Titus Andronicus | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Titus Andronicus | Act 4, Scene 1 | Summary



Lavinia chases Young Lucius around Titus's garden, where they meet Titus and Marcus. Young Lucius is frightened of Lavinia, not knowing what she wants or is trying to communicate. He fears she is mad with grief, like Hecuba of Troy. Lavinia takes one of Young Lucius's books, Ovid's Metamorphoses, and manages to open it to the tale of Philomela's rape by Tereus. They notice the parallels between Lavinia's rape and Philomela's, which also took place in a forest and ended with her tongue being cut out. Using gestures, Lavinia communicates to her father and uncle that she was attacked by more than one man, but when they ask for names she cannot say them.

Marcus prays to the gods for wisdom. Then he realizes Lavinia can hold a staff in her arms to write in the sand. Doing this, Lavinia names Chiron and Demetrius. Marcus has the family kneel and swear they will seek revenge on the men. Titus adds they must beware Tamora and her influence. Then he tells Young Lucius, who wishes to be part of the revenge, to take weapons and give them to Demetrius and Chiron. Left alone, Marcus fortifies himself to help Titus, even though he believes Titus is going mad. He again asks the gods to help them in their revenge.


Although there are a great number of allusions in this scene, two stand out. The allusion to Philomela's story is not new. However, in this scene, a book containing the story is actually one of the stage props. Shakespeare reuses this idea in his play Cymbeline by having Ovid's Metamorphoses—open to Philomela's story—appear in a scene where Imogen's private bedchamber (though not her body) is violated by Iachimo. Ovid was clearly a favorite of Shakespeare's, and references to plots contained in Ovid's writings are found throughout Shakespeare's work, including Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Twelfth Night, and The Tempest.

Young Lucius's comparison of Lavinia to Hecuba of Troy is also thematically linked to this play. Hecuba was the wife of King Priam of Troy. Polymnestor, the Thracian tyrant, killed her son Polydorus. Hecuba took revenge on Polymnestor by tricking him, blinding him, and murdering his sons. In this play, it is not Lavinia who is mad like Hecuba, but rather Titus. And it is Titus who will take revenge by tricking Tamora and killing her sons.

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