Titus Andronicus

Type: 
Tragedy
First Performed: 
1593-94
First Printed: 
1594
"

All the water in the ocean
Can never turn the swan's black legs to white.

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Shakespeare's most gruesomely violent play, Titus Andronicus revolves around the title character, a Roman general. A victorious Titus returns to Rome after defeating the Goths, with Queen Tamora and her sons as captives. One son is sacrified by Titus' sons, while Tamora's other sons Demetrius and Chiron plot revenge.

New Emperor Saturnius is seduced by the hostage Queen Tamora, which is part of a plot she has devised with Aaron, her Moor lover. She is made Empress of Rome. Brutal revenge ensues as Demetrius and Chiron kill Saturnius' brother Bassianus and rape and mutilate Titus' own daughter, Lavinia. Bassanius' murder is set up to look like it was committed by Titus' sons, Quintus and Martius. Titus' other son Lucius is banished, Lavinia is discovered, and Titus is at the brink of vengeful desperation. Aaron lies to Titus and tells him that if he cuts off his own hand, Quintus and Martius will be spared. This lie is revealed as the heads of his own sons are delivered back to Titus.

Lavinia, despite having had her tongue cut out and her hands chopped off, identifies her real attackers, and a furious Titus captures and kills Demetrius and Chiron. He takes the bodies of the two and prepares them as a pie which he serves to Tamora and Saturnius for dinner. They have arrived to try and persuade Titus to call off Lucius, who has mounted an army of Goths to attack Rome. Titus kills his own daughter to relieve her misery, and reveals the contents of the meal to his guests before killing Tamora. Saturnius then kills Titus, and Lucius arrives to kill Saturnius. After Lucius is elected new Emperor of Rome, he orders Aaron buried up to his chest and left for scavengers to devour.