(London: Printed by J. B[ennet]. for J. Hindmarsh, 1687). 208 x 152 mm. (8 1/8 x 6"). 4 p.l., 56 pp.Adapted and altered by Edward Ravenscroft. First Ravenscroft Edition, Fourth Quarto Edition.
Modern brown calf, covers with gilt-rule border, raised bands, spine compartments with gilt fleuron, red morocco label. Wing S-2949; ESTC R17448; Jaggard p. 475. ◆Leaves a little browned, margins trimmed a bit close, sometimes grazing signatures, a couple of short marginal tears, other trivial imperfections, but an excellent copy otherwise, clean and crisp, in an unworn binding.
In this revised version of Shakespeare's bloodiest play, cited as the first work to question Shakespeare's authorship, Edward Ravenscroft 'improves' upon the Bard's "most incorrect and indigested piece in all his Works" boasting that if you "compare the old play with this, you'll finde that none in all that author's works ever receiv'd greater alterations or additions, the language not only refin'd but many scenes entirely new; besides most of the principal characters heighten'd, and the plot much encreas'd." Ravenscroft (fl. 1671-97) is nothing if not proud of himself for having brought Shakespeare to a new level of elegance, saying that the play in its original form "seem[ed] rather a heap of rubbish than a structure." While there are changes of many kinds--perhaps the most memorable modification has Aaron being consumed by flames at the play's end--the main storyline remains the same: it is a tale of revenge between Tamara, Queen of the Goths, and Titus, a general in the Roman army, with the central event being the brutal rape of Titus' daughter Lavinia by Tamara's two sons. Ravenscroft caused both controversy and resentment (particularly from Dryden) at the way he boldly tampered with Shakespeare and then openly admired the results; yet the adaptation proved a theatrical success and continued to be staged well into the first quarter of the 18th century. This edition is also of interest for its suggestion that "Titus" was not wholly the work of Shakespeare, believed to be the first time such a theory had been posited in print. The author states in his preface that he had "been told by some anciently conversant with the Stage, that it was not Originally [Shakespeare's], but brought by a private Author to be Acted, and he only gave some Master-touches to one or two of the Principal Parts or Characters . . . ." Jaggard says that this section is "uncommonly important because it affords one of the few extant bits of evidence bearing on the problem of original authorship." This edition is uncommon in the marketplace. (ST15642)