Titus Andronicus | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Titus Andronicus | Act 2, Scene 1 | Summary

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Summary

Aaron the Moor walks alone outside the palace and reveals to the audience that Tamora is his lover. He glories in the new status she has achieved by marrying Saturninus, and how this power will also be his because she is in his "amorous chains." Tamora's sons—Demetrius and Chiron—enter, arguing. Aaron observes the two young men as they each claim rights to the newly married Lavinia, whom both claim to love. Demetrius says he deserves Lavinia because he is the elder brother. Chiron objects, believing he is just as deserving. The two brothers draw their swords to duel. Aaron steps in to prevent a fight. He scolds them and says he is grateful no one overheard them.

Aaron points out neither brother has a right to Lavinia because she is married to Bassianus. He warns them they would be risking their lives to make their desires known. Demetrius tells Aaron that Lavinia's marriage is not a deterrent. Aaron observes that the chief desire of the two men appears to be sex, and they concur. Aaron then suggests a scheme: Lavinia is too chaste to be unfaithful, so they must rape her. During the next day's hunt, they will lure Lavinia away from the hunting party. Demetrius and Chiron eagerly agree to this plan. The three men leave to seek Tamora for advice.

Analysis

This scene reveals Demetrius and Chiron as little more than lust-driven animals. Their only real interest in Lavinia is for sex, and her status as a married woman does not give them pause. They also are not particularly clever—they are just outside the palace where they may be easily overheard. And they are violent. They quickly devolve into threatening to kill each other and intend to fight to the death over which one deserves Lavinia's "love" when Aaron steps in.

Aaron, on the other hand, is revealed as a crafty villain. He begins the scene speaking about Tamora's rise to power in Rome and how he can make use of it. After overhearing the young men's conversation, he quickly infers that Demetrius and Chiron are essentially using "love" language to express their lust for Lavinia. Then he deftly reveals this essential truth to the brothers. Chiron declares, "I love Lavinia more than all the world [and] propose to achieve her whom I love." Aaron replies, "To achieve her how?" and then proceeds to lead the conversation into bawdy, crass waters. He suggests, "It seems some certain snatch or so / Would serve your turns." Even the language used to show how Demetrius and Chiron agree to Aaron's interpretation of their desires is full of sexual double meanings. Demetrius agrees Aaron has understood what they want from Lavinia: "Aaron, thou hast hit it." To which Aaron replies: "Would you had hit it too! / Then should not we be tired with this ado." Aaron thus diverts the violence the brothers feel toward each other over Lavinia into something he and Tamora can use to bring down Titus.

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