Review by Roger Ebert
So bloodthirsty is Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus that critics such as Harold Bloom believe it must be a parody--perhaps Shakespeare's attempt to settle the hash of Christopher Marlowe, whose plays were soaked in violence. Other readers, like the sainted Mark Van Doren, dismiss it out of hand. Inhuman and unfeeling, he called it, and "no tragedy at all if pity and terror are essential to the tragic experience." Certainly all agree it is the least of Shakespeare's tragedies, as well as the first.
Titus as "Scream 1593"? Bloom cites the scene where Titus is promised the return of his sons if he will send Saturninus his hand--only to find the hand returned with only the heads of his sons. Grief-stricken, Titus assigns tasks. He, with his remaining hand, will carry one of the heads. He asks his brother to take the other. That leaves the severed hand. At this point in the play, his daughter Lavinia has no hands (or tongue) after being raped and mutilated by Queen Tamora's sons, and so he instructs her, "Bear thou my hand, sweet wench, between thy teeth." Bloom invites scholars to read that line aloud without smiling, and says Shakespeare knew the play "was a howler, and expected the more discerning to wallow in it self-consciously." That is exactly what Julie Taymor has done, in a brilliant and absurd film of Titus Andronicus that goes over the top, doubles back and goes over the top again...