martius, Quintus and Lucius declare of the slain Mutius, "He lives in fame, that died in virtue's cause" ll.

Other characters also become involved in the affray resulting from the disagreement among the Andronici, and they too are equally concerned with honour. Then, in a surprising move, Tamora suggests to Saturninus that he should forgive Titus and his family. Not so, my lord; the gods of Rome forefend I should be author to dishonour you. But on mine honour dare I undertake For good Lord Titus' innocence in all, Whose fury not dissembled speaks his griefs. Then at my suit look graciously on him; Lose not so noble a friend on vain suppose. The irony here, of course, is that her false appeal to honour is what begins the bloody cycle of revenge which dominates the rest of the play. Although not all subsequent scenes are as heavily saturated with references to honour, nobility and virtue as is the opening, they are continually alluded to throughout the play.

Later, after the Clown has delivered Titus' letter to Saturninus, Saturninus declares "Go, drag the villain hither by the hair. A further significant motif is metaphor related to violence; "the world of Titus is not simply one of meaningless acts of random violence but rather one in which language engenders violence and violence is done to language through the distance between word and thing, between metaphor and what it represents. No discussion of the language of Titus is complete without reference to Marcus's speech upon finding Lavinia after her rape:.

Who is this? My niece that flies away so fast? Cousin, a word: where is your husband? If I do dream, would all my wealth would wake me! If I do wake, some Planet strike me down, That I may slumber in eternal sleep! Speak, gentle niece, what stern ungentle hands Hath lopped, and hewed and made thy body bare Of her two branches, those sweet ornaments, Whose circling shadows, Kings have sought to sleep in, And might not gain so great a happiness As half thy love?

Why dost not speak to me? Alas, a crimson river of warm blood, Like to a bubbling fountain stirred with wind, Doth rise and fall between thy ros'd lips, Coming and going with thy honey breath. But sure some Tereus hath deflowered thee, And, lest thou should'st detect him, cut thy tongue. Ah, now thou turn'st away thy face for shame; And notwithstanding all this loss of blood, As from a conduit with three issuing spouts, Yet do thy cheeks look red as Titan's face, Blushing to be encountered with a cloud. Shall I speak for thee? Shall I say 'tis so? O, that I knew thy heart, and knew the beast, That I might rail at him to ease my mind! Sorrow conceal'd, like an oven stopped, Doth burn the heart to cinders where it is. Fair Philomela, why she but lost her tongue, And in a tedious sampler sewed her mind; But, lovely niece, that mean is cut from thee.

A craftier Tereus, cousin, hast thou met, And he hath cut those pretty fingers off, That could have better sowed then Philomel. O, had the monster seen those lily hands Tremble, like aspen leaves , upon a lute , And make the silken strings delight to kiss them, He would not then have touched them for his life. Or, had he heard the heavenly harmony Which that sweet tongue hath made, He would have dropped his knife and fell asleep, As Cerberus at the Thracian poet's feet. Come, let us go, and make thy father blind, For such a sight will blind a father's eye. One hour's storm will drown the fragrant meads; What will whole months of tears thy father's eyes? Do not draw back, for we will mourn with thee; O, could our mourning ease thy misery!

In this much discussed speech, the discrepancy between the beautiful imagery and the horrific sight before us has been noted by many critics as jarring, and the speech is often severely edited or completely removed for performance; in the RSC production, for example, director Peter Brook cut the speech entirely. There is also a great deal of disagreement amongst critics as to the essential meaning of the speech. John Dover Wilson, for example, sees it as nothing more than a parody, Shakespeare mocking the work of his contemporaries by writing something so bad.

He finds no other tonally analogous speech in all of Shakespeare, concluding it is "a bundle of ill-matched conceits held together by sticky sentimentalism. Waith determines that the speech is an aesthetic failure that may have looked good on the page but which is incongruous in performance. However, defenders of the play have posited several theories which seek to illustrate the thematic relevance of the speech. For example, Nicholas Brooke argues that it "stands in the place of a choric commentary on the crime, establishing its significance to the play by making an emblem of the mutilated woman.

Another theory is suggested by Anthony Brian Taylor, who argues simply that Marcus is babbling; "beginning with references to "dream" and "slumber" and ending with one to sleep, the speech is an old man's reverie; shaken by the horrible and totally unexpected spectacle before him, he has succumbed to the senile tendency to drift away and become absorbed in his own thoughts rather than confront the harshness of reality. Bate thus sees it as an illustration of language's ability to "bring back that which has been lost," i. Lavinia's beauty and innocence is figuratively returned in the beauty of the language.

Palmer feels that the speech is an attempt to rationalise in Marcus' own mind the sheer horror of what he is seeing;. Marcus' lament is an effort to realise a sight that taxes to the utmost the powers of understanding and utterance. The vivid conceits in which he pictures his hapless niece do not transform or depersonalise her: she is already transformed and depersonalised Far from being a retreat from the awful reality into some aesthetic distance, then, Marcus' conceits dwell upon this figure that is to him both familiar and strange, fair and hideous, living body and object: this is, and is not, Lavinia.

Lavinia's plight is literally unutterable Marcus' formal lament articulates unspeakable woes. Here and throughout the play the response to the intolerable is ritualised, in language and action, because ritual is the ultimate means by which man seeks to order and control his precarious and unstable world. In contradistinction to Dover Wilson and Waith, several scholars have argued that while the speech may not work on the page, it can work in performance.

Discussing the Deborah Warner RSC production at The Swan in , which used an unedited text, Stanley Wells argues that Donald Sumpter 's delivery of the speech "became a deeply moving attempt to master the facts and thus to overcome the emotional shock of a previously unimagined horror. We had the sense of a suspension of time, as if the speech represented an articulation, necessarily extended in expression, of a sequence of thoughts and emotions, that might have taken no more than a second or two to flash through the character's mind, like a bad dream.

Dessen writes "we observe Marcus, step-by-step, use his logic and Lavinia's reactions to work out what has happened, so that the spectators both see Lavinia directly and see through his eyes and images. In the process the horror of the situation is filtered through a human consciousness in a way difficult to describe but powerful to experience. Looking at the language of the play in a more general sense has also produced a range of critical theories. For example, Jacques Berthoud argues that the rhetoric of the play is explicitly bound up with its theme; "the entire dramatic script, soliloquies included, functions as a network of responses and reactions. Using the example of Marcus' speech, Reese argues that the audience is disconnected from the violence through the seemingly incongruent descriptions of that violence.

Such language serves to "further emphasise the artificiality of the play; in a sense, they suggest to the audience that it is hearing a poem read rather than seeing the events of that poem put into dramatic form. This, however, "disrupts the way the audience perceives imagery. Another theory is provided by Peter M. Sacks , who argues that the language of the play is marked by "an artificial and heavily emblematic style, and above all a revoltingly grotesque series of horrors which seem to have little function but to ironise man's inadequate expressions of pain and loss".

Although Henslowe doesn't specify a theatre, it was most likely The Rose. Repeated performances were staged on 28 January and 6 February. Some scholars, however, have suggested that the January performance may not be the first recorded performance of the play. Chambers, have identified with Shakespeare's play. The two were subjects of many narratives at the time, and a play about them would not have been unusual. Although it is known that the play was definitely popular in its day, there is no other recorded performance for many years.

During the late seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, adaptations of the play came to dominate the stage, and after the Burley performance in and the possible Blackfriars performance some time prior to , there is no definite recorded performance of the Shakespearean text in England until the early twentieth century. After over years absent from the English stage, the play returned on 8 October , in a production directed by Robert Atkins at The Old Vic , as part of the Vic's presentation of the complete dramatic works over a seven-year period. Reviews at the time praised Hayes' performance but criticised Walter's as monotonous. Critically, the production met with mixed reviews, some welcoming the return of the original play to the stage, some questioning why Atkins had bothered when various adaptations were much better and still extant.

Nevertheless, the play was a huge box office success, one of the most successful in the Complete Works presentation. Berdan and E.

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