Titus Andronicus

Dramatis Personae

The Andronici

21 dead sons of Titus at war’s end

Titus--protagonist of the play but pretty inscrutable, is tricked into lvolunteering to have his hand amputated

Marcus-brother to Titus, seems like a nice guy.

Mutius--killed by Titus for disrespect

Quintius & Martius--framed for Lanvia’s rape and mutilation, beheaded by Saturninus, might have been more or less good guys if they had lived but we really don’t know (sons #23 and #24)

Lucius- exiled by Saturninus, returns to Rome, last man standing (son #25)

Lavinia-daughter to Titus, almost has to marry Saturnitus, marries Bassinius, ravished and mutilated by Chiron and Demetrius, killed by Titus, the brunt of a lot of tongue and hand puns.

Bassanius--brother to Saturninus, marries Lavinia, murdered by Chiron and Demetrius. One of the few (almost) nice people in play

Saturninus-brother to Bassanius, becomes emperor upon death of anonymous caesar; marries Tamora ex-Goth queen, controlled by Tamora, kills Titus. a real jerk.

The Goths

Tamora- marries Saturninus, lover to Aaron, unwittingly eats her two sons, Chiron and Demetrius; all-around bitch

Unnamed eldest son sacrificed at play’s beginning. Never speaks only, winces. We get a close up look at his intestines

Chiron and Demetrius- murder Bassinius, ravish and mutilate Lavinia, killed and cooked by Titus, eaten by Tamora (unwittingly); all-around brats

Aaron the Moor- more or less personification of evil, Tamora’s lover, father of bastard child, instigates Lavinia’s tragedy, kills nurse. Cuts off Titus’ hand with a meat cleaver. Curses everybody and everything. At his execution, repents of anything good he might have done accidentally.

Considerations of the Play

somewhat ahistorical: not confined to one period in Roman history

only Roman play out of four (Antony and Cleo, Julius Caesar, Coriolanus) that is pure fiction

revenge play genre

clever language (lots of colorful language on puns on “hands” and “tongues”, for example)

very intense (and successful: S’peare’s first big hit)

anticipates mature Shakespeare

some important themes: e.g. tribal revenge v. civilized justice, duty (Titus’ duty to accept role as caesar), evil (Aaron)

But . . . lots of “effects without causes”

Is it a spectacle (see Aristotle)

inadequate character development (e.g.,Titus, Aaron, Saturninus)

Significant Passages:

I:I: 73-130 (“Hail, Rome . . .)

I:I: 175-203 (“And welcome . . .)

I:I 351-360 (“Traitors, away!)

II:1: 1-25 (“Now climbeth . . .)

II:3: 30-50 (“Madam, though . . .)

II:3: 142-191 (“When did . . .); 

II:3:168-184 (“O, Tamora  . .)

II:11-57 (“Who is this? . . .)

III:1:51-68 (“O happy man!)

III:81-86 (“O, that delightful . . .)

III:288-300 (“Farewell, Andronicus . . .)

III:2: 68-78 (“O, O, O!)

IV:2:87-105 (“Sooner this sword . . .”)

IV: 3: 1-24 (“Come, Marcus . . .)

IV:4:63-69 (“Arm, my lords!)

V:1:40: 1-151 (“O Worthy Goth . . .)

V:2:1- end (“Thus in this strange. . .”)

Themes: Blood and Gore, Tribal Revenge v. Justice, Duty, The Nature of Evil, National Decline & Degradation, Piety/Impiety, Honor

Additional Reading: Aristotle’s discussion of Justice, 


Titus (1999) (Julie Taymor, dir; Anthony Hopkins, Jessica Lange)

© Hank Edmondson 2012