Titus Andronicus | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Titus Andronicus | Character Analysis

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Titus Andronicus

Titus Andronicus is a Roman general whose family has served Rome for generations and is well loved by the populace. He supports Saturninus's rule and kills one of his four remaining sons when he acts treasonously. Titus introduces Tamora to Rome and is in part responsible for the death of one of her sons, drawing her ire. After his daughter Lavinia is raped, Titus is tricked into cutting off his own hand, and two of his sons are executed. Titus swears revenge on Saturninus and whoever tortured Lavinia. When Lavinia manages to accuse Demetrius and Chiron, Titus has them baked into pies and serves them to their mother, Tamora. He then kills Lavinia to save himself from dishonor, kills Tamora for the crimes against his family, and is slain by Saturninus. At the start of the play, Titus is comfortable in his role as patriarch of the Andronicus family and general of the Roman army. He values loyalty to Rome and, more importantly, to himself. Early in the play, he kills his own son Mutius for acting against his and the emperor's wishes. However, when he is disrespected by the tribunes and Saturninus while trying to save his other sons, his loyalty to Rome breaks. He uses his remaining family as tools for vengeance. His penultimate act is to kill his daughter Lavinia to protect his own honor and assuage his grief.

Tamora

Tamora is the Queen of the Goths who has recently been captured by Titus and brought to Rome with her sons and her lover, Aaron. After her eldest son is sacrificed as part of a religious ceremony despite her pleading, Tamora and her two remaining sons swear to destroy the house of Andronicus. She takes advantage of Saturninus's infatuation with her to become empress, and she uses her position to help Aaron, Demetrius, and Chiron torment and kill members of the Andronicus family. She dresses herself as Revenge in an attempt to manipulate Titus into a vulnerable position, and she is brutally punished when Titus reveals he has fed her own sons to her as pies before killing her. Tamora is the matriarch of the Goths. She uses her sexuality, age, and experience to control the flighty young emperor, Saturninus. She is justifiably criticized by Lavinia for her lack of fidelity to her husband or her sex, since she allows her sons to rape Lavinia. She is loyal to Aaron and her sons, except for the son she has with Aaron, whom she harshly orders be destroyed for the protection of the rest of the family. She fatally underestimates Titus in his maddened state, leading to her own death and the death of her sons.

Aaron

Aaron is Tamora's secret lover, a Moor living with the Goths and brought with them to Rome. He devises many of the schemes against the Andronicus family. He frames Titus's sons and then lies to Titus, telling him that if he cuts off his hand his sons will be pardoned. Even when his deeds come to light, he shows no remorse. When Lucius becomes emperor, Aaron is sentenced to be buried and starved to death. Aaron plays the role of the malicious trickster, sowing chaos wherever he can. He claims he wishes he were a devil and mocks the devoutly religious Lucius. However, he is the only character to object to his infant son being murdered and goes to self-sacrificing lengths to keep him safe.

Lavinia

Lavinia is Titus's only daughter. Originally, she is betrothed to the younger prince Bassianus, but her father breaks the engagement to marry her to Saturninus when he becomes emperor. Her brothers and Bassianus kidnap her to save her from this marriage, and she is able to marry Bassianus. The next day, during a hunt, Demetrius and Chiron kill her husband, rape her, and cut off her hands and tongue. This propels her father into a rage that ends in a frenzy of killing. She helps her father collect Demetrius and Chiron's blood when he kills them, then is abruptly killed by her own father for having been raped. Lavinia's passivity in the first scene, as she is betrothed to two men according to the whims of her father and brothers, stands in sharp contrast to her active role in the forest. She fiercely condemns Tamora for her adultery, begs for death rather than be raped, and curses Tamora for her cruelty. Lavinia is then mute for the latter half of the play. But her presence as a living specter of the horrors that have taken place spurs her family to help her identify and enact revenge on her attackers. She shows resourcefulness by using a book that features a rape similar to her own. She then plays an active part in her father's revenge as she assists him in preparing the bodies of her rapists as they are killed.

Saturninus

Saturninus is the eldest son of the recently deceased emperor. He succeeds his father with the support of Titus Andronicus and almost marries Titus's daughter Lavinia, but he chooses to marry Tamora instead. He is angry with the Andronicus family, including Titus, for disrespecting him, but Tamora persuades him to pardon them all with the promise of a future massacre. He orders two of Titus's sons killed for the murder of his brother, and he is confused by Titus's anger toward him for this act, which he believes was lawful and justified. During the parley banquet, after Titus kills Tamora, Saturninus kills Titus and is then slain by Lucius. Saturninus is young and tempestuous. He is easily manipulated by the older and more experienced Tamora, and he is ignorant of the Goths' role in killing his brother. He disrespects Titus's sacrifices for Rome and is suspicious of his loyalty and jealous of the love Titus enjoys from the common people. He is outraged when Titus turns against him, but he is kept in check by the popular support Titus has earned as general.

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