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Terras Astraea reliquit

There's not a god left unsolicited.

O! let me teach you how to knit again

This scatter'd corn into one mutual sheaf,

These broken limbs again into one body

Anchor 1

Crib Notes

Name: Death - Titus Andronicus

Dramatis Personae: Titus Andronicus; Aaron; et al.

Astrology: Scorpio, Aries, Pluto

Hebrew Letter: MEM


 Text & Context: The Hebrew letter mem is the 13th letter of the alphabet, while its numerical value is 40. 40 represents a man's life, a generation, and therefor a complete cycle. Rain fell during the great Flood for 40 days and 40 nights; the Hebrew people lived 40 years in the Sinai desert; many Jewish kings - including Eli, Saul, David, and Solomon - ruled 40 years; Christ fasted 40 days and 40 nights in the Judean desert; 40 days passed from Christ's Resurrection to his Ascension; Christian Lent consists of 40 days; and gestation from conception to birth is 40 weeks. The literal meaning of mem is "water" or "spring", alluding by extension to "people", "tongues", and "nations", while Talmudic wisdom sees mem as waves of the Divine surging as a tide through the sea of Man. 

 Titus Andronicus is traditionally seen as Shakespeare's first tragedy; as such it represents the font of living water which will spring, Athena-like, from the playwright's head. Sewn at the outset into the very kernel of life, and incubated there along with it, is death. Allegorically, the hero must descend into the darkness of the ultimate danger to transcend and be liberated from death's dominion. In the poetic blood of extreme violence in which Titus bathes is the Greek notion of tragedy as catharsis. Shakespeare then undertakes his career with a purgation, purging the soul of excessive passion, a patient cured and reborn to psychic life. Shakespeare himself, who, under forced anonymity, like Titus cutting off his hand, will nevertheless have his day and, like Lavinia, shaking a staff in the dirt with her mouth, will have his say. 

 Like it or not, life is buoyed on the back of death. As what went before sustains what is, what is provides for what will come. The pies Titus dishes out are as the food we eat. The skeleton which here personifies death is the same from birth which underlies all persons. Titus' son Lucius is made Emperor of old Rome, where mortal blood has yet to be superseded by Christ's sacrificial blood of the later Holy Roman Empire. And yet he lights the way, his name consanguineous with St. Lucius, who brought Christianity to the British Isles. His sister Lavinia, as Mother of the Romans, is also grand matriarch of Brutus, King of the Britains.


 The Death card's star sign, Scorpio, is most often symbolized by the self-destructive scorpion. However, uniquely within the Zodiac, Scorpio consists of three separate symbols, each indicating a stage in its own evolution. The first is the predatory arachnid familiar to us as the armored scorpion. Second is the eagle, still predatory, but regal and of astute vision. Its final, ascendant incarnation is the Phoenix, the mythical bird symbolic of virginity, Empire, transmigration of the soul, and life reborn from itself in new incarnation. Athena's Palladium, which granted the holy city of Troy insuperable divinity, was saved by Lavinia's husband Aeneas and used to found Rome. In turn, their progeny used it to found Britain. Shakespeare, out of similar blood and ashes, founded the British Empire alongside the Phoenix, transplanting the Humanism born of Renaissance Rome to the newborn world power of Elizabethan England.

 Of relevant note is Rome's earliest poet, the Father of Roman drama, and the originator of Latin literature itself, Livius Andronicus, referred to by Jerome as Titus Livius. He began as a slave, but through his writing was freed by his master's grace, from whom he adopted the apt gentilicium Livius. 

 Subtext: In his preface to Bartholomew Fair of 1614, Ben Jonson wrote "He that will swear, Jeronimo or Andronicus are the best plays, yet shall pass unexcepted at, here, as a man whose judgement shows it is constant, and hath stood still these five and twenty, or thirty years." This situates the date of Titus Andronicus at circa. 1584. Its initial composition, however, may be earlier still; as early as 1576-77. De Vere's Fisher Folly confrère, Thomas Watson, began a 1582 poem "Alas, dear Titus mine, my ancient friend". The sonnet is numbered LXXI - 17 reversed.

 The earliest known rendering of a scene from one of Shakespeare's plays is the 1595 sketch from Titus by Henry Peacham. In his The Compleat Gentleman, Peacham lists the Elizabethan poets who made their era a golden age, including Sidney and Spencer. No mention is made of William Shakespeare, however, nor is this oversight corrected in subsequent printings. The poet who heads Peacham's list is Edward Earl of Oxford.

 The character Aaron is likely an allegorical reference to the Catholic recusant, Charles Arundell.  Edward de Vere, a distant cousin, denounced Arundell as a traitor and spy for Spain for which he spent time in the Tower of London. In retaliation, Arundell accused de Vere of being a liar, a murderer, an atheist, a pederast, a homosexual, an alcoholic, a practitioner of necromancy and bestiality, a traitor, a vile and unredeemable creature, and a "monsterous adversary... who would drink my blood rather than wine." He also admits de Vere was an unmatched story teller, often entertaining those around his table with yarns Arundell himself found hilarious. Arundell was later involved in the Throckmorton Plot of 1583, the Catholic propagandist tract Leicester's Commonwealth, espionage for Philip of Spain in France, and the proposed armed landing in England lead by the Earl of Westmorland in support of Mary, Queen of Scots. Arundell died in Paris in 1587, possibly from poisoning.

Intertext: Swords 8 Lavinia


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