(subtitled, far too obviously for the UK football fans amongst us, ‘who ate all the pies?’)
I warned you! I WARNED YOU! Did I warn you?
Yes, I did. And so did Francis Bacon. And Jonathan Bate. And Fredson Bowers. We all said that revenge was likely to spiral out of control, because once you lose your faith in the law, and in divine justice too, all bets are off. And because every stroke in the ‘rally of revenge‘ is that much harder, has that much more spin on it than the last. Let’s mix our metaphors again: in this particular poker game, someone, eventually, is going to see your stake and raise you with everything they’ve got, not caring any more whether they win or lose. The chips, and what they represent, are suddenly and utterly unimportant …
‘To sleep, perchance to dream – ay, there’s the rub’ (HAMLET: III.i.64)
Titus Andronicus: Act II
What tragedy would be complete without some element of the supernatural, as I have already intimated? This dreadful (in the sense of being full of dread, NOT poor quality) act begins with that classic Shakespearean trope, the bad night’s sleep:
‘I have been troubled in my sleep this night.’ (TITUS: II.i.9)
And Titus has every reason to be subconsciously troubled: although he begins the act quite enthusiastically:
‘The hunt is up’ (II.i.1)
He cannot imagine who the ‘dainty doe’ (DEMETRIUS: II.i. 26) might actually be ..
My experience of Shakespeare’s Rome is the city where Cinna the Poet is torn apart by the mob for his ‘bad verses’ (Julius Caesar, III.iii), and the antagonistic opening to Coriolanus. So, what first struck me as the play opened was just how thin the veneer of civilisation proved to be.
Thus far, I feel like I’ve been quite objective about the play, glossing over the obvious errors about travelling by boat between land-locked cities, etc. I’m not one to lionise Shakespeare (whatever my other half thinks), but nor am I interested in joining the current fad I see online for ‘dissing’ him.
Having said that, Act IV begins with a ‘mote to trouble the mind’s eye‘, though – and more on it later, but Act V trumps even this episode. What am I talking about?
Spending practically all of the summer holidays away from home, you’d think I travelled loaded with books?
Not a bit of it – I simply brought down my Ponytail Shakespeare texts, so I could try to catch up on writing about the read-through. Plus, experience told me that I’d be buying books wherever I went. Shakespeare’s an exacting master, and wherever I go I usually end up returning to Cumbria laden like a donkey.
Arlene Okerlund, Elizabeth Wydville: The Slandered Queen (Tempus Publishing: Stroud, 2005)
Proof that even a stopped clock can occasionally be correct …
A book review of Professor Okerlund‘s book may well be in the offing – on the basis that, as I often tell students) it’s easier to write about something you don’t like, rather than something you do. This book really annoyed me as few others have, but I managed to get to the end of it.
My gut reaction deserted me a little for this one, perhaps because of the subject matter, so I found myself consulting both my girlfriend and my best friend, the latter also an English teacher. Second and third opinions corroborating my initial intake of breath, and therefore I am pleased to present you my latest Crimes Against Shakespeare Award …