Welcome back Brawlers to the Bard Brawl! I promised you blood so here it is: the Bard Brawl’s eleventh play is Titus Andronicus. Heads will roll, blood will flow and folks will be baked into a pie.
It’s going to be an awesome, late Roman bloodbath.
This play is an early one, probably the first tragedy which Shakespeare wrote, and in some ways it’s kind of a hot mess (pun intended) with the story serving only as an excuse for violence, sex and gore. Think Evil Dead II but with Romans. Or, you know, HBO’s Rome.
Even though it’s the earliest of Shakespeare’s Roman plays, it actually is the one which takes places the latest in Rome’s history. It’s set late in Rome’s history, about a century before the fall of Rome.
Only one scene in act I but it’s a little tough to follow because so much stuff happens that you don’t have time to understand what the hell is going on or why the heck we should care. (My money is that if Shakespeare had a do-over, this would be broken up into several scenes over 2 acts or so so we’d really get the full effect. Or he might mash it up with other historical periods like Julie Taymor did in her cleverly titled film, Titus. Whatever.)
In any event, here goes.
The Emperor just croaked so naturally his two sons Saturnius and Bassianus are trying to get the support of the masses to take over the job. Things look lie they’re about to get ugly but Titus Andronicus shows with his war prisoners in tow. Titus Andronicus is a badass general whose just finished kicking the crap out of the Goths with his sons but unfortunately he lost one of his sons during the campaign. They’ve brought his body home to be buried in the family’s ancestral crypt.
To fend off any angry ghosts which they might awaken by opening up the crypt (as anyone knows), they’ll need to sacrifice the most important prisoner they’ve captured which in this case happens to be Alarbus, the Queen of the Goths’ eldest son. Tamora (that’s the queen) asks Titus to spare her son but he tosses him over to his sons Lucius, Quintus, Martius and Mutius who drag him off-stage to chop him up and throw him on the sacrificial pyre
Titus is about to lower the coffin down when Lavinia, the tribunes, Saturnius and Bassianus show up. Marcus Andronicus (a tribune who happens to be Titus’ brother) suggests that instead of either Bassianus or Saturnius getting the crown, Titus should get it.
Shit’s about to go down again between Bassianus and Saturninus’s supporters but Titus refuses the crown and, seeing as he’s the most popular guy in Rome right now, he names Saturninus Emperor with the support of pretty much everyone.
First order of business for a new Emperor of course is to pick out a wife so he picks out Lavinia. Titus’ daughter. And as soon as that’s agreed, Saturninus turns around and puts the moves on Tamora. But no one really notices what’s going on apparently because Bassianus is busy telling Titus that ‘he loves her more’ and the Emperor should’t have her.
Titus’ sons back Bassianus and while trying to stop them from running off with Lavinia, Titus stabs and kills his son Mutius. And instead of backing Titus, Saturninus turns on him, insults his family and accuses them of having publicly insulted him because they wouldn’t make Lavinia stick around and marry him. (Nevermind the fact that he’s probably got a hand up Tamora’s shirt the whole time.)
But hey, since he’s been dissed, he figures he may as well hook up with Tamora on the up-and-up.
So everyone leaves for a bit and Titus is standing there with another dead son at his feet but he’s so pissed at this one that he refuses to bury him in the family plot. His sons and brother plead with him and he eventually agrees to let them bury him.
Oh, but the scene isn’t finished yet! Nope.
At this point, everyone comes back on-stage: Saturninus, Bassianus, Lavinia, Tamora and her sons Demetrius and Chiron, some Moorish guy named Aaron who hasn’t said a word and ‘others.’ Seems that Bassianus will get his Lavinia in the end but Saturninus isn’t too happy about it, and neither is Titus. Tamora finally speaks up and backs Titus, though she whispers to Saturninus that’s she’s just being politically savvy. Titus is still too popular with the people to mess with and he’s been Emperor for about 5 minutes so he should probably take it easy.
So Tamora convinces everyone to kiss and make up and Saturninus invites Bassianus and Lavinia to get married on the same day they do. (Must be so they can save money on catering.)
In case you need a little help with the characters, here are the most important ones:
- Titus Andronicus: A general who kill his son in a fight over who his daughter Lavinia will marry.
- Lucius, Quintus, Martius: Titus’ sons (the ones who aren’t dead by the end of act 1 anyhow)
- Livinia: Titus’ daughter. She must be the only good-looking woman in Rome because just about evety guy in the play want to get with her. She wants to marry Bassianus.
- Saturninus: The emperor who was rejected by Lavinia. Hates Titus and his sons for helping her get out of marrying him..
- Tamora: Was the Queen of the Goths, now she’s Saturninus’ wife. Good for her.
- Demetrius and Chiron: Tamora’s sons. Yup, they have it bad for Lavinia too.
- Bassianus: Saturninus’ brother who wants to marry Lavinia.
- Aaron: Tamora’s “friend with benefits.” He’s not too happy about the new arrangement. You’ll see.
So the next scene will be a happy wedding scene, right? With meat pies for all, I hope so.
This week, the lord of St. Leonard Mark Della Posta returns with acclaim to read sonnet 41.
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