Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Rome. Center of the Roman Empire, where the play opens at Emperor Titus’s royal court. The entrance of the emperor’s sons through different doors opens the play and denotes the division and divided loyalties that will plague Rome, preparing the audience for the political strife that ravages the court. In contrast, the tribunes and senators of Rome, along with Marcus, the brother of Titus, appear aloft on the balcony, in order to underscore the tradition of a once mighty and proud Rome that remains “above” the fray of petty squabbles and familial strife. Into this contrasting setting appears Titus on the main stage in his triumphal entrance to the city, bringing both prisoners and Roman dead, as he moves to the trapdoor, which functions as the burial site for those slain in battle.

Later in the play, the trapdoor becomes a pit dug in the countryside of Rome, used by the sons of the evil queen to hide a murder and to ensnare two of Titus’s sons. Thus the location of the play is less important than the symbolism of where characters perform. In and nearby the court of Rome may be the referenced sites, but the playhouse stage reveals more, offering the medieval concept of theatrum mundi, or “world as a stage,” which measures all things vertically, from hell below to heaven above, as mankind “frets and struts his hour upon the stage,” as Macbeth says in another of Shakespeare’s plays.