Study Guide

Titus Andronicus Act 2, Scene 3

By William Shakespeare

Act 2, Scene 3

Read the full text of Titus Andronicus Act 2 Scene 3 with a side-by-side translation HERE.

  • In the forest, Aaron hides a bag of gold under a tree.
  • Tamora enters and announces that she and Aaron should have sex while everyone else is busy hunting.
  • Aaron blows her off and says he's not in the mood for love because he's got "vengeance" on his mind. He's way too busy preparing for Bassianus's murder and Lavinia's rape to think about anything else.
  • Aaron gives Tamora a letter and tells her to give it to Saturninus. (We don't know what the letter says but it can't be a good thing.)
  • Aaron spots Bassianus and Lavinia and runs off to fetch Demetrius and Chiron.
  • Bassianus and Lavinia stroll up to Tamora and proceed to make snide remarks about Tamora being alone in the forest with a "barbarous Moor."
  • Bassianus declares that Tamora's virtue is as "spotted, detested, and abominable" as Aaron's black skin color. (We talk about the play's portrayal of race in "Themes," so check that out if you want to know what this is all about.)
  • Just as Bassianus threatens to expose Tamora for sleeping with Aaron, Chiron and Demetrius show up.
  • Tamora lies and says Bassianus and Lavinia lured her into the woods, threatened to tie her up to a tree, and called her names like "foul adulteress."
  • Tamora orders her sons to "revenge" this injustice and prove their loyalty to their mother.
  • Demetrius and Chiron stab Bassianus.
  • When Lavinia calls Tamora "barbarous," Tamora tries to stab her in the guts.
  • Demetrius says "first thrash the corn, then after burn the straw," meaning, first they're going to rape Lavinia, and then they'll kill her.
  • Chiron suggests they rape Lavinia on top of her husband's dead body: "Drag hence her husband to some secret hole / And make his dead trunk pillow to our lust."
  • Tamora says that's fine, just as long as Lavinia can't tell on them afterwards (meaning, they should kill her when they're done with her).
  • Lavinia begs Tamora to "show a woman's pity," but Tamora refuses to show mercy.
  • Demetrius and Chiron throw Bassianus's dead body into a pit and drag Lavinia off to rape her.
  • Tamora coldly says something like "Ta, ta, boys – I'm off to have sex with my secret boyfriend." (We're not kidding.)
  • Meanwhile Aaron lures Quintus and Martius to the pit where Bassianus's dead body has been dumped.
  • Not seeing the giant hole in the ground (it's covered with branches and leaves), Martius falls in and lands next to Bassianus's bloody body.
  • Aaron runs off into the woods to get Saturninus.
  • Martius describes the "dark, blood-drinking pit," and Quintus calls it a "swallowing womb." (Psst. Go to "Symbolism, Imagery, and Allegory" if you want to know what we think about this. But come right back.)
  • While he's trying to help his brother out of the "blood-stained hole," Quintus falls in and they're both trapped.
  • Then Aaron shows up with Saturninus.
  • Saturninus is horrified to learn that his brother, Bassianus, is lying in a bloody heap inside the pit.
  • Just then, Tamora, Titus, and Lucius arrive.
  • Tamora whips out a letter (remember the letter Aaron gave her earlier in the scene?). The letter is forged to look like Quintus and Martius paid a woodsman to kill Bassianus and dump him in the pit.
  • On cue, Aaron lifts up the bag of gold he buried earlier and is all "Ah ha! Here's the blood money!"
  • Saturninus orders Quintus and Martius to prison. (Hmm. Now that Bassianus is dead, Saturninus is suddenly feeling a sense of brotherly love?)
  • Titus begs Saturninus to be merciful and asks if he can post bail for his sons.
  • Saturninus refuses to release Quintus and Martius and declares that their guilt is obvious.
  • Tamora sweetly tells Titus not to worry – she'll talk to Saturninus for him.