Titus Andronicus, a father’s day at the Globe 2014

2 Jun

 

‘Titus Andronicus’ is a young writer’s play. It is dark in humour, darker in death and violence, rape and vengeance. But ‘Titus’, at its core, is the best of a young, beginning writer. It is passion itself.

 The play opens with this word, ‘passion’. Tamora, the seemingly evil captured Goth queen pleads in ‘passionate’ words for her eldest son’s life. “Stay Roman brethren! Gracious conqueror, victorious Titus, rue the tears I shed, a mother’s’ tears in passion for her son; and if they sons were ever dear to thee, O, think my son to be as dear to me!” In response Titus kills Tamora’s son with words and a sword. These instruments will follow and lead Titus to his own end.

 But no matter, Titus cares not. Why? Because it is Passion that defines Titus. He is as of it as Tamora. Both are formed, moulded and composed by their passions: Titus by his belief in the political state (Rome) to which he has sacrificed ‘five and twenty sons’; Tamara by her belief in her own intensity to love and think. Each is destroyed, not by the other and their desires for revenge, but by their passionate beliefs. It is what they worship and what they are: intensity.

 Titus is Shakespeare’s darkest creation. Othello may call on demons to torture him; Macbeth may choose the wrong robes; Hamlet may enjoy questions more than life; and Cordelia certainly loves too well but Titus? He is empathetic and tender and yet at the same moment, as hard-hearted, hard headed and hard souled as one can be. He is all too sympathetic as well as being all too disgustingly immersed in his self and hate. What does Titus hate?  Anyone, anything, any place that gets in the way of his passion, his worship: his service to Rome. Titus’ picture would not appear on many Father’s Day cards. But he is a father; a father who loves his children but he breathes and lives his work for Rome. She is his ultimate desire, his passion.

 When Titus kills his youngest son who gets in the way of Rome’s service to the new Emperor Titus has chosen, the son’s burial with other his other brothers almost is not allowed. Why? Because Titus values his misguided service of the state of Rome beyond a son’s life. Only Titus’ brother’s Marcus pleads moves him to relent. This is Titus at, as, his hard hard core of service: the idea of state before your child. This is why Tamora’s son, why all sons have to die. Titus is diseased.

Yet, Titus gets worst, more diseased, a leper whose loses flesh and blood; hand and his heart, Lavinia, as the play progresses; as his passion intensifies. At the play close he’s slays his beloved daughter as a mercy and honour killing. He asks the Emperor’s advice before the slaying and follows it as he cradles her to death. This is service. Service till the end and it is fitting and just that the Emperor kills a willing and open armed Titus at play’s end. The state pees rivers of blood on him and his children, his service. Titus drowns in their waters; waters he dams and creates.

 I too am Titus, trapped by passion in my own young man’s play. Dark as Titus I am a bad and weak father. Why? I too believed passionately serving a state, a work place. I choose the wrong embrace.

 But Titus and I do hold and embrace what we slaughter with some tenderness. We seem to love our children, chosen and created. And we do love, to an extent. But we are in passion elsewhere, in service. And then we are slaughtered by it ourselves.  Titus trusts the state; the Emperor he named. He is betrayed; not just by the emperor of Rome but his own desire is to, for passion. We believe that life is to control; to be loved; to be held in the hands and respect of awe, a thing, an idea. We are not held to be held by a person or a child. We recoil at their touch, at Lavinia’s pain. Only we can do the holding. That is why we can give no real mercy to others. In fact we ourselves await a mercy. A state’s mercy. A state’s touch. It will not come.

 Titus does not obtain mercy; nor shall I. He dies without children, no touch, no embrace. He is worst than a Priam. He is in his passion, alone. Titus is all father’s whose passionate love is something they create: ultimately themselves. Only a passionate young man could write the horrors of such a life and see it so unflinchingly, with such black humour. Fathers think they are leading right; they can not see themselves rightly.

 So, this and all Father’s days

 Long live Titus.

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