Titus (Question 13) Tragedy or Dark Comedy: what is comic about Titus?
Titus Andronicus is one of Shakespeare’s plays dedicated to the theme of tragedy. Unlike other tragedies done by Shakespeare’s plays, Titus Andronicus is underrated taking a back stage in regard to the theme of tragedy. The story is based on the hatred of the Romans and the Goths who do not see eye to eye. Titus Andronicus is on the side of the Romans who have the upper hand due to the defeat of the Goths in the previous war (Smith, p. 316). He is seen as a hero by his Roman community making him one of the more significant persons in the community. Titus manages to get some captives who belong to the Goths. Amongst his captives are the queen, her lover and her three sons who are at the mercy of Titus. It is evident that Titus bears a considerable amount of hatred for the Goths due to the death of his sons. This brings out the vulnerability of Titus who is placed in a position of deep grief (Williamson, Person, Lawrence, Trudeau, and Stephen, p. 351).
How can it be difficult to distinguish between tragedy and comedy?
As stated earlier, the play is based on the war between two opposing sides. This creates provision of bloodshed due to the number of wars that are displayed in the book. One of the themes of the play is the quest for revenge. Most of the characters have lost loved ones due to the war. This motivates them to seek revenge on their enemies. This in turn, becomes the main cause of the gruesome murder, torture and hatred. These events clearly bring out the tragedies that all the characters experience at the hands of their enemies. Apart from the amount of cannibalism that is experienced in the play, the play portrays other forms of torture. This is seen in the rape of Lavinia’s which is preceded by her mutilation. These events clearly show the amount of tragedy that the members of both face as a result of the war. Despite this, the play is able to display an immense amount of satirist qualities. This is however, not the ordinary comedy that an audience is accustomed. The comedy is mostly dark in nature making it different from the traditional satire. Shakespeare incorporates comedy with violence making some of the situations laughable. One of the displays of dark humor in the play is seen when Aaron offers an exchange for one of Titus’s hands for his two sons. The fact that Aaron chooses to make light of this rather serious situation makes the audience diverge from the tragedy. Aaron has no problem asking for a piece of Titus’s body. This scenario is not a pleasant sight making the situation unrealistic (Taymor, Julie, Shakespeare. p, 236).
The story seeks to deflect from the moral standpoint which is often the priority in most of Shakespeare’s plays. Some of the scenarios cannot be imagined due to the level of pain that they entail. The author brings this out in the scene of Lavinia’s rape where a detailed description is given about the occurrence. The fact that there is no regard for the feelings of the audience creates the impression that anything goes (Holland, p. 254).
Why is the line sometimes so blurred?
The blend between tragedy and comedy is not strange to the world of literature. This characteristic creates a combination that gives the play a distinct theme. The two factors are completely opposite due to the qualities that both cases entail. Tragedy evokes sadness in an individual while comedy accounts for the opposite. When the two factors are merged, one begins to see the similarities between the two. This bridges the gap between the tragedy and comedy making them one and the same.
What are the funny moments in Lear, and what purpose do they serve?
King Lear is the king of burgundy and has three daughters who have the claim to his throne. In his quest to determine the inheritance of his daughters, he puts them to a test to find out who loves him the most. This act shows the kings witty character which is not ideal for a man of his position (Holland, p. 251). At this time, the fate of his kingdom is not determined due to the lack of a definite heir. King Lear has already divided his property amongst his three daughters although they have no idea. Despite this, he still uses his wit to figure out if he made the right choice. A more serious king would approach this situation with in a different manner. This makes the kings character unique in that the king makes personal the determination of an heir (Gordin, Gay and Glazer, p.164).
The king is known to through tantrums which are expected of a small brat. Shakespeare uses comedy to discredit the throne of the king. A king is a symbol of solidarity for the members of his community. King Lear’s choice to make his daughters contest against each other brings a division in the kingdom. His two elder daughters immediately notice the need to gain their fathers approval by telling him what he wants to hear. Cornelia on the other hand, expresses herself differently stating that she cannot express the love she has for the king through words. This makes the king overreact by disowning her and taking away her inheritance. King Lear clearly did not understand the intentions of his daughter. This showcases his naivety in that he did not understand the intensions of his daughter (Barber, p. 35).
King Lear’s character is different from Shakespeare’s other influential leaders. He uses his kingdom as a playground placing the lives of the society at risk. This is a significant part of his character which serves the purpose of the author whose aim is to remove the seriousness that comes with leadership (Downs, p. 245).
In conclusion, Tragedy is a defined by sadness, misery and suffering. Shakespeare manages to bring out tragedy through the events that take place in Titus Andronicus. One of the factors that make the play stand out is the incorporation of comedy in the theme. This is not the regular comedy that the audience knows. The comedy consists of selfish acts that remove the intended tragedy form the play. Combining both tragedy and satire gives the book a unique plot making the audience approach the story differently. King Lear is used in the play to disregard the traditional role of a king. He does not display the character traits that are expected of him in terms of leadership. This humor acts as one of the causes of the tragedy that befalls the kingdom making a connection between tragedy and comedy
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Barber, C L. Shakespeare’s Comedy: A Study of Drama, Form and Its Relation to Society. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, 2011. Print.
Gordin, Jacob, Ruth Gay, and Sophie Glazer. The Jewish King Lear: A Comedy in America. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007. Print.
Holland, Peter. King Lear and Its Afterlife. Cambridge [u.a.: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2002. Print.
Smith, Emma. Shakespeare’s Comedies. Malden, Mass. [u.a.: Blackwell, 2004. Print.
Taymor, Julie, and William Shakespeare. Titus: The Illustrated Screenplay. New York: Newmarket Press, 2000. Print.
Williamson, Sandra L, James E. Person, Lawrence J. Trudeau, and Stephen B. Barnard. Shakespearean Criticism: Volume 11, William Shakespeare’s Plays and Poetry. Detroit: Gale Research, Inc, 2000. Print.