The Rusty Key

A ratatouille of History, Museums' bits and Interesting Facts. A site for those who like the smell of Old Times.

It’s time for Revenge!




It’s time for Revenge (and to have some quality time out)!

Have you ever watched a Shakespeare’s play at the London’s Globe? If not please do so, it will be an unforgettable experience. This summer season is pretty amazing and you can still book tickets online for Titus Andronicus, Antony and Cleopatra, King Lear, Julius Caesar and the Comedy of Errors and many others.

I had the pleasure to go and watch the incredible Lucy Bailey’s adaptation of Titus Andronicus, the Shakespeare’s first tragedy. Saying that I loved is not even enough. Let’s talk a bit of history first.

“When Shakespeare’s first Roman play (and possibly his first tragedy) was published in 1594, its Romanness was both a defining feature and a commercial selling-point. The Most Lamentable Roman Tragedy of Titus Andronicus promised to combine the oratorical splendour of Roman lamentation with the uniquely savage blood-spilling of Roman revenge.

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In the 20th century, critics have been less enamoured of the play’s Romanness. They have complained that it lacks of a specific historical moment, combining  features of both republican and imperial Rome to create a confusing political system that even the characters seem unsure how to operate. Moreover, unlike Julius Caesar, Mark Antony or Coriolanus who were all taken from Plutarch’s Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans, the play’s protagonist is a composite of Shakespeare’s own fashioning, and considerably less sophisticated by comparison. The conclusion has been that this is a sensationalist revenge tragedy rather  than a politically-astute Roman history play; that Titus dressed as a cook and serving slices of his enemies baked into a pie has no place alongside the cool deliberations of a Brutus.
Yet in recent years, Titus’ distinctiveness has found its defenders who point out that it is not surprising that the play does not conform to a model of Roman tragedy that Shakespeare established later in his career. Moreover, its inventive freedom and its dazzling range of references to Roman history, poetry and drama create a much richer sense of Rome than in any of the later works.”
(From Jane Kingsley-Smith articles on Shakespeare’s idea of Rome in Titus Andronicus)

Sources and Contexts
Titus Andronicus, unlike Shakespeare’s other Roman plays ins not historical and, like a Midsummer Night’s Dream, it is unusual in not having a direct source.
Nevertheless, it is a very literary play and many influences and direct allusions can be detected in its major episodes. The major influence is the tale of Philomel from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Other influences are drawn from the work of other playwrights such as Thomas Kyd and Christopher Marlowe.

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For more exhilarating details I would suggest to buy the Titus Andronicus programme on sale at The Globe Official Store and of course get a STANDING ticket for only £5. The Stall is actually the cheapest but at the same time the most exciting place from where to enjoy a Globe’s play. You will be probably a bit tired at the end of the performance but you will be sorry it is over!


And don’t forget to watch the surprising movie adaptation directed by Julie Taymore, Titus (1999)

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One comment on “It’s time for Revenge!

  1. john Bennett
    June 4, 2014

    Fantastic blog. Its made me want to go to the globe right now! 🙂 x

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