Titus Andronicus (TI-tuhs an-DRON-ih-kuhs), a noble Roman soldier who has dedicated his life and lost twenty-one of his twenty-five sons in the service of the state. He is not an entirely coherent or consistent character, especially in the first act of the play. In that act, he disdains ambition, offers his support to Saturninus, and mourns the death of the sons whose bodies he brings home from the wars; in the same act, he also sets off a chain of slaughters as he sacrifices the eldest son of the captured Tamora, queen of the Goths, on the tomb of his own sons; slays Mutius, one of his four surviving sons, for daring to cross his father’s will; and defends Bassianus’ right to Lavinia’s hand. After this day, a malignant fate seems to pursue Titus, gradually destroying his sanity. He sees his daughter mutilated and dishonored; his sons falsely condemned for the murder of her husband and eventually executed, in spite of his sacrifice of his hand to save them; and, finally, his one remaining son, Lucius, banished for defending his brothers. His mind turns entirely to the horrors inflicted on him and his daughter. Conceiving a grotesque and dreadful vengeance against his tormenters, Tamora and her sons, he plans a Thyestean banquet for the queen before he kills her and Lavinia.
Aaron (AYR-uhn), the Moor, one of the earliest of the Shakespearean villains who delight in evil for its own sake. He spurs on the efforts of his mistress, Tamora, to avenge the death of her son on the Andronici, and he instigates the rape of Lavinia by Demetrius and Chiron. He reveals a glimmer of human feeling in his defense of his baby son whom Tamora has ordered to be destroyed to conceal her guilt. He exults in his villainy, and, as Lucius sentences him, he repents any good he inadvertently may have done.
Tamora (TAHM-oh-ruh), the barbarian queen brought by Titus to Rome to take part in his triumph. She uses all her influence with her new husband, Emperor Saturninus, to take vengeance on her captor for the killing of her son, Alarbus, at the tomb of the Andronici. As she comes increasingly under the influence of Aaron, she delves more deeply into villainy and joins in the plot to murder Bassianus, mutilate Lavinia, and have Quintus and Martius condemned for these deeds. She masquerades as Revenge to gain access to Titus, but in so doing she causes her own death and that of Demetrius and Chiron. The old man is less mad and more cunning than she realizes, and she must experience the full horror of feasting on her own children before she is stabbed by her enemy.
Saturninus (sat-ur-NIH-nuhs), the luxury-loving, sensuous emperor of Rome who arrogantly accepts Titus’ aid in his election and, as a reward, condescends to ask for Lavinia, his brother’s betrothed, as his bride. When Titus’ sons defend Bassianus’ right to their sister, the emperor vows revenge on the Andronici and immediately takes as his wife Tamora, who directs his will and successfully hides from him her affair with Aaron. The assertions of Titus that Quintus and Martius were falsely executed for Bassianus’ murder so infuriate him that he is restrained from killing the old man only by his fear of Lucius, who is gathering an army among the Goths. True to his unfaithful wife, he kills Titus to avenge her death.
Lavinia (luh-VIHN -ee-uh), Titus’ daughter, the chaste and virtuous wife of Bassianus. She seems to step out of character when she taunts Tamora about her affair with Aaron, for she later pleads for her own honor with an innocence that clashes with the rather vulgar tone of her remarks to the empress. Her emotions for the latter part of the play can be expressed only in tears, because after violating her, Demetrius and Chiron cut...
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