Titus Andronicus

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Themes and Colors
Revenge Theme Icon
Violence and Justice Theme Icon
Children Theme Icon
Rome, Romans, and Barbarians Theme Icon
Grief and Mourning Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Titus Andronicus, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Grief and Mourning Theme Icon

If one consequence of the numerous deaths and violent acts of the play is revenge, the other is mourning. As characters experience ever-increasing pains over the course of the play, they are plunged deeper and deeper into grief—especially Titus. The repeated scenes of grieving beg the question of whether such lamentation is actually worth anything or is simply useless. In Act 3, Scene 1, Lucius tells Titus that he “lament[s] in vain,” but Titus says that he “tell[s] [his] sorrows to the stones” and that there is some consolation in this. Marcus advises Titus to “let reason govern thy lament,” but Titus insists on an outpouring of grief. Later in the same scene, though, Titus begins to laugh, saying “I have not another tear to shed.” He is, in a sense, pushed beyond the limits of grief and can then only turn to cold-hearted revenge.

The play also brings up the question of how much grief is fitting or appropriate for someone to display. Titus is plunged into extreme outbursts of grief, whereas Marcus and Young Lucius (Lucius’ son) practice restrained mourning for the death of Titus and pay their respects to the dead within reason, taking care to have Lavinia and Titus buried in the Andronicus family tomb. As a way of responding to suffering, mourning may not change anything, but, within reasonable limits, it may help people cope and move on, as Marcus, Lucius, and Young Lucius hope to do at the play’s close. And as a response to tragedy, it at least seems preferable to revenge.

Grief and Mourning ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Grief and Mourning appears in each scene of Titus Andronicus. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Grief and Mourning Quotes in Titus Andronicus

Below you will find the important quotes in Titus Andronicus related to the theme of Grief and Mourning.
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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Act 3, Scene 1 Quotes

O noble father, you lament in vain.
The Tribunes hear you not; no man is by,
And you recount your sorrows to a stone.

Related Characters: Lucius (speaker), Titus Andronicus
Page Number: 3.1.27-29
Explanation and Analysis:

According to Aaron's plan, Quintus and Martius have fallen into a pit and been framed for the murder of Bassianus. (Aaron forged a letter and planted gold to make it look like they paid for the murder.) As a group of judges and tribunes passes with the imprisoned Quintus and Martius in tow, Titus begs for mercy for his sons and falls to the ground in anguish. With his head down, he continues lamenting and begging for mercy, even as the judges walk off stage.

Here Lucius informs his father that he is lamenting "in vain" since the Tribunes cannot hear him; everyone else has left the stage. In a stunning image, Lucius says that Titus recounts his "sorrows to a stone." These lines convey a sense of futility: Quintus and Martius will be executed no matter what Titus says or does; unbeknownst to Titus and Lucius, Marcus will also soon enter to inform them that Lavinia has been mutilated; the cycle of revenge has enough momentum that it cannot be stopped until everyone of significance is dead. Titus himself is aware of this inevitability, and he continues lamenting and begging to the very stones on the ground, which he claims are more sympathetic than the Tribunes who will soon execute his sons.

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.

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 3, Scene 2 Quotes

“But”? How if that fly had a father and mother?
How would he hang his slender gilded wings
And buzz lamenting doings in the air!
Poor harmless fly,
That, with his pretty buzzing melody,
Came here to make us merry! And thou hast killed him.

Related Characters: Titus Andronicus (speaker)
Page Number: 3.2.60-66
Explanation and Analysis:

Despite his claim to have wept all of his tears, Titus begins this scene by lamenting that he and Lavinia have lost their hands. Titus says he will learn to interpret her sign language, at once pitying her and objectifying her, since she is voiceless and he must speak for her. In a sense, Lavinia is just an object for Titus's own grief.

After Marcus kills a fly, Titus offers the lines in the quote, which demonstrate some of the empathy and logic that could have prevented much of the revenge and violence of the play. Titus wonders if the fly had parents, imagining their grief at the death of their son. This type of thinking might have prevented him from killing Alarbus at the start of the play.

But Marcus points out that the fly was black, like Aaron, and Titus quickly turns his thoughts back to his revenge. The fly and Aaron are identified as barbaric outsiders, ceasing Titus's empathy and making way for more violence.

Act 4, Scene 3 Quotes

Kinsmen, his sorrows are past remedy.
Join with the Goths, and with revengeful war
Take wreak on Rome for this ingratitude,
And vengeance on the traitor Saturnine.

Related Characters: Marcus Andronicus (speaker), Titus Andronicus, Saturninus, Tamora, Demetrius and Chiron
Page Number: 4.3.31-35
Explanation and Analysis:

Titus, Marcus, Young Lucius, and Marcus's son Publius are gathered. They have all prepared arrows with inscriptions on them, which they will shoot into the sky in pleas for divine justice. This practice reveals that they believe their plight for justice and revenge to be entirely (and divinely) justified. When Publius suggests that they try to calm down and find some "careful remedy" to the situation, Marcus responds that Titus's "sorrows are past remedy." There is no hope for solace or a peaceful solution; they only seek revenge.

In the following lines, Marcus shows how far the drive for revenge has taken him and his complete disillusionment with Rome. He cries out that his kinsmen should "Join with the Goths," hoping that they can then wage "revengeful war" against all of Rome. Violence has caused an inversion of what is Roman, what is Gothic, and what is just. The drive for revenge is so great that the Andronicus family, quintessentially Roman at the start of the play, now hopes for revenge and war on Rome itself in order to gain the "justice," or revenge, that they themselves set in motion by killing Alarbus according to the Roman way at the beginning of the play.