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Analysis

Titus Andronicus Plot Analysis

Most good stories start with a fundamental list of ingredients: the initial situation, conflict, complication, climax, suspense, denouement, and conclusion. Great writers sometimes shake up the recipe and add some spice.

Initial Situation

Titus returns to Rome a war hero and gets rock star treatment.

After ten years of war with the Goths, Titus returns home. He's elected Emperor of Rome but he declines and says he just wants to retire in peace.

Conflict

Titus sacrifices Alarbus, and Tamora retaliates.

Titus insists on sacrificing Tamora's eldest son to appease the spirits of his dead relatives. Big mistake. Tamora vows to avenge this deed and, when Saturninus makes her his empress, she's suddenly in a position to make good on her promise. Tamora and her secret lover, Aaron, turn Titus's life into a living nightmare. Together they mastermind the murder of Bassianus and the rape of Lavinia.

Complication

Titus's sons are framed for murder and Titus is duped.

Tamora and Aaron manage to frame Titus's two sons, Quintus and Martius, for the murder of Bassianus. Aaron also tricks Titus into lopping of his own hand by promising that Saturninus will spare his sons in exchange for Titus's body part.

Climax

Revealed: Chiron and Demetrius raped Lavinia. Titus vows revenge!

Lavinia gets her stumps on a book and gestures at the story of Philomel's rape from Ovid's Metamorphoses to indicate she's been sexually assaulted. She then puts a staff in her mouth and writes out the names of Chiron and Demetrius, revealing the identities of her attackers. Naturally, Titus vows to make them pay.

Suspense

Guess who's coming to dinner.

The suspense builds when Titus kills Chiron and Demetrius, bakes them into a pie, and invites everyone to a big feast.

Denouement

Titus serves up revenge. Bloodbath ensues.

At the feast, Titus serves Tamora and his guests the human pie he so lovingly baked. Then he announces his secret ingredient and stabs Tamora. Saturninus stabs Titus in return, then Lucius stabs Saturninus.

Conclusion

Lucius named new Roman Emperor: Let the healing begin!

With Rome's emperor and its greatest military leader dead, who will lead Rome out of this mess? Why, Lucius, of course! After being named emperor, Lucius says he's going to "heal" Rome, then punishes Aaron by having him buried up to his neck and left to starve.

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