Thursday, September 04, 2014

Titus Andronicus: A Bloody Mistake

Without a doubt, the worst play attributed to William Shakespeare was the bloody tragedy, “Titus Andronicus.” I’m going through my own Shakespeare re-reading festival this summer and autumn and I felt obliged to go through this horrid tale again, the first time since my undergraduate days. (Back in the late 30s, weren’t they?)

Anyhow, I pass along my recommendation to read Shakespeare’s gems but, under no circumstances, should you bother yourself with this nightmare of torture, rape, mutilation, murder, cannibalism, and two of the most loathsome villains (Aaron and Tamora) in literature. Oh, did I mention that the thing is poorly written too?

By the way, and let’s keep this between you and me (and Coleridge and Eliot, who agree with me), I don’t think Shakespeare even wrote the thing.

One other note. This play has not been well-received throughout much of its history. Ravenscroft thought it an “indigested heap of rubbish” in the 17th Century. Johnson despised it in the 18th Century. And the Victorians rightly condemned it as stupid and ridiculously violent. It has only been in the post-modern decadence emerging from the 1950s that “Titus Andronicus” has found its praises.

And the statement that makes about modern culture may be the greatest tragedy of all.