Titus Andronicus (character)

Last updated

Titus Andronicus
Titus Andronicus character
Titus Andronicus (1785) - Noel le Mire - Jean-Michel Moreau.jpg
Jean-Michel Moreau's illustration of Titus Andronicus (right) being told by his son Lucius that the tribunes have left, from Act 3, Scene 1; engraved by N. le Mire (1785)
Created by William Shakespeare
Portrayed by Anthony Hopkins and Trevor Peacock among others
In-universe information
FamilySons: Lucius, Quintus, Martius, Mutius
Daughter: Lavinia
Brother: Marcus Andronicus
Nephew: Publius
Grandson: Young Lucius

Titus Andronicus is the main character and tragic hero in William Shakespeare's tragedy of the same name, Titus Andronicus . [1] Titus is a Roman nobleman and a general in the war who distinguished himself in ten years of service against the Goths. [1] Despite his exemplary service the war's toll on him is sufficient that he declined the emperorship. Nonetheless, he begins the play as an exemplary citizen. However, faith in the traditions of the Roman system of government eventually leads to his death, as others seek revenge. [1]



Some sources claim that the name Andronicus comes from Andronikos I Komnenos, a 12th-century Byzantine emperor, who shared Titus' proclivity for shooting arrows with messages attached. [2] When Anthony Hopkins played a stylized version of the character in the 1999 film Titus , he described the character as a combination of King Lear, Barney and Hannibal Lecter. [3] Although Titus Andronicus is the main character, some productions have adapted the play to be seen through Young Lucius. [4]

Role in play

The play begins with Titus returning home after many years at war with the Goths, bringing with him the remaining four of his twenty-five sons. Titus is selected by the people of Rome to be the new emperor but refuses this offer due to his already advanced age. In his stead he chooses the former emperor's eldest son Saturninus. By the ceremonial sacrifice of his most noble captive, Alarbus – the eldest son of Tamora, Queen of the Goths – Titus unknowingly sparks off a series of events that are motivated by the desire for revenge. Throughout the play Titus seeks revenge on Tamora for injustices against his family while simultaneously being the target of Tamora's own quest for revenge. Titus murders five people during the play, including one of his sons and his daughter. Displaying strict adherence to Roman law he murders his son, Mutius, for defying the order he has given for his daughter Lavinia to marry the new emperor Saturninus. The second act of filicide occurs at the end of the play when Titus murders Lavinia so that she will not have to live with the shame of having been raped and mutilated on Tamora's orders by her sons Chiron and Demetrius. In Titus' final act of revenge upon Tamora he kills Chiron and Demetrius and uses their blood and bones as the ingredients of a pie. "Let me go grind their bones to powder small, / And with this hateful liquor temper it, / And in that paste let their vile heads be baked" (5.3.197–199). [5] Titus serves this pie to Tamora before killing her. As is customary in a Shakespearean tragedy and as a Senecan hero, Titus Andronicus also dies in the end, killed by Saturninus who is then in turn killed by Titus' last remaining son, Lucius, bringing to an end the cycle of revenge that has prolonged the play. [1]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">100 BC</span> Calendar year

Year 100 BC was a year of the pre-Julian Roman calendar. At the time it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Marius and Flaccus and the First Year of Tianhan. The denomination 100 BC for this year has been used since the early medieval period, when the Anno Domini calendar era became the prevalent method in Europe for naming years.

During the 290s BC, Hellenistic civilization begins its emergence throughout the successor states of the former Argead Macedonian Empire of Alexander the Great, resulting in the diffusion of Greek culture throughout the Levant and advances in science, mathematics, philosophy, etc. Meanwhile, the Roman Republic is embroiled in war against the Samnites, the Mauryan Empire continues to thrive in Ancient India, and the Kingdom of Qin in Ancient China, the one which in the future will conquer its adversaries and unite China, begins to emerge as a significant power during the Warring States period.

<i>Titus Andronicus</i> Play by Shakespeare

Titus Andronicus is a tragedy by William Shakespeare believed to have been written between 1588 and 1593, probably in collaboration with George Peele. It is thought to be Shakespeare's first tragedy and is often seen as his attempt to emulate the violent and bloody revenge plays of his contemporaries, which were extremely popular with audiences throughout the 16th century.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tereus</span>

In Greek mythology, Tereus was a Thracian king, the son of Ares and the naiad Bistonis. He was the brother of Dryas. Tereus was the husband of the Athenian princess Procne and the father of Itys.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lavinia</span>

In Roman mythology, Lavinia is the daughter of Latinus and Amata, and the last wife of Aeneas.

<i>The Rape of Lucrece</i> Poem by Shakespeare

The Rape of Lucrece (1594) is a narrative poem by William Shakespeare about the legendary Roman noblewoman Lucretia. In his previous narrative poem, Venus and Adonis (1593), Shakespeare had included a dedicatory letter to his patron, the Earl of Southampton, in which he promised to compose a "graver labour". Accordingly, The Rape of Lucrece has a serious tone throughout.

<i>Titus</i> (film) 1999 film directed by Julie Taymor

Titus is a 1999 film adaptation of William Shakespeare's revenge tragedy Titus Andronicus, about the downfall of a Roman general, the first theatrically-released feature film adaptation of the play. Starring Anthony Hopkins and Jessica Lange, it was the directorial debut of Julie Taymor, who co-produced with Jody Patton and Conchita Airoldi, and wrote the screenplay. The film was a co-production of the United States, the United Kingdom, and Italy; produced by Overseas Filmgroup and Clear Blue Sky Productions and released by Fox Searchlight Pictures.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Revenge play</span>

The revenge tragedy, or revenge play, is a dramatic genre in which the protagonist seeks revenge for an imagined or actual injury. The term revenge tragedy was first introduced in 1900 by A. H. Thorndike to label a class of plays written in the late Elizabethan and early Jacobean eras.

Revenge tragedy is a theoretical genre in which the principal theme is revenge and revenge's fatal consequences. Formally established by American educator Ashley H. Thorndike in his 1902 article "The Relations of Hamlet to Contemporary Revenge Plays," a revenge tragedy documents the progress of the protagonist's revenge plot and often leads to the demise of both the murderers and the avenger himself.

Saturninus may refer to:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Edward Ravenscroft</span> English playwright

Edward Ravenscroft was an English dramatist who belonged to an ancient Flintshire family.

Chiron is a famous centaur from Greek mythology.

Tamara is a female given name most commonly derived from the Biblical name "Tamar" and in the Arabic from the singular form "Tamra" and the plural form "Tamar", meaning in both Hebrew and Arabic the generic name of the fruit "date", "date palm" or "palm tree".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Peacham drawing</span>

The Peacham drawing, or 'Longleat manuscript', is the only surviving contemporary Shakespearean illustration, now in the library of the Marquess of Bath at Longleat in Wiltshire. The drawing appears to depict a performance of Titus Andronicus, under which is quoted some dialogue. Eugene M. Waith argues of the illustration that "the gestures and costumes give us a more vivid impression of the visual impact of Elizabethan acting than we get from any other source."

Although traditionally Titus Andronicus has been seen as one of Shakespeare's least respected plays, its fortunes have changed somewhat in the latter half of the twentieth century, with numerous scholars arguing that the play is more accomplished than has hitherto been allowed for. In particular, scholars have argued that the play is far more thematically complex than has traditionally been thought, and features profound insights into ancient Rome, Elizabethan society, and the human condition. Such scholars tend to argue that these previously unacknowledged insights have only become apparent during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries as only now has the ultraviolent content of the play achieved a sense of relevance. For example, in his 1987 edition of the play for the Contemporary Shakespeare series, A.L. Rowse writes; "in the civilised Victorian age the play could not be performed because it could not be believed. Such is the horror of our own age, with the appalling barbarities of prison camps and resistance movements paralleling the torture and mutilation and feeding on human flesh of the play, that it has ceased to be improbable." Similarly, director Julie Taymor, who staged a production Off-Broadway in 1994 and directed a film version in 1999, says she was drawn to the play because she found it to be the most "relevant of Shakespeare's plays for the modern era". She feels that the play has more relevance for contemporary audiences than it had for the Victorians; "it seems like a play written for today, it reeks of now." Because of this newfound relevance, previously unrecognised thematic strands have thus come to the forefront.

"The Lamentable and Tragical History of Titus Andronicus,"also called"Titus Andronicus' Complaint," is a ballad from the 17th century about the fictional Roman general, Titus, and his revenge cycle with the Queen of the Goths. Events in the ballad take place near the end of the Roman Empire, and the narrative of the ballad parallels the plot of William Shakespeare's play Titus Andronicus. Scholarly debate exists as to which text may have existed first, the ballad or the play. The ballad itself was first entered on the Stationers' Register in 1594, the same year the play was entered. Surviving copies of the ballad can be found in the British Library, in the Huntington Library, and at Magdalene College, Cambridge. Online copies of the facsimiles are also available for public consumption at sites such as the English Broadside Ballad Archive.


  1. 1 2 3 4 "Titus Andronicus: Characters". Spark Notes . Retrieved April 25, 2014.
  2. Stoll, Elmer Edgar, ed. (1922). The Tragedy of Titus Andronicus, Volume 30. The MacMillan Company. p. xvi. Retrieved April 24, 2014.
  3. Holden, Stephen (December 24, 1999). "Titus (1999): Film Review; It's a Sort of Family Dinner, Your Majesty". The New York Times . Retrieved April 24, 2014.
  4. "Titus Andronicus". British Universities Film & Video Council . Retrieved April 25, 2014.
  5. "Titus Andronicus (full text)". MIT.edu. Retrieved April 24, 2014.