Titus Andronicus

Overview

Titus Andronicus is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, and possibly George Peele, believed to have been written between 1588 and 1593. It is thought to be Shakespeare's first tragedy, and is often seen as his attempt to emulate the violent and bloody revenge plays of his contemporaries, which were extremely popular with audiences throughout the sixteenth century.

The play is set during the latter days of the Roman Empire and tells the fictional story of Titus, a general in the ...

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Titus Andronicus

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Overview

Titus Andronicus is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, and possibly George Peele, believed to have been written between 1588 and 1593. It is thought to be Shakespeare's first tragedy, and is often seen as his attempt to emulate the violent and bloody revenge plays of his contemporaries, which were extremely popular with audiences throughout the sixteenth century.

The play is set during the latter days of the Roman Empire and tells the fictional story of Titus, a general in the Roman army, who is engaged in a cycle of revenge with Tamora, Queen of the Goths. It is Shakespeare's bloodiest and most violent work and traditionally was one of his least respected plays. Although it was extremely popular in its day, it fell out of favour during the Victorian era, primarily because of what was considered to be a distasteful use of graphic violence, but from around the middle of the twentieth century its reputation began to improve.
The play begins shortly after the death of the Roman emperor, with his two sons, Saturninus and Bassianus, squabbling over who will succeed him. Their conflict seems set to boil over into violence until a tribune, Marcus Andronicus, announces that the people's choice for the new emperor is his brother, Titus, who will shortly return to Rome from a victorious ten-year campaign against the Goths. Titus subsequently arrives to much fanfare, bearing with him as prisoners the Queen of the Goths (Tamora), her three sons, and Aaron the Moor (her secret lover). Despite the desperate pleas of Tamora, Titus sacrifices her eldest son, Alarbus, in order to avenge the deaths of his own sons during the war. Distraught, Tamora and her two surviving sons, Demetrius and Chiron, vow revenge on Titus and his family.

Meanwhile, Titus refuses the offer of the throne, arguing that he is not fit to rule, and instead supporting Saturninus' claim, who is duly elected. Saturninus tells Titus that for his first act as emperor, he will marry Titus's daughter Lavinia. Titus agrees, although Lavinia is already betrothed to Bassianus, who refuses to give her up. Titus's sons tell Titus that Bassianus is in the right under Roman law, but Titus refuses to listen, accusing them all of treason. A scuffle breaks out, during which Titus kills his own son, Mutius. Saturninus then denounces the Andronicus family for their effrontery and shocks Titus by marrying Tamora. However, putting into motion her plan for revenge, Tamora advises Saturninus to pardon Bassianus and the Andronicus family, which he reluctantly does.

During a royal hunt the following day, Aaron persuades Demetrius and Chiron to kill Bassianus, so they may rape Lavinia. They do so, throwing Bassianus' body into a pit, and dragging Lavinia deep into the forest before violently raping her. To keep her from revealing what has happened, they cut out her tongue and cut off her hands. Meanwhile, Aaron frames Titus's sons Martius and Quintus for the murder of Bassianus with a forged letter. Horrified at the death of his brother, Saturninus arrests Martius and Quintus and sentences them to death.

Some time later, Marcus discovers the mutilated Lavinia and takes her to her father, who is still shocked at the accusations levelled at his sons, and upon seeing Lavinia, is overcome with grief. Aaron then visits Titus, falsely telling him that Saturninus will spare Martius and Quintus if either Titus, Marcus or, Titus's remaining son, Lucius, cuts off one of their hands and sends it to him. Titus has Aaron cut off his hand and send it to the emperor, but in return, a messenger brings Titus Martius and Quintus' severed heads, along with Titus's severed left hand. Desperate for revenge, Titus orders Lucius to flee Rome and raise an army among their former enemy, the Goths.

Later, Lavinia 'writes' the names of her attackers in the dirt, using a stick held with her mouth and between her stumps. Meanwhile, Tamora secretly gives birth to a mixed-race child, fathered by Aaron.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Review of the first edition: 'The great strength of Hughes's edition is its attention to the theatrical aspects of the play ... his discussion of the play in performance is illuminating.' Studies in English Literature
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781420932232
  • Publisher: Neeland Media
  • Publication date: 1/1/2009
  • Pages: 84
  • Sales rank: 1,158,457
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.20 (d)

Meet the Author

William Shakespeare (26 April 1564 (baptised) - 23 April 1616) was an English poet, playwright and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon". His extant works, including some collaborations, consist of about 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and a few other verses, the authorship of some of which is uncertain. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.

Shakespeare was born and brought up in Stratford-upon-Avon. At the age of 18, he married Anne Hathaway, with whom he had three children: Susanna, and twins Hamnet and Judith. Between 1585 and 1592, he began a successful career in London as an actor, writer, and part-owner of a playing company called the Lord Chamberlain's Men, later known as the King's Men. He appears to have retired to Stratford around 1613 at age 49, where he died three years later. Few records of Shakespeare's private life survive, and there has been considerable speculation about such matters as his physical appearance, sexuality, religious beliefs, and whether the works attributed to him were written by others.

Shakespeare produced most of his known work between 1589 and 1613. His early plays were mainly comedies and histories and these works remain regarded as some the best work produced in these genres even today. He then wrote mainly tragedies until about 1608, including Hamlet, King Lear, Othello, and Macbeth, considered some of the finest works in the English language. In his last phase, he wrote tragicomedies, also known as romances, and collaborated with other playwrights.

Many of his plays were published in editions of varying quality and accuracy during his lifetime. In 1623, John Heminges and Henry Condell, two friends and fellow actors of Shakespeare, published the First Folio, a collected edition of his dramatic works that included all but two of the plays now recognised as Shakespeare's. It was prefaced with a poem by Ben Jonson, in which Shakespeare is hailed, presciently, as "not of an age, but for all time."

Shakespeare was a respected poet and playwright in his own day, but his reputation did not rise to its present heights until the 19th century.

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Table of Contents

List of illustrations; Preface; List of abbreviations and conventions; Introduction: Date; Sources; Authorship; Early stage history; The Longleat manuscript; From the Restoration to the nineteenth century; Twentieth-century performance and criticism; Recent stage, film and critical interpretations by Sue Hall-Smith; Note on the text; List of characters; The Play; Textual analysis; Appendix 1. Titus Andronicus at the Rose; Appendix 2. Performance by a small company; Reading list.

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  • Posted April 8, 2010

    Now I know Shakespeare can write Gore

    Titus Andronicus is a spectacular story of Social Status, rape, mutilation, deception, and pure evil. Titus is a Roman General who has just returned from war with the Goths. He has returned to Rome with the Goth queen, her sons, and her lover as prisoners. Titus has also returned with his 25 warrior sons, 21 of whom are dead. They return to find that the emperor has died and there is a sort of city meeting held to determine who will follow as emporer. The choice is between the Emperor's two sons, Saturnine and Bassianus, and Titus. Titus would become emporer if he didn't decline. In a turn of events, Saturnine becomes emporer and ends up marrying The queen of the very people that Titus has just conquered. Tamorah, the Goth queen, uses her new status to manipulate Titus and his sons. Aaron the Moor, Tamorah's lover, is responsible for instigating most of the heinous acts of rape and torture. This is considered to be one of Shakespeare's earliest works and is a little rough around the edges as far as character development. It is nonetheless a good read, whether for pleasure or schoolwork.

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  • Posted February 22, 2010

    more from this reviewer

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    The Pigments of a Tragedy

    Color can provide powerful imagery and insight in any story. Most can identify with color imagery in film, but in writing it is just as valuable of a tool. In Titus Andronicus, Shakespeare uses color for character development and foreshadowing.

    Throughout the text, Shakespeare uses color to give the reader a sense of what is to come. In Act 2 Scene 2 Titus proclaims, "The hunt is up, the moon is bright and gray" (1). Gray is a drab color, one that is cool and uninteresting and carries with it a sober tone of sorrow. Although the events are pleasing to the characters as the scene begins, the color chosen by the author is one of sadness and disappointment. This choice has purpose. He is foreshadowing by showing the reader that although the "moon is bright", or the events of the day appear enjoyable, the overall outcome will be "gray". Then he fulfills on the unstated promise of sorrow when Bassianus is slain and Lavinia is raped and maimed. (Also intriguing are the choice of opening words, "the hunt is up"---meaning not only the hunt for wild game but the sexual hunt of Demetrius and Chiron for the woman Lavinia. An idea to be fully developed elsewhere). The color gray could also be interpreted to represent the shady nature of the personalities in the play. Characters like Demetrius, Chiron, Tamora, and Aaron are all lying convincingly to the protagonists. The gray could be representative of the veiled machinations of their wicked plots or the general location of their moral character (i.e. in the "gray area").

    Furthermore, In Act 2 Scene 3, Bassianus and Lavinia unknowingly foreshadow while using color to depict character when they say, "Why are you sequester'd from all your train,/ Dismounted from your snow-white goodly steed,/ And wander'd hither to an obscure plot..?/...let her joy in her raven-colour'd love;/ This valley fits the purpose passing well" (75-77, 83-84). Here Tamora is characterized by the "snow-white goodly steed" reference. She has "dismounted" from the goodly steed of her husband Saturninus and mounted another (referring to her sexual affair with Aaron the Moor). Also white is typically considered a pure or righteous hue. If Tamora has distanced herself from the "snow-white" then symbolically she is unrighteous and without purity. Shakespeare then hints at the purpose of Tamora and Aaron's rendezvous by calling the area an "obscure plot". The two met to bring their wicked plans to fruition and they commenced with the slaying of Bassianus (one of their many "obscure plots"). The reference to their "raven-colour'd love" is also heavily layered. Raven is black, often personified as evil or unclean. Tamora and Aaron are having an illicit affair unbeknownst to the emperor, a truly 'black' deed. Also there is reference to the color of Aaron's skin, he is a Moor and is therefore of dark complexion. The foreshadowing of this moment is lost to all the characters in the scene because Tamora does not find out until later that she is pregnant. When the black child is born it is the physical representation of their "raven-colour'd love".

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2002

    A delightfully diabolical.. menacing read of pure horror..

    Absoutley the most graphic novel I've ever read in my life. It's mesmerizing charcters, complex and overwhelming plots, the magnificent creations of evil upon evil, and the ultimate sacrifice of love is all presented here in this, striking, stunning, groundbreaking play by Shakespeare. The most macabre play to come out in a long time, sensual, fervent, and hypnotic.A insightful,delicious story. A very entertaining and deeply moving novel about the complexities of families. Shakespeare's haunting masterpiece. Vivid, brilliant,unforgettable.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 18, 2001

    Titus Andronicus

    Titus, in my opinion, is one of the most fascinating works by William Shakespeare I've read so far. I certaintly recomend this book to any of those with a wild imagination and an open mind. These lines can take you to a place you never could have imagined before,but now you will.

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