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  • Writer's pictureMackenzie Elisa

Titus Andronicus

Setting: 379-395 AD

Rome, Italy


*Consider this your formal all-encompassing trigger warning, and so many spoilers*

My really abridged plot summary:

Titus Andronicus has "14 killings, 9 of them on stage, 6 severed members, 1 rape (or 2 or 3, depending on how you count), 1 live burial, 1 case of insanity and 1 of cannibalism--an average of 5.2 atrocities per act, or one for every 97 lines." -S. Clarke Hulse

Roman General, Titus Andronicus, returns from a 10 year war with 4/25 sons alive. He has captured Tamora (Queen of the Goths) as well as her three sons, and Aaron (her lover). Titus, per tradition, executes her eldest son and Tamora swears vengeance. Tamora marries the Emperor, Saturninus. She schemes with Aaron to frame Titus' sons for the murder of Bassianus (the Emperor's brother), while she encourages her sons to carry-out the murder and rape his wife, Lavinia (Titus' daughter). They proceed to cut out her tongue and her hands so she cannot tell anyone that it was them. Titus gets his hand cut off to save his sons from being executed, but it was a trick and now only 1 son is alive (Titus killed another one at the beginning because he defended Lavinia's decision to marry Bassianus instead of Saturninus). Lucius is banished and goes to try to find support to overthrow Tamora. Tamora gives birth to Aaron's child (teaaaa) and he flees with the child after killing the nurse. He runs into Lucius who captures him. Titus is weighed down by all of his grief and begins to act crazy. Tamora pretends to be Revenge and tries to trick "mad" Titus into getting Lucius to come back to Rome. Plot twist- Titus was actually playing Tamora all along and kills her sons. He bakes them into a pie (yep) and feeds it to her. He then proceeds to kill Lavinia and Tamora. Pure carnage ensues and only 4 people are left alive. Aaron isn't repentant for anything and Lucius has him buried alive. So I guess that makes 3 survivors?

Poll: does this play make Macbeth look weak?

My favorite quotes:

Vengeance is in my heart, death in my hand,

Blood and revenge are hammering in my head.

~Aaron, II.iii

If there be devils, I would I were a devil,

To live and burn in everlasting fire,

So I might have your company in hell,

But to torment you with my bitter tongue!

~Aaron, V.i


  • Overall Impression: 7- I understand why people don't like this play. It's horrific to read. However, I LOVE a good revenge story. There are so few characters in this play that are truly good, and when they are also revealed to also be plagued with revenge, it's honestly kind of satisfying. This play made me sick to my stomach multiple times, but you know I live for #bloodonstage!

  • Use of Language: 8- There's a lot of poetic devices used in this piece, but they all feel dark and corrupt. Shakespeare successfully makes poetry, which is generally beautiful, feel gross and I love that about this play. It was really well executed (pun intended?). There are also a lot of allusions to mythology in this play, especially the parallels between Lavinia's assault and Tereus's rape of Philomela in Ovid's Metamorphoses, which is directly discussed in the text.

  • Protagonist Arc: 8- You cannot argue that Titus does not go through hell in this play, but he isn't entirely innocent either. He's an incredibly morally gray character. I'll be honest, I wasn't rooting for him in the beginning, but it became hard not to as the amount of loss he experiences grows exponentially throughout the play. I don't think I ever pitted him as much as I rooted for him to serve his revenge; after all, revenge is a DISH best served cold ;) At the beginning of the play his true allegiance is to Rome and he will gladly sacrifice his children for it, but by the end it is clear that he is desperate to protect and avenge his family.

  • Female Characters: 7- Both Lavinia and Tamora are opposites of each other, but are peak stereotypes. On one hand we have Tamora. She is powerful and ruthless. She fits the archetype of the seductress. She is not considered to be the victim of this play, but I think she is still a victim of misogyny, as many of Shakespeare's women are. At the beginning we do feel some pity for her when her son is ritually executed, but this pity is quickly lost when she encourages her sons to sexually assault Lavinia. Lavinia on the other hand, is the stereotypical obedient damsel. She is the true victim of this story and my heart just broke for her when I read this play. However, there's a moment at the end of the play where she literally holds the bowl to catch the blood of her assaulters as Titus kills them, showing us that even the most innocent have the potential for revenge.

  • Fits Genre: 10- This play is pure carnage. Literally 3 people are left standing at the end and Lavinia's arc alone is enough to classify this as a tragedy. I did appreciate the dark humor in this piece though.

  • Overall Enjoyment: 8- I'll say it. This play was really hard to read, but I enjoyed it nonetheless (but growing up I also was known to occasionally root for the villains sooo I don't know what that says about me). I just love a good revenge play. Shakespeare really woke up one day and chose violence with this one and I was not disappointed.

  • Hype Worthy: 6- I think this is an excellent play, but I don't think it's for everyone. I could count on one hand the amount of people I would recommend this play to.

  • Emotional Impact: 8- Everything about this play is gut-wrenching. I felt a lot of feelings while reading this, so I would be so bold as to say it was pretty emotionally impactful. I think it achieved everything Shakespeare intended it to.

Total: 62/80

Average: 7

*4 out of 5 stars*

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