Titus Andronicus


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.

Textual References to Dance

Text excerpts and their act, scene, and line numbers follow Folger Digital Texts unless otherwise noted.

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

In both references in Titus Andronicus, dance serves as a generic metaphor for energetic motion. However, 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.

– Emily Winerock (Dec. 11, 2018)

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