Toward a Poetic Minimalism of Violence: On Tang Shu-Wing's Titus Andronicus 2.0

By Choy, Howard Y. F. | Asian Theatre Journal, Spring 2011 | Go to article overview

Toward a Poetic Minimalism of Violence: On Tang Shu-Wing's Titus Andronicus 2.0


Choy, Howard Y. F., Asian Theatre Journal


To present the most violent situation, one needs to adopt the calmest way....

--Tang Shu-wing (2004: 134)

From Rome to Asia: Shakespeare in Violence

Shakespeare's most modern insight into the hellish darkness of humankind's inhumanity is undoubtedly his invention of violence, be it expressed as war, vengeance, murder, rape, or any other form of cruelty and hatred. The questions left behind by the dramatist are: which dramatic language is the most appropriate for presenting violence to today's audience--mimetic realism, stylized formalism, parodistic absurdism, or some other approach? Is violence actable? Are victims of violence representable? The issue of representation is both ethical and aesthetical. And in the global context of geodramatics, between "Western" and "Eastern" productions, what kind of theatrical presentation can lead to an effective societal representation of violence? How can Asian theatre traditions enrich the exploration of the problematics of artistic (re)presentation of violence? Titus Andronicus, the most violent play attributed to Shakespeare, shows us how violence exercises its mighty power through human desires. It is a breathtaking thrill that has reemerged in recent decades to require us to rethink the present human condition in the world of violence. When the ancient Roman story was retold by Taiwanese, Japanese, and Hong Kong theatricians in the new millennium, Shakespeare was violently reinterpreted in Asia. This article will first review six stage and filmic productions to discuss the problematics of different approaches to this play and then focus on the most recent Hong Kong production that effectively deals with the staging of violence in the age of commercial reproduction.

Titus Andronicus, believed to be Shakespeare's earliest tragedy and composed around 1593, relates the family feud between Titus Andronicus, a fictional Roman general, and Tamora, the captive Goth Queen. The audience is confronted with cruelty in the very first scene when Lucius, one of the four surviving sons of Titus, lops off the limbs of Tamora's oldest son and incinerates his entrails as sacrifice for Lucius's twenty-one brothers who died in the decade-long war against the Goths, though the rites are carried out offstage. To avenge her oldest son, Tamora marries Saturninus, the new emperor of Rome, and adopts the stratagem designed by her slave-lover Aaron the Moor. A conspiracy is formed to murder Saturninus's younger brother; ravish his wife, Lavinia, Titus's only daughter; and incriminate Titus's sons. After the gang rape right on top of her husband's dead body, Lavinia's tongue is cut out and her hands are chopped off, so that she can neither speak nor write to reveal the crime committed by Tamora's two remaining sons. Aaron then hews Titus's hand as a ransom for his two sons' lives but returns to him only their severed heads. Lucius is banished, but he seizes the opportunity to instigate and lead the Goths in waging a vengeful war against Rome. The brutal tale climaxes with a cannibal banquet, at which Titus serves Tamora cakes baked with the flesh of her sons before stabbing her and then himself being slain by the emperor, who in turn is assassinated by Lucius. Lucius thereupon becomes Rome's new ruler, who orders Aaron to be starved unto death.

With thirteen characters killed onstage, massacre is the prime spectacle of Titus. Violence characterizes not only the action but also the language of the revenge genre, as exemplified in the following monologue of Titus before Tamora's sons:

   You know your mother means to feast with me,
   And calls herself Revenge and thinks me mad.
   Hark, villains, I will grind your bones to dust,
   And with your blood and it I'll make a paste,
   And of the paste a coffin I will rear,
   And make two pasties of your shameful heads,
   And bid that strumpet, your unhallowed dam,
   Like to the earth swallow her own increase. … 

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Toward a Poetic Minimalism of Violence: On Tang Shu-Wing's Titus Andronicus 2.0
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.