Titus Andronicus


William Shakespeare

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Titus Andronicus: Act 4, Scene 4 Summary & Analysis

Read our modern English translation of this scene.
Saturninus, attended by Tamora, Chiron, and Demetrius, is annoyed by the arrows shot by the Andronicus family into the royal court. He thinks Titus has been driven mad by his suffering and is angry that he is spreading the idea that Saturninus is unjust. He then vows to do justice to Titus. Tamora encourages him to be lenient toward Titus, pretending to be sympathetic to Titus' pains. The clown arrives bearing Titus’ message. After reading the letter, Saturninus orders the clown to be hanged. Saturninus is outraged at the Andronicus family, who he sees as traitors, and wants Titus to be brought to the royal court.
While Titus believes that he is carrying out justice, Saturninus also thinks that he is acting justly in opposing Titus and his family, perceiving them as traitors to the Roman state. Both sides thus fit ideas of justice to their circumstances and use it to justify their own actions.
Violence and Justice Theme Icon
Literary Devices
A messenger named Aemilius arrives and tells Saturninus that Lucius is leading an army of Goths against Rome. Saturninus worries, since the Roman people are supportive of Lucius. Tamora suggests that they persuade Titus to make Lucius stop. Saturninus doesn’t think that Titus will listen to them, but Tamora insists that she can persuade him. Saturninus tells Aemilius to arrange a meeting between the Andronicus family and Saturninus and Tamora, to take place at Titus’ house. Tamora leaves to go trick Titus into stopping Lucius from attacking Rome.
The fact that a Roman is commanding an army of Goths against Rome exemplifies the breakdown of the distinction between Romans and barbarians, and—along with the people’s support for the "rebel" Lucius instead of the actual emperor Saturninus—suggests the instability of Rome.
Rome, Romans, and Barbarians Theme Icon