Titus Andronicus

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Lavinia Character Analysis

The daughter of Titus, Lavinia is notably passive in the play. She is given away in marriage, then raped by Demetrius and Chiron. They cut out her tongue and cut off her hands, removing her ability to speak or communicate. For the rest of the play, she is thus a mute example of extreme suffering. As a chaste Roman maiden who is violated and dismembered, she can be seen as somewhat symbolic of a crumbling Rome (the city is traditionally personified as female), violated by the intrusion of barbarians into the royal court and by the perversion of its own virtues. As a virtuous but passive sufferer, Lavinia may be contrasted with the other main female character in the play, Tamora, who is powerful and clever, but wicked and cruel. Lavinia is eventually killed by Titus, because she has lost her honor, emphasizing how much her own father values her only as a symbol of chastity and traditional female virtue.

Lavinia Quotes in Titus Andronicus

The Titus Andronicus quotes below are all either spoken by Lavinia or refer to Lavinia. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Revenge Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Simon & Schuster edition of Titus Andronicus published in 2005.
Act 1, Scene 1 Quotes

Suffer thy brother Marcus to inter
His noble nephew here in virtue’s nest,
That died in honor and Lavinia’s cause.
Thou art a Roman; be not barbarous.

Related Characters: Lucius (speaker), Marcus Andronicus, Lavinia
Page Number: 1.1.382-385
Explanation and Analysis:

Grateful to have been appointed emperor, Saturninus offers to marry Lavinia and make her empress. Titus, who has chosen Saturninus, is pleased and accepts the offer, creating a problem since Bassianus and Lavinia are already betrothed. Marcus and Lucius support Bassianus's claim to Lavina, but Titus becomes enraged and calls them traitors. Lucius and Marcus and some more of Titus's children help Lavina to escape with Bassianus, and when Titus tries to follow, Mutius (another son) will not let his father pass. Furious, Titus kills Mutius. He values his children's lives, but not as much as he values Rome and his duty as a Roman.

In these lines, Lucius and Marcus have returned and seek to bury Mutius in the family tomb. Titus refuses at first, saying that Mutius was no son of his. Here Lucius appeals to Titus's sense of honor and civility. Lucius pleads with his father to allow Marcus to bury Mutius with the family in "virtue's nest," since Mutius "died in honor" trying to protect his sister. The final line in the quote is particularly convincing and powerful: he reminds his father, you are a Roman, don't be a barbarian. Even though he has just murdered his son, Titus values his Roman-ness above all else, and, like everyone in the play, he seeks to believe that he is civilized and that everyone else is the barbarian. Ultimately, he concedes and allows Mutius his place in the family tomb.

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I’ll find a day to massacre them all
And raze their faction and their family,
The cruel father and his traitorous sons.

Related Characters: Tamora (speaker), Titus Andronicus, Lavinia, Lucius, Quintus and Martius
Page Number: 1.1.458-461
Explanation and Analysis:

After Saturninus's claim of "rape" earlier, Titus and Bassianus make their cases. Tamora outwardly encourages Saturninus to forgive them, saying that Titus is only acting out because of his grief. These lines come as an aside spoken only to Saturninus during Tamora's speech. She tells him to be patient and appear forgiving, since he is so newly in power; Tamora doesn't want the people to dethrone him in the event that they pity Titus. Instead, she says: leave it to me to get revenge. She claims she'll "find a day to massacre them all / And raze their faction and their family." The seeds of revenge are planted. Already Tamora is planning to eliminate Titus and his entire family as revenge for his murder of her son.

Note also that raze is a loose pun on race, which will come into play when Aaron's character develops. Aaron, a Moor and a driving factor behind much of Tamora's revenge, does not speak during the first act, but is given the second most lines in the play.

Act 2, Scene 1 Quotes

There serve your lust, shadowed from heaven’s eye,
And revel in Lavinia’s treasury.

Related Characters: Aaron the Moor (speaker), Demetrius and Chiron, Lavinia
Related Symbols: The Body
Page Number: 2.1.138-139
Explanation and Analysis:

Aaron begins this scene with a soliloquy in which he reveals that Tamora and he are lovers, and that the pair is plotting the downfall of Saturninus and of Rome. He relishes in his villainy. As he is soliloquizing, Chiron and Demetrius enter arguing over their desire for Lavinia. They draw their swords, preparing to duel for her, but Aaron intervenes and instigates one of the worst crimes in the play.

In the quote, he suggest that rather than fight over Lavinia, who is already engaged, they should together "serve their lust" in secret, and "revel in Lavinia's treasury." In other words, he encourages them to rape her. The violent rape which they soon commit is the source of a tremendous amount of grief, mourning, and tears, and it instigates further retribution by the Andronicus family.

Act 2, Scene 3 Quotes

Ay, come, Semiramis, nay, barbarous Tamora,
For no name fits thy nature but thy own.

Related Characters: Lavinia (speaker), Tamora
Page Number: 2.3.119-119
Explanation and Analysis:

These lines are spoken immediately following Bassianus's death. Lavinia first calls Tamora "Semiramis," the name of an Assyrian queen, but Lavina corrects herself, saying that she instead must use "barbarous Tamora," since "no name fits thy nature but thy own." The claim is essentially that Tamora is an evil so great that only her own name can be used to describe her. Lavinia also emphasizes Tamora's status as outsider and barbarian; despite Tamora's claim to be incorporate in Rome and her perfect Roman speech, she is still characterized as barbaric because of her violent, hateful deeds. Lavina's line also speaks to the source of Tamora's evil: it is in her nature as a Goth.

Remember, boys, I poured forth tears in vain
To save your brother from the sacrifice,
but fierce Andronicus would not relent.
Therefore away with her, and use her as you will;
The worse to her, the better loved of me.

Related Characters: Tamora (speaker), Titus Andronicus, Demetrius and Chiron, Lavinia
Related Symbols: The Body
Page Number: 2.3.163-157
Explanation and Analysis:

Enraged, Tamora initially wants to kill Lavina, but Chiron and Demetrius stop their mother so that they can rape Lavinia first. Hearing this exchange, Lavinia begs for mercy, but Tamora is merciless. In the quote, she tells her sons to remember that she "poured forth tears" to save Alarbus from sacrifice, "but fierce Andronicus would not relent." Bent on revenge, she determines that Chiron and Demetrius can do whatever they want with Lavinia.

Again, Tamora makes the sickening conversion of motherly love into violence. She says that the worse Chiron and Demetrius treat Lavinia, the better they love their mother. Thus the rape is explicitly configured as an incestuous gesture of filial obligation; Chiron and Demetrius show love to their mother through sexual violence.

Act 3, Scene 1 Quotes

My grief was at the height before thou cam’st,
And now like nilus it disdaineth bounds.

Related Characters: Titus Andronicus (speaker), Lavinia
Page Number: 3.1.72-73
Explanation and Analysis:

Marcus dramatically enters with "Titus, prepare thy agéd eyes to weep," presenting Lavina, whose tongue and hands have been removed. As he comes to understand the extent of her dismemberment (though yet ignorant of her rape), Titus speaks this quote, saying that his grief was at its highest point before he saw Lavinia. Now, he compares it to the flooding Nile river, overflowing and in excess.

Titus's response, though, is not quite as excessive as Marcus. When Marcus discovers the bloodied Lavinia, he offers a painfully long speech in which he professes grief. The scene is made all the more painful by the fact that while Marcus speaks and speaks, Lavinia can say nothing.

Note also that Marcus introduces Lavinia here with "This was thy daughter," suggesting that her maiming, and the destruction of her beauty, has made her something other than what she was, has made her not his daughter any longer, or, even, that in a way she is already dead.

Sweet father, cease your tears, for at your grief
See how my wretched sister sobs and weeps.

Related Characters: Lucius (speaker), Titus Andronicus, Lavinia
Page Number: 3.1.138-139
Explanation and Analysis:

Titus has continued to grieve, saying that the violence done to Lavinia is more painful than his own death. Here he seems to value his children above all else, contrasting the image we see when he murders Mutius in the first scene. Titus's grief appears endless, but Lucius here calms him down, telling him to stop crying, since his surplus of grief is upsetting Lavinia.

This scene is filled with tears. At this point in the play, almost all that Lavinia can do is cry, since she has been so tortured and mutilated that she cannot otherwise communicate. Titus, Marcus, and Lucius also flood the stage with tears, to the point where Marcus' handkerchief is drowned in water. The mourning will continue when Aaron tricks Titus into cutting of his own hand in another futile attempt to save the lives of Martius and Quintus. By the end of the scene, Titus only laughs, since he has no more tears to weep.

Act 4, Scene 1 Quotes

And swear with me—as, with the woeful fere
And father of that chaste dishonored dame,
Lord Junius Brutus swore for Lucrece’ rape—
That we will prosecute by good advice
Mortal revenge upon these traitorous Goths,
And see their blood or die with this reproach.

Related Characters: Marcus Andronicus (speaker), Titus Andronicus, Tamora, Demetrius and Chiron, Lavinia
Page Number: 4.1.90-95
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Lavinia is brilliantly able to communicate the extent of her attack and the names of her attackers. She points to a book, in particular Ovid's Metamorphosis, a huge source text for Shakespeare. In the book, she points to the story of Philomela, who was raped in the woods. Philomela's attacker cut out her tongue, but did not take Chiron and Demetrius's extra step of cutting off the victims hands.

Upon learning this information, Titus takes a staff and, with his mouth, uses it to write in the dirt. He instructs Lavinia to do the same, allowing her to indicate that Chiron and Demetrius are the rapists. At this revelation the Andronicus family is furious. In the quote, they all swear to pursue "Mortal revenge upon these traitorous Goths." They will spill the blood of Tamora, Aaron, Chiron, and Demetrius, or die trying. Before they spoke of revenge, but now that they know the true extent of the crimes of the Goths, the Andronicus family swears to seek the revenge that they will soon achieve. Note that by this point the family does not even consider a legal, judicial means of getting "justice." Their revenge must be taken outside of the laws of Rome, which has been characterized as wild, lawless, and barbarous.

Act 5, Scene 3 Quotes

Die, die, Lavinia, and thy shame with thee,
And with thy shame thy father’s sorrow die.

Related Characters: Titus Andronicus (speaker), Lavinia
Related Symbols: The Body
Page Number: 5.3.46-47
Explanation and Analysis:

When Saturninus tells Titus that "the girl should not survive her shame / And by her presence still renew his sorrows" in reference to the legend of Virginius, Titus immediately accepts this line of reasoning as precedent and kills Lavinia. The quote here are his final lines before he strikes her down.

He says that her shame will die with her, and with that shame, his own sorrow will die. This shocking murder is the means by which Titus reveals to Saturninus that Chiron and Demetrius raped Lavinia. Her death might briefly rid Titus of shame, but he does not live long enough to exhibit any relief from sorrow; Lavinia's death pushes the revenge plot to its climax and is followed by the deaths of Tamora, Titus, and Saturninus in quick-fire succession.

Note that when Saturninus asks for the rapists to be brought before him, Titus reveals that they are baked into the pies, resulting in possibly the most twisted, gruesome revenge of the play. After all of Tamora's strange inversions and perversions of filial love into rape and violence, the play ends with the mother ingesting (we can read un-birthing) her sons in another cruel reversal.

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Lavinia Character Timeline in Titus Andronicus

The timeline below shows where the character Lavinia appears in Titus Andronicus. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 1
Revenge Theme Icon
Violence and Justice Theme Icon
Rome, Romans, and Barbarians Theme Icon
Grief and Mourning Theme Icon
...Titus then addresses his deceased, buried children, honoring the dead in their tomb. Titus’ daughter Lavinia enters and kneels at the tomb in mourning. Titus is happy to see his daughter... (full context)
Children Theme Icon
As a gesture of thanks to Titus, Saturninus declares that he will take Lavinia as his wife. Titus is pleased with this, and presents his remaining prisoners to Saturninus... (full context)
Violence and Justice Theme Icon
Children Theme Icon
Rome, Romans, and Barbarians Theme Icon
Bassianus tells Titus that Lavinia was already betrothed to him and takes Lavinia by the arm. Marcus and Lucius support... (full context)
Rome, Romans, and Barbarians Theme Icon
Angry that Lavinia has been taken from him, Saturninus says that he no longer trusts the Andronicus family... (full context)
Revenge Theme Icon
Rome, Romans, and Barbarians Theme Icon
Saturninus enters with Tamora, her sons, and Aaron, while Bassianus enters with Lavinia. Saturninus tells Bassianus that he can have Lavinia and calls him traitorous, telling him that... (full context)
Revenge Theme Icon
...aloud, Tamora continues to lie to Titus, telling him, “This day all quarrels die.” Marcus, Lavinia, and Titus’ sons ask for Saturninus’ pardon. Saturninus publicly forgives them. Titus invites Saturninus to... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 1
Violence and Justice Theme Icon
...the downfall of Saturninus and Rome. Chiron and Demetrius enter, arguing over their desire for Lavinia, and prepare to draw their swords and fight. Aaron calms them and convinces them that... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 2
Revenge Theme Icon
Violence and Justice Theme Icon
...for Saturninus, as he has been “troubled in my sleep this night.” Saturninus, Tamora, Bassianus, Lavinia, and Tamora’s sons arrive. Everyone prepares for the hunt, while Demetrius and Chiron plot their... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 3
Revenge Theme Icon
...he is busy with carrying out revenge. He tells her that her sons will rape Lavinia and kill Bassianus. He gives Tamora a letter to show to Saturninus. (full context)
Revenge Theme Icon
Violence and Justice Theme Icon
Bassianus and Lavinia come upon Aaron and Tamora, discovering that the two are lovers. Aaron leaves to find... (full context)
Revenge Theme Icon
Violence and Justice Theme Icon
Rome, Romans, and Barbarians Theme Icon
Chiron and Demetrius arrive and Tamora tells them that Lavinia and Bassianus have tricked her to follow them into the wilderness and have threatened to... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 4
Violence and Justice Theme Icon
Rome, Romans, and Barbarians Theme Icon
Demetrius and Chiron enter with a mutilated Lavinia, whose hands and tongue have been cut off. Demetrius and Chiron tease her about her... (full context)
Grief and Mourning Theme Icon
After Demetrius and Chiron leave, Marcus enters and discovers Lavinia. Marcus is horrified and asks what has happened to her and who has cut off... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 1
Rome, Romans, and Barbarians Theme Icon
Grief and Mourning Theme Icon
...are better off dead, since Rome is now “a wilderness of tigers.” Marcus enters with Lavinia and Titus sees what has been done to her. Titus asks Lavinia to tell him... (full context)
Children Theme Icon
Grief and Mourning Theme Icon
Titus says that whoever has done this to Lavinia has hurt him more than if he had killed him. Lavinia weeps when Titus mentions... (full context)
Revenge Theme Icon
Grief and Mourning Theme Icon
...to the Goths and raise an army to challenge Saturninus. Lucius bids farewell to Rome, Lavinia, and his father, calling Titus “the woefull’st man that ever lived in Rome.” (full context)
Act 3, Scene 2
Children Theme Icon
Titus, Marcus, Lavinia, and Young Lucius (Titus’ grandson, the son of Lucius) are eating dinner. Titus laments the... (full context)
Revenge Theme Icon
Rome, Romans, and Barbarians Theme Icon
...again and again. Marcus thinks that Titus has gone mad. Titus takes Young Lucius and Lavinia off to read them a story to distract them from their sufferings. (full context)
Act 4, Scene 1
Violence and Justice Theme Icon
Young Lucius is running away from Lavinia, who is following him and, because of her disfigurement, frightening him. Marcus and Titus tell... (full context)
Revenge Theme Icon
Lavinia points to a copy of Ovid’s Metamorphoses and opens it to the story of Philomela.... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 2
Children Theme Icon
Young Lucius delivers the weapons to Chiron and Demetrius and announces that their crime against Lavinia has been discovered, before leaving. Trumpets from off-stage announce that Tamora has given birth to... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 1
Violence and Justice Theme Icon
...Tamora is the mother of his child and that Demetrius and Chiron killed Bassianus, raped Lavinia, and cut her hands and tongue off. Aaron says that he was he was behind... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 2
Revenge Theme Icon
Violence and Justice Theme Icon
Children Theme Icon
Rome, Romans, and Barbarians Theme Icon
...Demetrius tied up and gagged so they cannot make noise. Titus then stabs them, while Lavinia catches their blood in a basin. He tells them that he will make a paste... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 3
Violence and Justice Theme Icon
Children Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Violence and Justice Theme Icon
Rome, Romans, and Barbarians Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Violence and Justice Theme Icon
Rome, Romans, and Barbarians Theme Icon
Grief and Mourning Theme Icon
...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... (full context)