A New Critical Edition of Titus Andronicus
AuthorJansen, Matthew Trey
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In Shakespeare's first tragedy, Titus Andronicus, the blank spaces are filled by necessary action and constant visual representations of limbless bodies on the stage, which are easily lost on the pages of the text. It is my contention that an edition must offer the best possibility to bridge this gap between the stage and the page, by presenting a text based on the early modern text that is most influenced by the theater. Based on my evaluation of the most recent scholarship, this text is the 1623 First Folio. This choice is a clear break from the editorial tradition of Titus Andronicus, which has been to use the First Quarto as copy text and to insert the stage directions and the "fly scene" from the First Folio. While the First Quarto may represent something closer to what Shakespeare first wrote, the long success of Titus Andronicus on the stage, the addition of the theatrically based directions, and the number of hands involved in the preparation of the text for the Folio offer a more tangible connection to the effects of performance on early modern texts. They offer something much more valuable for a play that depends so critically on the theater. In the following chapters, I establish the importance that performance plays in fully developing the arguments of the play. I am confident that this edition provides readers with a basis in the most theatrically influenced early modern version of the play, because the First Folio benefited from the work of men who set out to put together the best representation of Shakespeare's theater that they could, instead of merely reprinting one of the earlier quartos. It only seems right that a play so dependent on theatrical performance be prepared using the unique copy that resulted from Titus Andronicus's successful history in the early modern theater.