Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus altered to make characters appear ‘more racist’

Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus altered to make characters appear ‘more racist’

The Globe Theatre is set to stage the revenge tragedy, notorious as the Bard’s most bloody play, and creatives working on the production plan to tweak its 430-year-old script.

Shakespeare’s language will be swapped for the modern vocabulary of race to make dialogue in Titus Andronicus more racially charged and its characters more obviously prejudiced for contemporary viewers.

Director of the new production, Jude Christian, told The Telegraph: “The racism in the play is masked by Shakespeare’s language.

“What we’ve done is show clearly what the words meant in Shakespeare’s time.”

This is achieved by replacing antiquated ethnic terms like “Moor”, which have lost the racial force they would have carried in the 16th century, with words like “black”, which are more accessible to a modern audience.

It is hoped that this modernisation of passages related to ethnicity, which would have had deliberate and clear racial connotations in Early Modern England, will make the dialogue more noticeably racist.

‘Some of the racial language has lost its potency’

This dialogue is addressed to the character of Aaron, portrayed as villainous and murderous “Moor” – a term for Muslims or people with dark skin – whose ethnicity is commented upon in a negative way throughout Titus.

In the bloody play about a Roman general taking revenge for the murder of his children, Aaron is branded a “barbarous” and “irreligious Moor” who is “raven-colour’d”, and whose child is dismissed as “a joyless, dismal, black, and sorrowful issue”.

He is frequently insulted, included through oblique phrases like “swarth Cimmerian”, a classical reference to a people believed to have dwelled in mist and darkness.

It is understood that obscure slurs which can be “missed” by modern audiences are to be switched for contemporary racial terminology to make their meaning, and the attitudes Aaron faces in the play, more apparent.

Director Ms Christian has said that this will make it more clear that the Rome of the play is “an anti-black society”, and also add greater depth to Aaron’s character while avoiding harmful racial stereotypes.

Aaron is responsible for rape, murder and deception in the work, and his characterisation as a remorselessly evil villain has been seen by some scholars as part of a racist tradition of depicting black people as violent.

Ms Christian explained that “Aaron talks about anti-black racism” in the play and “calls it for what it is”, particularly when his child is vilified for being mixed race, but these moments can be missed as some of the racial language in Titus has lost its potency.

‘Anti-racist Shakespeare’

By giving the racial passages more force for a modern ear, it is hoped Aaron’s villainy will be given more depth in the new all-female production.

Changes made to Titus come after a renewed focus on race at The Globe, which, following Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, made a statement of intent to become an “anti-racist organisation”.

The theatre’s statement read: “We commit to facing and understanding our historic bias and racism, and to making the necessary changes to become an anti-racist, pro-equality organisation. We acknowledge that to be anti-racist is to take positive, conscious and intentional action against racism.”

The London venue has run a series of “anti-racist Shakespeare” talks alongside its productions, in which scholars have variously argued that the character of Hamlet holds racist views of black people and that the Bard’s plays are “problematic” for linking whiteness to beauty.

Titus Andronicus, being staged in The Globe’s indoor Sam Wanamaker theatre, runs from January 19.

https://www.msn.com/en-gb/entertainment/movies/shakespeares-titus-andronicus-altered-to-make-characters-appear-more-racist/ar-AA15oEIf

%d bloggers like this: