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The great majority of English critics either reject this play altogether, upon the ground that in style and subject it is unlike any other work of Shakespeare, or accept as true the tradition of Ravenscroft, who altered the play in 1687, that "it was not his [Shakespeare's]," but that he only gave some master-touches to one or two of the principal parts or characters." Says one critic Shakespeare's tragedy is never bloodily sensual; .... this play is a perfect slaughter-house, and the blood makes appeal to all the senses. It reeks blood, it smells of blood, we almost feel that we have handled blood--it is so gross." Besides the tradition of Ravenscroft, the external evidence with reference to the authorship of Titus is the following: (1) It is mentioned by Meres (1598) among other undoubted plays of Shakespeare. (2) It is printed in the First Folio. A play called Titus and Vespasian was acted in 1592, and though itself lost, a translation into German, acted early in the 17th century by English comedians in Germany, remains in existence. It is not the play attributed to Shakespeare. Hensiowe also mentions a Titus and Andronicus as a new play, acted January 23, 1594 : it is doubtful whether this was the Shakespearean play. If it be, and it was then written, the tragedy is certainly not by Shakespeare. It is impossible to believe that in 1594, when Shakespeare had written his Venus and Adonis and his Lucrece, he could have dealt so coarsely with details of outrage and unnatural cruelty as does the author of this tragedy. Ben Jonson, in the introduction to Bartholomew Fair (1614), speaks of Titus Andronicus, with Jeronimo, as belonging to "twenty-five or thirty years" previously this would carry back the date of the play (if it be of this Titus Andronicus that Jonson speaks) to 1589, or earlier. That it was a play of that period, and was re-touched by Shakespeare, we may accept as the opinion best supported by internal evidence and by the weight of critical authority. The importance of the tragedy lies in the fact that, if Shakespeare wrote it, we find him as a young man carried away by the influence of a storm and stress" movement similar to that which urged Schiller to write his Robbers. Titus Andronicus belongs essentially to the pre-Shakespearean group of bloody tragedies, of which Kyd's Spanish Tragedy is the most conspicuous example. If it is of Shakespearean authorship, it may be regarded as representing the years of crude and violent youth before he had found his true self; his second tragedy, Romeo and Juliet, as representing the years of transition; and Hamlet, the period of maturity and adult power.
And so I love and honor thee and thine, Thy noble brother Titus and his sons, And her to whom my thoughts are humbled all, Gracious Lavinia, Rome's rich ornament, That I will here dismiss my loving friends, And to my fortunes and the people's favor Commit my cause in balance to be weigh'd. [Exeunt the followers of Bassianus. Sat. Friends, that have been thus forward in my right,
I thank you all and here dismiss you all, And to the love and favor of my country Commit myself, my person and the cause. [Exeunt the followers of Saturninus. Rome, be as just and gracious unto me As I am confident and kind to thee. Open the gates, and let me in. Bas. Tribunes, and me, a poor competitor. [Flourish. Saturninus and Bassianus go up into the Capitol
Enter a Captain.
Cap. Romans, make way: the good Andronicus,
Patron of virtue, Rome's best champion, Successful in the battles that he fights, With honor and with fortune is return'd From where he circumscribed with his sword, And brought to yoke, the enemies of Rome. Drums and trumpets sounded. Enter MARTIUS and MUTIUS; after them, two Men bearing a cofin covered with black; then LUCIUS and QUINTUS. After them, TITUS ANDRONICUS ; and then TAMORA, with ALARBUS, DEMETRIUS, CHIRON, AARON, and other Goths, prisoners; Soldiers and people following. The Bearers set down the coffin, and TITUS speaks.
Tit. Hail, Rome, victorious in thy mourning weeds! 70
Lo, as the bark, that hath discharged her fraught,
Returns with precious lading to the bay
Titus, unkind and careless of thine own,
The eldest son of this distressed queen. Tam. Stay, Roman brethren! conqueror,
Victorious Titus, rue the tears I shed,
These are their brethren, whom you Goths beheld
Alive and dead, and for their brethren slain
Gracious triumpher in the eyes of Rome! 170 Tit. Thanks, gentle tribune, noble brother Marcus.
Marc. And welcome, nephews, from successful wars,
You that survive, and you that sleep in fame!
But safer triumph is this funeral pomp,
Tit. A better head her glorious body fits Than his that shakes for age and feebleness: What should I don this robe, and trouble you? Be chosen with proclamations to-day, 190 To-morrow yield up rule, resign my life,