How have extremes of emotion expressed in Titus Andronicus and selected WW1 poetry been effectively created by the writers’ craft and performance of the drama text onstage, on screen and in the classroom? GCSE Controlled Assessment Day 3

How have extremes of emotion expressed in Titus Andronicus and selected WW1 poetry been effectively created by the writers’ craft and performance of the drama text onstage, on screen and in the classroom?

Extremes of emotions are a vital part to any text, whether it is a novel, play or poem. In this essay I will be exploring the emotions felt and the techniques used to display these. I will be analysing the revenge tragedy Titus Andronicus; the first play written by the famous playwright William Shakespeare (written between 1593 and 1594), and poems from a selection of World War One war poems, by the war poets Wilfred Owen and Seigfried Sassoon. Both the play and the poems are founded upon violence and revenge, which plays a significant part in both, and it is because of this that strong emotions are felt in both.

The fact that Titus Andronicus was Shakespeare’s first play is a huge factor towards its violence and base around anger; as a budding playwright with no reputation Shakespeare needed to capture the attention of the public in a big way. To do this, he essentially did the best thing possible: base his play around violence. In the late 16th century, violent action had a large audience, due to the macho attitude of the people and the male predominance in both those acting and viewing plays. Titus Andronicus is considered Shakespeare’s most violent play, probably because he did not need any more to make an ‘entrance’ into the theatrical world. As with life, violence will always have a negative outcome on at least one party, and to suit this the main emotions show in this play are grief and despair.
Both Wilfred Owen (1893-1918) and Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967) were soldiers within the first world war, fighting on the front line. Both wrote the majority of their poems whilst in hospital back from the front lines, and actually met each other in Scotland. The rebellious and truthful messages in the poems that they wrote about the war, illustrating it in a sad and tragic light, were previously unheard of. However, it is speculated that these ‘rebellious’ thought could have been due to the fact that both men were considered social outcasts; as they were both homosexual in a time that homosexuality was not considered acceptable. This would have slightly alienated them from the whole, allowing them to view and describe the war from a different perspective.

In Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus and many of the war poems, an iambic pentameter is a key part of the structure of the texts. It is heard mainly when the texts are performed vocally with a heavier beat stressing every second syllable with ten syllables a link, emulating the audiences heartbeat in addition to emphasising certain words. Within characters, iambic pentameter is used to show confidence, and Shakespeare has only used this technique on selected characters, who are the most important.
“She is the weeping welkin, in the earth/Then must my sea be moved with her sighs” (Titus- Act 3 scene 1).
Within this monologue by Titus, mourning the loss of Lavinia’s beauty, hands and tongue, the iambic pentameter is clear. However, as shown by the second line of this quote, Shakespeare has utilised a weak foot-a line with a different number of syllables to the regular meter (nine in this case). This degradation of the meter shows all confidence that Titus had leaving him, and shows that the despair he feels is overwhelming his ability to speak. The weak foot/degradation of the meter technique was very noticeable while watching the play, with the slight pause in the speech letting the words settle in, and increase their impact on the audience.
The poetry also makes use of an iambic pentameter, evidence of this is found in Wilfred Owen’s ‘Anthem for Doomed youth’:
“The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;/and bugles calling for them from sad shires”
Due to the fact that the words are difficult to read fast, the iambic pentameter creates an effect of a slow funeral march, showing the feeling of intense sadness. The emphasised second beat can also be interpreted as the heavy thud of shells falling, giving the poem persona. This poem also utilises the technique of a weak foot, used in this case to question the audience with a rhetorical question;
“What passing bells for those who die as cattle?”
The extra syllable in this line breaks the rhythm and will create a break in the flow when it is performed. Personally, I think that this is particularly effective technique as when it was read out it causes the audience to reflect on the question that was asked, and leaves part of the interpretation of the poem up to the audience’s imaginations.

The iambic pentameter, and weak foots within it, are both techniques that show extensive use in both the play and the poems to convey emotion. However, the emotion shown in the play and poem differs; in the play it originally show Titus as confident, almost too the point of arrogant:
“Thou great defender of this Capitol/stand gracious to the rites that we intend!”
The subsequent degradation of this meter shows sadness, but it an angry sadness filled with regret and woe.
On the other hand, Wilfred Owen’s Anthem for Doomed Youth seems more void of emotions than Titus Andronicus, feeling like a sadness that has caused the writer of the play to become an introvert, and hide within themselves. This effect was also created by the use of irony, paired with powerful words.

Irony is a key technique used in all of the war poetry. Wilfred Owen was killed on the 4th of November, 1918, exactly a week before Armistice. The dramatic irony of this was that his poems all looked down upon the war, and were against the propaganda of it. The fact that his death was due to the war amplifies his poems’ demeanour against the war, adding persona.

To use: sequestered

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