Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Titus Andronicus

(403,1) It is observable, that this play is printed in the quarto of 1611, with exactness equal to that of the other books of those times. The first edition was probably corrected by the author, so that here is very little room for conjecture or emendation; and accordingly none of the editors have much molested this piece with officious criticism.

I.i.70 (406,2) Hail, Rome, victorious in thy mourning weeds!] [W: my] Thy is as well as my. We may suppose the Romans in a grateful ceremony, meeting the dead sons of Andronicus with mourning habits.

I.i.77 (407,3) Thou great defender of this Capitol] Jupiter, to whom the Capitol was sacred.

I.i.168 (410,5) And fame's eternal date for virtue's praise!] [W: In] To live in fame's date is, if an allowable, yet a harsh expression. To outlive an eternal date, is, though not philosophical, yet poetical sense. He wishes that her life may be longer than his, and her praise longer than fame.

I.i.309 (414,6) changing piece] Spoken of Lavinia. Piece was then, as it is now, used personally as a word of contempt.

II.i (421,8) In the quarto, the direction is, Manet Aaron, and he is before made to enter with Tamora, though he says nothing. This scene ought to continue the first act.

II.i.9 (421,9) So Tamora--/Upon her wit doth earthly honour wait] [W: her will] I think wit, for which she is eminent in the drama, is right.

II.i.116 (425,2) by kind] That is, by nature, which is the old signification of kind.

II.ii (425,3) Changes to a Forest] The division of this play into acts, which was first made by the editors in 1623, is improper. There is here an interval of action, and here the second act ought to have begun.

II.iii.8 (427,6)

And so repose, sweet gold, for their unrest, That have their alms out of the empress' chest]

This is obscure. It seems to mean only, that they who are to come at this gold of the empress are to suffer by it.

II.iii.72 (430,9) swarth Cimmerian] Swarth is black. The Moor is called Cimmerien, from the affinity of blackness to darkness.

II.iii.85 (430,1)

Bas. The king, my brother, shall have note of this. Lav. Ay, for these slips have made him noted long]

He had yet been married but one night.

II.iii.104 (431,2) Should straight fall mad, or else die suddenly] This is said in fabulous physiology, of those that hear the groan of the mandrake torn up.

II.iii.126 (432,3) And with that painted hope she braves your mightiness] [W: cope] Painted hope is only specious hope, or ground of confidence more plausible than solid.

II.iii.227 (435,4) A precious ring, that lightens all the hole] There is supposed to be a gem called a carbuncle, which emits not reflected but native light. Mr. Boyle believes the reality of its existence.

II.iv.13 (438,5) If I do dream, 'would all my wealth would wake me'] If this be a dream, I would give all my possessions to be delivered from it by waking.

III.i.91 (443,8) It was my deer] The play upon deer and dear has been used by Waller, who calls a lady's girdle, The pale that held my lovely deer.

III.i.216 (447,1) And do not break into these deep extremes] [We should read, instead of this nonsense,


i.e. extremes caused by excessive sorrow. But Mr. Theobald, on his own authority, alters it to deep, without notice given. WARB.] It is deep in the old quarto of 1611, (rev. 1778, VIII, 510, 8)

III.ii (450,2) An apartment in Titus's house] This scene, which does not contribute any thing to the action, yet seems to have the same author with the rest, is omitted in the quarto of 1611, but found in the folio of 1623.

III.ii.45 (452,3) by still practice] By constant or continual practice.

IV.i.129 (458,6) Revenge the heavens] It should be,

Revenge, ye Heavens!--

Ye was by the transcriber taken for y'e, the.

IV.ii.85 (461,7) I'll broach the tadpole] A broach is a spit. I'll spit the tadpole.

IV.ii.99 (462,8) Coal-black is better than another hue,/ In that it seems to bear another hue] We may better read, In that it scorns to bear another hue.

IV.iii.88 (466,1) Yet wrung with wrongs] To wring a horse is to press or strain his back.

IV.iv.90 (472,4) With words more sweet, and yet more dangerous,/ Than baits to fish, or honey-stalks to sheep] Honey-stalks are clover-flowers, which contain a sweet juice. It is common for cattle to over-charge themselves with clover, and die.

V.i.102 (476,7) As true a dog, as ever fought at head] An allusion to bull-dogs, whose generosity and courage are always shown by meeting the bull in front, and seizing his nose.

V.ii.189 (484,1) And of the paste a coffin will I rear] A coffin is the term of art for the cavity of a raised pye.

V.iii.19 (486,2) break the parley] That is, begin the parley. We yet say, he breaks his mind.

(492) General Observation. All the editors and critics agree with Mr. Theobald in supposing this play spurious. I see no reason for differing from them; for the colour of the stile is wholly different from that of the other plays, and there is an attempt at regular versification, and artificial closes, not always inelegant, yet seldom pleasing. The barbarity of the spectacles, and the general massacre, which are here exhibited, can scarcely be conceived tolerable to any audience; yet we are told by Jonson, that they were not only borne, but praised. That Shakespeare wrote any part, though Theobald declares it incontestible, I see no reason for believing.

The testimony produced at the beginning of this play, by which it is ascribed to Shakespeare, is by no means equal to the argument against its authenticity, arising from the total difference of conduct, language, and sentiments, by which it stands apart from all the rest. Meeres had probably no other evidence than that of a title-page, which, though in our time it be sufficient, was then of no great authority; for all the plays which were rejected by the first collectors of Shakespeare's works, and admitted in later editions, and again rejected by the critical editors, had Shakespeare's name on the title, as we must suppose, by the fraudulence of the printers, who, while there were yet no gazettes, nor advertisements, nor any means of circulating literary intelligence, could usurp at pleasure any celebrated name. Nor had Shakespeare any interest in detecting the imposture, as none of his fame or profit was produced by the press.

The chronology of this play does not prove it not to be Shakespeare's. If it had been written twenty-five years, in 1614, it might have been written when Shakespeare was twenty-five years old. When he left Warwickshire I know not, but at the age of twenty-five it was rather too late to fly for deer-stealing.

Ravenscroft, who in the reign of Charles II, revised this play, and restored it to the stage, tells us, in his preface, from a theatrical tradition, I suppose, which in his time might be of sufficient authority, that this play was touched in different parts by Shakespeare, but written by some other poet. I do not find Shakespeare's touches very discernible, (see 1765, VI, 364) (rev. 1778, VIII, 559)

Samuel Johnson

Sorry, no summary available yet.