Shakespeare in the Park
returns to Bend with

Titus Andronicus

August 18th & 19th, 2017


William Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus tells an epic tale of vengeance during a fictionalized fall of the Roman Empire. General and war hero Titus returns to the capitol with a slew of Gothic prisoners to discover that the emperor is dying. The emperor’s replacement falls for the Gothic queen Tamora, starting a complicated affair that entangles all the involved parties. Unbeknownst to the emperor, Tamora is in an affair with Aaron, her slave. Meanwhile, Titus’s family is planning a funeral in honor of his sons that had fallen in the recent battles. In their honor, the remaining sons sacrifice one of Tamora’s sons. Furious, Tamora vows to bring pain to Titus and his descendants. 

Most vile of her plans is a plot devised by Aaron to rape Lavinia, Titus’s only daughter. Lavinia had seen Aaron with Tamora, so to protect her reputation, the secret couple set the plan into action. Two of Tamora’s sons, Demetrius and Chiron, carry out the act, leaving Lavinia maimed and disfigured. In an attempt to rescue her, two of Titus’s three remaining sons are killed. Titus is then tricked into sawing off his own hand in exchange for the release of his sons. He is then shown their heads, sending him into a spiral of madness. Now fearing for the life of his last son, Lucius, Titus sends him off to raise an army to overthrow the emperor. In one of Titus Andronicus’ most iconic scenes, Lavinia, her hands cut off and her tongue ripped out, scrawls out the names of her assailants with a stick held in her mouth. Titus, now aware of the rape of his daughter and the murder of his sons, sets off on a rampage.

The feud between the two families escalates throughout the tragedy; the remaining scenes are filled with bloodshed, treachery, and murder. Arms are lopped off, heads are severed, and Rome is besieged. At one point, Aaron, the villainous slave, swaps his and Tamora’s illegitimate son with a white infant – Aaron is a Moor, and their son inherited his dark skin. In the dramatic final act, Titus murders Tamora, inciting the emperor to kill him in return. Ultimately, Titus’s bloodline is avenged by Lucius, his exiled but forever loyal son. Lucius ends the cycle of retaliation, bringing a tainted peace to the empire. Amidst the treachery and the graphic violence, Titus Andronicus explores the hypocrisy and ironic nature of those in power. The general himself is far from innocent, a fact made evident when he feeds his enemies a meal of their late family members’ remains. Since it is entirely a work of fiction, it is unique among Shakespeare’s Rome-set works. The play is an enthralling mixture of the tragedy, horror, dark comedy, and revenge genres, a combination that made it wildly popular in the century of its release.

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