Gothic Shakespeare – Titus Andronicus

Don’t ever tell me that the great Bard himself didn’t know Gothic when he saw it. This play – one of my favourites and still more than capable of shocking a modern audience, which isn’t bad given that it’s about 400 years old – is about as Gothic as they come. It’s got real Goths in it, for a start. I think the only one that really comes close is Macbeth, and that’s mainly because it’s got witches in it.

What does surprise me is how an audience who happily watch programmes like Game of Thrones – which is actually a really good example – turn up at the theatre and then can’t cope with the storyline. Yes, it’s brutal and violent and (in a couple of places) really gory, but then so is Game of Thrones. There are two episodes in the play (which I will discuss in detail in future posts) which stand out but on the whole, I expect George R R Martin would not be unfamiliar with this early work of the Bard.

And it is an early work, written around 1592, when Elizabeth I was still the monarch and I suppose Shakespeare was still learning his trade. It’s not a classic tragedy, unlike Macbeth or Hamlet but – as its full title explains – it is a lamentable tragedy. Pretty much everybody dies at the end and the survivors have basically lost everything. It’s pretty bleak but then again, when it was written, I expect quite a few people had other things to worry about, plague being the one that first springs to mind.

I honestly believe that if you like Game of Thrones, give this play a try next time it’s on – or watch the film, starring Anthony Hopkins in the title role. I think you’ll find a lot to enjoy – and even more to talk about afterwards.

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