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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: March ::
Re: Taymor Titus
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0441  Monday, 6 March 2000.

[1]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Thursday, 02 Mar 2000 10:54:00 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0435 Re: Taymor Titus

[2]     From:   Nicole Imbracsio <
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        Date:   Thursday, 2 Mar 2000 13:51:23 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0435 Re: Taymor Titus

[3]     From:   Jimmy Jung <
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        Date:   Sat, 04 Mar 2000 11:32:00 -0500
        Subj:   Why Titus picks Saturninus (with some spoilers?)


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Thursday, 02 Mar 2000 10:54:00 -0800
Subject: 11.0435 Re: Taymor Titus
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0435 Re: Taymor Titus

Mike Jensen's comments about the new Titus film got me thinking:

> How could he [Titus] possibly think this man was the right ruler
> for Rome?  I saw this as a weakness in the film, since the page has a
> less modern spin on the character.  There his weakness is not obvious in
> the early scenes, in fact I don't remember a hint of it until he chooses
> Tamora over Lavinia.  Beware of rulers who change their minds about
> their mates in early Shakespeare.

I think there are hints in that he's trying to force the issue of
succession, is supported by the patricians over the plebeians, is the
last to lay down his arms at Marcus Andronicus's request, and tries to
win Titus's decision by threats.

> I have since talked myself out of this, thinking that Titus decision may
> be based on family and tradition.  He was going to chose this way
> despite potential problems, because it is right!  It fits the film, but
> does it fit the play as it has come down to us?

I think so.  Titus is, after all, a man who leads his own sons to their
deaths because he has to serve Rome, and who casually ignores Tamora's
cries in favour of maintaining a tradition of human sacrifice, "To
please their groaning shadows that are gone".  He's the opposite of a
politician, in that he makes enemies, chooses a man who hates him as
emperor, and does so over his own (assured) election.  He doesn't
calculate self-interest until later, and psychopathically.  In the
opening scenes, all moral quandaries are always already answered for him
by tradition.  Machiavelli would shake his head in despair at such a
man.

I find Saturninus's election interesting, in that it combines, or
perhaps just muddles, the republican constitution of Rome with the
primogeniture of Early Modern England, which, in turn, was complicated
by Henry VIII's determination that the crown was his to leave by will
like any other piece of property.  The problem rather recalls our debate
earlier on this list as to whether Shakespeare knew the constitution of
Hamlet's Denmark.  Of course, in neither case is Shakespeare sketching a
consistent constitution, but in the case of Titus he is showing a figure
who always and automatically chooses the traditional, dogmatic
solution.  Hence the violence of his rage when his dogma betrays him.

Cheers,
Se

 

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