Titus Andronicus

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The Body Symbol Icon
Titus Andronicus is filled with tortured, dismembered, disfigured, and hurt bodies. In addition to Lavinia, who is raped and has her tongue and hands cut off, Titus loses one of his hands, and the body parts of Demetrius and Chiron are cut up and made into the food that Titus serves Tamora. All this bodily disfigurement can be related to a common metaphor that personifies the empire of Rome as a body. For example, when Marcus wants Titus to become emperor of Rome, he tells him to “set a head on headless Rome.” Similarly, at the end of the play, Marcus promises to restore Rome, saying that he will “knit...these broken limbs again into one body.” Thus, all of the dismembered bodies throughout the play can be seen as standing in for the larger dissolution of Rome.

The Body Quotes in Titus Andronicus

The Titus Andronicus quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Body. 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

Be candidatus, then, and put [the white robe] on /
And help to set a head on headless Rome.

Related Characters: Marcus Andronicus (speaker), Titus Andronicus
Related Symbols: The White Robe, The Body
Page Number: 1.1.185-186
Explanation and Analysis:

Alarbus has been sacrificed, and Tamora and Chiron (one of her sons) have cried out that the Romans are barbarous (note that the play will continue to ask the question of who is civilized and who is barbaric). But Demetrius, Tamora's other son, quietly tells his mother and brother to calm down and seek revenge on the Andronicus family. Titus then speaks for his dead sons and reunites with his daughter Lavinia, before Marcus enters with the White Robe, which symbolizes the citizens' choice to make Titus emperor.

This robe also symbolizes purity, morality, and political power. The whiteness of the robe contrasts with the blood that has been and will continue to be spilled during the course of the play. The choice to kill Alarbus might be framed as just by association with the White Robe, but ultimately Titus refuses the robe and the power that it carries. However, he still must select the next emperor of Rome, which is currently "headless." This characterization of Rome relates to the body politic, in which the state is analogous with the body of its ruler. Without a leader, the body is literally headless. Such a gruesome image also foreshadows the countless cases of dismemberment that occur during the play. 

Titus chooses Saturninus for emperor, since he is older than his brother Bassianus, but this choice and the drama over whom Lavinia will marry set in motion the eventual crowning of Tamora as empress of Rome and much of the chaos that will (literally) tear the Andronicus family apart.


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Titus, I am incorporate in Rome,
A Roman now adopted happily.

Related Characters: Tamora (speaker), Titus Andronicus
Related Symbols: The Body
Page Number: 1.1.472-473
Explanation and Analysis:

Tamora successfully convinces Saturninus to make a show of forgiveness while inwardly pursuing revenge. Publicly forgiven, Titus thanks the emperor and the empress. This quote is the beginning of Tamora's response to Titus. She says that she is "incorporate in Rome," meaning that she has been immediately adopted into the physical body of Rome (and suggests that her own goals now align with Rome's goals). Note that as empress, Tamora, too, can evoke the body politic, evidenced by the presence of 'corporeal' (meaning of the body) in the word incorporate. She is careful to repeat that she is "A Roman," continuing to assert her status with perfect Roman speech.

Note also that Titus has lost his moral high ground over Tamora. His rationale for murdering Alarbus was rooted in his Roman honor, which because it was used as a basis for murder established devotedness to Rome as a questionable moral standpoint. But now Tamora herself is part of Rome, and so the purity of Titus's moral stand point has been diluted. At the same time, as the audience, we know that Tamora even as she has been made Empress of Rome, and says that she is a happy Roman, is plotting vengeance on Titus – and so the very idea of Rome as being noble and honorably has been made murky by Titus's own actions, and now by Tamora's.

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

Revenge it as you love your mother’s life,
Or be you not henceforth called my children.

Related Characters: Tamora (speaker), Bassianus, Demetrius and Chiron
Related Symbols: The Hunt, The Body
Page Number: 2.3.114-115
Explanation and Analysis:

Aaron has left Tamora alone, but not before the pair has been spotted by Bassianus and Lavinia. Bassianus and Lavina each make fun of Tamora for cuckolding Saturninus and for sleeping with a Moor (revealing their own racist views of darker-skinned people). When Chiron and Demetrius enter, Tamora delivers a long speech in which she accuses Bassianus and Lavinia of tricking her and threatening to kill her. Tamora tells her sons to avenge her, inciting them to murder Bassianus, throw him in the pit, and commit the rape that Aaron planned.

These lines are particularly violent and twisted: Tamora asks her children to transmute love for their mother into violent revenge, and threatens to disown her if they don't. Love and violence are intermingled, and the acts of murder and rape are framed as familial love. The speech is also interesting as a counterpoint to Titus's fury earlier when he disowns Mutius for stopping him from forcing Lavinia to marry Saturninus. In each case a parent's love is predicated on their children's obedience. At the same time, the cycle (like all cycles of violence) keeps amping up to higher levels, and Titus's desire to make his daughter marry the Emperor is not at the same level as Tamora's demand that they murder Bassianus and rape Lavinia.

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

Is not my sorrow deep, having no bottom?
Then be my passions bottomless with them.

Related Characters: Titus Andronicus (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Body
Page Number: 3.1.221-222
Explanation and Analysis:
Titus has just cut off his own hand, as Aaron has told him that if he does so his sons Martius and Quintus will be spared. But Aaron quickly informs Titus that he has fallen for a trick: the heads of Martius and Quintus will soon be delivered. Titus experiences intense anguish, and cries out that his sorrow and passions are bottomless and unending. Marcus tries to calm Titus down and moderate his weeping with "let reason govern thy lament," but Titus will not be calmed, and when the heads of Martius and Quintus are brought on stage, even Marcus gives in to more excessive grief and stops trying to restrain Titus's sorrow. It is at this point that the maddened, dismembered Titus begins to laugh. He has wept himself dry, and will now pursue revenge instead of grief.
Act 5, Scene 3 Quotes

My lord the Emperor, resolve me this:
Was it well done of rash Virginius
To slay his daughter with his own right hand
Because she was enforced, stained, and deflowered?

Related Characters: Titus Andronicus (speaker), Saturninus
Related Symbols: The Body
Page Number: 5.3.35-38
Explanation and Analysis:

The Andronicus revenge plot is underway. Titus has tricked Tamora into leaving Chiron and Demetrius behind, and he has killed them and baked them into pies he is now serving to Saturninus and Tamora (who are visiting in hopes of dissuading Lucius and his Goths from attacking Rome). 

As Tamora and Saturninus unknowingly begin to eat the pies, Titus asks Saturninus for his opinion as emperor. Titus asks about a Roman legend concerning Virginius, who killed his daughter after she had been raped to preserve his family's honor. Titus uses this line of questioning to introduce to Saturninus the fact that Lavinia was raped, but the result is a shocking one.

There is a darkly humorous cast to this scene, as Titus asks Saturninus about the proper way to respond to familial "stains" even as he "stains" his guests by having them eat Tamora's children. The story further establishes the strange values of Rome, in which honor was placed above the lives of children, in which being a citizen of Roman civilization required the killing of one's daughter who was innocent of any crime other than being raped. The story also helps place Titus Andronicus into the tradition of bloodthirsty Senecan revenge tragedies (a genre named after a Roman writer named Seneca, and which was still popular among authors of Shakespeare's time). There is, further, a sense that, even as Shakespeare fits his own story into this tradition, he is gleefully showing other playwrights who's the boss through the incredible bloodthirsty madness of his plot. 

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.

There’s meed for meed, death for a deadly deed.

Related Characters: Lucius (speaker), Titus Andronicus, Saturninus
Related Symbols: The Body
Page Number: 5.3.67
Explanation and Analysis:

Titus reveals that Tamora "hath fed / Eating the flesh that she herself hath bred," and he stabs Tamora before she can respond to the fact that she ate the flesh of her own children, which comprises her dying thought. Part of Titus's revenge is this silencing; he didn't seek a reaction, but rather justice. Witnessing Titus slay Tamora, Saturninus curses and kills Titus. At the death of his father, Lucius says, "Can the son's eye behold his father bleed?" and kills Saturninus.

After killing Saturninus, Lucius completes his rhyimg couplet (interrupted by a death) with the line of the quote, which speaks to the cyclical patterns of revenge and violence in the play. Murder and vengeance beget more revenge; opposing families take revenge for revenge killings over and over again, without end, until one family is completely erased. The excess of blood and revenge in the play can be seen as caricatures, ridiculing the popular revenge tragedies of Shakespeare's contemporaries.

O, let me teach you how to knit again
This scattered corn into one mutual sheaf,
These broken limbs again into one body.

Related Characters: Marcus Andronicus (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Body
Page Number: 5.3.71-73
Explanation and Analysis:

Marcus speaks this line to the Roman public in the aftermath of the play's climax. After the conclusion of the family conflict, Marcus addresses the conflict in Rome itself, as all three of the men considered for the position of emperor at the start of the play are now dead.

Beginning with an analogy about knitting "scattered corn into one mutual sheaf," Marcus speaks of healing Rome and restoring it to his former glory. He then refers back to the body politic, hoping to heal "these broken limbs again into one body." This language shows how the dismemberment and bodily violence done on Titus and the leaders of Rome is reflected in the state itself. Headless, handless, torn limb from limb, Rome must be pieced together by the remaining members of the Andronicus family.

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The Body Symbol Timeline in Titus Andronicus

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Body appears in Titus Andronicus. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 5, Scene 3
Violence and Justice Theme Icon
Rome, Romans, and Barbarians Theme Icon
...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,... (full context)