History of the play

Date
Titus Andronicus was first listed anonymously on the Stationer's Register on 6 February 1594 with a note that it had been acted by three companies.

It was probably written between 1590 - 1593. Francis Meres lists it in Palladis Tamia; Wits Treasury, as one of Shakespeare's tragedies in 1598.

He writes: 'As Plautus and Seneca are accounted the best for Comedy and Tragedy among the Latines; so Shakespeare among y' English is the most excellent in both kings for the stage; for Comedy, witnes his Ge'tleme' of Verona, his Errors, his Love labors lost, his Love labours wonne, his Midsummer night dream, & his Merchant o Venice ; for Tragedy his Richard the 2, Richard the 3, Henry the 4, King John, Titus Andronicus and his Romeo and Juliet.'

Titus Andronicus was also reprinted in 1600 and 1611, prior to its inclusion in the First Folio of 1623. The scene in which Titus stabs at a fly is accepted as having been written and inserted later as it does not appear in print until 1623.

Shakespeare's authorship has been questioned in the past, but it is now generally accepted that the play is mostly his work.

Sources
Despite its Roman setting, Titus Andronicus is not an historical play and its sources are a mixture of medieval and classical myth and legend.

It owes much to the tale of the rape of Philomel in Ovid's Metamorphses and a copy of this is actually used by Lavinia in the play to explain what has happened to her.

Shakespeare is also endebted to Seneca's Thyestes, in which Thyestes is served his two sons for supper by his brother Atreus in revenge for his adultery.

Classical tragedy such as that by Seneca was very popular with the Elizabethans, including as it did revenge, bloody murders, brutality, ghosts and long, bombastic speeches. Shakespeare would also have been influenced by Thomas Kyd's play The Spanish Tragedy, which had already made this genre popular a few years earlier.

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