Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Early in the Christian era, Saturninus and Bassianus, sons of the late emperor, contend for the crown of the Roman Empire. Both men are leaders of strong factions. Another candidate, a popular one, is Titus Andronicus, a Roman famed for his victories over the barbarian Goths to the north. Marcus Andronicus, brother of Titus, states in the forum that Titus is the popular choice to succeed the late emperor. The sons, willing to abide by the desires of the populace, dismiss their factions.
As the prominent men of the city go into the senate house, Titus makes his triumphant entry into Rome. He is accompanied by his surviving sons and by a casket containing the bodies of other sons. In his train also are Tamora, the queen of the Goths; her sons, Alarbus, Demetrius, and Chiron, and her lover, Aaron, a Moor. Before the senate house, Lucius, one of Titus’s sons, demands that a Gothic prisoner be sacrificed to appease the spirits of his dead brothers in the casket. When Titus offers as sacrifice the oldest son of Tamora, the queen pleads for mercy, reminding Titus that her sons are as precious to her as his are to him. Titus pays her no heed. Alarbus is sacrificed, and the casket is then laid in the tomb of the Andronici. At that moment Lavinia, Titus’s only daughter, appears to greet her father and brothers and to pay her respects to her fallen brothers.
Marcus comes out of the senate house, greets Titus, and informs him that he is the choice of...
(The entire section is 1994 words.)
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The play is set in Rome at an unspecified time, perhaps the fourth or fifth century A.D. In a public place near the Senate House, a struggle for political power is underway between Saturninus and Bassianus, sons of the recently deceased emperor. Addressing the assembled senators and tribunes, Saturninus points out that he should succeed to the throne because he is the late emperor's first-born son. Bassianus argues that he should be the next emperor because his merits are greater than his brother's. Their debate is interrupted by the arrival of a nobleman, Marcus Andronicus, who declares that "the people of Rome" (I.i.20) have chosen his brother Titus to be the new emperor. A military procession enters with a flourish. Its most prominent figure is Titus Andronicus, whose Roman army has recently won a decisive victory over the Goths. He is accompanied by four of his sons (Martius, Mutius, Lucius, and Quintus) as well as his captives: Tamora, Queen of the Goths, her three sons (Alarbus, Demetrius, and Chiron), and her lover Aaron, a black-skinned Moor. When Lucius demands that one of Tamora's sons be sacrificed to avenge his brothers who were killed in battle against the Goths, Titus designates Alarbus. Tamora begs Titus to spare her eldest son, but he refuses, and his sons take Alarbus away. They return shortly and report that he has been hacked to pieces and disemboweled. Marcus tells Titus that a group of Romans has selected him to be the new...
(The entire section is 2146 words.)