There’s a lot of unjustifiable hate out there for Titus Andronicus, I think.
Jonathan Bate introduces the play by saying that:
‘Even those who have approached Titus in a spirit of scholarly enquiry rather than critical judgement have been prejudiced by their distaste for the play […] nearly all scholars suppose that it is a very early work, a piece of crude and embarrassing juvenilia. I believe that every one of these arguments is wrong.
I’m with Prof. Bate. This was a rollercoaster ride. Although it does sketch issues we’ll see fleshed out in Lear and other ‘greats’, it’s a remarkable Revenge play, with a strong tragic journey and an utterly evil villain that surpasses any other I can readily think of. It also spoke strongly to me about public service, and the rewards thereof – especially for our armed forces.
So here’s my soundtrack album for the play. What’s missing?
(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 ..
‘Good comedy is tragedy narrowly averted’ Jonathan Bate
The Two Gentlemen of Verona: Act V
Over the past year I’ve used the question ‘What’s in a name?’ more than once, dismissing labelling in its many forms, but this feels the best way of articulating my unease with The Two Gentlemen as I finish the play …
You know what an infograph (or infographic) is, right? It’s a chart or other visual depiction of information that is intended to be consumed and understood quickly. There are all kinds, from maps to timelines and more. Some of my favorites, of course, are Shakespeare infographs. Here are three of the many I’ve “clipped” and saved:
My friend (and occasional guest blogger here at The Bard and the Bible) Sue sent this one to me:
And this is one of many efforts to chart the various causes of death in Shakespeare’s plays:
A running theme in the play is how Caesar’s assassination is going to be remembered and reenacted for centuries to come, so I drew the swimmers in modern clothes.
I had a ‘tense’ conversation with a Y10 lad today. He has about a week to work on a 5-minute or so presentation. The subject is entirely open to him, but it ought to be something he has sufficient interest in that he can produce a structured, coherent talk, with the ability to think on his feet and answer potentially tricky questions on it afterwards (if he wants to get a decent mark). It contributes towards his GCSE qualification under the new specification, and he could be asked to reprise the performance at our school’s ‘Work-Ready Day‘ in two weeks’ time: an important shop window for pupils to get noticed by major local employers, where talent HAS been ‘spotted’ in the past. And ‘scouted’. Despite the fact that the students would rather eat their own tongues than do the presentation once, let alone twice …