Welcome to the second edition of Dreadful Tales’ Nasty Little Things. We will scour the ends of the earth looking for the most twisted, boundary-pushing, brutal-of-epic-proportions horror fiction to share with you each month. For the gorehounds out there, we offer another title to add to your list of goriest reads. These are the books that, for reasons we will explain here, have tested our gag reflexes and sanity. What are yours? Please share below in the comments section!
Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare
For this edition of Nasty Little Things, I am going to go way back to 16th century England to visit with famous playwright William Shakespeare and his violent tragedy Titus Andronicus. Before I was devouring modern horror fiction, I wasn’t much of a reader. In fact, I didn’t read at all unless it was a quiz about whether or not he’s the one for me in Sassy Magazine. That was until I discovered Shakespeare. Seems odd looking back that I would jump right into something as linguistically complex as Shakespeare, but when I discovered a little paperback of A Midsummer Nights Dream with an easy to understand glossary and notes section I didn’t stop reading his plays for years. A Midsummer Nights Dream was magical, dreamy, beautiful and intoxicating, but it was the nasty revenge play of the Goths versus the Andronici, Titus Andronicus, that finally whet my appetite for horror literature. This was long before I discovered the brilliant film adaptation with Sir Anthony Hopkins and Jessica Lange which only adds to my love of this sick tale. So, what makes this the sickest of the sick? Taking some inspiration from the story of Philomela in Ovid’s Metamorphosis, Shakespeare penned one of the most brutally violent and detestable rape scenes in horror fiction and subsequently the sickest revenge plot as well. Our poor innocent, virgin Lavinia is raped by Goth brothers Demetrius and Chiron, but that isn’t the worst part. They cut out her tongue out so she cannot tell anyone what happened, and lop off her hands so she can’t write or cleanse her body of the vile act. Lavinia eventually finds a way to reveal her violators and upon this revelation her father kills Demetrius and Chiron, bakes them into a pie, and feeds their flesh to their own mother! After she dines deliciously on a pie made of her sons’ flesh Titus says gleefully;
“Why, there they are, both bakes in this pie;
Whereof their mother daintily hath fed,
Eating the flesh that she herself hath bred.”
Shakespeare takes it to the limit of wickedness in Titus Andronicus and that’s why it is my Nasty Little Thing this month! If you’re not sold on reading Shakespeare, I highly recommend the 1999 film adaptation, directed by Julie Taymor, titled Titus. Both Hopkins and Lange are in top form!