Ancient and Modern Elements in Julie Taymor's Adaptation of Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus

Ancient and Modern Elements in Julie Taymor's Adaptation of Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus

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Ancient and Modern Elements in Julie Taymor's Adaptation of Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus


Roman coliseum . . . Formica kitchen

Armored warrior . . . Armored tank

Gregorian Chant . . . Hard Rock

White toga . . . Metallic business suit

Ancient Rome . . . Modern America

At first glance, these categories appear entirely incompatible, unable to exist together. However, in Julie Taymor's adaptation of Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus, we find that they are compatible after all. With elaborate sets, stunning costumes, and a remarkable film score, Taymor blurs the boundaries that divide them and creates a world that accommodates both ancient Rome and modern America.

The film soundtrack was an important element in creating the juxtaposed world that Taymor desired. Taymor selected Elliot Goldenfall, a veteran composer for the stage and screen whom she had known for twenty years, to head the scoring. Their long association served them well in this endeavor - the final film score was both stunning and effective in combining ancient and modern musical elements. Goldenfall manipulated four main musical styles to score the film (symphonic, jazz, hard rock, and aria), and each style represented particular emotions.

The opening scene in the coliseum is a particularly potent display of Taymor and Goldenfall's artistic creativity. Warriors covered in gray armor, stoic faces smeared with a bluish-gray paste, march resolutely into the coliseum. As they move into formation, Goldenfall uses the powerful sounds of symphonic music to instill a feeling of triumph. Horns blare victoriously. Footsteps are marched in a steady andante, matched with heavy drums. A strong male chorus joins the music, the singing reminiscent of modal G...


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...us, and various dignitaries enter the dining room, Goldenfall inserts a muted Italian aria, like one heard in a fine Italian restaurant. Considering the nature of the scene and the audience's knowledge of what is to be served, the aria serves to increase audience disgust. And as the beautiful music wafts through the background of the scene and Tamora eats the flesh of her own sons, the revulsion is intensified. It is almost a relief when the scene erupts into violence.

It is not an easy task to fuse modern society with that of ancient Rome. However, under Taymor's direction the sets, costumes, and film score accomplish just that. In particular, by combining modern and archaic music styles, Goldenfall successfully augments the effects Taymor strives for. The result is a high-powered film that takes Shakespeare's classic to levels it has not previously been taken.

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