Shakespeare/Shakespeare

Advertisement


Question
Hi,
I was just wondering if the plays Titus Andronicus and Romeo and Juliet when comparing them to each other have a theme in common.

In the same way, i am just wondering if the plays Titus Andronicus and Macbeth have a theme in common between them both.

Any help or ideas would be greatly appreciated.

Answer
Hello, Bob,

I apologize for my delay in answering; I have some health issues that get in my way sometimes.

My answer, in general, is that it is likely that any plays of Shakespeare's have themes in common, because he used many patterns from earlier drama (such as Roman Comedy and Roman Tragedy, to name only two out of many) and also because he apparently liked to use certain themes again and again, so as to look at them from varying angles.

So, I will speculate on a common theme that comes to mind for each of the two pairs of plays you've offered, but I don't want anyone to think that these would be the only ones!  I believe that Shakespeare's plays encourage new ideas and speculations, so that they can be continually new for each generation.

The theme that comes to my mind that unites Titus Andronicus and Romeo and Juliet is the examination of feuding or warring families. Much of this idea of family murders, revenge, and counter-revenge came to him from the Roman playwright Seneca. As an early tragedy, Titus shows the marks of a playwright who is perhaps too dependent on Seneca. This entire play is Roman; he even quotes Seneca, in Latin, in the course of the play; he borrows many situations from Seneca's plots, while Romeo and Juliet uses some Senecan touches but is much less dependent on Seneca. It is not a Roman play, nor are there any plot devices that are directly out of Seneca-- so, critics often say that Shx knew how to use Seneca more skillfully by the time he got to R&J, that is, we can see the development of his skills as a playwright by examining his close dependency on Seneca and on his source material in Titus versus his innovations on his source and his subtle incorporation of Seneca.

However, both plays deal heavily with the Senecan device of family murders and revenge among feuding families.  Titus Andronicus begins with the origin of the feud, via Titus's ritualistic sacrifice of Tamora's sons, but since Tamora does not share Titus's culture or religion, his actions are murder to her and her remaining sons, and they pursue revenge against Titus and his entire family.  While Romeo and Juliet does not show the origins of the Capulet/Montague feud, we see ample evidence how easily the feud is evoked at various points in the play, resulting in acts of revenge that follow.

As to Titus and Macbeth , they both share Senecan effects #such as the bloody murders, madness, visions, ghosts, prophecies, mutilations, etc.#, but of course The Scottish Play is more successful at creating the atmosphere of pervading evil, as if it is the world itself that is evil and engenders evil, while evil in Titus Andronicus seems more character-bound #some characters, such as Aaron, simply like to do evil, while others, like Titus, inadvertently commit acts of evil while attempting to be pious within their own cultural mandates).  Another theme explored in both plays is the concept of leadership: what constitutes a great leader? Are good leaders born with intrinsic qualities that lend themselves to greatness, or can an ordinary man be "made" into a great leader just by desire? How do each of these men measure up as kings? Classical tragedy depends largely upon the protagonist's recognition that he participated in his own downfall: do either of these protagonists acknowledge this and take upon himself punishment?  The difference in Macbeth's character, from the standpoint of traditional tragedy, is that he is a specialized kind of protagonist:  the so-called "De Casibus" protagonist, who falls because of his ambition and who often appears to be more antagonist than protagonist.

I hope these ramblings are useful to you.  If you'd like to talk more about any of these ideas, please submit another question, and I'll do my best to answer.

Thanks for consulting AllExperts!
Dr. T.

Shakespeare

All Answers


Answers by Expert:


Ask Experts

Volunteer


Dr. T.

Expertise

I can answer questions about Shakespeare's life and times, his plays and poems, the history of criticism and critics' responses to Shakespeare's works, other authors of the time period, the audiences of the time period, Queen Elizabeth I, women of the Renaissance or Early Modern age, history of rhetoric, British drama, etc.

Experience

I have taught Shakespeare, Early Modern literature, Early Modern women's literature, the history of rhetoric, Arthurian literature, and related general literary subjects and many others in university classrooms for more than 25 years.

Organizations
Renaissance Society of America, South-Central Renaissance Society, John Donne Society

Publications
3 books with University Presses, 1 book with HarperCollins Press; articles with: Continuum Press, DLB, Gale Research Shakespearean Criticism and Shakespearean Criticism Yearbook, College English journal, Studies in English Literature journal, CEA Critic journal, Renascence journal, Texas Papers on Language and Literature journal, several others.

Education/Credentials
Ph.D. in British Renaissance Literature and Rhetoric; M.A. in English; B.A. English and Theatre

Awards and Honors
I was editor of a scholarly journal for 10 years; Recipient of my university's Recognition Awards for Research, Teaching, and Service; two Sabbatical awards; graduated Phi Beta Kappa, Summa Cum Laude

Past/Present Clients
Panelist/Reviewer for National Endowment for the Humanities, Washington, DC, 2001, 1997, and 1993; Referee for College Literature, Yale University Press (numerous editions of Shakespeare’s plays), College English, Harper/Collins (1992 to 1995: full-length book manuscripts, including the complete manuscript of The HarperCollins World Reader, Volume I.); Dramaturg for local Little Theatre, 2001–03 (including productions of Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, and Dangerous Liaisons); Dramaturg for various productions in Theatre/Dance Dept at my University (including As You Like It, Midsummer Night's Dream, Measure for Measure, The Tempest)

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.