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To look at the performance history of Titus Andronicus is to confront some provocative questions such as why has this play posed severe problems for generations of readers, critics, editors, actors, directors, and playgoers. The book examines twelve major theatrical productions and one film, on the play, that appeared in the years 1989-2009. It begins with Edward Ravenscroft's version that superseded Shakespeare's script. Peter Brook chose to stylise or formalise many moments, and Deborah Warner's production worked with no cutting of the script. Every staging of Titus elicits comments about the daunting nature of the script. The book presents Irving Wardle's reactions on Trevor Nunn's 1972 rendition, and Stanley Wells's review of the Swan production. The densest concentration of such problems and anomalies, as perceived by today's directors, critics, and editors, comes in the final scene. The productions that opened in 1989, directed by Jeannette Lambermont, Daniel Mesguich, and Michael Maggio, cut and rearranged the text liberally, often in an attempt to avoid the laughter. During the period 1989-99, three major European directors, Peter Stein, Silviu Purcarete, and Gregory Doran, focused their attention on the ways in which the play can be made to comment on specific contemporary affairs. Julie Taymor's venture in 1994 combined stylization with the 'visceral reality' as a means to keep spectators off balance and continuously sensitive to the shocking brutality of the play's events. The book ends by discussing the efforts of Yukio Ninagaw, Bill Alexander, Gale Edwards, Richard Rose, and Lucy Bailey.

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Michael D. Friedman and Alan Dessen

culture, in its historical moment, as distinct from the way culture is formed and meanings are generated in other historical periods, including the present’ (154). What Dessen’s approach therefore lacks is a full appreciation of the ways in which meaning is also created within a contemporary ideological framework, shaped by the form and pressure of the moment of its production. For Dessen, the stage history of Titus Andronicus culminated in Deborah Warner’s 1987 RSC production, which ‘trusted’ the script not

in Titus Andronicus
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Looking toward the future
Michael D. Friedman and Alan Dessen

In the preceding pages, I have used the name ‘Shakespeare’ as a convenient shorthand for the creative force behind the text of Titus Andronicus ; however, contemporary critical developments suggest that the term is, in fact, somewhat misleading. Post-Restoration editors, reacting to the play’s violent horrors and stylistic shortcomings tended to deny the existence of Shakespeare’s hand in the tragedy entirely. However, twentieth-century editors, while acknowledging the arguments against Shakespeare

in Titus Andronicus
Michael D. Friedman and Alan Dessen

of Titus Andronicus’ (see p. 28 ). Seale had set his production in the 1940s and reconceived the war between the Romans and the Goths as the conflict between the Fascists and the Allies during the Second World War. Seale’s closely cropped Saturninus resembled Benito Mussolini, surrounded by black-shirted supporters, and Titus appeared as a Prussian military officer, his sons sporting Nazi uniforms and swastikas. The director chose this setting to remind spectators how the horrors of the mid-twentieth century had

in Titus Andronicus
Michael D. Friedman and Alan Dessen

Although the modern stage history of Titus Andronicus starts in 1955, a selective account of the fortunes of this play on stage between the 1590s and the 1950s can be revealing. According to the accepted chronology, the first performances of Titus took place in the early 1590s, perhaps the late 1580s. The play was first published in a 1594 quarto (that survives in a unique copy not discovered until 1904); subsequent quarto editions appeared in 1600 and 1611. The version printed in the First Folio of

in Titus Andronicus
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The Problem
Michael D. Friedman and Alan Dessen

To offer a book-length study of Titus Andronicus is to risk derision. For centuries, bardolaters have either ignored the play or denied ‘their’ Shakespeare could have written it. Even sympathetic critics begin their essays or chapters with apologies or with a sampling of the derisive and highly quotable comments of their predecessors. Those who do see merit and potential in this play must therefore start in a defensive posture so as to confront an initial disbelief in a significant part of their audience

in Titus Andronicus
Michael D. Friedman and Alan Dessen

During the years immediately following Deborah Warner’s acclaimed 1987 RSC production, succeeding directors of Titus Andronicus declined to follow her example of playing an uncut script and making the most of the text’s opportunities for dark comedy. Three of the four productions that opened in 1989 (directed by Jeannette Lambermont, Daniel Mesguich, and Michael Maggio) cut and rearranged the text liberally, often in an attempt to avoid the laughter that Warner had welcomed. Emulating a more distant

in Titus Andronicus
Michael D. Friedman and Alan Dessen

During the decade following the release of Julie Taymor’s film, at least one major stage production of Titus Andronicus represented each of the four lines of descent in the play’s performance history. Yukio Ninagawa’s Japanese production exhibited the influence of Peter Brook’s stylised technique, while both Bill Alexander, for the RSC, and Gale Edwards, for the Shakespeare Theatre of Washington, DC, followed the realistic example set by Jane Howell. Richard Rose’s Stratford, Ontario production, set in

in Titus Andronicus
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1994 and 1999
Michael D. Friedman and Alan Dessen

Julie Taymor first directed Titus Andronicus with Theatre for a New Audience at St Clement’s Church in New York City from 3 to 27 March 1994, a staging that cemented her reputation as a leading Shakespearean director. During an interview included on the DVD version of the film Titus (1999), Taymor recalled that she was offered the opportunity to direct the play based upon her previous experience in creating stylised theatrical depictions of violence; yet, she quickly realised that such an approach would

in Titus Andronicus
Michael D. Friedman and Alan Dessen

Douglas Seale at Baltimore’s Center Stage) that ‘used modern dress and weapons in an effort to draw positive and obvious parallels between the violence and wholesale murder of our times and the time of Titus Andronicus’. But, for Freedman, that approach ‘failed by also bringing into play our sense of reality in terms of detail and literal time structure’. To introduce ‘realism’, he argues, is to introduce some damaging questions: ‘How could Lavinia suffer such loss of blood and still live?’ or ‘Why doesn’t Marcus

in Titus Andronicus