In what way might Titus Andronicus have been satisfying and pleasurable to an Elizabethan audience?

Essay by bentoss April 2002

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The main satisfaction of an Elizabethan audience would be that they could relate to the violence on stage. They themselves were probably very much used to pubic executions and bear baiting. The acts that, to us, are gory an horrific, could have been a reality to a majority of the audience:

"[He is] to be hanged until he were half dead, his members cut-off, his bowels to be cast into the fire, his head to be cut off, his quarters to be divided into four several parts and to be bestowed in four several places." (The Trial of Philip Howard, 1589)

Titus Andronicus contains historical ideas and motions. Thos is pleasurable for any audience for, as Henry Peacham said:

"what can be more be made wise by their example who have trod the path of error and danger before us?" (Arden Shakespeare (Titus Andronicus) Introduction p.16)

In act V, scene 2, enjoyment is gained in the form of plot irony: Tamora tells the audience what is going to happen before it happens and Titus is the only one who does not know.

This is fulfilling because of its simplistic plotting. The play is full of simplistic plotting, with a certain childish naïveté about it; but, with about 60% of the characters dying, it is about murder and revenge.

When Titus answers the calls of Tamora at his door, he does not believe her disguise as Revenge from Hell. Titus, continuing with the childish theme, has spoiled her game. An ironic gratification is taken from Tamora's discomfort and her son's disguises of Rape and Murder. She tries to help him with the forces that let to his ruin.

The audience experiences a sadistic pleasure when Titus slits the throats of Tamora's sons. The Elizabethans were familiar with sadistic pleasure, as...