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"Sumptuously re-edified": the reformation of sacred space in Titus Andronicus.

Blessed bodie! Whither art thou thrown?

No lodging for thee, but a cold hard stone?

--George Herbert, "Sepulchre," from The Temple (1633)

Thy two-leaved gates, fair temple, unfold,

And these two in thy sacred bosom hold,

Till, mystically joined, but one they be;

Then may thy lean and hunger-starved womb,

Long time expect their bodies and their tomb.

--John Donne, "Epithalamion Made at Lincoln's Inn" (1633)

I. Martyred Bodies and Sacred Space

Readings of Shakespeare's grim drama of mutilation Titus Andronicus have time and again focused on the play's marred bodies. (1) Recently, scholars have made a connection between physical violence and characters' frequent allusions to martyrdom and argued for the play as a complex meditation on England's bloody struggles over religious reformation. (2) While sacrificial victimhood and its function in the play's gruesome dramatic logic has received some attention, there has been virtually no critical engagement with the sites that generate martyrdom. But it is Rome's spiritual geography (with the Andronicus tomb at its center) that produces the play's dramatic conflict. Titus, who calls the family grave "sacred receptacle of my joys," is committed to maintaining its sanctity at all costs; he insists that only in this hallowed place his dead sons, "slain in [their] country's wars" on foreign battlefields, will finally "sleep in peace" (1.1.94-95). I will argue that in Titus Andronicus, Shakespeare is not only concerned with the bloody culture of martyrdom, but more intensely with the constitution of and challenges to sacred space.

The culture of sacred spaces in Shakespeare's Rome produces what Robert Miola has termed a "fruitful estrangement"; at the same time, the play's "cultural drift"--the shift to the world of ancient Rome on the threshold of collapse--allows the playwright to comment on contemporary theological issues by way of an exotic religious culture. (3) According to Carlos M. N. Eire, in a post-Reformation world "one holy place after another vanished from the map, first in Germany and Switzerland, later in France, the Netherlands, and England" leaving "the unity of the European religious vision ... forever shattered." (4) Toward the end of the play, a Gothic soldier admits to having "strayed" from his troops "to gaze on a ruinous monastery" (5.1.21). This famously anachronistic throwaway line appears to confirm that for Shakespeare's audience, traditional sacred spaces were a thing of the past. Philip Schwyzer suggests that Shakespeare's soldier gazes so intently to wrest some meaning from the decayed structure, but "the ruin in question declines to deliver up the expected moral." (5) Even if the crumbling edifice is undecipherable for the Goth in this scene, it is a powerful signifier for the audience, a symbol of religious conflicts that altered spatial perception and the believer's place in the spiritual and material worlds. In what follows, I suggest that Shakespeare's early tragedy constitutes a powerful drama of sacred space, or, more precisely, a drama about its destructive "reformations." The playwright, by staging the tragic profanation of ancient holy sites and the grotesque counterreformations it produces, offers a bleak portrait of spatial and spiritual displacement in a culture on the cusp of profound religious change. In Titus Andronicus, a return to a venerable culture of sacred space is difficult and indeed undesirable because of the unrelenting violence that attends spatial consecration and renders Rome deeply compromised after Titus undertakes a forceful attempt at counterreformation. When Titus's son Lucius enforces the sanctity of the Andronicus grave in as violent a manner as his father, we do not question the deep-rooted spiritual need for sacred spaces but lament the failure to rethink the place of the sacred in the wake of cataclysmic violence generated by the space of the grave.

Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus, which opens and closes on a funeral, assigns the sacred geography of burial a key role in spiritually and culturally situating a society and associates the modification and loss of traditional sacred sites with a culture's impending collapse. What's more, this early play associates tragedy strongly with place and, more specifically, with the sacred place of burial. As the dramatic action unfolds, disturbing generic variations on the place of the grave shape Shakespeare's dramaturgy; the following short catalog of the variations on the topos of burial confirms the dramatic significance of funerary spaces. (6) Sounding the solemn tones of epic, the play begins with the ritual interment of Roman soldiers, as a son of general Titus Andronicus is laid to rest in the hallowed space of the family's sepulcher. (7) Thereafter, dramatic action moves relentlessly toward the farcical "entombment" of Chiron and Demetrius in the belly of their mother, Tamora, queen of the Goths and empress of Rome. Other dramatic variations on the place of the grave in the play underscore the spiritual significance of sacred burial space and the dire consequences of violation: the potentially comic elopement of Titus's only daughter, Lavinia, becomes catastrophic when Titus slays his youngest son, Mutius, in front of the family monument and refuses him burial there because he supported Lavinia's choice of husband. As Titus strives to uphold the spatial inviolability of the tomb where burial and betrothal ceremonies sit uneasily side by side, it becomes clear that generic confusion signifies spatial and cultural collapse. (8) In act 2, dramatic action shifts to the forest and a pastoral seduction scene in which Tamora tries to persuade her lover, Aaron, to a tryst, but before long the action moves into the bleak territory of revenge tragedy when Chiron and Demetrius butcher and then unceremoniously dump Bassianus's body into an "abhorred pit" (2.2.98), right before raping his widow, Lavinia. By the third act, the insistence on the place of the grave has become farcical: Titus requests that his hand be buried after he sacrifices it to gain the release of his sons--accused of murdering Bassianus--following a grim burlesque that has male members of the Andronicus clan vying to have their hands chopped off to save their kinsmen. Finally, after the most gruesomely parodic variation on the place of interment--Chiron and Demetrius buried in their mother's body--the cynic nonbeliever Aaron is put "breast-deep in earth" and "fastened in the earth" (5.3.178, 182).

In its last lines, the play ostensibly moves toward an Aristotelian balance, a unity of events, when the play ends as it began, with a

Roman funeral:
   My father and Lavinia shall forthwith
   Be closed in our household's monument;
   As for that ravenous tiger, Tamora,
   No funeral rite, nor man in mourning weed,
   No mournful bell shall ring her burial,
   But throw her forth to beasts and birds to prey.


Through its dramatic and spatial symmetry--once again, Rome chooses a new emperor and the Andronicus family lays to rest some of its members--this final tableau at the tomb of the Andronici seems to indicate that Rome's political and religio-spatial crises are resolved, that the return to an age-old veneration of sacred sites also re-establishes sociopolitical order. By lobbing Tamora's remains over the city walls, making her food for beasts (like the biblical Jezebel), Lucius has virtually removed Tamora from space and thus effectively overcome the tragic challenge to the Roman culture of spatial sacrality. But the gesture is problematic; after all, the restoration of the Andronicus tomb as sacred space is physically violent and falls to the man who directed the sacrifice of the Goth Alarbus at the Andronicus gravesite that set off the cycle of retributive violence. The Goths now reside in the city, and their presence raises questions about the state of sacred sites and spiritual affairs in Rome, whether or not we subscribe to Jonathan Bate's view that Shakespeare's audiences would have considered the Goths as the ancestors of England's Protestants. (9) Questions about the continued viability and ethical mandate of Roman sacred space remain, especially because Lucius defines Roman sacred space according to the inflexible spatial logic of his father. The remarkable dramatic balance of the play's final burial scene magnifies the deep sense of uneasiness that pervades the restoration of sacred space in the play--and invites questions about the position and constitution of sacred space in a world of profound religious change.

II. Reformed Religion and the Sacred Geography of Burial

Bronislaw Malinowski considered funerary practices the foundation of religion: "death, which of all human events is the most upsetting and disorganizing to man's calculations, [is] perhaps the main source ... of religious belief." (10) The dead and the physical disposal of corpses in spatially elaborate burial rituals have ever been of great spiritual significance; for many religions, burial is therefore a key aspect in the cultural construction of sacred space. (11) As Philip Sheldrake observes, sacred funerary spaces constituted the bedrock of Christian faith, not least of all because Jesus' own martyrdom and violent death promised eternal life: "The sites of major churches were often associated with the tombs of holy people. The primacy of the Roman Church was built upon the tombs of the Apostles both literally and symbolically." (12) Interment practices fundamentally shaped how Christians perceived and organized space; especially in its emphasis on funerary theology, Christianity refashioned sacred space and subsequently redefined the spatial contexts for human existence.

By the sixteenth century, reformers had dramatically changed places for the sacred and especially the topography of death; in the words of historians Bruce Gordon and Peter Marshall, "the place of the dead had to be fundamentally reviewed and renegotiated." (13) Reformers condemned what they perceived as an execrable fascination with and commitment to the dead and the spaces they were thought to inhabit. Luther famously termed chantries, cults of the saints, and the sites of their relic worship, as well as the belief in purgatory, Totenfresserei, that is, the devouring or feeding on the dead. (14) Interestingly enough, Shakespeare has Titus prepare a necrophagous feast for the woman who had parodied the sacred space of the tomb, forcing her to engage in a literal act of Totenfresserei. If "the topography of Purgatory and Hell, its paths, bridges, rivers, valleys and angelic guides, proved" as Peter Marshall notes, "an irresistible target for Protestant satire." (15) then Senecan revenge tragedy becomes Titus's rival farce through which he eliminates the figure that had assaulted his domain of sacred space. (16)

In Protestant England, the turn away from sacred burial space registered publicly in a royal edict against funerary vandalism (1560) that articulated the Crown's commitment to protecting property and the secular remembrance of the dead:
   Her Maiestie chargeth and commaundeth all maner of persons,
   hereafter to forbeare the breakyng or defacyng of any parcel of any
   monument, or tombe, or graue, or other inscription and memorye of
   any person deceased ... that have ben in times past erected and set
   up, for the only memory of them to their posteritie in common
   Churches, and not for religious honour. (17)

The material preservation of burial monuments and the social and legal ramifications of their destruction are at stake in these lines; what's more, the statute is clearly interested in desacralizing church space and denouncing any lingering "supersticion" about the place of the dead. (18) Historians have made a case for early modern burial culture's contribution to the secularization process. Citing James Pilkington, Bishop of Durham, who insisted that no "one place is more holy than another to be buried in" historian David Cressy observes that "Protestants knew that no spiritual advantage attached to being buried in one piece of holy ground rather than another, but proximity to the altar and location within the chancel or aisle still mattered for social reasons." (19) Art historian Nigel Llewellyn argues that Protestant funerary architecture reformed traditional geographies of the sacred and secularized English culture: "Monuments became indicators of the steady secularization of English society; they commemorated the social groups with the most pragmatic attitudes towards religious orthodoxy." (20) Funerary memorials recorded in prominent epitaphs the names of congregation members and bore emblazoned testimony to their godly and productive lives. These monuments to the deceased did not thus enclose or reveal the divine in traditional spatial fashion, but centered on people figuring the place of God. Historian Clare Gittings observes in her landmark work on early modern funerary culture that death in post-Reformation England became devoid "of any eschatological purposes" and funerals "simply served to dispose of the corpse"; the ground in which dead bodies were laid thus ceased to have spiritual or theological significance. (21) In his important work on stage representations of death, Michael Neill concludes that tragedy, in its preoccupation with death, stands out in early modern England because of its "very secularity." (22) He suggests that the profanation of burial rituals and sites in Titus Andronicus--"the bitterness of the early quarrel ... over Mutius' right to proper interment in the family tomb" and "the contemptuous treatment meted out to the bodies of Tamora and Aaron at the end of the play"--shows the extent to which early modern tragedy transformed death, rendered it temporal, and thus contributed to its secularization process in Protestant England. (23)

Yet a world without sacred funerary spaces was hard to imagine for many, and undesirable, as a lengthy treatise by the poet, antiquarian, and contemporary of Shakespeare, John Weever demonstrates. On the eve of the Civil War, Weever acknowledged that for Christians sacred space was profoundly defined by the topography of burial: "Funeral monuments (especially of the godly and religious) have ever been counted sacred ... and more especially in that ground, wherein the bodies of Christians were interred, by reason of the sanctified corps that it received." (24) Interestingly enough, Weever wrote on the subject of sacred funerary space at the beginning of the decade that witnessed the Laudian agenda for spatial resanctification and beautification, demonstrating that the problem of sacred space was hardly resolved in pre-Civil War England. (25) Weever finally concludes that the soil in which bodies were interred must be considered "hol[y]," and he bemoans the spatial profanity in his own age: "But with us, in these days, I see no such reverence that sons have to their father's ... sepulchre. I hear no swearing by kirk, crosses, or sepulchres. I hear sometimes, I must confess, forsweairng [sic] to build churches, swearing to pull down crosses, and to deface or quite demolish all funeral monuments; swearing and protesting that all these are remains of the Antichrist, papish and damnable." (26) Weever's erudite archaeological narrative celebrates a longstanding tradition and rejects the age's violent contestations of consecrated places. By contrast, Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus, written four decades earlier, acknowledges that religious conflict and violent spatial reformations unalterably change a world. Titus and Lucius are intensely committed to age-old concepts of spatial sacrality; but the play--without questioning the deep spiritual need for sacred space--challenges rigid commitment to consecrated places as much as violent reformation.

III. "O sacred receptacle of my joys"--Tragic "Unity of Effect" and the Sacred Space of Burial

Sir Philip Sidney begins his discussion of drama in An Apology for Poetry with the observation that even an excellent tragedy like Gorboduc is "faulty both in place and time, the two necessary companions of all corporal actions." (27) For Sidney the locale of dramatic action is crucial, and frequent changes of place--one moment, Sidney notes with contempt, the audience is supposed to imagine a "garden" the next moment a "rock," a "cave," or a "pitched field" (28)--diminish the aesthetic and ethical value of the tragic vision. Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus insistently violates the spatial decorum Sidney considers foundational to artistically and ideologically sound theater. We move from the spiritual and political center of Rome into a forest setting, first idyllic, then ominous; we are inside and outside of Titus's house and the imperial palace, on city streets, and in the camp of the Goths. But in Shakespeare's play locational changes--generated by the playwright's disparate literary sources and careful management of generic shifts--rather than diminishing dramatic unity, produce, in their insistence on the shared topos of the burial site, a profoundly tragic sense of displacement that is ethically provocative.

On Shakespeare's experimental handling of tragedy in Titus Andronicus, Douglas Green writes that the generic structure of the play is a "Polonian pastiche [in which] heroic, pastoral, elegiac, revenge, and tragic fragments combine, like the combatants of a morality psychomachia." (29) Green concludes that character--Titus's status as tragic patriarchal hero--shapes Shakespeare's dramatic vision. Indeed, Titus Andronicus presents an eclectic melange of generic conventions that produces a generically expansive and philosophically complex understanding of tragedy. But it is place more than character that is at the center of Shakespeare's tragic vision. Lawrence Danson observes that while Sidneyean dramatic unities "are largely irrelevant to [Shakespeare's] plays in any of the genres," his tragedies may be said to produce a "unity of effect." (30) The remarkable "unity of effect," generated by the relentless, tragic (though hardly cathartic) return to the site of burial it generates, constitutes dramatic innovation and ideological intervention in Titus Andronicus. Shakespeare's challenge to and manipulation of spatial convention are crucial in assessing the playwright's dramaturgic vision; the play, with its anarchic reversals of spatial sacrality produced by generic heterogeneity, provides a disturbing vision of a world in which the old sacred geography is outmoded and irrecoverable and a new one not yet available.

In the first scene, the allusion to Vergilian epic conjures a durable culture of sacred space, buttressed by the military and political institutions of Rome. Resembling Rome's epic founder Aeneas, Titus Pius and the Andronici "protect the city and stand as avatars of its spiritual life"--as Robert Miola points out. (31) Initially, Shakespeare establishes a generic link between patriarchal burial and empire: for Aeneas and Titus, the grave is a spiritually and politically foundational site. But at the patriarchal tomb, the epic hero Aeneas presides over the founding of an empire, while the tragic protagonist Titus partakes in his culture's demise. If Shakespeare looked to the epic paradigm of Vergil, he would have found in the Aeneid a spatial language that grounded Roman spiritual and national identity in the space of burial. After all, Aeneas built the Roman Empire on "the bones and remnants of [his] godlike father" "entombed in earth." (32) Vergil firmly links Aeneas's search for a new homeland and his quest for empire with the sanctification of funerary space:
      we find ourselves this day
   beside my father's very bones and ashes--
   and I believe it is the will and power
   of gods that brought us to these friendly harbors.

   and may he grant that, when I build a city,
   I may observe these rites year after year
   in temples dedicated unto him.

(5.75-78, 81-83)

Sanctioned by the gods, the site of Anchises' remains authorizes Aeneas's bid for a new dominion after expatriation from Troy, and, what is more, determines the spiritual context and physical location of the sacred in Rome. In the Fasti, the most generically unusual of his works, Ovid confirms the importance of Aeneas's spatial and spiritual vision. He writes of the Feralia, the holiday on the last day of the Roman calendar dedicated to propitiating the shades of the dead, "This custom was introduced into thy lands, righteous Latinus, by Aeneas, fit patron of piety. He to his father's spirit solemn offering brought: from him the peoples learned the pious rites." (33) The lines make clear the spiritual, political, and spatial significance of Anchises' grave for Roman religion, culture, and politics. One of Aeneas's chief accomplishments is the establishment of a burial code that situates Rome spiritually as much as politically.

In Titus Andronicus, however, the place of burial becomes almost immediately a site of extreme spiritual conflict. Heather James suggests that Titus "invoke[s] and then displace[s] Vergilian authority" and that the play turns away from "the imperial epic of Vergil to the counter-epic of Ovid," as part of Shakespeare's literary critique of Roman imperial ideology as a model for his culture's notions of empire. (34) I would suggest that Titus Andronicus is not only a play about the gaining (or loss) of empire but, perhaps more profoundly, a play about a culture's spiritual displacement in the secular quest of empire. Tragedy, which according to David Scott Kastan "offers no convincing guarantees of an ultimately sustaining and reassuring order, either cosmic or civic," (35) allows Shakespeare to mount a complex assessment of a culture at a moment of an intense spiritual crisis precipitated by significant challenges to its spatial understanding. It is a new way of thinking about spatial sacrality that Rome needs--yet the audience knows that Rome's days are numbered.

At times, Titus seems more concerned with the secular significance of the family tomb, as for instance when he claims that in the Andronici monument "none but soldiers and Rome's servitors / Repose in fame" (1.1.357-58) or when he terms the grave "the latest home" of his dead sons where they await "burial amongst their ancestors" (1.1.87). At first glance, these lines suggest an apparently worldly concern with social position. Social historians have argued that placement near family members in burial became a way for Protestants to contest ancient ideas about the sacredness of space, that the worldly significance of kinship ties and sociopolitical cohesion, rather than traditional belief in the holiness of certain places, shaped burial practice. (36) It may seem that for Titus, as for the "Elizabethan and Stuart elite," the tomb is "a monument to aristocratic power and the family name" (37) because Shakespeare's Roman general has spared no expense to ensure the worldly grandeur of the tomb: "This monument five hundred years hath stood, / Which I have sumptuously re-edified" (1.1.355-56). But Titus's commitment to the family burial site signifies, above all, a deep need for spiritual placement: he traverses great distances to inter his sons in consecrated soil rather than on remote northern battlefields. (38) And his brother Marcus Andronicus reminds the Roman populace of the spiritual importance of the family tomb for Titus, who has borne "his valiant sons / In coffins from the fields ... to the monument of the Andronici" and there has "done sacrifice of expiation" (1.1.34-37). For Shakespeare's audience, Marcus's language must have hinted at the debate over the nature of the sacrifice of the Mass and the space in which the Eucharist was celebrated. The premier Catholic theorist of sacred space, the Jesuit cardinal Robert Bellarmine, insisted on the close relationship between sacred space and the Eucharistic sacrifice. In the Disputationes (a treatise based on his lectures at the Collegio Romano, first published in 1576 and frequently reprinted), he writes that, above all, sacred space facilitates the Eucharist. It was this ritual aspect of space that reformers attacked most fiercely; Luther, for instance, argued that the Eucharist was not a sacrifice to but a gift from God and could thus be performed anywhere. (39) Titus remains unwaveringly committed to spaces consecrated by ritual sacrifice; but he fails to recognize that he is actually tragically imprisoned by space.

It is the spiritual territory and boundaries of the tomb that matter to Titus above all; he emphasizes its significance as a site of spatial holiness and calls the sepulcher "sacred receptacle of my joys, / Sweet cell of virtue and nobility" (1.1.95-96). The lines figure the tomb as part of an age-old, complex culture of sacred spaces, ecclesiastical and monastic rather than sociopolitical in significance. They sketch a complex geography of holy sites, of the enclosure of the sacred and its division from the profane. The metaphor of the tomb as monastic "cell" and site of spatial exclusion also prefigures the situation of the Andronici vis-a-vis the empire by the end of the act. Philip Sheldrake argues that spatially monasticism constituted a move to the margins, the creation of a sacred place away from the world and sin. (40) Titus's refusal of the imperial crown, his move away from the center of Roman politics, finds its spatial analogy in the tomb as monastic cell, as "receptacle" for Titus's treasured but now tragically untimely religious beliefs. It is his spiritual conviction, based in a doctrine of consecrated spatial exceptionalism, that becomes the target of violent profanations and "re-formations" later in the play, and it is also Titus's unbending insistence on sacred spatial privilege--maintained by gestures of violent separation--that makes his commitment to the sacred space of burial problematic.

Despite the admiration the audience may have for Titus and his deep religious faith, his violent and bloody commitment to the tomb as sacred space is problematic and, unsurprisingly, provokes reformation by force. The report of human sacrifice, tersely delivered by Titus's oldest son Lucius, speaks to Rome's ancient and rigidly emplaced code of spatial sacrality:
   Give us the proudest prisoner of the Goths,
   That we may hew his limbs and on a pile
   Ad manes fratrum sacrifice his flesh
   Before this earthly prison of their bones,
   That so the shadows be not unappeased,
   Nor we disturbed with prodigies on earth.


Lucius's language emphasizes the spatial dimension of the sacrifice, and if, as historians of religion David Chidester and Edward Linenthal suggest, "ritualization ... [is] a particular type of embodied, spatial practice," (41) the monument can be constituted as a sacred burial ground only if it is consecrated by certain rituals of violent separation. The site of the grave and the placement of the ritual "pile" of Alarbus's "limbs" before the Andronicus grave confirm their function as a sacred boundary between the world of the living and the dead. Lucius's rhythmic alliteration verbally demarcates Rome's sacred burial precinct:
   See, lord and father, how we have performed
   Our Roman rites: Alarbus' limbs are lopped
   And entrails feed the sacrificing fire,
   Whose smoke like incense doth perfume the sky.
   Remaineth nought but to inter our brethren
   And with loud 'larums welcome them to Rome.


These lines speak to the creation of sacred space through what art historian Sharon Gerstel calls the "modulation" of "sensory barriers" constituted by "sound, smell, light, and shadow." (42) Shakespeare's lines describe elaborate rites of spatial consecration that are directed at various human senses and set off the site of sacrifice and burial from the city's profane spaces. The rising smoke visually marks the boundary of the sacred, as does the smell (it would be hard not to think of the use of incense in Catholic liturgical practice, during the celebration of the Eucharist, for example). Titus himself speaks of the tomb in terms of its spatial, aural, ocular, olfactory, and temporal distinctions. The Andronicus tomb has "stood ... five hundred years" and because "the sacred is associated with liturgical time ... (time of transhuman, indeterminate duration), [and] the profane with terrestrial hours (time measured by a beginning and an end)" we might say that for Titus the grave exists in ahistorical, liturgical time--I read the number five hundred here as a reference to great duration rather than exact temporal calculation. (43) In their tomb, the dead are "secure from worldly chances and mishaps.... / Here grow no damned drugs, here are no storms, / No noise, but silence and eternal sleep" (1.1.155, 157-58). The space of the tomb is holy not least of all because it is definitively outside the boundaries of ordinary sensory experience and worldly temporal indicators.

It is the spatial ordering of his fallen sons' bodies that is most important to Titus--dramatically put in place, as R. A. Foakes speculates, "through a trap" and locationally marked by a prop tomb. (44) The topography of the afterlife had produced one of the great theological debates of the sixteenth century. Magisterial reformers had been profoundly dismissive of these landscapes of the dead. In The Institutes, Calvin decried the topography of burial and death as "childish." (45) He considered the "descent into hell" as an expression of the "spiritual torment" that "Christ suffered in the sight of men" (2.16.10), not a reference to his journey into ghostly "nether depths" (2.16.9). Protestants thus came to deride the Catholic tendency "to particularise and localise imaginary realms, to map out the confines and borders of the hereafter." (46) David Cressy writes that the "protestant revolution radically revised the conceptual geography of salvation"; he points out that the English 1549 Prayer Book still mentioned "the gates of hell" and "the region of light" between which a soul might be caught after death, but subsequent editions completely eliminated spatial concerns from funerary ritual, insisting that the souls of the elect were united with God immediately after death. (47) The Huguenot divine Jean Veron, who had fled to England, noted with contempt that Catholics were so obsessed with the dimensions and boundaries of the beyond that one of their "maister doctours could very well make a Mappe or Carte of those low and infernal regions." (48) But Shakespeare's Titus registers an abiding interest in and need for spiritually situating the dead. When Marcus asks his brother to tend to the space of empire by making him candidatus, Titus turns away, toward the sacred site of the family tomb:
   Titus, unkind and careless of thine own,
   Why suffer'st thou thy sons unburied yet
   To hover on the dreadful shore of Styx?
   Make way to lay them by their brethren.


He is deeply concerned with the securing of otherworldly boundaries: the dead Andronici can cross the river Styx, which circumscribes the perimeter of the underworld, only if their surviving family members formally consign them to the space of the tomb. Titus is no longer interested in defending the borders of Rome against mortal enemies; his primary concern is now with honoring the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead. His words recall the spiritual topography of Hades, the region defined by the rivers of dread--Styx, Acheron, Cocytus, and Phlegethon. Such care for sacred geographies, part of a venerable tradition of literary representation from the classics to Dante's Divine Comedy, (49) constitutes the ideological core of the play and produces the gruesome plot of Tamora and Aaron's "reformation." Early on, Tamora challenges Rome's sacred geography by telling Titus that her "sons slaughtered in the streets" will spiritually and materially pollute the space he venerates most: "Andronicus, stain not thy tomb with blood. / Wilt thou draw near the nature of the gods?" (1.1.115, 119-20). But when Titus insists on the spiritual authority of Rome's sacred spaces--"religiously they ask a sacrifice" (1.1.127)--Tamora turns his words, and his spatial doctrine, on its head--"O cruel, irreligious piety!" (1.1.133). Soon her verbal challenge will grow into the "plots" (1.1.615) of spatial "reformation" devised by Aaron.

IV. "They showed me this abhorred pit"--Pastoral and the "Reformation" of Sacred Space

Richard Marienstras argues that it is the encroachment of a barbarian "wild" into the civilized city that constitutes spatial conflict in Titus Andronicus. (50) I would suggest that the play does not so much present a threatening merger of wilderness and civilization as it stages two distinct and mutually constitutive models of spatial organization. Tamora and Aaron leave the city to contest Rome's concepts of sacred space in the woods: they profane burial space--raping, mutilating, and interring members of Titus's family--in a setting that emerges as the spatial and literary antithesis of Rome's sacred geography and generic coding. The play's spatial constructions seem to pit a masculine city with its elaborately defined sacred spaces against a feral, undifferentiated nature that lurks outside its walls. (51) Jeanne Addison Roberts suggests that in Titus a "power struggle between masculine Culture and the recalcitrant Wild--both feminine and barbarian--occurs." (52) But I want to draw on a different way of reading gendered spaces put forth by geographer Linda McDowell, who argues that space consists of "sets of relations" that change according to historical, social, economic, and cultural milieus. Depending on context, woods or the "Wild" may be coded masculine or feminine, and may appear as a site of liberation or danger. (53) In Titus, the "Wild" is above all a site of topographic and generic opposition; it emerges as an alternative space in which the spatial and spiritual values of a dominant culture can be contested. Even if Tamora is associated with conventional figurations of fecundity and nature (not least because of her pregnancy), while Titus is a man of urban architectural civilization, it is the forest as a site of spatial insurgency for both Tamora and Aaron--the "chief architect and plotter" (5.3.121) who masterminds the reformation of Rome's sacred space--that matters most. In generic terms, if Rome's topography is marked by its epic funerary code, the woods at first emerge as an erotically charged romance landscape in Tamora's lyric paean to sylvan beauty before turning into a site of rape and execution. When Aaron leads Titus's sons Martius and Quintus to the pit and watches them tumble in, he radically subverts Roman burial ritual and spaces.

Not only spatially but also dramatically, this deserted part of the forest presents an extraordinary contrast to the architectural grandeur of the Andronicus monument and the spiritual landscape to which the dead Andronici were consigned. Lawrence Danson observes that formal categories and distinctions were hardly ever upheld in "the splendidly messy reality of generic innovation and instability." (54) For Shakespeare, locational and generic shifts become a means of ideological critique. If a pastoral landscape could be read in Christian terms as a site where a good shepherd tends his flock and as a space where a spiritual connection with the divine is possible, then the play quickly turns the spiritual idyll of pastoral into the profane carnage of revenge. Generic volatility in Titus becomes the dramatic means through which the playwright foregrounds spatial reformation, as the action moves quickly from Rome's epic geography of sacred space to Tamora and Aaron's bloody revenge situated in a landscape that is its spatial opposite--a change that was perhaps made visually conspicuous through the turn from tragic to satyric scenery. (55) The hallowed tomb is replaced first by a pleasure grotto and then a yawning pit that becomes a farcical substitute grave. Spatial and generic shifts are ideologically significant because they are mutually constitutive. If Rome's soaring architecture, its capitol, and Titus's sumptuous family tomb are epic markers of Roman spiritual authority, then Tamora's move to a "counsel-keeping cave" (2.2.24), under shade-dispensing bushes, places her in a topography carefully marked out as antithetical. The lines associate Tamora with "Dido" and her lover Aaron with Aeneas, "the wandering prince" (2.2.22); spatially and generically, Tamora thus locates herself within the digressive challenge of romance, radically augmented by the forest setting and its emphasis on spiritual, spatial, and racial dissent, as the self-professed nonbeliever Aaron moves into the place of Rome's founder, the pious Aeneas. David Quint argues that romance is the genre of "the vanquished" those condemned to drifting and sporadic gestures of vengeance. Romance is Tamora's genre here, but she is not an aimless wanderer; she stages a calculated attack on Titus's spatial order. (56) For Tamora, who had announced that she was "incorporate in Rome" (1.1.467), intentionally places herself outside Rome, where she initiates the gruesome "reformation" of Rome's religious terrain to which Titus cannot help but respond in an even more ghastly act of "counterreformation."

The scene in the woods underscores the centrality of sacred space to spiritual and political order. The forest, so manifestly removed from the city's ordered spiritual topography, briefly appears like the benevolent, feminine "green world" of comedy only to turn into the nightmarish, androgynous landscape of revenge. If the play's substantial generic revision of dramatic landscapes can be read as spatial reformation, Tamora may well be, as Naomi Conn Liebler suggests, the matriarch of an "Afroasiatic dynasty" who ruled Rome for about sixty years and ushered in a "phase" during which Rome's religion was "converted to a Syrian theocracy." (57)

Whatever model of cultural drift we invoke, Tamora and Aaron challenge Titus's spiritual beliefs by parodying the sacred spaces that support them. First, the cave becomes Tamora's erotic "temple" where, instead of praying, she plans to enjoy Aaron's carnal embrace, while the pit finally emerges as an underground caricature of the stately, soaring tomb of the Andronici, which peacefully holds the dead issue of Titus Andronicus. If Titus had argued for his tomb as a blessed place where his dead sons would sleep as serenely as children in a parental embrace, Tamora's words cynically echo that language as she describes her sylvan bower: "hounds and horns and sweet melodious birds / Be unto us as is a nurse's song / Of lullaby to bring her babe asleep" (2.2.27-29). The numinous silence that sets apart the Andronicus tomb is answered by Tamora's natural version of "atmospheric enclosure." (58) The sounds that surround Tamora's cave mark its separation from the rest of the world and signal her sexual parody of sacred space at this important juncture in the play.

But Tamora also caricatures Rome's culture of sacred space in a broader sense. Spotting Tamora far outside the city walls and concluding that she is about to commit adultery, Bassianus is the first Roman to stumble across Tamora's "reformed" sanctuary: "Who have we here? Rome's royal empress ... / Or is it Dian, habited like her, / Who hath abandoned her holy groves / To see the general hunting in this forest?" (2.2.55, 57-59). His cynical lines suggest that Tamora is nothing like the chaste goddess and that her sylvan location is, in fact, a den of iniquity. Tamora's response to the insult exposes her project of spatial reformation: at the Andronicus grave, "Alarbus' limbs are lopped" (1.1.146); now Tamora presents her inversion of this spatial scenario:
   Had I the power that some say Dian had,
   Thy temples should be planted presently
   With horns, as was Actaeon's, and the hounds
   Should drive upon thy new-transformed limbs.


The allusion to the maiming and slaughter of Actaeon, who had breeched the boundary of Diana's sacred precinct, reinforces the connection between spatial sacredness and rituals of separation (read, dismemberment) in the play. We are only moments away from Bassianus's death and Tamora's successful parody of burial when the emperor's brother is thrown into a "detested, dark, blood-drinking pit" (2.2.224).

Tamora's shift from the urban setting to a pastoral topography, from the epic funerary geography of Rome to the subversive romance environment of the cave, finally produces the farce of the pit and thus yields her most monstrous act of spatial "reformation" In a Christian universe, as Philip Sheldrake points out, the wilderness is a place potentially sacred to "the monastic ascetic," for whom "the desert signified wildness, danger and suffering" but also facilitated the "reconfiguration of [a] disordered place into the restoration of a prelapsarian paradise." (59) Tamora forecloses on such potential consecrations of forest space. Her isolated woodland plot becomes the dramatic response to Titus's "sweet cell of virtue and nobility": it seems to be a peaceful, secluded Eden, or a pagan locus amoenus, it is most definitely not a sacred monastic enclosure wrested from the wilderness where "violence [is] legally and absolutely excluded from the precinct." (60) Not only is Tamora not a good shepherd, she is, in fact, a rapacious "tiger" (5.3.5), a figure who directs a ritual of retributive maiming and murdering that challenges Christian notions of a sacred, restorative wilderness and turns the woodland pit into a "hellmouth" carefully coded as the spatial antithesis of the Andronicus tomb and described by Titus's son Martius who, misled by Aaron, tumbles into the hole:
   Lord Bassianus lies berayed in blood

   Upon his bloody finger he doth wear
   A precious ring that lightens all this hole,
   Which like a taper in some monument
   Doth shine upon the dead man's earthy cheeks
   And shows the ragged entrails of this pit.

   O brother, help me with thy fainting hand--

   Out of this fell devouring receptacle,
   As hateful as Cocytus' misty mouth.

(2.2.222, 226-30, 233, 235-36)

This is no monument--the sparkle of Bassianus's ring creates the illusion of sacred space, but this is not a "sweet cell" that welcomes and shelters the Andronici. Martius echoes his father's word but with a grammatical twist that indicates the violent spatial alteration that has occurred. Like the tomb, the pit is a "receptacle," albeit one whose jagged, unwelcoming interior cannot serve as a comfortable place of rest. But there is another, equally significant difference: while Titus has confidently used the adjective sacred to situate the family tomb, Martius employs the noun-modifying participle devouring to indicate the displacement occurring at the bottom of the pit. The horrific hole in the ground is about to consume Rome's sacred geography--Styx was a stable boundary that separated distinct domains, but here Cocytus is an all-engulfing hellmouth that swallows spatial distinctions.

Tamora's defiant turn away from epic toward pastoral romance and eventually revenge play perverts burial and marriage ceremonies and "reforms" Rome's spatial logic by turning a forest cave into a "temple" and, with the help of Aaron, a pit into a parodic grave. The sepulcher of the Andronici was the site of a burial and then the backdrop for the "rape" (read, abduction) of Lavinia; the woods now become what Tina Mohler argues is the setting of the homosexual rape of Bassianus and the irreverent dumping of bodies into a dark pit. (61) Donne's lines from "Epithalamion" intriguingly register the spatial dimensions of--and hence conceptual links between--marriage and interment. They envision a site sanctifying the ecstatic union of lovers and the inevitable passing from the domain of the living into the realm of the dead. Donne's poem speaks of a temporal order according to which sacred space facilitates rites of integration and separation, in proper chronological sequence. In Titus Andronicus, however, this cycle is under pressure from the start; lack of ritual (and thus spatial) division finally makes possible Tamora's spatial "reformation" which, in turn, grotesquely conflates nuptial and burial ceremonies in the forest locale.

Spatial sacredness, achieved through the careful temporal ordering of ritual, is no longer available in Shakespeare's Rome, where burial and betrothal temporally overlap and sacred space is desecrated by the concurrent acts of "rape" and filicide. In his influential work on ritual, Arnold van Gennep argues that sacred space is created by rites that facilitate boundary crossings, by "rites of separation [that] are prominent in funeral ceremonies" as well as by "rites of incorporation at marriages." (62) Spatial stability must be safeguarded by the temporal order of ritual gestures that attend the crossing of boundaries, from youth to adulthood and from life to death. In Donne's "Epithalamion" the sacred space of the "temple" facilitates both events, and a temporal sequence guarantees the sanctity of the site. In Titus Andronicus, the conflation of marital and burial rites signifies the process of spatial desecration. Tamora's contestation of Titus's beliefs, her argument that they are "irreligious," begins a cycle of spatial desecration--the first is the "rape" (or abduction) of his daughter by Bassianus. Van Gennep observes that rites of separation often involve "cutting" and various forms of "mutilation" and are therefore rare in marriage ceremonies. (63) At the sacred site of the Andronicus grave, gestures of severing and incorporation coincide and challenge the stability of Rome's sacred sites. When Titus insists on giving Lavinia to Saturninus at the family grave, Mutius stands against his father, arguing that Bassianus alone has a right to Lavinia. It becomes clear now that Romans themselves struggle with the sacrality of the burial site. Mutius seeks to recover what he deems the sanctity of the family grave by physically challenging his father "with [his] sword ... [to] keep this door [of the tomb] safe" (1.1.292). But there is little hope of re-establishing the sacredness of the tomb, a fact underscored by Titus's brutal murder of Mutius. The "rape" of Lavinia, bookended by two killings, and the truncating of two families in front of the Andronicus tomb dramatically prefigure the antithetical space of the "barren detested vale" (2.2.93), where Tamora's own version of spatial profanation will take place.

The temporal convergence of betrothal and funerary ceremonies, expressed through the sexual competition over Lavinia in front of the Andronicus tomb, subsequently shapes Tamora's "reformation" of space. A desolate pit in the woods thus becomes the grave of Bassianus (himself guilty of spatial violation at the Andronicus tomb), right before Tamora consents to the desecration of Lavinia's sacrosanct womb. From her very first moments onstage, Lavinia is associated with the family tomb where she greets her returning father: "Lo, at this tomb my tributary tears / I render for my brethren's obsequies" (1.1.162-63). In the woods, Tamora destroys the virginal "sacred receptacle" of Roman patriarchal spirituality. Coppelia Kahn draws our attention to the "virgin daughter's womb [that] is the hidden, prized treasure of her father," and to Page DuBois's notion of "thesaurization," that is, to the "representation of the female body ... as vase, oven, and temple." (64) For Tamora, Lavinia's uterus is the material manifestation of the spiritual womb of the Andronicus grave--for Titus, both spaces signify purity and inviolability. By destroying the "temple" of Lavinia's body, Tamora contests the holiness of Titus's tomb and obliterates the spatial as much as the temporal order of her enemy's world--not least of all because Lavinia's husband is buried before his wife's sexual handling by Tamora's sons. The "abhorred pit" set in a "barren detested vale" (2.2.98, 93) becomes a horrific grave, the spatial inversion of Titus's "sacred receptacle" and "sweet cell," a dark, dismal hole in the ground (perhaps Alarbus was thrown into just such a ditch after his dismemberment). If Titus had previously tried to set apart the family monument as an incontrovertibly sacred space, Tamora, who failed to challenge its spiritual authority earlier, does so now, verbally and dramatically. (65) With Bassianus's corpse and Titus's sons dumped into the pit alive, no one is left to defend Rome's sacred spaces; Titus's consecrated sites have been violently "reformed."

V. "And of the paste a coffin will I rear": Farce and the Counterreformation of Sacred Space

What Michael Neill has called "the grisly farce of revenge is carried through a series of increasingly grotesque mock-funerals, finding its climax in the banquet scene of Act V"; (66) the descent from the dignified heights of epic entombment to farcical burial finally signifies the collapse of a stable world of sacred sites. Farce becomes the theatrical mode through which Shakespeare presents the irrevocable loss of sacred space. After Tamora's violent "reformation" of the sanctity of the tomb, Titus responds with a macabre, necrophagous reconceptualization of the gravesite--his response, as he says, is to "plot some device of further misery" (3.1.135). With the help of Lavinia, in a grotesque parody of mortuary practices, Titus butchers Chiron and Demetrius, "grind[s] their bones to powder small," and "in that paste ... bake[s]" their "vile heads" (5.2.198, 200). The place of interment of these grossly mutilated bodies becomes their mother's belly, a site that is a ghoulish distortion of Rome's sacred space of burial. Liebler suggests that Titus Andronicus gives us a "ritual gone awry" that forecloses on the possibility of cyclical renewal, one that is familiar from the topos of cannibalism in Greek and Roman tragedy. (67) Although I agree with Liebler that recovery is not possible after this necrophagous burial, I argue that Titus's actions do not constitute a ritual aberration but provide a carefully articulated structural analogy to and then a grisly counterreformation of Tamora's attack on Rome's sacred geography in the pit scene. The play suggests that rigid adherence to ancient notions of spatial sanctification is dangerous because it produces macabre inversion rather than regenerative adjustment. When Titus announces to his victims that "I will grind your bones to dust, / And with your blood and it I'll make a paste, / And of the paste a coffin I will rear" (5.2.186-88), he tells Chiron and Demetrius that their own pulverized carcasses will double as monstrous caskets. (68) Titus's retaliatory dissection simultaneously recalls the practice of preserving bodies for burial in consecrated ground and gestures toward a rising practice of medical dissection which, as Katharine Park has argued, could "violat[e] ... the personal and familial honor expressed in contemporary funeral ritual." (69) Titus's gesture here is studied profanation, aimed, above all, at countering Tamora's blasphemous "reformation" of burial space. Titus's charge that "like to the earth" she must "swallow her own increase" (5.2.191) finally constitutes the ideological core of the last act as Tamora absurdly becomes a burial site herself. Titus's frenzied striving for Roman spatial pietas produces a most grotesque final resting place for Chiron and Demetrius and ultimately invalidates the culture of spatial sacredness to which he is so passionately committed.

Titus's son Lucius obdurately continues his father's practices; his actions further compromise the sacredness of the grave when he consigns Aaron to a hole in the ground in which he buries him up to his neck. To an extent, he begins with the funeral parody with which his father ended. John Kerrigan draws attention to the dramatic similarities between Aaron's and Tamora's burials: "Devoured by a 'swallowing' hole, the solitary Moor is forced (Tamora-like) to consume his own flesh by dwindling" away to nothing. (70) After staging a farcical burial, Lucius aims, with epic heft, to reinstitute Rome's ancient sacred funerary site when he presides over the interment of Titus and Lavinia in the family tomb. This solemn ritual also expels Tamora, the original challenger of Rome's sacred sites, permanently from the city's consecrated precincts. It is worth noting, however, that the self-professed nonbeliever Aaron remains spatially incorporated. Although we do not know the location of his burial, spatially his exclusion from Rome is not as obvious. His shadowy presence means that despite Lucius's insistence on restoring full spiritual authority to Rome's ancient sacred sites, they will, in fact, never be the same. Rome has been profoundly altered by the spatial proximity of the challengers (the Goths who were Rome's enemies are also in the city now) to its sacred sites.

VI. Re-placing the Sacred

That the play is concerned with the culture of Christian spatial sanctification can be seen even in the Clown's seemingly inconsequential line, with its remarkable allusion to the first Christian martyr, "God and Saint Stephen give you good e'en" (4.4.42). In his Historia Francorum, Gregory of Tours credited St. Stephen with the preservation of a church's most sacred precinct during a Hunnish invasion: "no building in the town remained unburnt except the oratory of Saint Stephen, Levite and first martyr," who appeared to "one of the faithful" and told him that in the city of Metz there was a "spot there in which the relics of my own humble existence are preserved"--and while the city burned, "the oratory remained unscathed." (71) Robert Miola reminds us that Stephen is not only "the first biblical saint to die for Christ," but that his martyrdom has specific London sites associated with it, for example, "St. Stephen's Alley" and shrines in "two London churches." (72) The Clown's seemingly cursory reference to a key figure in sacred Christian funerary culture reminds the audience once again of Christianity's complex and violent relationship to sacred space.

The play's remarkable "unity of effect," which produces the perpetual return to the sacred site of burial, makes obvious the limitations of a traditional culture of spatial sacrality in an age of profound religious reformation. The ancient sacred sites of Rome hardly seem worth preserving because of the archaic, bloody rituals that constitute them; at the same time, those who challenge these ancient holy sites, seeking to render them profane, are scarcely morally justified in their gruesome reformation plots. Where could believers turn in a world in which longstanding sacred sites had been obliterated? Perhaps they might espouse something like a sacred peripateticism, what Michel de Certeau terms the search for a "way not to come back," a radically altered approach to space in which perpetual locational change and the going beyond set places become a new manner of sanctifying space. (73) Historian Lisa McClain notes that as Protestants engaged in the iconoclastic destruction of ancient sacred sites, Catholics began fashioning new sacred spaces in their homes and gardens, on their own bodies, in court rooms, and in prisons. But it was above all the road to the gallows, through "Holborn ... [that] became a via sacra, a martyrs' way, for many Catholics on their way to executions at Tyburn," (74) demonstrating how difficult it was to dissociate sacred space from places of violence and death. If Shakespeare had Catholic sympathies, as Lukas Erne suggests in his reading of the play, then Titus Andronicus makes a case against a religious culture that inflexibly holds on to ancient sacred spaces and violently seeks to restore them to their traditional dimensions. The relentless return to the site of the grave demonstrates a spiritual need for sacred space but also cautions against rigid adherence to long-established codes of sacred space. Titus Andronicus does not so much make a case for secularization as for resituating the sacred, especially in relationship to the space of burial. What better place to launch a provocative interrogation of spatial sanctity than from the marginal and ostensibly profane location of the public stage?

Stonehill College


(1) What follows is a necessarily limited catalog of work on the dramatic and ideological functions of mutilation in the play: Mary L. Fawcett, 'grins/Words/Tears: Language and the Body in Titus Andronicus," English Literary History 50 (1983): 261-77; Gillian Murray Kendall, "'Lend me thy hand': Metaphor and Mayhem in Titus Andronicus," Shakespeare Quarterly 40 (1989): 299-316; Douglas E. Green, "Interpreting 'her martyr'd signs': Gender and Tragedy in Titus Andronicus," Shakespeare Quarterly 40 (1989): 317-26; Louise C. Noble, "'And make two pasties of your shameful heads': Medical Cannibalism and Healing the Body Politic in Titus Andronicus," English Literary History 70 (2003): 677-708; and Lisa Dickson, "'High' Art and 'Low' Blows: Titus Andronicus and the Critical Language of Pain," Shakespeare Bulletin 26, no. 1 (Spring 2008): 1-22.

(2) See especially Robert S. Miola, "'An alien people clutching their gods'? Shakespeare's Ancient Religions," Shakespeare Survey 54 (2001): 31-45; Nicholas Rand Moschovakis, "'Irreligious Piety' and Christian History: Persecution as Pagan Anachronism in Titus Andronicus," Shakespeare Quarterly 53 (2002): 460-86; Cynthia Marshall, "The Pornographic Economy of Titus Andronicus," in The Shattering of the Self: Violence, Subjectivity, and Early Modern Texts (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002), 106-37; and Lukas Erne, "'Popish Tricks' and 'a Ruinous Monastery': Titus Andronicus and the Question of Shakespeare's Catholicism," in The Limits of Textuality, ed. Lukas Erne and Guillemette Bolens (Tubingen: Narr, 2000), 135-55. Jonathan Bates introduction to the play also discusses religious contexts; see Titus Andronicus, ed. Jonathan Bate, Arden Shakespeare, 3rd set. (London: Thomson, 2006), 19-21. Quotations from this edition are hereafter cited in the text.

(3) Miola, "'An alien people,'" 32.

(4) Carlos M. N. Eire, War Against the Idols: The Reformation of Worship from Erasmus to Calvin (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 2. See also Margaret Aston, England's Iconoclasts (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988).

(5) Philip Schwyzer, Archaeologies of English Renaissance Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 100. Patrick Collinson reminds us that the dissolution of the monasteries "helped to provoke the most threatening of the Tudor rebellions, the Pilgrimage of Grace of 1536-37"; see The Reformation: A History (New York: Random House, 2004), 128. On the significance of sacred space in post-Reformation England, see Eamon Duffy's magisterial The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, c. 1400-c. 1580 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992).

(6) Shakespeare dramatizes the place of the grave not only in Titus Andronicus but also in Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and Antony and Cleopatra--although I would not argue that the geography of burial is a major dramaturgic feature of Shakespeare's plays. In an age of major religious change, a number of plays reimagined sacred space and especially the place of the dead, very prominently The Atheist's Tragedy and The Duchess of Malfi, for instance, but also The Spanish Tragedy, which presents a detailed discussion of the topography of Hades and visually dramatizes the places inhabited by the living and the dead, as the ghost of Don Andrea and the otherworldly figure of Revenge hover "aloft." The placement of the dead was a key dramatic element of Greek tragedy--Sophocles' Antigone being the most famous example--although Shakespeare and other early modern English playwrights probably did not have firsthand knowledge of Greek dramas such as Antigone, but encountered them in Roman rewritings. Nonetheless, the dramatic representation of the sacred spaces of burial is a key concern in Titus Andronicus. On Shakespeare and Greek tragedy, see Charles and Michelle Martindale, Shakespeare and the Uses of Antiquity: An Introductory Essay (London: Routledge, 1994), 40-1. See also Michael Silk, "Shakespeare and Greek Tragedy: Strange Relationship," in Shakespeare and the Classics, ed. Charles Martindale and Albert Booth Taylor (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 241-57. On the significance of burial in Antigone, see Malcolm Heath, The Poetics of Greek Tragedy (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1987), 74-76.

(7) It is not entirely certain that only one son is being buried in the first act; modern editions have one "coffin covered with black" in their stage directions. See, for instance, Titus Andronicus, ed. Eugene M. Waith (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 87. In the Arden edition, Jonathan Bate points out that the Folio's stage directions indicate "coffins," not surprisingly, perhaps, because Titus himself refers to the twenty-one sons no longer living at this point in the dramatic action as "these that I bring unto their latest home" (1.1.86). "Elizabethan staging" Bate observes, "was often more emblematic than literal" (132 n. 72). I assume that at the opening of the play, one coffin (and one son) is lowered into the grave, although the number of coffins is of no consequence to my argument. According to Marcus, Titus has been burying sons all through the ten-year campaign against the Goths: "five times he hath returned / Bleeding to Rome, bearing his valiant sons / In coffins from the field" (1.1.33-35).

(8) An interesting parody of the place of burial appears in A Midsummer Night's Dream, where a couple of bumbling "mechanicals" playing Pyramus and Thisbe meet at "old Ninny's tomb," where tragedy and comedy coincide in complex ways. See A Midsummer Night's Dream, ed. Harold E Brooks, Arden Shakespeare, 2nd rev. ed. (London: Thomson, 2007), 5.1.252. In my opinion, it is the metatheatrical handling of the place of burial--the aesthetic division between the tragic Ovidian plot and the larger comic frame (underscored by the stage audience's commentary)--that makes this burlesque of the gravesite acceptable.

(9) Bate, 19-20. The Goths play a crucial role in installing the last of the Andronici on the Roman imperial throne, but that does not make them the (future Protestant) heroes of the play. See Moschovakis, 466.

(10) Bronislaw Malinowski, "The Role of Magic and Religion," in Reader in Comparative Religion: An Anthropological Approach, ed. William A. Lessa and Evon Z. Vogt (New York: Harper and Rowe, 1965), 102-12 (71).

(11) Schools of thought on the connection between burial practices and the fashioning of sacred space in anthropology include the essentialist concepts of Gerardus van der Leeuw, Religion in Essence and Manifestation: A Study in Phenomenology, trans. J. E. Turner (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963); and Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion (New York: Harcourt; 1987) and Patterns in Comparative Religion (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1996). All three texts argue for the innate sacredness of certain sites. On the constructionist theories of sacred space, see Emile Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, trans. Carol Cosman (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001); Arnold van Gennep, The Rites of Passage, trans. Monika B. Vizedom and Gabrielle L. Caffee (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960); and, more recently, Jonathan Z. Smith, Map Is Not Territory: Studies in the History of Religions (Leiden: Brill, 1978) and To Take Place: Toward Theory in Ritual (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987). Smith points out that historically and culturally contingent ritual labor generates holy sites, not a kind of natural or intrinsic sanctity.

(12) Philip Sheldrake, Spaces for the Sacred: Place, Memory, and Identity (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001), 51.

(13) Bruce Gordon and Peter Marshall, "Introduction: Placing the Dead in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe," in The Place of the Dead: Death and Remembrance in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe, ed. Bruce Gordon and Peter Marshall (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 1-16 (9).

(14) On the struggles over traditional concepts of the relationship between the dead and the living, see Carol Piper Heming, Protestants and the Cult of the Saints in German-Speaking Europe, 1517-1531 (Kirksville, Mo.: Truman State University Press, 2003).

(15) Peter Marshall, "'The map of God's word': Geographies of the Afterlife in Tudor and Early Stuart England," The Place of the Dead, 110-30 (114).

(16) Gordon Braden argues that Senecan revenge tragedy constitutes a Roman parody of its "Greek counterparts" especially in an insistence on "the primal force of unreason" See his Renaissance Tragedy and the Senecan Tradition: Anger's Privilege (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985), 28.

(17) "A Proclamation against the breakinge and defacing of monuments," in A Book Containing all such Proclamations as were published during the Raigne of the late Queen Elizabeth, ed. Humphrey Dyson (London, 1618), 22-23.

(18) Ibid., 23.

(19) David Cressy, Birth, Marriage, and Death: Ritual, Religion, and the Life-Cycle in Tudor and Stuart England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 460-61 (emphasis added).

(20) Nigel Llewellyn, Funeral Monuments in Post-Reformation England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 363.

(21) Clare Gittings, Death, Burial and the Individual in Early Modern England (Beckenham, Kent: Helm, 1984), 40.

(22) Michael Neill, Issues of Death: Mortality and Identity in English Renaissance Tragedy (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), 32. Neill is interested in funerary rituals rather than the spaces of burial, as is Susan Zimmerman in her provocative study The Early Modern Corpse and Shakespeare's Theatre (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2005).

(23) Neill, 265-66.

(24) John Weever, Ancient funeral monuments within the united monarchie of Great Britaine, Ireland, and the islands adjacent (London: Thomas Harper, 1631), xxxvii.

(25) Arguing for a steady interest in church building and improvement, and an unflagging commitment to the building and preservation of sacred spaces in post-Reformation England, historian Julia Merritt suggests that Laudian church beautification of the 1630s represented a distinct and comprehensive movement toward the restoration of sacred spaces. See Merritt, "Puritans, Laudians, and the Phenomenon of Church-Building in Jacobean London," Historical Journal 41 (1998): 935-60.

(26) Weever, xxxvii-xxxviii.

(27) Philip Sidney, An Apology for Poetry or The Defence of Poesy, ed. Geoffrey Shepherd and R. W. Maslen, 3rd ed. (Manchester: University of Manchester Press, 2002), 110.

(28) Ibid., 111.

(29) Green, 319.

(30) Lawrence Danson, Shakespeare's Dramatic Genres (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 25.

(31) Robert S. Miola, Shakespeare's Rome (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 46.

(32) Virgil, The Aeneid of Virgil: A Verse Translation, trans. Allen Mandelbaum (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1981), 5.64, 63. Quotations from this edition are hereafter cited in the text.

(33) Ovid, Fasti, trans. James George Frazer, 2nd ed., Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1989), 2.543-45.

(34) Heather James, Shakespeare's Troy: Drama, Politics, and the Translation of Empire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 44.

(35) David Scott Kastan, "'A rarity most beloved': Shakespeare and the Idea of Tragedy," in A Companion to Shakespeare's Works, ed. Richard Dutton and Jean E. Howard, vol. 1, The Tragedies (Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2003), 4-22 (15).

(36) Thus interment near a church's altar or in the chancel became desirable for the worldly prestige to be gained from the memory of the deceased and his surviving family, not the holiness of the site. See Cressy, 456-75, and Will Coster, "A Microcosm of Community: Burial, Space, and Society in Chester, 1598-1633," in Sacred Space in Early Modern Europe, ed. Will Coster and Andrew Spicer (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 124-43.

(37) Cressy, 462.

(38) Burial in the soil of one's homeland cannot only be considered an uncomplicatedly secular act. Carolyn Marvin and David W. Ingle argue for the totemic sanctification of a nation's soil through the burial of its dead warriors. Fallen soldiers are never to be abandoned in

the alien places where they died, and their conveyance home is not only a politically expedient gesture but a spiritual one as well. See Marvin and Ingle, Blood Sacrifice and the Nation: Totem Rituals and the American Flag (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999). The Andronici died as soldier-martyrs for Rome and its spiritual as well as imperial ideals.

(39) For a discussion of Bellarmine and the chief Protestant writer on sacred space, Rudolf Hospinianus, see Per Gustaf Hamberg, Temples for Protestants: Studies in the Architectural Milieu of the Early Reformed Church and the Lutheran Church (1955; Goteborg: Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis, 2002).

(40) Sheldrake, 91.

(41) David Chidester and Edward T. Linenthal, introduction to American Sacred Space, ed. David Chidester and Edward T. Linenthal (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995), 9.

(42) Sharon E. J. Gerstel, Thresholds of the Sacred: Architectural, Art Historical, Liturgical, and Theological Perspectives on Religious Screens, East and West (Washington, DC: Dumberton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 2006), 2.

(43) Ibid.

(44) R. A. Foakes, Illustrations of the English Stage, 1580-1642 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1985), 50. For a list that includes, among many other items, prop tombs, rocks, bells, trees and a "hellmouth," see Philip Henslowe, Henslowe's Diary, ed. R. A. Foakes, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 319.

(45) John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, ed. John T. McNeill, vol. 1., Library of Christian Classics 20 (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1960), 2.16.9, p. 514. Quotations from this edition are hereafter cited in the text.

(46) Marshall, 114.

(47) Cressy, 396.

(48) Jean Veron, The Huntynge of Purgatorye to Death (London, 1561), fol. 161v.

(49) The work of the Italian poet was certainly well known in England, although it is a matter of speculation how familiar Shakespeare was with Dante. See, for instance, Robin Kirkpatrick, English and Italian Literature from Dante to Shakespeare: A Study of Source, Analogue, and Divergence (London: Longman, 1995).

(50) Marienstras writes that "mutilations and dismemberments take place both in the wild forest and in the now barbarous city" and argues that by undoing the nature/culture binary, the play descends into violence and anarchy. Richard Marienstras, New Perspectives on the Shakespearean World, trans. Janet Lloyd (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 46.

(51) On the history of constructing cities as masculine, rational, and ordered, see, for instance, Page DuBois, Centaurs and Amazons: Women and the Pre-History of the Great Chain of Being (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1991), and Elizabeth Wilson, The Sphinx in the City: Urban Life, the Control of Disorder, and Women (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1992).

(52) Jeanne Addison Roberts, The Shakespearean Wild: Geography, Genus, and Gender (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1991), 35.

(53) Linda McDowell, Gender, Identity, and Place: Understanding Feminist Geographies (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999), 31.

(54) Danson, 20.

(55) We do not know what properties were placed on the stage when the play was first performed (although according to Henslowe topographic props were certainly in use). The division between tragic, comic, and satyric settings--public buildings belonging to the first, private dwellings to the second, and caves, rocks, and trees to the third category--was inherited from Roman theater and documented in the writings of Vitruvius. The Italian architect Sebastiano Serlio included a discussion of this type of scenery in his influential treatise on architecture. I am not suggesting great familiarity on Shakespeare's part with these works, but merely an awareness of rudimentary scenic distinctions. See Martin Banham, The Cambridge Guide to Theatre (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 1090.

(56) David Quint, Epic and Empire: Politics and Generic Form from Virgil to Milton (Princeton: Princeton University Press), 50.

(57) Liebler draws attention to a previously overlooked source Shakespeare may have used for Titus Andronicus, Herodian of Antioch's History of the Roman Empire. See Naomi Conn Liebler, Shakespeare's Festive Tragedy: The Ritual Foundations of Genre (London: Routledge, 1995), 134.

(58) Gerstel, 2.

(59) Sheldrake, 112.

(60) Ibid., 111-12.

(61) Tina Mohler argues persuasively for Bassianus's murder as homosexual rape in "'What is thy body but a swallowing grave ...?': Desire Underground in Titus Andronicus," Shakespeare Quarterly 57 (2006): 23-44.

(62) Van Gennep, 11. Titus employs the term rape to indicate the--in his opinion--inappropriate match between Lavinia and Bassianus. I suggest that the spatial confusion of the scene is brought on by temporally muddled rituals.

(63) Ibid., 130.

(64) Coppelia Kahn, Roman Shakespeare: Warriors, Wounds, and Women (New York: Routledge, 1997), 50.

(65) Here is an instance in which one of the early modern stage's spatial devices, the trapdoor, would come in very handy indeed. As R. A. Foakes confirms, the trapdoor constituted one of the most spectacular architectural features of London's arena theaters and "was jocularly known as 'hell'" (16). Tamora is undoubtedly inverting spatial conceptions of "heaven" and "hell" in this scene, as the pit parodies Titus's ideology. See R. A. Foakes, "Playhouses and Players" in The Cambridge Companion to English Renaissance Drama, ed. A. R. Braunmuller and Michael Hattaway (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 1-52.

(66) Neill, 294.

(67) Liebler, 141.

(68) According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a coffin could be a case, box, or pie crust, in sixteenth-century usage; by the mid-sixteenth century, the term was also increasingly applied to caskets and sarcophagi.

(69) Katharine Park. "The Criminal and the Saintly Body: Autopsy and Dissection in Renaissance Italy," Renaissance Quarterly 47 (1994): 1-33 (4). On embalming techniques that included dissection, see Julian Litten, The English Way of Death: The Common Funeral since 1450 (London: Hale, 1991).

(70) John Kerrigan, Revenge Tragedy: Aeschylus to Armageddon (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 199.

(71) Gregory of Tour, The History of the Franks, trans. Lewis Thorpe (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1974), 2.6, p. 115-16.

(72) Miola, "'An alien people,'" 34. Two London churches--St. Stephen Coleman Street and St. Stephen Walbrook--were dedicated to the proto-martyr Stephen. See John Stow, A Survey of London, ed. C. L. Kingsford (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1908), 138-43.

(73) Michel de Certeau, The Mystic Fable, trans. Michael B. Smith (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), 14. For de Certeau, Christian practice in the aftermath of the Reformation becomes associated with non-places, with ceaseless movement, and with pilgrimage. The tale of the empty space of Christ's tomb destabilizes all human conceptions of space for de Certeau--the sacred can thus not be located definitively but moves perpetually. For a lucid discussion of de Certeau's theory of sacred space, see Sheldrake.

(74) Lisa McClain, Lest We Be Damned: Practical Innovation and Lived Experience among Catholics in Protestant England, 1559-1642 (New York: Routledge, 2004), 148.
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Author:Duncan, Helga L.
Publication:Comparative Drama
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 22, 2009
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