Shakespeare's first tragedy has been a topic of discussion since the day it was written. Titus Andronicus "was staged on 24 January 1594 by the Earl of Sussex's Men at the Rose Theatre" (Welsh 1). Though this tidbit of information seems somewhat irrelevant to Titus, we must note that there are certain standards and practices established by a play from its first performance. It is also important to establish the general attributes that audiences attribute to Shakespearean performance.
One of the distinguishing factors in portraying Titus centers in its origin: "Titus Andronicus [...] must be considered as an experimental play" (Bowers 118). Being Shakespeare's first attempt at tragedy, it obviously has room for error. Yet, as some critics and scholars would say, I believe there is a similar element found in all of Shakespeare's works, no matter when they were written: "Shakespeare constantly reminds us that the character's predicament and humanity is very like our own" (Barton 184). No matter what the plot is, or where he chose to set the story, Shakespeare captures a fundamental element of humanity. Within Titus Andronicus, it is undoubtedly humanity's search for revenge: "Titus Andronicus is a play of social piety, outrage, suffering, and revenge" (Barber 133). The first three elements that Barber attributes to the work are consequential to the fourth; it is the revenge and spite of Titus, Tamora, and Aaron that fuel the other three elements.
The other distinguishing feature is the blood and gore that pervades the entire work. Numerous people, such as a fellow colleague of mine, actually dismiss the work due to the horrific acts committed by the characters. Yet if ...
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Barber, C.L. Creating Elizabethan Tragedy. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1988.
Barton, John. Playing Shakespeare. London: Methuen Drama, 1989.
Bowers, Fredson. Elizabethan Revenge Tragedy. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1940.
Corliss, Richard. "Titus." Time 27 December 1999: 166-170.
Granger, Susan. "Titus." www.all-reviews.com/videos/titus.htm. 1999.
Karten, Harvey. "Titus." www.all-reviews.com/videos/titus-4.htm. 2000.
Lindroth, Mary. "'Some device of further misery': Taymor's Titus brings Shakespeare to film audiences with a twist." Literature/Film Quarterly 29 (2001): 107-115.
Travers, Peter. "Titus." Rolling Stone 17 February 2000: 64.
Welsh, Jim and John Tibbetts. "'To sup with horrors': Julie Taymor's Senecan feast." Literature/Film Quarterly 28 (2000): 155-156.
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