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Shakespeare: Titus Andronicus

5. The Use and Abuse of Aristotle's Poetics

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About this Lecture


Marlowe's difficult play The Jew of Malta offers a way of understanding the focus of Shakespeare's play on Aaron, the vicious Moor. By harnessing the racist ideology typical of early modern representations of people of colour, Shakespeare presents Aaron as a kind of singular symbol of literalness: a man whose skin makes him perfectly readable, and whose earnest and unswerving love for his son offers a bewildering contrast to Titus's own filicide.


In Titus Andronicus, Shakespeare's first tragedy, the fragmentation of sacrificed and mutilated bodies gives rise to a polyphony of dismemberment. Over the course of these six lectures, Andrew Zurcher explores how Shakespeare figures the fragmentation of flesh and limb; of literary sources and philosophical systems; of language and rhetoric; and of the genre of tragedy itself. Shakespeare's brash and violent play emerges from these lectures as a trenchant satire of time-honoured tragic conventions, a relentless critique of any attempt to dignify and aestheticise spectacles of violence.


Andrew work on sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English literature, with a particular focus on the works of Edmund Spenser, Philip Sidney, and William Shakespeare. His research to date has emphasised early modern legal history, Elizabethan colonial and military activity in Ireland, textual studies (including palaeography and manuscript studies), the sixteenth-century reception of Academic and Pyrrhonist epistemology, early modern secretarial practice, and the theory and practice of allegory in the sixteenth century. He is currently working on several editorial projects: (with Christopher Burlinson) an edition of Ralph Kenvet's 1635 A Supplement of the Faery Queene; several editions of the works of Edmund Spenser; and (with Anne Dunan Page) the letters of Sir Thomas Browne for a new Collected Works under the general care of Claire Preston. He is also editing sixteenth-century materials for OUP's Oxford Scholarly Editions Online project.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Zurcher, A. (2018, August 15). Shakespeare: Titus Andronicus - The Use and Abuse of Aristotle's Poetics [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Zurcher, A. "Shakespeare: Titus Andronicus – The Use and Abuse of Aristotle's Poetics." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,