Titus Andronicus | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Titus Andronicus | Act 3, Scene 2 | Summary



Titus Andronicus eats in his house with his remaining family. He urges them to eat no more food than they will need to feed their revenge. He points out Lavinia has no hands to beat her chest in grief, as he does with his remaining hand. He says she could take a knife in her mouth and bore a hole in her chest so her tears fall into and drown her heart. Marcus objects to Titus's advice, but Titus argues Marcus should not tell those who have no hands how to handle themselves. He then claims he will learn how to interpret Lavinia's sighs, gestures, and expressions.

Lucius's son, Young Lucius, begs Titus to stop lamenting and tell them a happy story. Titus says Young Lucius is made of tears, and these tears will melt his life away. As he says this, Marcus kills a fly with his knife. Titus is incensed and calls Marcus a murderer, saying the fly did nothing but buzz to make them happy and may have had parents who will grieve it. Marcus asks for forgiveness, saying he killed the fly because it was black, like Aaron. This justification changes Titus's stance, and he instead congratulates Marcus. Then he takes his brother's knife and strikes the fly twice, once for Aaron and once for Tamora. Marcus is distressed by Titus's mental instability.

Titus goes with Lavinia and Young Lucius to read stories in Lavinia's chamber.


Titus, in the grip of his own grief, seems to come apart here, and his grief and anger become the driving force of his entire family. First, he laments so much he makes Young Lucius weep, an echo of the previous scene. Then his grief overtakes Lavinia as he begins interpreting her gestures from his own perspective: "Hark, Marcus, what she says. / I can interpret all her martyred signs. / She says she drinks no other drink but tears." Unfortunately, this is another layer of injustice Lavinia must endure, as Titus basically hijacks her body to express his own grief, justifying it by insisting he is simply giving voice to her feelings.

The fly momentarily distracts Titus from his ranting but quickly becomes a reminder of the need for revenge against Aaron. The stabbing of the fly becomes something of a rehearsal of the violence Titus will now begin to perpetrate on Tamora and her household. But even at this point in the play, Titus does not have full knowledge of who performed these dreadful acts against him and his family.

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