William Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus Essay

3112 Words 13 Pages
William Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus

Titus transforms into a character of carnival in Shakespeare’s “Titus Andronicus.” Carnival is a concept described by Michael Bristol in his paper “Funeral Bak’d-Meats.” In the paper, Bristol describes carnival as a period before the beginning Lent in early modern Europe, characterized by “hedonistic excess and transgression.” (Bristol 351) Carnival characters place special emphasis on food, disguise and a reversal of the social order or “uncrowning.” The lower classes usually celebrate Carnival and they dismiss rules or decorum. Carnival celebrates the body and practical issues of daily “production and reproduction,” rejecting official culture. Carnivalesque behavior includes using disguises,
…show more content…
And there is something dark about Rome when Titus enters in the opening scene. It’s nighttime. Titus is in the dark—literally and figuratively—for the first two scenes. Titus comes home unaware of the corruption that he will face. The coliseum where he speaks proudly of sacrifice and heroism is old and worn down. There is cheering, but there is no crowd present, making the cheering sound artificial as if it were being played through a loudspeaker to make up for a public that is too disillusioned or too desperate to care. (Taymor 06:48:28)

Even without the crowd, Titus’s behavior in the coliseum expresses authority. His voice echoes forcefully. He speaks the language of power—patriotism, bravery and religious ritual. Titus does not equivocate. At the beginning of the play, Titus reacts as if problems are black and white. When Mutius dishonors Titus by defending his brother and sister, Titus simply kills him. He asks Mutius right before killing him, “Barr’st me my way in Rome?” as if Titus was most offended by Mutius’s attempt to control his power in Rome. (1.1.295) He calls his other sons traitors for defending Lavinia.

Stability, social class and honor are most important for Titus. Unlike carnival, which espouses creativity and new ideas, Titus is bound to ritual and rules. It is how he justifies sacrificing Tamora’s eldest son and it is the reason he
Open Document