So, in my last Shakespeare review (King Richard III, which was fantastic and my new favorite history play by Shakespeare) I noted that Titus Andronicus was my favorite play, but, rereading it, I realized that it’s only half my favorite. It’s been awhile since I read it and realized that I was also remembering parts of Othello. This does not mean much, except that Titus Andronicus is not my only favorite. Resulting in it being pretty tied with Othello. But, I will say, it’s easy to get them confused. Both have horrific villains and both are utter bloodbaths. If you are looking for a good tragedy, these two plays are for you. But, now to solely focus on Titus Andronicus. Here’s a short synopsis.
Titus Andronicus is a great warrior that serves Rome and has fought in many battles helping to maintain Rome’s secure status. Titus has lost 20 sons to the war. Yes, he was a busy man both on and off the field. Anyway, Titus brings back some prisoners from the Goth clan, the queen, a moore, and the queen’s two sons (who are executed immediately – no spoiler, it happens on like the second page). The ruler Saturnine is proud of Titus’s victory. Titus offers his daughter to him. Saturnine accepts. But Lavinia, Titus’ daughter, is in love with Saturnine’s brother. Saturnine throws a HUGE hissy fit and makes a terrible, rash decision. He’s all like fine, if I can’t have Lavinia, I’LL MARRY THE QUEEN OF THE GOTHS THEN. IN YOUR FACE TITUS. And Titus is all like yo bro this ain’t smart, but, at this point, do what you want. So anyway, after this horrible choice there’s a surmountable body count, some cannibalism, and a nicely tied up ending.
I don’t feel the need to comment on Shakespeare’s writing, since I’ve already praised it to the heavens and back (see previous reviews for examples), so I will dive right into these characters. Shakespeare writes some doozies in this one. There are really no likable characters in this play, except maybe Lucius possibly Lavinia, although we don’t get too much of her character. It’s one of those where you root for the lesser of the two evils. But, in Titus’ defense, Tamora, the Queen of the Goths, causes him A LOT of heartbreak, torment, sends him into turmoil, so his psychotic breakdown is pretty understandable. THEN, there’s arguably one of the most horrifying villains that Shakespeare may have ever written, Aaron. Aaron is a horrifying man. He basically plots the downfall of everyone and at the end when he’s confronted with his evils and schemes, he doesn’t repent at all and is just like the only thing that would make me happier is to have committed 10,000 more. Like chill bro, chill. But honestly, his final speech is absolutely bone chilling. If you are looking for a good character to analyze in this play, Aaron is your man. He’s definitely the most complex and puzzling one throughout the play. Everyone else is pretty much what you see is what you get, but Aaron is deeper. He is the literal and figurative incarnation of evil, and Shakespeare definitely pulls that off through his writing.
If this doesn’t sound depressing enough, there’s also not a ton of comedic relief during this bloodbath. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a sufficient amount, but I could have used still a little more. Maybe it’s because King Richard III is still heavily on my mind. But, Titus Andronicus does have plenty of laugh-worthy lines throughout. Another A+ work from Shakespeare. This is another must-read for Shakespeare fans. I definitely recommend it. (It’s my half-favorite after all.) It’s one of the best cringe-worthy Shakespeare plays you could read.