Skip to main content

Exchanging Hands in Titus Andronicus

  • 288 Accesses

Part of the Cognitive Studies in Literature and Performance book series (CSLP)

Abstract

The gesture of exchanging hands was fundamentally one of friendship and allegiance in the early modern era, as it is today. However, this gesture can also be performed deceptively or ironically. This chapter focuses on William Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, where the handclasp’s status as a gesture of friendship and loyalty is subverted. The chapter draws on cognitive theories about the touch and about kinesis, and on early modern texts that deal with handshakes, to provide one explanation why this gesture has long been associated with creating honest relationships between two people. The chapter argues that the dishonest or mocking handshakes in Titus Andronicus, which are performed with severed hands, are particularly shocking when understood against this backdrop.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution.

Notes

  1. 1.

    Walter Raleigh, The History of the World, 2nd ed. (London: William Stansby, 1617), Fff2r.

  2. 2.

    Henry Siddons, Practical Illustrations of Rhetorical Gesture and Action Adapted to the English Drama from a Work on the Subject by M Engel, 2nd ed. (London: Sherwood, Neely, and Jones, 1822), 164.

  3. 3.

    Sue Fox, Etiquette for Dummies (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2011), 150.

  4. 4.

    Guillemette Bolens, The Style of Gestures: Embodiment and Cognition in Literary Narrative (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 2012), 1–3.

  5. 5.

    “Any notion of a radical cleavage between unconscious and conscious (pre-reflective and reflective) mental functioning runs counter to the fundamental premise of embodied cognition, namely that all cognitive processes operate on a gradient between sensorimotor perceptions and responses on the one hand and so-called higher-order conceptual activities on the other,” Thinking with Literature: Towards a Cognitive Criticism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 30.

  6. 6.

    Raphael Lyne, “The Shakespearean Grasp,” Cambridge Quarterly 42, no. 1 (2013): 61. Farah Karim-Cooper has recently published a book-length study of the hand, The Hand on the Shakespearean Stage: Gesture, Touch and the Spectacle of Dismemberment (London: Bloomsbury, 2016). Though she does not use cognitive theory, Karim-Cooper explores the tension between ideal and actual practice when it comes to social gestures, explaining that “the way hands moved or were accounted for in performance forms a polysemous system incorporating a combination of instinctive, everyday and more formal or iconic gestures […] gestures moved between all and each of these extremes depending on the various contexts in which they occur.” She also examines tactility and the way that the grasping, touching hands of audience members were a significant part of the theatrical experience. The Hand, 42, 115.

  7. 7.

    Carla Mazzio, The Inarticulate Renaissance (Philadelphia: Pennsylvania University Press, 2009), 180, 214.

  8. 8.

    David McNeill, Gesture and Thought (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2005), 91–2.

  9. 9.

    Giovanni Bonifacio, L’Arte Dei Cenni (Venice: Francisco Grossi, 1616, first published 1612), 290. [my translation].

  10. 10.

    There are two Edward Goldsmiths in the register of admissions to Gray’s Inn in the seventeenth century: one in 1621 and one in 1624, John Foster, The Register of Admissions to Gray’s Inn, 1521–1889 (London: The Hansard Publishing Union, 1889), 781, 823.

  11. 11.

    John Bulwer, “Chirologia” in Chirologia…Chironomia (London: Thomas Harper, 1644), A4r.

  12. 12.

    Bulwer, Chirologia, A2v.

  13. 13.

    Karim-Cooper, The Hand on the Shakespearean Stage, 3.

  14. 14.

    Bulwer, Chirologia, H7r-v.

  15. 15.

    Bulwer, Chirologia, I2v-I3r.

  16. 16.

    “Ibique dimittat annulum. Quia in medico est quaedam vena procedens vsque ad cor et in sonoritate argenti designatur interna dilecto, quae semper inter eos debet esse recens,” Clement Maydeston, ed., Ordinale Sarum [facsimile] (London: Wynkyn de Worde, 1508), 27.

  17. 17.

    Thomas Cranmer et al., The Book of the Common Prayer (London: Edward Whytchurche, 1549), 30r.

  18. 18.

    Lyne, “The Shakespearean Grasp,” 61.

  19. 19.

    O.E.D., “gall,” v 1, 1, 3.

  20. 20.

    Terry King, in Programme, Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, directed by Gregory Doran (Royal Shakespeare Company, 2008), 4r.

  21. 21.

    O.E.D., “palpable,” adj, 1, 3–4.

  22. 22.

    Stephen Gosson, Playes Confuted in Five Actions (London: for Thomas Gosson, 1582), G5r.

  23. 23.

    O.E.D., “contagion,” n, 3 b, c, 4.

  24. 24.

    For a discussion of the “delicate” touch of God, for instance, see Marjorie O’Rourke Boyle, Senses of Touch: Human Dignity and Deformity from Michelangelo to Calvin (Leiden: Brill, 1998), 202.

  25. 25.

    For instance, when Titus’ hand was severed, he laid his hand on a chopping block then hid it in his sleeve, and a false hand filled with blood popped up from inside the block, which Aaron then hacked at. “Fight Notes 2,” Titus Andronicus , by William Shakespeare, directed by Lucy Bailey, Globe Theatre, 2006, Globe Theatre Archive. Prompt Book, Titus Andronicus, by William Shakespeare , directed by Lucy Bailey, Globe Theatre, 2006, Globe Theatre Archive.

  26. 26.

    Dominic Dromgoole, Artistic Director’s Speech, 2006, Globe Theatre Archive, London.

  27. 27.

    Gregory Doran and Anthony Sher, Woza Shakespeare: Titus Andronicus in South Africa (London: Methuen, 1996), 218.

Bibliography

  • Bolens, Guillemette. The Style of Gestures: Embodiment and Cognition in Literary Narrative. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 2012.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bonifacio, Giovanni. L’Arte Dei Cenni. Venice: Francisco Grossi, 1616 first published 1612.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bulwer, John. Chirologia…Chironomia. London: Thomas Harper, 1644.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cave, Terence. Thinking with Literature: Towards a Cognitive Criticism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cranmer, Thomas, et al. The Book of the Common Prayer. London: Edward Whytchurche, 1549.

    Google Scholar 

  • Doran, Gregory, and Anthony Sher. Woza Shakespeare: Titus Andronicus in South Africa. London: Methuen, 1996.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dromgoole, Dominic. Artistic Director’s Speech. London: Globe Theatre Archive, 2006.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fight Notes 2. Titus Andronicus, by William Shakespeare. Directed by Lucy Bailey. Globe Theatre. London: Globe Theatre Archive, 2006.

    Google Scholar 

  • Foster, John. The Register of Admissions to Gray’s Inn, 1521–1889. London: The Hansard Publishing Union, 1889.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fox, Sue. Etiquette for Dummies. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2011.

    Google Scholar 

  • Goldin-Meadow, Susan. Hearing Gesture: How Our Hands Help Us Think. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gosson, Stephen. Playes Confuted in Five Actions. London: Thomas Gosson, 1582.

    Google Scholar 

  • Karim-Cooper, Farah. The Hand on the Shakespearean Stage: Gesture, Touch and the Spectacle of Dismemberment. London: Bloomsbury, 2016.

    Google Scholar 

  • King, Terry. Programme. Hamlet, by William Shakespeare. Directed by Gregory Doran. Royal Shakespeare Company, 2008.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lyne, Raphael. The Shakespearean Grasp. Cambridge Quarterly 42, no. 1 (2013): 38–61.

    Google Scholar 

  • Maydeston, Clement, ed. Ordinale Sarum [facsimile]. London: Wynkyn de Worde, 1508.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mazzio, Carla. The Inarticulate Renaissance. Philadelphia: Pennsylvania University Press, 2009.

    Google Scholar 

  • McNeill, David. Gesture and Thought. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2005.

    Google Scholar 

  • O’Rourke Boyle, Marjorie. Senses of Touch: Human Dignity and Deformity from Michelangelo to Calvin. Leiden: Brill, 1998.

    Google Scholar 

  • Prompt Book. Titus Andronicus, by William Shakespeare, directed by Lucy Bailey, Globe Theatre. London: Globe Theatre Archive, 2006

    Google Scholar 

  • Raleigh, Walter. The History of the World. 2nd ed. London: William Stansby, 1617.

    Google Scholar 

  • Siddons, Henry. Practical Illustrations of Rhetorical Gesture and Action Adapted to the English Drama from a Work on the Subject by M Engel. 2nd ed. London: Sherwood, Neely, and Jones, 1822.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

Copyright information

© 2018 The Author(s)

About this chapter

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this chapter

Seymour, L. (2018). Exchanging Hands in Titus Andronicus . In: Banks, K., Chesters, T. (eds) Movement in Renaissance Literature. Cognitive Studies in Literature and Performance. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-69200-5_8

Download citation

Publish with us

Policies and ethics