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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: March ::
Re: Shakespeare and Titus Andronicus
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0224  Saturday, 14 March 1998.

[1]     From:   Nicholas Ranson <
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        Date:   Friday, 13 Mar 1998 11:47:34 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0223  Shakespeare and Titus Andronicus

[2]     From:   Matthew Gretzinger <
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        Date:   Friday, 13 Mar 1998 13:44:23 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0223  Shakespeare and Titus Andronicus

[3]     From:   Roger Schmeeckle <
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        Date:   Friday, 13 Mar 1998 12:03:10 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0223  Shakespeare and Titus Andronicus

[4]     From:   Christine Mack Gordon <
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        Date:   Friday, 13 Mar 1998 15:05:02 C  ST6C



[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Nicholas Ranson <
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Date:           Friday, 13 Mar 1998 11:47:34 -0500
Subject: 9.0223  Shakespeare and Titus Andronicus
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0223  Shakespeare and Titus Andronicus

The authorship of TA has been contested for centuries; but modern
editors are less concerned. They vary from Maus's silence on the matter
(Norton ed. '97, based on the Oxford text) to Oxford's own laconic one
sentence paragraph (1986 Old-spelling ed): "Our text is (with the
exception of 3.2) based on the 1594 Quarto, apparently set from
Shakespeare's own draft [141]."

My point: Mr Silvis seems to be aghast that TA is assigned to the
Shakespeare canon because of preconceived ideas concerning Shakespeare
and high art; but modern editors and scholars are more concerned with
issues of cultural production. Mr. Silvis is citing the only piece of
external evidence, if we want to call Ravenscroft's comments in his
Address "external evidence", against the authenticity of any of the
plays in the Folio (Halliday, Companion, 404). However, it is always the
first play of Shakespeare's I teach in our Early Plays course; and I
teach it (among other concepts) as a very great leap forward in revenge
tragedy and a play (following Donald Stauffer) which contains a
storehouse of images and ideas which Shakespeare reworks continuously
his remaining artistic life. Mr. Silvis doesn't want to believe it is
Shakespeare's; that's really all that's at issue, I suggest.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Matthew Gretzinger <
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Date:           Friday, 13 Mar 1998 13:44:23 -0500
Subject: 9.0223  Shakespeare and Titus Andronicus
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0223  Shakespeare and Titus Andronicus

>Studiously avoiding the general Shakespeare authorship issue, I would
>appreciate any comments regarding Mr. Silvis's fair certainty that
>Shakespeare did not write Titus Andronicus.

A neat response to critics of Titus (as well as to those who question
its authorship), is contained in Jonathan Bate's new Introduction to the
Arden Shakespeare (Third Series, p. 79) where he deals with the Peele
claim.  This Introduction offers a refreshing look at the play, which
has apparently received little serious attention from scholars thus
far.  Bates suggests that the seeming absurdities of the play are
intentional.  He says that "Shakespeare is interrogating Rome, asking
what kind of an example it provides for Elizabethan England; in so doing
he collapses the whole of Roman history, known to him from Plutarch and
Livy, into a single action." (p. 17)

Incidentally, as I'm considering directing Titus, I would appreciate
advice from any out there who've been involved in staging it.  Also,
where does one look to research successful productions of the twentieth
century (post-Olivier, I guess)?

Matthew Gretzinger

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[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Roger Schmeeckle <
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Date:           Friday, 13 Mar 1998 12:03:10 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 9.0223  Shakespeare and Titus Andronicus
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0223  Shakespeare and Titus Andronicus

I throw this out for feedback.  I am not a professional scholar.

I long ago came to the conclusion that Titus Andronicus was intended as
a farcical spoof of revenge  tragedies that were fashionable at  the
time.  Such a chamber of horrors first stretches credibility, then
becomes incredible, then results in laughter.  My hypothesis is that the
laughter was intentional, that it was all done with tongue in cheek.
Something like John Huston's Beat the Devil.

I attended a performance at the University of Vermont about 30 years ago
in which, while watching the unfortunate father parading around the
stage dragging the decapitated head of his son by the hair, it was all I
could do to avoid bursting out laughing.  Sometime later I had occasion
to query the director about his intentions.  He assured me that he had
meant to treat it seriously, as it was taken by the very solemn
audience.

I am curious whether this interpretation, as a farcical satire, has been
advanced before, or whether it is just my personal idiosyncrasy.

Roger Schmeeckle

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Christine Mack Gordon <
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Date:           Friday, 13 Mar 1998 15:05:02 CST6CDT
Subject: 9.0223  Shakespeare and Titus Andronicus
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0223  Shakespeare and Titus Andronicus

Since I'm working as dramaturg on a production of _Titus_ that's now in
rehearsal, I have read quite a bit about the play, and have read the
play itself more than a few times. I see no reason to think that
Shakespeare did _not_ write it. Yes, it is quite gruesome, but it is
also thought to be a very early play, and revenge tragedies were still
quite the rage. Shakespeare seems almost to do the genre in, given the
final body count. Some of the thematic elements seem to be developed in
later plays like _Hamlet_ and _Lear_. The language itself, while not
achieving the complex sophistication of later plays, is nonetheless
powerful, striking, and even beautiful at times. I've come to appreciate
the play on its own merits as we go through the rehearsal process; much
of it works amazingly well in production.

Bloodily yours,
Chris Gordon
 

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