Saturninus is the
villainous Emperor. Saturninus becomes Emperor through the support of
Titus Andronicus, but turns against him, fearing his popularity. He
becomes a willing accessory to the plots against Titus spun by the
Empress, Tamora, and her lover, Aaron. He sentences Martius and Quintus to
death without a trial in 2.3, and, in a fit of temper, he has the Clown
killed in 4.4. In the final scene he kills Titus and is himself killed by
Lucius. Saturninus is an early depiction by Shakespeare of an evil ruler
who violates the ethics of kingship, an important issue for the
Bassianus is the
brother of the Emperor, Saturninus. In 1.1 Bassianus relinquishes his
claim to the throne when Titus Andronicus declares in favor of his
brother, but he will not surrender his fiancee, Lavinia, to him. The first
victim of Aaron’s plots, Bassianus is killed by Chiron and Demetrius,
prior to their rape of Lavinia in 2.3.
Titus, the title
character, is a Roman general and the central figure in the cycle of
vengeance that comprises the play. Titus is initially presented as an
admirable patriot whose life has been spent largely in the service of his
country, but his inflexible pride and overly developed sense of honor
cause him to kill one of his own sons in a dispute over loyalty to the
Emperor. In 1.1 Titus permits the ritual sacrifice of the son of Tamora,
who consequently seeks revenge against him and his family. Tamora's
vengeance (implemented primarily by her lover, Aaron) results in the false
conviction of two of Titus' sons for the murder of his son-in-law
Bassianus and the horrible rape and mutilation of his daughter, the newly
widowed Lavinia. Further, Titus is tricked by Aaron into having one hand
chopped off, and then, when his two sons have been executed, their heads
are brought to him, along with his own severed hand, on a platter. His
grief turns to madness, though when Tamora attempts to take advantage of
his apparent lunacy, by posing as the spirit of Revenge, he shows that he
has retained enough sanity to turn the tables on her. However, Titus' own
revenge is anything but sane. He kills Tamora's two surviving sons,
Lavinia's attackers, and bakes them into a meat pie that he serves to
their mother at a banquet. First, however, he kills Lavinia herself,
citing a legend in which a father kills his raped and dishonored daughter
Titus then slays Tamora and is killed himself. His only surviving son,
Lucius, becomes the new Emperor.
It is thought that
the name Andronicus may suggest a remote origin for the tale, although
Shakespeare will not have known of it. The 12th-century Byzantine Emperor
Andronicus Comnenus, famous for his cruelty, was killed by a mob after
having had his right hand cut off. Perhaps the playwright's unknown source
derived ultimately from medieval accounts of this ruler.
Marcus Andronicus is
the brother of Titus. Marcus proposes his brother as a candidate for the
vacant imperial throne in 1.1, though he accedes to Titus' determination
that Saturninus should reign. He sides with Bassianus and Titus' sons in
the dispute over Lavinia, but a reconciliation is soon effected. In 2.4
Marcus discovers Lavinia in her ravished state, and his seemingly
incongruous response—distant and rhetorical despite the extremity of her
plight—often puzzles modern readers. It is a good instance of a mode of
formal discourse, intended to promote a sense of strangeness and
unreality, that was highly prized in Renaissance times but is now quite
In 3.2, which
Shakespeare may not have written, Marcus kills a fly, provoking so manic a
response in Titus that he seems unbalanced by grief. Such mania is an
important theme in a Revenge Play, which Titus Andronicus is. In
the rest of the play, Marcus seconds his brother's sentiments of grief and
his plans for revenge and mourns Titus at the end.
Lucius is a son of Titus Andronicus. In 1.1 Lucius demands the ritual
sacrifice of Tamora’s son, thus triggering the cycle of vengeance that
drives the action. Later, he is banished from Rome and he joins the Goths.
He returns in Act 5 at the head of the Gothic troops, and, in that
capacity, he sentences the captured Aaron to death. Continuing to Rome, he
is present at the grisly finale, as is his son, Young Lucius. Following
the deaths of Saturninus and his father, he is acclaimed the new Emperor.
Quintus is a son of
Titus Andronicus. Quintus, with Martius, is framed by Aaron for the murder
of Bassianus in 2.3. The two are executed, and their heads are delivered
to Titus in 3.1.
Martius is a son of Titus Andronicus, with
Quintus, is framed by Aaron for the murder of Bassianus in 2.3. After the
two are executed, their heads are delivered to Titus, in 3.1.
Mutius is a son of
Titus. In 1.1 Mutius is killed by his father during the dispute with
Bassianus over Lavinia. His murder is symptomatic of a flaw in Titus,
whose sense of honour can lead him to such a crime.
Young Lucius is the son of Lucius and grandson of Titus. Young Lucius
attends Titus in his grief and as he plans his revenge. In 4.2 he delivers
to Chiron and Demetrius a gift of weapons containing a cryptic message,
the first of Titus' taunts to Tamora's family. He also participates in
mourning Titus at the end of the play.
Publius is the son of
Marcus. Publius participates in the seemingly mad Titus Andronicus' plan
to shoot message-laden arrows to the gods in 4.3, and he helps capture
Chiron and Demetrius in 5.2.
Sempronius is present at the shooting of arrows to the gods (4.3), but he
does not speak, though his name is mentioned by Titus in 4.3.10.
Caius is mentioned only in stage
directions, does not speak. He is present for the shooting of arrows to
the gods in 4.3, and he helps to capture Chiron and Demetrius in 5.2.
Valentine is a character that does not speak
but is mentioned in stage directions in the scene where Chiron and Demetrius are
Aemilius delivers messages between Saturninus and Lucius and helps acclaim
Lucius the new Emperor at the end of the play.
Alarbus is the eldest
son of Tamora. In 1.1, Titus Andronicus permits the ritual sacrifice of
Alarbus, who is killed despite his mother's pleas for mercy. This sparks
the cycle of vengeance that comprises the plot of the play.
Demetrius is a son of
Tamora. Demetrius and his brother Chiron murder Bassianus and then commit
the appalling rape and mutilation of Lavinia, the daughter of Titus
Andronicus; they are encouraged and abetted by Aaron. Titus' counter
revenge includes the killing of the two brothers, who are baked in a meat
pie and served to their mother in the final scene.
Chiron is the son of Tamora and brother to Demetrius who murder Bassianus
and then commit the horrible rape and mutilation of Lavinia. They
are encouraged and abetted by Aaron. Titus counter-revenge includes the
killing of the two brothers, who are baked in a meat pie and served to
their mother in the final scene.
Aaron Character in
Titus Andronicus, the chief villain a vicious criminal who loves evil for
its own sake' Aaron, a Moor, is the lover of Tamora, the Queen of the
Goths, and carries out her revenge on Titus Andronicus, who has permitted
her son to be killed Although Aaron is in the retinue of the captured
Queen in Act 1, he is silent. Only in 2.1 does he begin to reveal his
character, rejoicing in the advancement of Tamora, who is to marry the
Emperor, Saturninus because it will also benefit him. The rich imagery of
his first soliloquy (2.1.19-24) suggests that here is a villain who looks
forward to catastrophe; it has for him the allure of 'pearl and gold'.
Tamora's two sons
lust after Lavinia, Titus' daughter. Aaron plans their appalling rape and
mutilation of the girl that is the centre-piece of the revenge upon her
father. Aaron's plots are indeed successful Not only is Lavinia
brutalized, but her new husband Bassianus, is murdered and two of Titus'
sons are charged with the crime. Further, Aaron falsely tells Titus that
his severed hand is required as ransom for the two sons' lives. Titus
submits to the amputation only to have the sons' heads, and his own hand
delivered to him on a platter. This excessive piece of brutality delights
Aaron, and he gloats to himself.
(though, as Othello demonstrates it did not have to have such a
connotation). However even in this early work, Shakespeare doesn't settle
for simple conventionality. Later in the play, a Nurse delivers to Aaron
Tamora's new-born black infant, his child, calling it -as loathsome as a
toad / Among the tair-taced breeders of our clime' (4.2.67-68) She bears
Tamora's orders that Aaron is to kill it to protect her reputation. He
refuses and defends the baby at sword's point against Tamora's sons.
The black man's proud
defiance of society reflects Shakespeare's awareness that villainy can
have ingredients m common with heroism, regardless of race Although the
irony of this extraordinarily evil man cooing over his infant son was
probably intended as humorous, it is also a good instance of the
playwright’s respect for the full humanity of all his characters, even one
intended as a demonstration of cruelty Aaron s villainy is certainly still
active, for he proceeds to kill the Nurse and send the two sons out to buy
a white child for Tamora to claim as her own Aaron attempts to deliver his
infant to friends among the Goths, but he is captured, and Lucius
sentences both father and son to hang. Aaron offers to confess all m
exchange for the baby's life. Lucius agrees, and Aaron takes the occasion
to boast of his evil, declaring, while detailing his crimes, that in his
delight with himself, he 'almost broke my heart with extreme laughter'
(5.1.113). Lucius, incredulous, asks whether Aaron is not at all sorry for
his –heinous deeds . Aaron replies: 'Ay, that I had not done a thousand
more' (5 1.124). Lucius has Aaron gagged, and the Moor is taken to Rome.
After the grisly banquet scene in which Titus' revenge is accomplished,
Aaron is brought forth to be sentenced. He is to be buried to the neck and
starved to death. This fate only provokes a last outburst: -If one good
deed in all my life I did / 1 do repent it from my very soul'
(5.3.189-190) Aaron is the first of Shakespeare's flamboyantly malevolent
villains, foreshadowing the likes of Richard III, Edmund, Lady Macbeth,
and, most spectacular of all, Iago.
A less developed
personality than the later characters, Aaron more clearly represents the
conventional figure from which they all descend the Machiavel At the time
when Shakespeare was writing Titus The Jew of Malta, by Christopher
Marlowe ranked as one of the most successful offerings yet presented in
the new world of English theatre, and it featured two very popular
Machiavels—Barabas and his assistant Ithamore, racially exotic evil-doers
who exult in their criminality. These characters surely influenced the
young creator of Aaron. However, some historians of drama see Shakespeare
as influenced here by earlier, more purely English theatrical traditions,
with Aaron as a descendant of the Vice figure in the medieval Morality
Play. The two propositions are not at all mutually exclusive; the idea of
the Machiavel doubtless was influenced by the well-known Vice figure. It
is likely that Shakespeare was aware of both and simply used a successful
Captain is the
officer who announces the arrival of Titus Andronicus in 1.1 and praises
his virtues as a general.
Either one of two characters who are officials of the Roman Empire.
The Tribunes present throughout much of 1.1, largely as a mute witnesses
to the foolish pride of Titus. In 1.1.220-222 they speak in unison, their
only lines, and declare that they will honour Titus' achievements in war
and permit him to choose the successor to the deceased emperor. They
represent the pomp and splendor of Rome, while at the same time
demonstrating the inadequacy of the society to prevent the tragedy that
Titus will unleash. The tribunes of the ancient Roman government were
always two in number, though neither the text nor the stage directions of
Titus Andronicus indicate this.
The Messenger brings
Titus a grisly package—the severed heads of his two sons and the general's
own severed hand—that Aaron has sent in mockery. The Messenger is
sympathetic, remarking on the injustice with a personal note that is rare
in this play.
The clown appears in
4.3, carrying two pigeons in a basket. After some conversation, in which
the Clown reveals himself to be a comically naive rustic, a traditional
dramatic type, Titus offers him a fee to make the pigeons an offering to
the Emperor Saturninus. Titus includes a taunting message of his own,
wrapped around a dagger. When, in 4.4, the hapless Clown delivers his
birds, and Titus' message, to Saturninus, the infuriated emperor orders
him killed. He is led away, exclaiming, 'Hang'd, by 'r-Lady! then I have
brought up a neck to a fair end' (4.4.48-49). This insignificant addition
to the play's roster of victims is one of Shakespeare's earliest Clowns,
and his realistic, if dim-witted, voice provides a simple, earthy moment
of relief from the savagery that dominates the play.
Former members of Tamora's tribe who join with the banished Lucius and
bring him a captured Aaron. Some members attend the final banquet
Tamora is the
villainous queen of the Goths. Tamora, her three sons, and her lover,
Aaron the Moor, have been captured by the Roman general Titus Andronicus
before the play begins. When in 1.1, her captor permits her eldest son to
be ritually sacrificed despite her eloquent plea for mercy, Tamora vows
revenge and the play's bloody cycle begins. Tamora find her chance for
vengeance, when the new Roman emperor, Saturninus, falls in love with her
and marries her. Saturninus fears Titus, who is very popular, and wishes
to break with him, but Tamora advises her new husband to make peace with
the general until his own hold on the throne is more secure. She will see
to Titus' downfall herself, she adds.
After this flamboyant
introduction, Tamora recedes from the forefront of the play for a while.
Her revenge is implemented largely by Aaron, though she helps him frame
two of Titus' sons for a murder, and she is particular!/ villainous in
refusing Lavinia’s pleas for mercy in 2.3. Later, in 4.4, when she and
Saturninus learn of an approaching army under Titus' son, her husband is
stricken with fear, but she reproves him, in a well-known speech
emphasizing the power held by rulers (4.4.81-87). She goes on to boast
that she will 'enchant the old Andronicus', that is, Titus, and prevail
upon him to cancel his son's invasion.
With her sons, Tamora
goes to Titus in disguise, pretending to be Revenge, a spirit from within
the earth come to help the mad old man achieve his vengeance. In her
impersonation, she anticipates later Shakespearean witches and ghosts. She
believes that Titus is mad, but he is sane enough to see through her plot
and pretend to be taken in. Thinking she has won, she leaves her sons with
Titus, but he kills them and serves them to her at the banquet in the last
scene, before killing her as well.
Lavinia is the
daughter of Titus Andronicus, whose brutal rape and mutilation are the
centre-piece of Aaron’s revenge against her father. After murdering
Bassianus, her husband, Tamora’s sons Chiron and Demetrius rape Lavinia
and then cut out her tongue and cut off her hands so that she cannot
testify against them. Directed by Aaron, they have improved upon Ovid’s
tale of Philomel's rape by Tereus, who removed his victim's tongue but not
her hands; she wove a tapestry that told the tale and exposed her
attacker. Lavinia's plight is repeatedly compared to Philomel's. In fact,
Lavinia exposes Chiron and Demetrius by inducing Titus to look in a copy
of Ovid's tales and find the example. She then spells out the villains'
names in the sand with a wooden staff. When Titus kills the two, Lavinia
is a witness and she goes with him to cook their bodies into the meat pie
that is to be presented to their mother as revenge. Her father himself
stabs her to death, emulating an old legend of a man who killed his raped
daughter to expunge the family's dishonor.
In 4.2 the Nurse
delivers to Aaron his infant son by Tamora. Aaron kills the Nurse to
ensure her silence about the birth.
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