Journal Article

Mutius: An Obstacle Removed in <i>Titus Andronicus</i>

Brian Boyd

in The Review of English Studies

Volume 55, issue 219, pages 196-209
Published in print April 2004 | ISSN: 0034-6551
Published online April 2004 | e-ISSN: 1471-6968 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/res/55.219.196
Mutius: An Obstacle Removed in Titus Andronicus

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Titus's killing of his son Mutius in scene i of Titus Andronicus has often been supposed both a textual afterthought and a demonstration of the hero's stiff Roman rectitude. Evidence of many kinds from many hands shows that Titus I. i is written by George Peele, although the structure of the play as a whole, as Gary Taylor notes, is clearly Shakespeare's. Peelean habits of immediate repetition add to the evidence of disrupted continuities that have led readers to identify the Mutius passage as an afterthought. The killing of Mutius by Titus also matches Peelean habits of symmetry and a Peelean preoccupation with the sacrifice of one's children. But the killing is inconsistent in detail and design with the Shakespearian part of the play. There, Titus implores mercy for two other sons even when he supposes they may be guilty of murder, and sacrifices his own hand to save them. This makes neither psychological nor dramatic sense if he has just killed Mutius without hesitation for a minor transgression. Remove the inconsistency caused by Peele's late addition, and Titus Andronicus loses what even advocates of the play admit is the received text's ‘chief weakness’.

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Subjects: Literary Studies (Postcolonial Literature) ; Literary Studies (American) ; Literary Studies (British and Irish)

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