Titus Andronicus

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Titus Andronicus Act 5, Scene 3 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Lucius, Marcus, and some Goths arrive at Titus’ home for the banquet, bringing Aaron and his child with them as prisoners. Lucius has Marcus watch over Aaron until it is time to for him to reveal Aaron's relationship with Tamora. Saturninus and Tamora arrive with their attendants and agree to a peaceful meeting with Lucius. Titus enters, dressed as a cook, and serves a meal to everyone. Titus asks Saturninus his opinion about whether it was just for Virginius to kill his own daughter. (In Roman historical legend, Virginius was a man who killed his own daughter after she had been raped, to preserve his family’s honor.) Saturninus says it was right, since “the girl should not survive her shame.” Titus says that he is following the precedent of Virginius and kills Lavinia. Saturninus is shocked, but Titus tells him that Lavinia had been raped. He encourages Saturninus and Tamora to eat, which they do.
Titus’ killing Lavinia exemplifies the strange relationship between him and his children. He clearly values them greatly, but seems to care about them more as reflections of his virtue than as persons in their own right. Thus, he kills Lavinia, who has been dishonored, as a way of maintaining his family’s honor. Moreover, he (and Saturninus) avow that this act of killing one’s own daughter is the right, just thing to do. Once again, characters’ ideas of justice seem determined by their specific circumstances and ideas and seem to be ways of justifying otherwise cruel acts.
Themes
Violence and Justice Theme Icon
Children Theme Icon
Titus then reveals to Saturninus that Demetrius and Chiron raped Lavinia and mutilated her. Saturninus asks for the two sons to be brought to him, but Titus says they are already present, baked into the pies he and Tamora are eating, so that Tamora is “eating the flesh that she herself hath bred.” Titus kills Tamora. Saturninus responds by killing Titus. Lucius then avenges his father by killing Saturninus.
This scene is perhaps the culmination of the play’s spectacle of gruesome violence, as Tamora realizes with horror that she has been eating her own children and three people are killed in quick succession. The back-and-forth killing (Lucius kills Saturninus for killing Titus for killing Tamora) is the clearest example of how revenge operates as a continuing chain of violent events that stops only when there is no one left to kill or be killed.
Themes
Revenge Theme Icon
Violence and Justice Theme Icon
Children Theme Icon
After all this chaos, Lucius and Marcus address the Roman people. Marcus says that he will help them restore Rome to its former greatness and will repair “these broken limbs again into one body.” Lucius tells the public about how Chiron and Demetrius killed Bassianus and raped Lavinia, causing Quintus and Martius to be wrongfully executed and him to be exiled. Marcus then reveals Aaron and Tamora’s child, tells the Roman people, “Now judge what cause had Titus to revenge / These wrongs unspeakable,” and asks them “Have we done aught amiss?” (i.e. have we done anything wrong?).
Now that all the turmoil between the Andronicus family, Tamora’s family, and Saturninus has concluded, Lucius and Marcus address the broader turmoil of Rome. Marcus draws a parallel between the crumbling of Rome and the disfigurement of individuals, by using the metaphor of the Roman state as a body. Marcus also appeals to the Roman people and asks them to judge whether he and Lucius have acted in accordance with justice. While they may have the Roman public’s support, whether they really were just is a question forever open to the judgment of the play’s audience and readers.
Themes
Violence and Justice Theme Icon
Rome, Romans, and Barbarians Theme Icon
Aemilius acclaims Lucius as emperor, since the Roman people support him. Marcus orders for Aaron to be brought out, while the Roman people hail Lucius as their new emperor. Lucius says that he will “heal Rome’s harms” but first must “shed obsequious tears” for his dead father. Marcus, Lucius, and Young Lucius mourn Titus.
It seems as though Rome will regain stability with Lucius as emperor, supported by the people. Marcus, Lucius, and Young Lucius take care to mourn Titus properly, in contrast to Titus’ earlier outbursts of unrestrained grief.
Themes
Rome, Romans, and Barbarians Theme Icon
Grief and Mourning Theme Icon
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Guards bring out Aaron and Lucius orders for him to be buried chest-deep in the earth, where he will starve to death. Lucius orders for Saturninus to be brought to his family’s tomb, and for Titus and Lavinia to be buried in the Andronicus family tomb. He asks that Tamora’s body be given no funeral rites, though, but rather be left for wild beasts to feed upon.
Lucius ensures that Titus, Lavinia, and Saturninus will all have proper burial rites. However, while Lucius seems to return stability to Rome, this resolution is an uneasy one: the play does not conclude with any kind of peaceful reconciliation between Rome and the barbarians, but rather with dishonor for Tamora’s corpse and the promise of a cruel death for Aaron. The cycle of vengeance within Rome may have come to an end, but the war and vengeance between Rome and the barbarians has not.
Themes
Violence and Justice Theme Icon
Rome, Romans, and Barbarians Theme Icon
Grief and Mourning Theme Icon