This tragedy, which may have been Shakespeare’s first, was likely written between 1591 and 1592. (See Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor in The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works (2nd edition, 2005).)
The play is set in ancient Rome. It tells the story of a fictional Roman general, Titus Andronicus, and the bloody consequences of his feud with Tamora, Queen of the Goths. When Tamora, her lover Aaron the Moor; and her sons Alarbus, Chiron, and Demetrius are brought to Rome as prisoners, murders, rapes, and mutilations result.
Also see Ilana Gilovich-Wave’s essay, “‘Speechless Complainer’: Lavinia in Dominic Walsh’s Titus Andronicus“ (2021) on Walsh’s modern dance adaptation.
Video Gallery Clips
Video clips from productions with interesting dance and movement.
“Fractured Lavinia” and “Titus Solo”
Watch the full ballet: vimeo.com/73219720
Tamora’s dance from Titus Redux
Watch more of the production:
Textual References to Dance
Text excerpts and their act, scene, and line numbers follow Folger Digital Texts unless otherwise noted.
In-text dance references are highlighted in red.
Act I, scene 2, lines 38-42
DEMETRIUS: [to Chiron] Why, boy, although our mother, unadvised,
Gave you a dancing rapier by your side,
Are you so desperate grown to threat your friends?
Go to. Have your lath glued within your sheath
Till you know better how to handle it.
Act V, scene 3, lines 162-168
LUCIUS: [to Young Lucius] Come hither, boy. Come, come, and learn of us
To melt in showers. Thy grandsire loved thee well.
Many a time he danced thee on his knee,
Sung thee asleep, his loving breast thy pillow;
Many a story hath he told to thee,
And bid thee bear his pretty tales in mind
And talk of them when he was dead and gone.
Dance References in Titus Andronicus
Titus Andronicus is both an intensely physical play and a play in which physicality is deeply problematic. Although both of the in-text references to dancing invoke dance as a generic metaphor for energetic motion, one could argue that when considered together, they reflect the play’s ambivalence towards the corporeal more generally. Whereas the reference to a “dancing rapier” in Act II, scene 1 is part of a passage that mocks and insults, the reference to dancing in Act V, scene 3 is part of the description of a fond and loving memory.
It is worth noting that even though there are no staged dances in the play, its physicality has attracted the attention of choreographers such as contemporary ballet choreographer Dominic Walsh (Titus Andronicus, 2008) and physical theater innovator John Farmanesh-Bocca (Titus Redux, 2010).
– Emily Winerock (Mar. 25, 2020)
Winerock, Emily. “Dance References in Titus Andronicus.” The Shakespeare and Dance Project, edited by Linda McJannet, Amy Rodgers, and Emily Winerock, 25 Mar. 2020, shakespeareandance.com/plays/titus-andronicus. Accessed [date].
Brandes, Philip. “Theater Review: Titus Redux at the Kirk Douglas Theatre.” Los Angeles Times, Sept. 3, 2010. latimesblogs.latimes.com/culturemonster/2010/09/theater-review-titus-redux-at-the-kirk-douglas-theatre.html.
Brissenden, Alan. “The Comedies II.” In Shakespeare and the Dance, pp. 49-62. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1981, 2001.
Gilovich-Wave, Ilana. “‘Speechless Complainer’: Lavinia in Dominic Walsh’s Titus Andronicus.” The Shakespeare and Dance Project, edited by Linda McJannet, Lynsey McCulloch, Amy Rodgers, and Emily Winerock, October 9, 2021. shakespeareandance.com/articles/walsh-titus-andronicus.
Glentzer, Molly. “Dancing with a Vengeance: Dominic Walsh Dance Theater Sinks Teeth Into Titus Andronicus.” Houston Chronicle, Oct. 10, 2008. www.chron.com/entertainment/article/Dance-troupe-sinks-teeth-into-Titus-Andronicus-1774140.php.
Smith, William Michael. “Aftermath: Dominic Walsh Dance Theater’s Titus Andronicus, with Two Star Symphony, at Hobby Center’s Zilkha Theater” Houston Press, Oct. 17, 2008. www.houstonpress.com/music/aftermath-dominic-walsh-dance-theaters-titus-andronicus-with-two-star-symphony-at-hobby-centers-zilkha-theater-6530964.
Vittes, Laurence. “Titus Redux: Theater Review.” The Hollywood Reporter, Oct. 14, 2010. www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/titus-redux-theater-review-29916.
Wetmore, Kevin J., Jr. “Review of Titus Redux; Hamlet, Prince of Darkness; and Pulp Shakespeare.” Shakespeare Bulletin 30, no. 2 (2012): 207-212.
Updated October 9, 2021.