Nov 16. Sacrifice.

Roman Baths and Abbey Circular Bath Bath England

Titus Andronicus, B/G

The earliest recorded performance of Titus Andronicus is in Philip Henslowe’s diary in January 1594; it was play again on 26 Jan & 6 Feb; entered into the Stationer’s Register and also printed that same year.

Gravelot, Aaron cuts of Titus’ Hand 3.1 (1740). Remember Aaron is the lead in the Ravenscroft adaptation played throughout the 18c.

Where was it played? Did Shakespeare collaborate with another author? What sort of stage, costumes, props, and actors does the script demand? What does it demand of its audience?

What makes Titus Andronicus different from other of Shakespeare’s plays we’ve read so far this semester (ex: end stopped lines)? How is the play an anatomy of difference? Why is the play so obsessed with presenting difference to the audience? Does the play appeal to the audience, as Richard II does, as a “populous” called upon to act as jurors?

Roman Play
Why does Shakespeare adapt and adopt the Roman material? What affordances does the classical material allow? What connection does Britain have with the Roman Republic? Philomela, Lucretia, Dido.

The status of the text: Q1 (1594) likely printed from Shakespeare’s foul papers, i.e. the author draft that precedes the prompt book and the fair copy prepared by professional scribes for the printer; Q2 (1600) printed from Q1 and has some issues at the end b/c of the gathering of control text; Q3 (1611) even more messy than Q2; F1 (1623) edition of Act 3.2, set from Q3 and, likely, some sort of playhouse text. Because of the unusual amount and thoroughness of the directions, its likely the compositor had the prompt book or a copy with performance notes.

Performance History
What did Restoration and 18th c. performances, adaptations, and revisions value most about Shakespeare’s 15th/16th c. play? Why did the play fall out of repertory by the end of the 18th c.? Why does the play appeal to late 20th/early 21st century sensibilities?

Figuring Nature

s-l300Summarize Cohen’s reading of Empedocles: In Empedocles we find a useful hypothesis to explain the world in motion. Cohen explains that according to Empedocles, “all matter consists of four elements in shifting combinations: earth, air, fire, and water. Held together by chains of love [philia], pulled together through endemic strife [neikos], these primal “roots” [rizomata] are enduring and unstill” (2). Through the ceaseless intermingling of these elements, i.e. the “shifting combinations,” compose the world, nature, and all the things in it. Cohen invites this thought experiment: set the unseen, or unseeable “elemental strife” of Empedocles’ hypothesis to the series of swirling, turning images. Like choreography set to music: “Through the push-pull of philia and niekos the cosmos begins to whirl, assuming in this movement its distinctive vorticular form” (3).

What sorts of thinking about matter does the “helicoid” make possible? Why is it such a fit illustration of classical theory of materiality and/or the sort of material thinking in which characters in Shakespeare’s plays often engage? 

Presenters: Kelsey, Isabelle, Kira, Thomas, Alexandra

To help focus the Q&A, at the conclusion of the presentation please take five minutes and respond to the following questions:
  • 1. Briefly summarize the topic and/or arguments made by 2 of the presenters.
  • 2. What two slides, from any of the presentations, did you find most effective and why?
  • 3. List a few points that the presentations have in common. What’s surprising about the overlap?
  • 4. Draft one discussion question.


Take five minutes to respond to the following:
Just before Richard dies he says the following: “Exton, thy fierce hand/Hath with the King’s blood stained the King’s own land” (5.5.109-110). This line echoes other instances in the play in which the Richard’s death is figured as a sacrifice perhaps required to change the course of nature. Compare the way that sacrifice works in Richard II to the two sacrificial sequences in Titus Andronicus. Why does Titus kill Alarbus in (1.1.121-26)? Can we read Tamora’s treatment of Lavinia as a repetition (echo) of the sacrifices in both Richard II and Titus 1.1? How does sacrifice express man’s relationship to nature?

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