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Scene by Scene Synopsis

Scene: Ancient Rome.

Act I, Scene 1:  Saturninus and his brother Bassianus both claim to succeed their father as Roman Emperor. Titus Andronicus, a vastly popular general and patriot, is expected to return shortly from a successful war against, the Goths. Titus appears, mourning the loss of several sons in the campaign. A surviving son, Lucius, declares that their religion demands a human sacrifice, and he nominates Alarbus, a son of Tamora, the captive Queen of the Goths. Tamora's plea for mercy is ignored, and Alarbus is killed. Titus is asked to choose the new Emperor. He declares in favor of the technically legitimate successor, Saturninus, the elder of the two brothers. In gratitude, Saturninus declares that he will marry Titus' only daughter, Lavinia. Titus then turns his prisoners over to Saturninus, who comments lyrically on Tamora's beauty. Bassianus claims Lavinia as his own betrothed, as had earlier been arranged, and Titus' sons back him. Titus accuses them of treason for opposing the will of the new Emperor. The sons and Bassianus take Lavinia away by force, and Titus kills one of his own sons in the skirmish. Saturninus, however, seizes on the chance to reject Titus, whose popularity he fears, claiming him to be associated with his family's treason. The Emperor then declares his intention to marry Tamora. Tamora purports to defend Titus, but, in an aside to Saturninus, she recommends that he take revenge later, when his throne is more secure. She assures him that she will see to it herself to avenge her son's death. Saturninus therefore pretends to forgive Titus and his family. A double wedding is proposed, and a festive hunt is planned for the next day.

Act II, Scene 1:  Aaron, a Moor in Tamora's court, exults in his mistress newly exalted position, from which he will profit for he knows she loves him completely. Tamora's sons' Demetrius and Chiron enter, arguing over Lavina, whom each desires. Aaron suggest that they may both have her; he proposes that they rape her during the next day's hunt.

Act II, Scene 2:  Titus and his sons and Saturninus and his court go festively to the hunt. The two couples, Saturninus and Tamora, and Bassianus and Lavinia, are married.

Act II, Scene 3:  Aaron arranges an encounter in which Demetrius and Chiron kill Bassianus and carry Lavinia off to rape her Then with the help of a forged letter, he frames Martius and Quintus, son of Titus, for the murder Titus pleads for mercy, but Saturninus decrees that the sons shall be executed.

Act II, Scene 4:  Chiron and Demetrius taunt Lavinia, whose tongue and hands they have cut off, and abandon her.  She is discovered by Marcus Andronicus, Titus' brother, who responds with elaborately rhetorical grief.

Act III, Scene 1:  Martius and Quintus are marched across the stage on their way to be executed. Titus describes his grief to Lucius in extravagant terms. Marcus appears with the ravished Lavinia, and more expressions of woe ensue Aaron arrives to announce that the Emperor has declared that Titus' severed hand will be accepted as ransom for the lives of the two sons, and Titus lets Aaron cut it off and take it away. Titus' paroxysms of rhetoric are interrupted by the delivery of the two sons heads, accompanied by his own hand, and he realises that Aaron has viciously tricked him. Titus' grief turns to a thirst for revenge; he sends Lucius to the Goths to raise an army with which to wreak vengeance.

Act III, Scene 2:  At dinner, Titus rants of the injuries his family has suffered.  Marcus kills a fly with his knife, prompting an effusive speech against murder by Titus, but, when Marcus observes that the fly resembled Aaron, Titus seizes the knife and rhapsodizes about slaying the Moor.  Marcus remarks sadly that grief has unbalanced

Act IV, Scene 1 Mute Lavinia conveys to Titus and Marcus that she wants them to consult a book. It is Ovid's Metamorphoses, and she directs them to the tale of the rape of Philomel They deduce that her case is the same and they get her to write the names other attackers in the sand with a wooden staff. She does so, and new vows for vengeance are sworn.

Act IV, Scene 2:  A Nurse, sent by Tamora, seeks Aaron. She holds the black infant just born to Tamora, and she tells Aaron that the Empress wants him to kill it so that no one knows of her adultery with the Moor. Aaron refuses.   He kills the Nurse to ensure her silence, and sends Chiron and Demetrius to buy a white baby and take it to Tamora to be passed off as the child of Saturninus. They depart, and Aaron plans to take his own child to friends among the Goths.

Act IV, Scene 3:  Titus, seemingly mad, insists that his family shoot arrows into the sky, each bearing a message to the gods seeking justice for his wrongs. Marcus suggests that the arrows be aimed so as to land in the Emperor's courtyard. A clown appears, carrying two pigeons Titus persuades the Clown, for a fee, to deliver the pigeons as an offering to the Emperor, and Titus includes with the birds a message wrapped around a dagger.

Act IV, Scene 4 Saturninus, who has received several of the message arrows, asserts that Titus' madness is feigned and threatens to punish him. The Clown arrives, bearing the pigeons and Titus' message. Saturninus orders the Clown hanged and vows to execute Titus personally Aemilius appears, reporting that a Gothic army under Lucius is approaching. Tamora proposes to trick Titus into halting his son's onslaught. Aemilius is sent to arrange a parley with Lucius at Titus' house.

Act V, Scene 1 Aaron who has been captured with his child is brought before Lucius, who decrees that both be hanged. Aaron says that he will confess the truth about all his misdeeds if Lucius will spare the child Lucius agrees, and Aaron insolently brags of his evil actions regretting only that death will keep him from doing more. Aemilius arrives with the offer of a parley and Lucius accepts.

Act V, Scene 2:  Tamora and her sons, in disguise, approach Titus' house, where she plans to delude the old man that she is Revenge, a spirit sent to aid him. Titus recognizes them, but he pretends to be taken in. Tamora proposes to bring the Emperor to a banquet, where Titus can wreak his vengeance. She goes, leaving Chiron and Demetrius, whom Titus promptly has bound and gagged. He reveals his plan to cook them and serve them to Tamora at the proposed banquet. He then cuts their throats.

Act V, Scene 3:  Lucius, arriving at Titus' house for the parley, turns Aaron over to Marcus. Saturninus and Tamora arrive with their noble retinue, and all are seated at the banquet table. Titus welcomes them, dressed as a cook Referring to a famous legend of a father who killed his raped daughter to remove his family's shame, he kills Lavinia before the horrified guests. He declares that she had been raped by Chiron and Demetrius. He reveals their heads baked in a meat pie that Tamora has already sampled, and then he stabs Tamora to death. Saturninus promptly kills him and is himself immediately dispatched by Lucius. The assembled nobles declare Lucius to be the new Emperor, and Titus is formally mourned. Aaron is brought forward and sentenced by Lucius to be buried to his neck and starved. He responds with a last boastful refusal to repent.


To view other Titus Andronicus sections:

Main Play Page     Play Text     Scene by Scene Synopsis      Character Directory     Commentary  


To view the other Plays click below:

By  Comedies    Histories    Romances    Tragedies

All's Well the Ends Well Antony & Cleopatra As You Like It Cardenio Comedy of Errors Coriolanus
Cymbeline Edward III Hamlet Henry IV, Part 1 Henry IV, Part 2 Henry V
Henry VI, Part 1 Henry VI, Part 2 Henry VI, Part 3 Henry VIII Julius Caesar King John
King Lear Love's Labours Lost Love's Labours Wonne Macbeth Measure for Measure Merchant of Venice
The Merry Wives of Windsor A Mid Summer Night's Dream  Much Ado About Nothing Othello Pericles Richard II
Richard III Romeo & Juliet Sir Thomas More Taming of the Shrew The Tempest Timon of Athens
Titus Andronicus Troilus & Cressida Twelfth Night Two Gentlemen of Verona The Two Noble Kinsman The Winter's Tale


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