Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Who doesn't like a good revenge tale?
First of all, this play was disgusting. I'm serious, it was disgusting. I'm usually craving (don't blame me) for books with graphic violence. I cannot tell you why, (because I don't really know why) but I like them. I enjoy reading scenes with blood in them... but in this play, they reached a level that was almost sickening.
Titus Andronicus is man that has everything in his life. He has just won a war, and luckily for him, everyone wants him as the new emperor, since the old one has died. Titus does not accept the throne, and Saturninus gets it. With Titus, there also came some war prisoners—Tamora (the Queen of the Goths), her three sons (Chiron, Demetrius and Alarbus), and Aaron (a black man and Tamora's lover)—and Titus is not going to let them alone until they get the suffer they deserve. Thus, he kills Alarbus, without foreseeing that by doing this, he's already signing his death warrant.
I said this is a revenge play, and well, it is. And this is where the “fun” starts...
The prisoners are obviously angered with Titus for killing Alarbus, so one day, in the woods, Chiron and Demetrius rape Lavinia. She begs to be killed instead of being raped, but they do not listen and they rape her anyway. But wait, that's not everything. They also cut out her tongue and her hands so she can't tell anyone who did that to her... and then they make fun at her! Oh, and I almost forgot: They also kill Bassianus and throw his corpse in a pit.
Because Titus' sons are brilliant, they get themselves (metaphorically and literally) trapped in the pit that may be (and indeed, is) their death sentence. Saturninus blames Titus' sons of killing Bassianus, and he claims to have Titus' hand... which he gladly gives away. After that, Titus is sent his own sons' heads and (literally) his hand.
There goes another revenge plot.
They finally discover a way for Lavinia to tell them who ravished her, and she does. Titus, again, is angered and in want of revenge... which he gets. In the meanwhile, Tamora's new son is born, and it turns out it is a black baby. Since the only black guy in the play is Aaron... well, you can guess the rest for yourselves.
After this, it appears that Titus has gone mad. Tamora thinks that this is a good moment to start with her mischiefs again, and so, she goes to Titus claiming that she and her sons are Revenge, Rape and Murder and they will satisfy Titus' hunger for revenge.
Titus may have been mad, but he was no fool. He convices Tamora to leave Rape and Murder with him, and when they are alone, he slashes their throats and drains their blood in a bowl so he can “play the cook.”
Now, DID YOU READ THAT WELL, PEOPLE? Titus was going to play the cook. Do you know what he does next? He bakes Tamora's sons in a pie that they are going to eat in a feast the next day. And they eat it. THEY EAT IT!!
I guess you can see what is going to happen now.
There is a disaster in which everyone kills everyone... Well, no, not everyone. Everyone except Aaron, who will tell the story of his deeds if his son gets to live. (the only actual sweet scene in this play) Lucius gets crowned as the new emperor and the end.
And this was written by the same man who wrote the sweet story of the star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet who killed themselves because of love.
Ladies and gentlemen, there's nothing sweet in this story. I bet Shakespeare had a lot of fun writing this. I bet the old man was laughing his ass off while writing this.
He better had.
When Shakespeare wrote this, revenge plays were the thing. You wrote one and you were immediately succesful. This play was also his first one, so I'm not surprised to see he wrote about what was popular at the time. A lot of authors do the same nowadays, don't they? I don't blame him for it.
Still, that does not mean that this didn't surprise me. By now, I've read most of his plays, and they all have some elements that shout "Shakespeare" all over the way. This one, on the other hand, is completely different. None of those elements was present in here--except the writing, that is.
However, I enjoyed immensely this play. I don't really know if this is a coincidence, but the books that disturb me the most tend to be the ones I like the better. Having said that, I wonder how much that fact tells from me.
I'm dubious about recommending this book to everyone. Yes, it's great. Yes, it's a must-read. Yes, I'm glad I read it. Yet, I don't think all people are going to enjoy this. I do recommend reading this after you're familiar with Shakespeare's works. This is not a good start for reading them. I'm glad I decided to read first all the popular ones, otherwise, I might not have been able to do this comparison.
Read at your own risk.
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