And lots of it.
During the course of the story, the following happens. Hang in there because it keeps getting worse (which is to say, better).
Roman General vanquishes Goths. Goth Queen begs for son’s life but General stabs him in front of her. Claims it was his “religious duty.” Queen vows revenge. (Who wouldn’t?)
Roman Emperor was suppose to marry General’s daughter, but she runs away with Emperor’s brother with the aid of General’s sons. General feels sons have “betrayed” Rome and, in a fit of rage, stabs one of them, killing him.
Goth Queen marries Roman Emperor instead. During hunting expedition, Goth Queen’s sons murder General’s son-in-law, throws his carcass into a pit and then rapes General’s daughter. To keep her quiet, they cut out her tongue and cut off both of her hands. She spends the remainder of the play with two stumps and bloody clothes.
General’s two sons are framed for the murder of their brother-in-law by Queen’s Henchman and are carted off for execution. Henchman tells General that Emperor will spare son’s life if he chops off his (the General’s) hand. General chops off hand, Henchman takes it away. General spends remainder of play with a stump.
Had enough? Well, too bad. We’re just getting warmed up.
It turns out that the Henchman was lying about the Emperor sparing the General’s sons. The two severed heads are brought in and presented to the General, along with his hand that was needlessly sacrificed. Henchman laughs. General picks up heads of sons, his daughter picks up the severed hand WITH HER TEETH and they sulk off stage, vowing revenge.
Queen delivers baby. Baby is of mixed race. Uh oh! Henchman is black! Nurse that delivers news is strangled and Henchman flees with baby. Eventually, Henchman is captured and is buried up to his chest and left to starve to death. He is unrepentant and says he would do it all over again.
Queen’s sons are captured (don’t ask!). General castrates them (without anesthesia) and slits their throats. Daughter holds a basin IN HER STUMPS and catches draining blood. Blood and ground-up heads are baked into a pie. (You see where this is going, right?)
The next day at a banquet, General asks Emperor if a father should kill his daughter if she has been raped. He replies, “Yes, so she doesn’t have to live with the shame.” General snaps daughter’s neck, killing her instantly. Queen asks recipe for delicious pie she just consumed and is told she ate her sons. General jumps up on table and cuts Queen’s throat. Emperor eviscerates General. General’s lone remaining son stabs Emperor. General’s son becomes new Emperor and first order of business is to have Queen’s body tossed into the wilderness where it can be “devoured by wild beasts.”
Did I leave anybody out? I don’t think so. This is not the latest in the Saw series. It’s Shakespeare! Supposedly. Though attributed to him, many scholars doubt that he actually wrote it. The violence is so graphic and characters so over-the-top that they don’t think it’s his. T.S. Elliot deemed it “THE WORST PLAY EVER WRITTEN.” That’s a bold statement.
The production of Titus Andronicus I saw at the American Globe Theater was well staged and the costumes were pretty cool for such a small production. A few of the principals were good but many in the cast were young whelps just out of acting school and, boy, it showed. What a bunch of hams.