The Lamentable Tragedy of Titus Andronicus
From the 1700s to the Second World War Titus Andronicus was considered so shocking and such a subversion of the noble Roman ideal of decorum that it was hardly ever staged and was frequently said to be by someone other than Shakespeare. High-minded critics and scholars could not imagine the National Poet soiling himself with a barbaric feast of rape, dismemberment and cannibalism. Yet Titus was one of the most popular plays of the Elizabethan age.
Titus, a model Roman, has led twenty-one of his twenty-five sons to death in Rome’s wars; he stabs another son to death for what he views as disloyalty to Rome. Yet Rome has become “a wilderness of tigers.” After a death sentence is imposed on two of his three remaining sons, and his daughter is raped and mutilated, Titus turns his loyalty toward his family.