The play begins with the theme of dynastic succession, as two brothers prepare to battle for the Roman empery. For many, the theme of power is what prevents Titus Andronicus from being simply a gratuitously violent play. When Titus (like King Lear) chooses retirement over the duty of leadership, he leaves Rome vulnerable to political chaos. In the end, the play suggests that Rome can only be healed by a strong ruler at the helm.
Questions About Power
- Why are Bassianus and Saturninus ready to kill each other in the play's first scene?
- Why doesn't Titus want to be Rome's new emperor?
- Why does Titus choose Saturninus to lead Rome? What are the consequences of this choice?
- Describe Tamora's rise to power in Rome.
- What does the future of Rome look like? Will Marcus be a good emperor?
Chew on This
When Titus refuses to lead, he becomes partially responsible for Rome's fall into chaos.
Shakespeare litters the stage with human body parts to remind the audience that Rome's "body politic" has been destroyed by Titus's blood feud with Tamora.