Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare – Let’s Limber Up

A few weeks ago I went to see the RSC’s version of Titus Andronicus, and promised you the Katyboo treatment of the plot.

I then promptly forgot all about it and went on to host an award winning fete, and have a small nervous breakdown instead.

I am now, however, back on the case and raring to go.

Raring.

Titus is a rather tricky play to categorise, despite it’s subtitle being (as my friend Jane says) ‘Oooh me bleedin’ stumps’.  Which is a bit of a giveaway that it’s probably not a comedy (although given that Measure for Measure is, I wouldn’t be so sure, some days).

It has no dancing though – so we are safe to cross off the comedy category.

If you remember, way back in the mists of time, I wrote an introduction to Shakespeare. It basically says that that there are four types of plays:

  • Comedy
  • Tragedy
  • Romance
  • History

And then there’s the problem plays – which we won’t bother our heads with here.

Titus Andronicus is, for the most part, firmly billed as a tragedy.  In fact, in some of the earliest playbills/scripts, it is documented as a ‘lamentable’ tragedy.  Depending on how it’s staged this could be taken a number of ways.

Titus is also, however, a ‘Roman’ play.

Which is a kind of  Shakespearean subset (like a mathematical Tudor version of a doublet), which I would possibly do a Venn diagram of to demonstrate to you, were I not numerically challenged and statistically incapable.

I didn’t really go into Roman plays before. I’m not much of a fan of them to be frank.  Too many togas and open toed sandals for my liking.

I’ve never liked a gladiator sandal.

The Roman plays are also rather manly, and chest beaty, and obsessed with the idea of pride, and loyalty and duty.  The good things about them are the crowd scenes in which unwashed, scrofulous peasants can seethe about the streets shouting ‘rhubarb’ and sticking the ‘v’s’ up.

I’ve always been a woman of the people.

None of these things appeal to me hugely though, and I feel they could all be improved with a hearty dose of buns, and some compassion.

As could most things, frankly.

Shakespeare, however, was a big fan of plundering all things Roman for his plays.  He went an absolute bundle on them.  For your delight and delectation we have; ‘Julius Caesar’, ‘Anthony and Cleopatra’, ‘Coriolanus’ and ‘Titus Andronicus’.

Some clever boffin on the interweb has also added ‘Cymbeline’ to the Roman plays.

I say: ‘Ignore him. Refuse to give him a go on any of your toys, and eventually he will go away.’

Cymbeline is bonkers enough without adding togas into the mix.  The man is a fule.

The Roman plays can sometimes be a subset of the history plays, although, as ever, Shakespeare plays fast and loose with the idea of historical ‘fact’.  Fact being loosely construed as anything that resembles something someone once told you at a bus stop somewhere, which they swore on a stack of bibles was so true it could hardly be called fiction.

The Roman plays are also firmly in the tragic camp. There is never any dancing in the Roman plays. Never.

I blame the gladiator sandals.

 

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