Home > Slide Shows/Photo Galleries > Rape, Mutilation, and Cannibalism — Shakespeare Style

Rape, Mutilation, and Cannibalism — Shakespeare Style

“The barbarity of the spectacles, and the general massacre which are here exhibited, can scarcely be conceived tolerable to any audience.”

These are the words of Samuel Johnson, one of Shakespeare’s most brilliant admirers, regarding Shakespeare’s most infamous play, Titus Andronicus. Let us rundown the atrocities featured in the play: human sacrifice, filicide, a whole lot of murder, gang rape, dismemberment of the hands and slicing of the tongue, two accounts of beheading, and finally — the play’s pièce de résistance — cannibalism. One very interesting thing about staging (or filming) Titus Andronicus is how theater (or film) artists choose to translate Shakespeare’s violence into shocking and disturbing, yet still aesthetically appealing, ways.



1. http://xahlee.org/Periodic_dosage_dir/skina/titus.html
2. http://meredithries.wordpress.com/2012/05/24/let-them-eat-cake-a-post-about-pie/
3. http://meredithries.wordpress.com/2012/05/24/let-them-eat-cake-a-post-about-pie/
4. http://wfpl.org/post/walden-theatre-students-get-bloody-titus-andronicus
5. http://assortedbuffery.blogspot.com/2012/04/feature-shakespeares-unsung-heroes.html
6. http://xahlee.org/Periodic_dosage_dir/skina/titus.html
7. http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2006/oct/31/theatre1
8. http://www.shakespeareances.com/willpower/onstage/Titus-02-ASC09.html
9. http://www.sfgate.com/performance/article/Titus-Andronicus-awash-in-fake-blood-2367129.php#photo-1890604
10. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Lavinia_-_Ninagawa_production.jpg
11. http://www.titusandronicus.com/tawsite3.htm
12. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1520196/Not-for-the-fainthearted.html
13. http://wondroustrange.tumblr.com/

  1. October 7, 2012 at 9:50 pm

    I truly found this slide show both gruesome and interesting. Amidst all the required Shakespearean literature since I set foot on this Earth, this is the first time I have encountered “Titus Andronicus”.
    Anyway, I cannot really say that it is “aesthetically appealing” because it does portray great violence. However, I do agree that the aesthetics are quite artistic. It’s also interesting how the director in the 1999 Taymor film added twigs or sticks. It’s horrifying, yet effective in conveying the extreme tragedy of the play.

  2. October 8, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    It is very interesting how directors choose to present scenes like these. It is,in my opinion, very artistic, whether he chooses to shower everyone in blood or to choose different symbolisms. Scenes like this should never be down-played. I guess you just need a strong stomach to be able to appreciate scenes like this.

  3. October 8, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    2 things;
    a) what could a more comedic and modern version of this play be like?
    b) i wonder if sweeney todd got any inspiration from this play.

  4. October 8, 2012 at 8:54 pm

    Violence is violence, but violence in art is exceptionally intriguing. What interests me most about your post is how the directors tackle this gruesome portrayal – and their results thus range from tame to really disturbing. In addition to that, another interesting aspect of it would be the reaction from the audience; because I bet my bottom dollar that these portrayal of violence receive a wide range of reaction. It’s fun to see the interplay between the spectrum of these portrayals and reactions.

  5. October 10, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    Of all the things to focus on, in Shakespeare’s works, you chose death. I have to say, it is an interesting topic to delve on and those who appreciate macabre art would definitely love how you’ve highlighted Titus Andronicus and its dark elements.

  6. kurtjah
    October 14, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    Way to go with the trans-national/geographical representations of violence in performed pieces of Titus Andronicus; these possibly reflect the collective subjectivities of the respective cultures of the companies performing. An interesting question for a reading of Titus Andronicus would be the reinterrogation of the socially-disturbing acts of violence as artifacts of the past, setting aside the initially elicited punitive feelings with a moral logic, towards a reimagining of the politics of today due to the absences of blood and flesh in the modern communal view of government punitive measures. Whereas kings of old punished traitors spectacularly with showcases of blood and gore, today people fear the law not for their own flesh but for their lack of access to liberty [read: private property and opportunities at neo-liberal growth]. First reaction against physical violence aside, isn’t it more terrifying that like in a theatrical production, the norm now is to fear what can not be seen more than what can?

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