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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: March ::
Re: *Titus* and Stage Blood
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0249.  Monday, 27 March 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Pat Buckridge <
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        Date:   Monday, 27 Mar 1995 14:01:50 +1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0243  Re: Blood in *Titus*
 
(2)     From:   Eddie Duggan <
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        Date:   Monday, 27 Mar 95 14:37 :37
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0245 Re: Blood in *Titus*
 
(3)     From:   Don Foster <
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        Date:   Monday, 27 Mar 1995 11:22:21 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: Stage blood
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Pat Buckridge <
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Date:           Monday, 27 Mar 1995 14:01:50 +1000
Subject: 6.0243  Re: Blood in *Titus*
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0243  Re: Blood in *Titus*
 
I too would love to know the provenance of the comment Michael Field quotes.
Reports on whether explicit staging 'works' or not on the modern stage are of
course beside the point, and contemporaneous evidence (e.g. from Henslowe) is
not conclusive.  What the comment brings to our attention about *Titus* is that
whether or not the violence and gore were visibly staged, it's all there in the
language anyway - to a much greater extent than in, say, *The Spanish Tragedy*
or *Macbeth*.  As historical interpreters of the play (not just re-stagers of
it), what are we to make of this strange doubling of the horror?
 
Many commentators, and some current respondents, have felt, understandably,
that it must have had a numbing or even comic effect. Believe that if you will;
I don't.  Others have supposed that this is Shakespeare learning how to do
Senecan tragedy, and doing it rather badly.  Well, maybe.  But I must say
*Titus* seems to me about as raw and unsophisticated as *Venus and Adonis* and
the *Rape of Lucrece* - i.e. not very.
 
Perhaps the fundamental error is in supposing that TA was originally written as
a play for the popular theatre.  The very sophisticated Ovidian descriptions
are exactly what one might expect for a closet drama or a court performance
with minimal staging.  Subsequent release of the script to the public theatre,
whose functionaries might well have added whatever 'grand guignol' props they
had on hand without going to the trouble of modifying the text, would produce a
play very much like the one we have today.  That's one scenario anyway.
 
Pat Buckridge
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Eddie Duggan <
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Date:           Monday, 27 Mar 95 14:37:37 BST
Subject: 6.0245 Re: Blood in *Titus*
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0245 Re: Blood in *Titus*
 
On the subject of the new Arden _Titus A._, there was a review on a UK radio
arts programme (Kaleidoscope [?] BBC Radio 4) recently.
 
Contributors were Terry Hawkes and A. N. Other (sorry).  The gist of the review
is that the text portrays bloody matter and, while we can never (obviously)
recover the text's original meaning, the new Arden is well presented, scholarly
annotated edition.
 
Eddie Duggan
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Don Foster <
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Date:           Monday, 27 Mar 1995 11:22:21 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        Re: Stage blood
 
Somewhere (though I've forgotten where) there's an Elizabethan or Jacobean
reference to the players' practice of making fatal stabs more realistic by
puncturing a pig's bladder concealed in the actor's clothing. One can't imagine
this being done on a regular basis, what with the cost of clothing and the lack
of a good biodegradable laundry detergent, but perhaps the stained costumes
were paid for by improved box office receipts.
 
There may be a metadramatic reference to this practice in *The Revenger's
Tragedy* ("Nay, / And he were once puffed out, here is a pin / Should quickly
prick your bladder")-- but the more likely reading here is the conventional
one, that of a wind-filled bladder [cf. John Ford's *Golden Mean*: "[A] Bladder
that is blown up will (being fast tied) many days continue full if laid aside,
and not unbound, but with the least prick of a needle, how little soever,
loseth both his fullness and strength..."].  If I come across the pig's bladder
reference, I'll pass it along.  Chambers may mention it in *E.S.*, or it may be
in *Peele's Jests.*  Don Foster
 

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