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Thread: Titus Andronicus: Act III

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    Pièce de Résistance Scheherazade's Avatar
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    Titus Andronicus: Act III

    Please post your thoughts and questions on Act III here.

    Scene I

    Scene II
    ~
    "It is not that I am mad; it is only that my head is different from yours.”
    ~


  2. #2
    Shakespearean xman's Avatar
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    Well here we are and what a ridiculously grotesque act it is. If there were any more proof of the absurdity of this play I can't think of one any more obvious than this. After arguing amongst themselves about who gets to have his own hand cut off, the scene ends with these gems from Titus;

    The vow is made. Come, brother, take a head;
    And in this hand the other I will bear.
    Lavinia, thou shalt be employ'd: these arms!
    Bear thou my hand, sweet wench, between thy teeth.
    "Bear thou my hand, sweet wench, between thy teeth" ... One of the reasons I think this play really belongs to the Senecan period of the late 1580's rather than the 1590's is that it is steeped in the bizarreness of this gore. How can one help but laugh at it and then (hopefully) look on in horror at the nature of the one laughing. Why do we slow down to see the car crash? Why does bad news sell papers and make viewers attend the 6:00 broadcast? Worse than that is, 'why do we laugh at the misfortune of others'? Perhaps more will point itself out to me in the last two acts, but Shakespeare at least understood his audience, understood something of human nature.

    When I watched the most bloody version of this play performed, Lavinia stumbled on to spit her own tongue onto the stage (beef liver actually). This was the turning point for the audience. They moaned, laughed, cried out and pointed so distractedly that the scene almost got lost. The actors were good enough to bring it back around, but the sensation was as visceral as what I imagine an authentic Elizabethan audience's might have been. When Titus, facing upstage, cuts his own hand off a moment later and turns back to the audience, there was a pump hidden up his arm and the actor would spray blood directly on the audience. I know him and he would laugh with sadistic glee about how many rows back he could get the stream to go. The oddest thing is that, by this point the audience had been let in on the 'over the top' joke and would laugh along with him. Reading that over, it sounds horrific, but I still recall it with glee myself. Why do I laugh at the misfortune of others? What makes it funny and grotesque at the same time?

    X

    P.S. I'm a few hours late at this point, but Happy Shakespeare's Birthday anyway everyone.
    Last edited by xman; 04-24-2007 at 03:42 AM.

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    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by xman View Post
    When I watched the most bloody version of this play performed, Lavinia stumbled on to spit her own tongue onto the stage (beef liver actually). This was the turning point for the audience. They moaned, laughed, cried out and pointed so distractedly that the scene almost got lost. The actors were good enough to bring it back around, but the sensation was as visceral as what I imagine an authentic Elizabethan audience's might have been. When Titus, facing upstage, cuts his own hand off a moment later and turns back to the audience, there was a pump hidden up his arm and the actor would spray blood directly on the audience. I know him and he would laugh with sadistic glee about how many rows back he could get the stream to go. The oddest thing is that, by this point the audience had been let in on the 'over the top' joke and would laugh along with him. Reading that over, it sounds horrific, but I still recall it with glee myself. Why do I laugh at the misfortune of others? What makes it funny and grotesque at the same time?

    X

    P.S. I'm a few hours late at this point, but Happy Shakespeare's Birthday anyway everyone.
    Oh, that's right. Happy birthday William.

    I haven't read Act III yet, but you've wett my appetite. Perhpas tonight.

    Beef liver?? Must have hada lousy taste in her mouth for the entire evening. And I wonder how many days in a row she had to do that?
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

    "Love follows knowledge." – St. Catherine of Siena

    My literature blog: http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/

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    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    OK, I've read Act III and I have a couple of points to make.

    First, while the play is not great, we definitely see signs of Shakespeare's great poetic skills. I was taken in by Titus's oration to the tribunes at the beginning of the act.
    TITUS ANDRONICUS
    Hear me, grave fathers! noble tribunes, stay!
    For pity of mine age, whose youth was spent
    In dangerous wars, whilst you securely slept;
    For all my blood in Rome's great quarrel shed;
    For all the frosty nights that I have watch'd;
    And for these bitter tears, which now you see
    Filling the aged wrinkles in my cheeks;
    Be pitiful to my condemned sons,
    Whose souls are not corrupted as 'tis thought.
    For two and twenty sons I never wept,
    Because they died in honour's lofty bed.
    The motif of speaking without hearing or hearing from someone not being able to speak (Lavinia without a tongue) culminates here. The tribunes do not listen and ultimately leave before Titus finishes speaking. His son tells him so and Titus responds:
    TITUS ANDRONICUS
    Why, tis no matter, man; if they did hear,
    They would not mark me, or if they did mark,
    They would not pity me, yet plead I must;
    Therefore I tell my sorrows to the stones;
    Who, though they cannot answer my distress,
    Yet in some sort they are better than the tribunes,
    For that they will not intercept my tale:
    When I do weep, they humbly at my feet
    Receive my tears and seem to weep with me;
    And, were they but attired in grave weeds,
    Rome could afford no tribune like to these.
    A stone is soft as wax,--tribunes more hard than stones;
    A stone is silent, and offendeth not,
    And tribunes with their tongues doom men to death.
    Wonderful poetry here, tears that weep along with him and attired in weeds; a "stone as soft as wax," and tribunes with their "tongues (connection with Lavinia who is the emboiment of powerlessness) doom men."

    Good stuff for a mediocre play.
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

    "Love follows knowledge." – St. Catherine of Siena

    My literature blog: http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/

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    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    Another point that I wish to make, and I make it with a new post, is that in act iii, scene i, the key element of revenge tragedy occurs. This is the point where revenge and only revenge is the only satisfying act for the lead character.
    Enter a Messenger, with two heads and a hand
    Messenger
    Worthy Andronicus, ill art thou repaid
    For that good hand thou sent'st the emperor.
    Here are the heads of thy two noble sons;
    And here's thy hand, in scorn to thee sent back;
    Thy griefs their sports, thy resolution mock'd;
    That woe is me to think upon thy woes
    More than remembrance of my father's death.
    [He sets down the heads and hand. Exit]
    What has happened? To try to save his son's lives, he is told that if he cuts his hand off, it will be enough restitution for what his sons have supposedly done. Ok, Titus cuts off his hand and gives it. But a messenger has returned his amputated hand and the heads of his two sons. It was a ruse.

    Titus can't even speak to this, but look at what his brother Marcus and his son Lucius say:
    MARCUS ANDRONICUS
    Now let hot AEtna cool in Sicily,
    And be my heart an ever-burning hell!
    These miseries are more than may be borne.
    To weep with them that weep doth ease some deal;
    But sorrow flouted at is double death.

    LUCIUS
    Ah, that this sight should make so deep a wound,
    And yet detested life not shrink thereat!
    That ever death should let life bear his name,
    Where life hath no more interest but to breathe!
    The emotions of the acts have burned into Titus's heart, as hot as a volcano, so deep a wound that no social justice could ever find justice except by taking matters into your own hands (pun, not intended ). The pain is so deep that Titus can't cry but ultimately laughs:
    TITUS ANDRONICUS
    Ha, ha, ha!

    MARCUS ANDRONICUS
    Why dost thou laugh? it fits not with this hour.

    TITUS ANDRONICUS
    Why, I have not another tear to shed:
    Besides, this sorrow is an enemy,
    And would usurp upon my watery eyes
    And make them blind with tributary tears:
    Then which way shall I find Revenge's cave?
    For these two heads do seem to speak to me,
    And threat me I shall never come to bliss
    Till all these mischiefs be return'd again
    Even in their throats that have committed them.
    Come, let me see what task I have to do.
    You heavy people, circle me about,
    That I may turn me to each one of you,
    And swear unto my soul to right your wrongs.
    The vow is made. Come, brother, take a head;
    And in this hand the other I will bear.
    Lavinia, thou shalt be employ'd: these arms!
    Bear thou my hand, sweet wench, between thy teeth.
    As for thee, boy, go get thee from my sight;
    Thou art an exile, and thou must not stay:
    Hie to the Goths, and raise an army there:
    And, if you love me, as I think you do,
    Let's kiss and part, for we have much to do.
    This is the point in revenge structure that shifts the action. It is the culmination of the deeds done to Titus: the rape and disfigurement, to put it mildly, of his daughter, the beheading of his sons, and he tricked into cutting his hand off. As if one wouldn't have been enough, Shakespeare has given us three. The vow is made, the action now pivots in reaction to Titus's force. Without having read the rest of the play yet, I assume the wheel of fate has now turned.
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

    "Love follows knowledge." – St. Catherine of Siena

    My literature blog: http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/

  6. #6
    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    One other thing, I am really baffled by Act III, Scene II. What is the point of this scene? It is a banquet of Titus's family. I haven't seen a drama of this, but I assume it is quite pitiful, with Lavinia being fed since she has no hands and Titus eating with his one. But the scene doesn't advance the plot at all, and no decision or enlightenment occurs. The scene seems to be there only to derive pathos. The central part of the scene is when Marcus kills a fly, and Titus is enraged of the death of an insect. And he reprehends his brother:
    TITUS ANDRONICUS
    But how, if that fly had a father and mother?
    How would he hang his slender gilded wings,
    And buzz lamenting doings in the air!
    Poor harmless fly,
    That, with his pretty buzzing melody,
    Came here to make us merry! and thou hast
    kill'd him.
    But Marcus with quick wit tells Titus that this was an evil fly, and it relieves Titus:
    TITUS ANDRONICUS
    O, O, O,
    Then pardon me for reprehending thee,
    For thou hast done a charitable deed.
    Give me thy knife, I will insult on him;
    Flattering myself, as if it were the Moor
    Come hither purposely to poison me.--
    There's for thyself, and that's for Tamora.
    Ah, sirrah!
    Yet, I think, we are not brought so low,
    But that between us we can kill a fly
    That comes in likeness of a coal-black Moor.
    I must admit I find this rather strange. Is the scene here just for pathos? That seems very unlike the better Shakespeare.

    Anyone have any thoughts on this?
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

    "Love follows knowledge." – St. Catherine of Siena

    My literature blog: http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/

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    Shakespearean xman's Avatar
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    I think that scene does advance the characters. We get a chance to see Titus loosing his grip on reality.
    I mean really, abusing a dead fly? It's funny too.

    X

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    You are given a look at Titus begining to lose his sanity and are starting to see that though pitiable he could be capable of everything. It also is somewhat of an insult to the attrocities committed by the Moor and Tamora. They committed horrible crimes against poor harmless Lavinia, much the way he is now doing to the fly. He then adds insult by stating that they are not brought so low as to harm one who doesn't deserve it unlike Tamora and the Moor.

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    Registered User rich14285's Avatar
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    TITUS ANDRONICUS
    Act 3 - scene 1
    Now stay your strife: what shall be is dispatch'd.
    Good Aaron, give his majesty my hand:
    Tell him it was a hand that warded him
    From thousand dangers; bid him bury it
    More hath it merited; that let it have.
    As for my sons, say I account of them
    As jewels purchased at an easy price;
    And yet dear too, because I bought mine own.

    While reading this, it reminds me of a scene on HBO's Elizabeth I, wherein an author of treason gets his hand cut-off while Elizabeth I and the Duke of Anjou look on.
    Last edited by rich14285; 08-15-2007 at 01:49 PM. Reason: add a comment
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    I wonder if any of you have ever thought about this play in reference to the metaphor "the body politic" which runs rampant through literature of this time. This play, being about the succession of a throne and the loss of limbs, applies "the body politic" very well. We can consider the nation of Rome as a body. A body in turmoil because of war, of revenging factions, and violence. I don't want to extend this forever but I would suggest you all do a little research on criticism of this play because to say it is "terrible" "has no point" or whatever is completely baseless.

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    I also do not see how this is any bloodier than Hamlet.

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    Quote Originally Posted by aswelch View Post
    I wonder if any of you have ever thought about this play in reference to the metaphor "the body politic" which runs rampant through literature of this time. This play, being about the succession of a throne and the loss of limbs, applies "the body politic" very well. We can consider the nation of Rome as a body. A body in turmoil because of war, of revenging factions, and violence. I don't want to extend this forever but I would suggest you all do a little research on criticism of this play because to say it is "terrible" "has no point" or whatever is completely baseless.
    Exactly. Isn't there a passage in Coriolanus about toes and people and whatnot?

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    Registered User rich14285's Avatar
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    Titus and killing flies in "As You Like It" and "Hamlet"

    Reading Virgil's post above that includes the following comment: "One other thing, I am really baffled by Act III, Scene II. What is the point of this scene? It is a banquet of Titus's family. I haven't seen a drama of this, but I assume it is quite pitiful, with Lavinia being fed since she has no hands and Titus eating with his one. But the scene doesn't advance the plot at all, and no decision or enlightenment occurs. The scene seems to be there only to derive pathos. The central part of the scene is when Marcus kills a fly, and Titus is enraged of the death of an insect."

    Part of text cited by Virgil follows:

    TITUS ANDRONICUS
    But how, if that fly had a father and mother?
    How would he hang his slender gilded wings,
    And buzz lamenting doings in the air!
    Poor harmless fly,
    That, with his pretty buzzing melody,
    Came here to make us merry! and thou hast
    kill'd him.

    I cannot comment upon this text at this point in terms regarding in what way that it might advance the plot. But I should like to make mention here of two plays: "As You Like It" and "Hamlet". Remember in "As You Like It", Orlando indicates to Ganymed that if Rosalind scorns him, it would kill him. To Which, Rosalind incognito Ganymed offers a response that includes the following sworn oath: "By this hand, it will not kill a fly." In other words, sworn oath swears Rosalind's scorn will not kill a fly. This oath is tested in my view when Phebe writes her very taunting letter meaning Ganymed is a beast, i.e. has murderer's eyes like Leander's eyes or eyes that could do vengeance to her. And there she goes on to say that if Ganymed does not stop scorning her then she, Phebe, will "study how to die". (as in compare, I say to Hero scorned by Leander)

    Now the tragedy of the Prince of Denmark includes the fact that when he scorns Opheila, even though he tells us he merely feigns madness, it kills her spirit and she studies how to die and drowns. In other words, in a sense Ophelia scorned by Hamlet's murderer's eyes becomes as a fly. That is, as you like it made more agreeable sworn oath, "By this hand, it will not kill a fly" is tested and proven not true when Phebe is not killed when scorned by Rosalind as a maid in a man's attire. But when it, or certain young man's frown or scorn is not as you like it made more agreeable it then kills a fly. A fly is a metaphor at some point that may refer to the scorned person whose spirit is killed by something in the scorner's eye (that very something that Phebe, in her response to Silvius, claims does not exist) - (she says that just prior to her encounter with Ganymed). Ophelia in a sense becomes one of them there flies?
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    Registered User rich14285's Avatar
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    P.S., as you like it made more agreeable it will not kill a fly. This is tested as I have said by Phebe scorned by Ganymed. The tragedy of the Prince of Denmark includes that fact that when Ophelia is scorned by the Prince Hamlet, it kills her. As you like "it" made more agreeable, "it" or "your frown" painted upon art's borrowed face will not kill a fly. One may hear this spin as in compare to .... . I should like to suggest that of interest is compare to Hero scorned by Leander in Marlowe's "Hero and Leander". That is to suggest a triad formed by as you like it made more agreeable in compare to as Marlowe's "slack" muse sings of Leander's eyes in the poem "Hero and Leander", the poem that is removed from the public circa May of 1593 for five years, and when printed in 1598, some things are missing, including Hero scorned by Leander, but as Phebe says, "omittance is no quittance"! The triad then is: 1. Some thing that is missing in Marlowe's poem, i.e., Hero scorned by Leander, alluded to by Phebe, in her "taut pour taut", or "very taunting letter". 2. As you like "it" made "more agreeable" - "By this hand, it will not kill a fly." . 3. As the poem was allegedly made "more agreeable" as Six Sestiads, or "Hero and Leander, An Amorous Poem", The Six Sestiads, by Marlowe and Chapman in 1598.
    Last edited by rich14285; 08-27-2009 at 01:08 PM. Reason: to add further commentary
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    Registered User rich14285's Avatar
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    The central part of the scene is when Marcus kills a fly, and Titus is enraged ...

    PPS

    TITUS ANDRONICUS
    But how, if that fly had a father and mother?
    How would he hang his slender gilded wings,
    And buzz lamenting doings in the air!
    Poor harmless fly,
    That, with his pretty buzzing melody,
    Came here to make us merry! and thou hast
    kill'd him.


    Given as you like "it", one's frown made more agreeable will not kill a fly, why not in Titus Andronicus when Marcus kills a fly that fly might represent a named or an unnamed person ? Given Titus Andronicus, the play, was entered into the Register of the Stationers Company on 6 February 1594, and as you like it appears as a response to "Hero and Leander, An Amorous Poem", The Six Sesitads, by Marlowe and Chapman, printed 1598, "Titus Andronicus" is registered closer in time to the death of Marlowe, in May of 1593, and to the removal of Marlowe's "Hero and Leander" from the light of society, and "As You Like It" and "Hamlet", companion pieces that appear after Marlowe's "Hero and Leander" comes to the light of society edited down to 818 lines and revised into six sestiads in 1598. The murder of a fly in the circa 1594 text evolves into sworn oath, "By this hand, it will not kill a fly" in the circa 1599 text. And in "As You Like It" Shakespeare not only cites a line from Marlowe's "Hero and Leander", in Phebe's aside, Phebe's very taunting letter can be heard referencing some thing missing in Marlowe's poem, the one printed in 1598 with some things missing, and Rosalind has lines that include Leander did not go the Hellespont for the love of Hero of Sestos, he went simply to wash, and cramped, and the chroniclers who found that he went for love of Hero are liars etc..
    Last edited by rich14285; 08-28-2009 at 02:34 PM. Reason: PPS
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