Titus Andronicus “One of the stupidest and most uninspiring plays ever written.” - T.S. Eliot Tragedy Five Act Structure, Rising & Falling Action Solitary men struggling with human existence We feel for the characters, learn through their mistakes What is the title character’s tragedy? What & when is the catharsis? The violence of tragedy: this strange beauty is given to the most horrific suffering. Revenge Play Kill Bill, Inglourious Basterds…Hamlet “Elizabethan blockbusters” (Epstein, 308). “Although seriously concerned with retribution, family honor, and justice, revenge plays can also be quite funny, and some may even be considered black comedies” (309). In this play, we have 2 revenge plots: Timora’s revenge, and Titus’ revenge. Probable Main Sources Hecuba, by Euripides (480?-406 B.C.) Thyestes and Troades, by Seneca (3 B.C.-65 A.D.) Shakespeare may also have imitated the bloodand-guts horror and brutality evident in The Spanish Tragedy, by Thomas Kyd (1558-1594). Metamorphoses, by Ovid (43 B.C.-A.D. 17) xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxxxxx Setting The action of the play takes place in Italy—including Rome, a forest near Rome, and plains near Rome—after the Romans defeat an army of Goths (a Germanic people that frequently raided Roman provinces). Titus Andronicus is fictional, but it is set against real events that took place in approximately the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Centuries AD. At that time, the Roman Empire was in decline and Goths from the north were pushing southward and threatening Rome and its provinces. Protagonist: Titus Andronicus Antagonists: Tamora, Aaron, Saturninus Characters The play starts with Romans in the process of selecting a new Emperor: Saturninus (old dude…son of the old Emperor) Bassianus (younger son of the old Emperor, in love with Lavinia, Titus’ only daughter) Titus Andronicus: Noble Roman general who has won a long war against the Goths but lost many of his sons in battle. 25 sons. Titus returns from battle with the captured Queen of the Goths, Tamora, and her 3 sons Aaron: A diabolical Moor, beloved of Tamora. Aaron is evil personified, but he has a redeeming quality: love for his child. Moors The term derived from the name of the Greek word for “dark” (mauros) and the country Mauritania but was used to refer to North Africans, West Africans or, even more loosely, for non-whites or Muslims of any origin. Who Were the Goths? Originally from Sweden, the Goths later settled in regions around the Baltic Sea and later the Black Sea. Around AD 370, the Goths broke into two groups: Those that moved eastward became known as Ostrogoths; those that moved westward became known as Visigoths. They gradually extended power and influence in Europe and in 410 entered and pillaged Rome. Violence “The blood and gore of Titus Andronicus may strike us as excessive or farcical, but for Shakespeare’s audience, such grisly spectacles were part of everyday live. Punishment in his day was made ghoulishly public, mainly because the enforcement of law was so difficult, but also, in the case of political prisoners, because the public needed to be discouraged from taking part in rebellion against the state. In Queen Elizabeth I’s time there was no proper police force, only a few constables to keep law and order. If you lived in London you could witness the sickening sight of prisoners being hanged, drawn and quartered. Traitors were strung up till they were half-deat, their bodies chopped into quarters, their bowels ripped out and their limbs cut off, and their flesh tossed into a vat of boiling water” (Kiernan 280). Themes Revenge The word revenge and its forms, such as revenged, occurs 34 times in the play, vengeance 7 times, vengeful twice, and avenge once. Words associated with revenge are spoken hundreds of times. They include blood (and its forms, such as bloody), 38; murder, 26; kill, 19; slaughter 3; slay, 2. Tamora, enraged by a plot against her, imposes revenge as a duty on her sons, telling them, had you not by wondrous fortune come, This vengeance on me had they executed. Revenge it, as you love your mother's life, Or be ye not henceforth call'd my children. (II.iii.118-121) In all the acts of vengeance in the play, the protagonist, Titus, outdoes everyone. Themes Betrayal Commiting Evil for Evil's Sake .......Aaron's actions carry on the tradition of the malevolent Duke of Gloucester in an earlier Shakespeare play, Richard III, and foreshadow the machinations of the diabolical Iago in a later Shakespeare play, Othello. The Four Humours A traditional theory of physiology in which the state of health - and by extension the state of mind, or character - depended upon a balance among the four elemental fluids: blood, yellow bile, phlegm, and black bile. These were closely allied with the four elements (air, fire, water, and earth). Their correspondence is described as follows… 12 The Humours SANGUINE: Blood Hot and moist; (Air) Amorous, happy, generous MELANCHOLIC: Black Bile Cold and dry ; (Earth) Gluttonous, lazy, sentimental 13 • PHLEGMATIC: Phlegm – Cold and moist; (Water ) – Dull, pale, cowardly • CHOLERIC: Yellow Bile – Hot and dry; (Fire) – Violent, vengeful The Humours 14 The "humours" gave off vapors which ascended to the brain; an individual's personal characteristics (physical, mental, moral) were explained by his or her "temperament," or the state of that person's "humours." The perfect temperament resulted when no one of these humours dominated. By 1600 it was common to use "humour" as a means of classifying characters; knowledge of the humours is not only important to understanding earlier medieval work, but essential to interpreting Elizabethan drama.