Listen, I’m a naturally squeamish person. A bubble of blood makes me wince. I have to leave the room at the sight of full-on gore, or spend the duration of the scene whimpering with my face in my hands. A staged throat slitting ten feet from my seat did not sound like my idea of fun. I have an undying love for Kentucky Shakespeare, though, and a weakness for a good theme well-executed. Shakespeare’s bloodiest play performed in a warehouse in Butchertown three nights before Halloween? That was an event I couldn’t miss. My weak stomach would just have to deal with it.
In addition to being the Elizabethan equivalent of a slasher flick, Titus Andronicus was also Shakespeare’s first tragedy, written while he was still a newbie playwright. In the late 16th century, revenge tragedies were all the rage, so Shakespeare was kind of like a fledgling YA author writing a dystopia novel but deciding to make it the most dystopia. When it first opened, Titus was a hit. It was only in the centuries that followed, when writers and theatre-goers alike became more prudish, that Titus became infamous for the same thing that made it famous–excessive gore and violence. 18th and 19th century critics doubted that a genius like Shakespeare could have written such a disgusting mess of a play, feeding the Shakespeare ghostwriter conspiracy theories. Happily for Titus, we live in a world that is fascinated by violence and horror once again, and those bloody enemies, Titus and Tamora, can return again, this time dressed up as the heads of feuding organized crime families.