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Julian Meynell's Books

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Titus Andronicus - Shakespeare's Gore Fest

Titus Andronicus - William Shakespeare

This is one of Shakespeare's less known plays although it should not be.  It is good and perhaps in the best half or so of his plays, but the reason I think that it is not so well known is because it is a complete gore fest.  The first half of the book reads more like a horror story than a drama where the villains rain death and destruction onto Titus and his family.  The two main villains, both a male and a female are both psychopaths.  The male villain, Aaron, a moor, is an out and out psychopath.  It would be easy to see him as a cartoonish villain, but I think that if we see him as almost completely devoid of empathy, with the exception of one small character that arrives later in the play, then he is actually quite well done.

The play has several well written sequences.  It is essentially a revenge story, although in many ways, almost all the characters are seeking revenge from almost the very start.  Shakespeare makes you feel the very horrific things that happen to Titus.  To me, it is the immediacy of this that is what makes the play so very good.  The revenge section, while cathartic is not as well done, and if it was better pulled off then I think that the play would be in the top rank of Shakespeare.  It does paint Titus' descent into madness effectively, and the finally revenge is extreme, but the poetry and psychologically insight breaks down a bit.  The earlier acts manage to be both brutally violent and beautiful at the same time.

Its good and through the first three acts very good, but it is harrowing and it is a buckets of blood production.  Well worth reading and better than its reputation.