Titus’s revenge and/as imperial roman satire

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This essay explores the idea that the grotesque denouement of Titus Andronicus—and specifically that portion of the play staged as Titus’s dinner party—draws upon ideas about Rome and decorum from imperial Roman satire. The cannibal banquet in Act 5 of Titus Andronicus is designed to violate Horace’s remarks from the Ars Poetica about how ‘the feast of Thyestes’ should not be staged in a manner commensurate with comedy. In keeping with its exploration of indecorum as an index to corruption, the play’s weird denouement makes use of the generic resources of Roman satire, and especially of Juvenal and Persius, since each of these imperial-era writers positons themselves as indecorous and post-Horatian. Titus uses his dinner party to satirize Roman mores that he has come to recognize as corrupt, and as host he re-enacts Roman satire’s obsessive interest in food, cooking, and the dinner party as both metaphor and setting. In doing so, Titus literalizes a link between cannibalism and post-Horatian indecorum that is figural in Persius.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)40-60
Number of pages21
JournalExplorations in Renaissance culture
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2022


  • Cannibalism
  • Decorum
  • Elizabethan satire
  • Food
  • Horace
  • Juvenal
  • Persius
  • Roman Satire
  • Rome
  • Satire
  • Satura
  • Shakespeare
  • Titus Andronicus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Music
  • Philosophy
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • History
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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