Time Periods in Sweeney Todd and Titus Andronicus

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Our productions of Titus Andronicus and Sweeney Todd have elements of modern culture mingled with elements of the original settings.

Titus is set in Ancient Rome. Romans were originally small farmers, but the Roman Empire became one of the most sophisticated societies of its time. Rome had a large and powerful army (containing 4000 to 6000 soldiers) that was greatly respected. Romans had a similar religion to the Greeks except the Romans held strong beliefs about morality. They tried to act honestly and presented themselves in a dignified manner towards others.

Titus was written in Elizabethan England, so it takes place in a fictionalized version of Ancient Rome that Shakespeare wrote to please his audience. The common genres of plays in elizabethan culture were history plays, tragedies, and comedies. Violence had also been a very popular theme in a lot of plays at the time, which explains why Titus Andronicus was Shakespeare’s most performed play in his lifetime. But shortly after Shakespeare’s death it was rarely performed and critics thought it was Shakespeare’s worst play because of all the crude violence. It wasn’t put back on stage until the early 20th century.

The Colosseum in Rome

The Colosseum in Rome

Sweeney Todd is set during the Industrial Revolution in London. At the time there was a huge migration of people to the cities which caused overcrowding. Factory workers had long 16 or 17 hour days with very dangerous working conditions which led to short and miserable lives for the members of the lower class. It wasn’t all that uncommon for women to give their young children or infants narcotics to put them to sleep while the mother went to work. This may have contributed to the 17% death rate for babies (25 to 33% of children died before their fifth birthday). People were considered adults by the age 12 or 13, when they would help provide for their families. Often times children as young as 6 or 7 would work in the factories, mines, and mills, as well, because they were cheaper than adults and could fit into smaller spaces. At this point, there was no middle class. It was just people born into their wealth and workers making a very low income. Slowly, that began to change and a middle class emerged near the end of the nineteenth century. Things got better with the return of the middle class, but they were still far from ideal.

A London slum.

A London slum.

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This post was written by the Youth Repertory Company who will be performing as well as running the marketing, designing, costuming, and front of house for the Teen Summer Performance Intensives of Sweeney Todd: School Edition and Titus Andronicus.

SWEENEY TODD: SCHOOL EDITION

When: August 14 & 21 @ 7pm | August 16 & 23 @ 2pm
Where: Duluth Playhouse
Tickets: Adults – $17 | Youth/Students – $14
Purchase: Online, call 218.733.7555, or stop by the Box Office located in the Duluth Depot building

TITUS ANDRONICUS

When: August 13, 15, 20, and 22 @ 7pm
Where: Duluth Playhouse
Tickets: Adults – $17 | Youth/Students – $14
Purchase: Online, call 218.733.7555, or stop by the Box Office located in the Duluth Depot building

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