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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: February ::
Re: Taymor's TITUS
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0347  Thursday, 17 February 2000.

[1]     From:   Anthony Haigh <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 16 Feb 2000 16:47:01 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0338 Taymor's TITUS

[2]     From:   Heather James <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 16 Feb 2000 18:37:17 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0338 Taymor's TITUS


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Anthony Haigh <
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Date:           Wednesday, 16 Feb 2000 16:47:01 -0500
Subject: 11.0338 Taymor's TITUS
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0338 Taymor's TITUS

A 1641 description of the atrocities committed in Ireland during the
uprising of that year gives the following example: "Arthur Robinsons
daughter 14 years old the Rebbels bound her armes a broad, deflowered
her one after an other, tell they spoyled her then pulled the haire from
her head and cutout her tongue that she might not tell of their Cruelty,
but she declared it by writing."

Given the outcry we often hear today when crimes in life mimic crimes in
fiction it is interesting to speculate whether there was any connection
between this crime and that in Shakespeare's Titus; or was the act of
cutting out the tongue a common companion to rape?  Had the Irish rebels
seen Titus, or did they have classical educations?  Another explanation
is that the English government, members of whom might well have seen
Shakespeare's play, fabricated this claim in order to stir up anti
Irish\Catholic\Royalist feeling.  Where is Oliver Stone when you need
him?

It is always interesting how the juxtaposition of two pieces of
unconnected information can lead one into ever more interesting spirals
of conjecture.

Sorry to spoil your breakfast.

Cheers,
Tony Haigh

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Heather James <
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Date:           Wednesday, 16 Feb 2000 18:37:17 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 11.0338 Taymor's TITUS
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0338 Taymor's TITUS

I saw Taymor's TITUS last weekend, and fully agree with Hardy that it is
a stunning, extremely intelligent production which has got to be seen in
the theaters.  I think it could, as Hardy says, compete with any recent
film of a Shakespearean play for the laurels.  It is as intelligent a
reading of the play as Ian McKellan's film is of Richard III, and
perhaps more rigorous.  In my view, if Taymor had presented her reading
of the play as a critical argument, it would become one of _the_
articles to respond to. That doesn't mean it is easy to watch:  lots of
people in the audience will suffer with those they see suffer.  And if
you've written on this play, and go to see the film with someone who
doesn't know much about it, you'll find they're looking at you in a
whole new light.  Don't read any further if you don't want to know
details of the production

I loved that Taymor produced a deeply political Titus, filled with
factions, coups, meditations on different constitutional forms, etc.
She cut very little of the text, choosing instead to make sense of the
play's apparently eccentric choices.  An example is the opening
presentation of not just rivals for empire but rival models of
government in Rome, from which Titus must choose one to prevail (i.e.,
she sees what T.J.B. Spenser saw in the "Elizabethan Romans" and
motivates it).  She extends the play's anachronism brilliantly, as well
as its citationality.  I understand her use of Fellini, for example, or
The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover as continuous with the
play's own citation of great cultural works such as Horace ode ("integer
vitae, scelerisque purus..."), a scene one might well have expected her
to cut as obsolete and inert (which is how Chiron and Demetrius take it,
to their peril).

I loved her work with prostheses, especially ones adapted from the arts
of craftsmen.  She's amazingly good on body parts and mechanical men-in
ways consistent with Katherine Rowe's work on hands and agency in the
play.  She minimizes the violence, even cutting out some of it (the
Clown and some of the grim, strange language around the pit into which
Quintus and Martius fall, as well as Marcus' even stranger speech when
he sees Lavinia, "her hands cut off, her tongue cut out, and ravished."
But what violence she presents is more powerful for its understatement.
Her representation of Lavinia's death was moving-a rare moment of
tenderness in the play, and more disturbing because of it.  My
significant other (the one who was re-evaluating what it meant to sit
next to someone who has written on this play) involuntarily called out
"no" when he realized what Titus was going to do to Lavinia and that
Lavinia wanted him to do it.

There's lots more I could say, but I'll leave it to others.

Heather James
Associate Professor
Department of English
University of Southern California
 

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