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Marquardt, Anne-Kathrin:

The Spectacle of Violence in Julie Taymor‘s TITUS. Ethics and Aesthetics


2010, [= Hochschulschriften, Bd. 31], 141 S., ISBN 978-3-89626-932-4, 22,80 EUR


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Can the son’s eye behold his father bleed?
There’s meed for meed, death for a deadly deed.

Despite its gruesome catalogue of atrocities, Shakespeare’s violent revenge tragedy Titus Andronicus has been performed successfully all over the world. Julie Taymor, the acclaimed director of the film Frida, adapted it for the screen in 1999. Her film Titus draws on numerous cultural and iconographic references to create a complex network of meanings, thus exploring violence from a great variety of perspectives. Giving its spectators food for thought, it plays with the thin line between beautifying and denouncing the barbarous deeds in the text. The purpose of this work is to lay bare the mechanisms by which the film dissects how we experience, perpetrate and look at violence. Without losing sight of the ethical implications, I wish to focus on and explore the aesthetics of the violent spectacle.

The work was awarded the Prize for the Master’s Dissertation of the French Shakespeare Society.





Acknowledgements 7

Introduction 9

Chapter One
Ritual and Realism: Exploring Violence? 17
Violence in Titus: contexts 18
Shakespeare and the revenge tragedy 18
Stylisation or realism: Titus on stage in the 20th century 25
Cinema and violence 32
The human body as the object of violence 38
An abstract approach to the body: ritualised violence 38
The reality of bloodshed 46
Comedy as an iconoclastic force 51

Chapter Two
The Rape of Lavinia: a Female Gaze on Violence? 57
Shakespeare’s Lavinia 59
The meaning of ‘rape’: woman as commodity 59
The rape of a woman or the dishonour of a family? 67
The characterisation of Lavinia: text vs performance 75
Family ties: individual vs archetype 75
Lavinia cut out: theatre vs film 81
Representing rape 85
Ancient and modern clichés of femininity 85
Empathy and violation 91

Chapter Three
Creating a Sense of Responsibility: a Way Out of Violence? 99
A journey from innocence to responsibility? 101
Young Lucius as a character within the diegesis 101
Young Lucius as an intellectual construct 104
Spectators within and outside of the fiction 107
Violence as spectacle 107
Teaching us how to look 113
Young Lucius as a director 116
Conjuring up a story of violence 116
Levels of fiction and reality 120
The final shot 123
The politics of renewal 123
A happy end? 126

Conclusion 133

Bibliography 135

Abstract 139

About the Author 141