In a state school of over 9,000 undergraduate students,125 English students might not seem like a lot. Despite the low enrollment numbers, the English department makes sure their presence is known on campus and that each of the department’s programs makes a mark on the University of Maine community.
On Sept. 26 from 6-9 p.m., English students at UMaine had the opportunity to gather together and watch Shakespeare’s “Titus Andronicus.” The film was available to view on the first floor of Raymond H. Fogler Library.
This historically controversial and well-known Shakespearean classic was adapted for film by director Julie Taymor in 2000. The film deals with topics and subjects still pertinent to society and culture today such as racism, violence, sexism and revenge. Although critiqued and viewed by the public as a play that includes too much gore and sensitive themes, it is still widely reviewed in the literary world for its significance and historical relevance.
“This was such a good way to allow students to have the chance to watch and talk about what we read in class together,” third-year English student Ally Cyr said. “This play is definitely one of my favorites because of how complex it is and how many things there are to discuss.”
Students enrolled in the course “Shakespeare and English Renaissance” have been studying “Titus Andronicus” as one of six Shakespeare plays discussed and analyzed throughout the class. Other plays on their syllabus include “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Othello,” “Macbeth,” “All’s Well That Ends Well” and “Winter’s Tale.” The class is currently taught by Professor of English and Stephen E. King Chair in Literature Caroline Bicks.
“This seemingly simple tragedy unfolds into a chaotic mess that is shown both in the film adaption and by actually reading the play in class itself,” Hannah Dyer, a third-year English student, said. “It was fun to be able to read the play and discuss it in class, and then also have the chance to view the entire film with other peers who were there to ask questions to and discuss things with.”
The original play was written by Shakespeare between 1588 and 1593. It centers around a man named Titus Andronicus, a general from Rome coming home after a 10-year war. Andronicus takes prisoners of war, including Tamora, queen of the enemy warriors. Her lover Aaron is with them, along with Tamora’s sons, and together the family stirs up chaos and mayhem that eventually leads to a tragic revenge story.
“The story of Titus and his family is one that has many ties to familiar Greek and Roman ancient foundation stories. In our class, we spend a lot of time going over the historical background that shapes and frames much of Shakespeare’s writing, and part of this past comes through in the language and action of the film,” Cyr said.
Taymor takes her own spin on the classic play by staging each scene in dramatic ways that reveal the character’s intentions and motivations. The subtle changes from the written play to the filmed adaptation were put in place to make internal dialogue and character revenge plans more easily visible to the audience. The five-act play was condensed into a 162 minute film.
“We have so many interesting English classes and programs offered here. They all give us a lot of opportunities to get together with other students and discuss what we are passionate about, such as this one,” Ethan O’Rourke, a second-year English and education student, said.
The English Department office is located in 304 Neville Hall, and hosts readings, discussions and other events available to learn more about on english.umaine.edu.