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Titus Andronicus

by William Shakespeare, George Peele (Author)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2,753475,352 (3.66)192
The introduction reviews the few known facts about this early Shakespeare play and discusses the puzzling problems of its date and authorship. The text has been freshly edited with the aim of presenting the play as revised for the first recorded performance in 1594, with the addition of stagebusiness from the prompt-copy from which the Folio edition derives.… (more)
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English (45)  Catalan (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (47)
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The once was a Roman named Titus
Who thought that his cause was righteous,
But he brought in the Goths,
Then the deaths came in swaths;
I guess that’s one way to end this bloody crisis
(Of a play, that is)

Did we write a bullshit limerick in response to Shakespeare’s alleged first tragedy? Yes, yes we did. The tale of Titus Andronicus is so full of seemingly pointless violence and brutality that it’s almost impossible to treat it as a play with any sort or moral compass or seriousness, and instead we must accept that we’re here to see a bunch of people wreak vengeance on eachother from start to finish in a never ending cycle of (military) might doesn’t make right. Unlike Shakespeare’s other Roman plays, Titus isn’t based on any historical account, and the character depth that comes to define the Bard’s more mature work hasn’t yet been developed, so what we’re left with is a play that relies on a pastiche of myths, moments of violence, and a barely developed political schema to drive the narration. I’m sure Elizabethan audiences were as entranced by this shellac as modern day viewers of staged wrestling are (same vapid entertainment for the masses), but damn, William, this is some ridiculous tripe! ( )
  JaimieRiella | Apr 21, 2024 |
3 stars for the play, 4 stars for the edition. Jonathan Bate is a brilliant scholar, however I'd refrain from giving this edition 5 stars - in spite of his fascinating discussions of methods of staging - because I do think that Bate has a bit of a bias here, seeing the play's issues and textual cruces as largely deliberate, and I don't think this finding is born out by modern scholarship. ( )
  therebelprince | Apr 21, 2024 |
I hated this book. It was pompous and wooden and incredibly cruel, so I was bored and disgusted at the same time. I didn't enjoy this experience at all and I don't recommend this play. ( )
  Donderowicz | Mar 12, 2024 |
The Arden Shakespeare collection, in my view the greatest single, most available resource for deep understanding of the text and themes of Shakespeare's plays, here presents one of Shakespeare's most difficult plays, and probably one of his earliest. There is, in fact, considerable debate about how much of the play actually is by Shakespeare's hand, but setting that aside, it's a play rather short on true dramatic action, in the academic sense, though a great deal happens in it. It reads primarily as a simple tale of insult, response, injury, and revenge. What makes it difficult, beyond the fact that it largely just pits one side against another and lets them have at each other without enormous nuance of ideas, is that it is virtually undeniably Shakespeare's most violent work, with hands and arms and tongues lopped off onstage and people baked into pies and eaten. I find Shakespeare's poetry, even his earliest and perhaps weakest, nonetheless enthralling, and Titus Andronicus contains its share. There is a fine and detailed analysis of the play and its place in history, as well as notes on production history and theme. Far from Shakespeare's best, it is still a powerful piece of theatre. ( )
  jumblejim | Aug 26, 2023 |
Shakespeare's earliest, starkest, bloodiest tragedy, Titus Andronicus is among a handful of nearly everyone's least favorite Shakespeare plays - mainly for the unmitigated violence, racism, and misogyny that fills it. The body count is staggering - perhaps 14 corpses in all - along with multiple dismemberings, decapitations, and gang rape. The theatrical spectacle is amazing and virtually unmatched in all of the First Folio.

Julie Taymor, noted interpreter of Shakespeare for the stage and screen, says Titus is about what makes great, noble people turn violent. In that respect it has more in common with the most famous classical Greek tragedies than with most of Shakespeare’s plays. It is in the verbal style of Seneca – oratorical declamation – or of Shakespeare’s early contemporaries Kyd and Marlowe, using what Ben Jonson referred to as their “mighty line” – not naturalistic but heightened speech.

The play is set at the time of the late Roman Empire. Unlike in Yeats’ “Second Coming,” in Shakespeare’s play of apocalyptic horrors both the best and “the worst are full of passionate intensity.” At breakneck pace we are subjected to a series of catastrophic errors by the most powerful and respected man in Rome, the conquering general Titus. 1) Ignoring a mother’s pleas for mercy, he has the son of his conquered opponent Tamora killed, dismembered and sacrificed; 2) declining to rule Rome himself, he selects the wrong candidate, Saturninus, to be emperor; 3) disregarding a prior claim by the emperor’s brother Bassianus, he agrees to wed his daughter Lavinia to the emperor; 4) accusing his own son of treason for supporting Lavinia, he kills son Mutius; 5) believing her deceitful peacemaking, he expects friendship and gratitude from Tamora even as she plots the demise of his entire family. And that’s all in the first scene. By the play’s end, only three Andronici (two men and a boy, and virtually no other named characters) are left alive – all the result of unchecked villainy combined with blind adherence to principles of honor.

Early in his career Shakespeare discovered the powerful attraction of articulate, scheming villains. In Tamora and Aaron he created two of the best, and ironically they are also two of the best parents in the play, in their unflagging loyalty to their children. The play’s final irony is that Rome is saved only by an invasion of barbarians. ( )
  gwalton | Apr 25, 2023 |
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» Add other authors (69 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Shakespeare, Williamprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Peele, GeorgeAuthormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Bate, JonathanEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Berthoud, JacquesIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brissaud, PierreIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Farjeon, HerbertEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Massai, SoniaEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ridley, M. R.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Waith, Eugene M.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wilson, John DoverEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Witherspoon, A. M.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Dedication
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Noble patricians, patrons of my right,
Defend the justice of my cause with arms,
And, countrymen, my loving followers,
Plead my successive title with your swords:
I am his first-born son, that was the last
That wore the imperial diadem of Rome;
Then let my father's honours live in me,
Nor wrong mine age with this indignity.
Quotations
Sweet mercy is nobility's true badge.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
This work is for the complete Titus Andronicus only. Do not combine this work with abridgements, adaptations or simplifications (such as "Shakespeare Made Easy"), Cliffs Notes or similar study guides, or anything else that does not contain the full text. Do not include any video recordings. Additionally, do not combine this with other plays.

George Peele has been demonstrated to have been Shakespeare's collaborator in this play. Peele wrote Act 1 and probably a bit of Act 4.
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The introduction reviews the few known facts about this early Shakespeare play and discusses the puzzling problems of its date and authorship. The text has been freshly edited with the aim of presenting the play as revised for the first recorded performance in 1594, with the addition of stagebusiness from the prompt-copy from which the Folio edition derives.

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