Titus Andronicus

Most people today think of Shakespeare’s plays as the sort of thing that only the refined, intellectual highbrows could appreciate. They forget that Shakespeare was wildly popular with all classes of Elizabethan England. The Elizabethan audiences loved violence and gore as much as any modern audience and Shakespeare was always happy to give the theater goers what they wanted. Sometimes his plays are every bit as gory as anything made by Quentin Tarantino with bloody battles, eyes being gouged out, maidens raped, and worse. Shakespeare’s play Titus Andronicus is really in a class by itself as far as blood and gore on stage goes, as some patrons of the Globe Theater discovered recently, according to this account in the Telegraph.

With 14 deaths, brutal rape scenes, mutilation and cannibalism, Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus has never been one for the fainthearted.
But the gruesome scenes at the Globe Theatre’s latest revival have proved too much for even the most daring of theatre-goers.
Members of the audience have been fainting during the play’s most violent scenes, with others reporting feeling sick and warning of sleepless nights.
The play, a revival of Lucy Bailey’s 2006 production, is publicised with a warning that it is “grotesquely violent and daringly experimental”, with a “terrible cycle of mutilation, rape and murder”.
The play’s most famous scene sees Titus murder the sons of his rival Tamora, Queen of the Goths, later feeding their remains to her in a pie. A spokesman for the Globe confirmed five members of the audience fainted in a particularly gory five-minute scene, adding front of house staff are “very well trained to look after people”. It is understood all five fell while watching Lavinia emerge from being brutally raped, with her tongue cut out and holding bloodied stumps for arms. “Shakespeare definitely didn’t pull any punches when he was writing Titus – it is a brutally violent play and Lucy’s production is a bloody, exhilarating, incense-laden feast for the senses,” the spokesman added. “But not one for the squeamish!” One theatre-goer, who watched the show’s opening night, said there had been “quite a few droppers” in the audience, who fainted upon seeing so much blood. Another reported he had “almost puked” by the interval, while a third warned: “You will definitely need a strong stomach”. Others praised the “Brilliantly staged and flawlessly acted” production, but warned of “blood and violence galore”. “Can’t fall asleep after watching a great but gory performance of Titus Andronicus,” one ticket-holder wrote on Twitter. Sources at Shakespeare’s Globe confirmed trained first aiders were present for the show. The theatre is well-versed in fainting audience members, after visitors blanched at the blood and gore in the original 2006 production.
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And you thought Shakespeare was boring. Titus Andronicus is one of the best known examples of a revenge play along with Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy. A revenge play is a tragedy in which the protagonist seeks revenge for some wrong committed by the villain, generally the murder of a kinsman. The genre was very popular in Shakespeare’s time but curiously, Shakespeare didn’t really use it much. Of his plays only Titus Andronicus and Hamlet could really be considered revenge plays, though there were elements in some of his other plays, such as Julius Caesar and Macbeth. Titus Andronicus was one of his earlier plays, his first tragedy,  and may have been a collaboration with George Peele. Perhaps as Shakespeare became more established and popular, he was less inclined to follow trends. After all, at the height of his career, he was the one setting the fashion in drama. I hope the promise of blood and gore will encourage people to investigate Shakespeare. Shakespeare really doesn’t belong to the intellectuals and the literature professors. He belongs to all of us.
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