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MonkeyNotes-Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare
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Act III, Scene I

Summary

As Martius and Quintus are led to their execution, Titus pleads with the high officials of Rome to spare them. Lucius tries to rescue them by force and is banished from Rome. Marcus brings the mutilated Lavinia to her father and brother. Lucius is shocked to see her condition but Titus does not express his feelings. When she is told about her brotherís approaching death she cries anew. Aaron comes bearing a message from the emperor that, in return for Marcusí, Titusí or Luciusí hand the lives of the two boys will be spared. Titus cuts off his hand and Aaron takes it away, promising him that he will soon see his sons. A messenger arrives with his soní heads and his hand and informs him that the emperor mocks his grief and loss. Titus just laughs at the whole situation and makes a vow in front of each one present that he is going to correct all the wrongs that has been done unto them. He bids Lucius to go to the Goths and raise an army there against the Roman emperor. Then, they all leave, Titus bearing one head, Marcus another and Lavinia clutching Titusí hand in her teeth.


Notes

The dominant tone of Act III is elegiac. Titus groveling on the floor while the State of Rome passes by is a powerful visual image. This act sees sorrows piling up on Titus in rapid succession. His sons are led to execution, he finds his daughter mutilated, he loses his hand in a trick played by Aaron, his sonsí heads and his chopped head a presented to him along with the message of emperorís scorn at his plight. This prepares the reader for the climax of this scene, the metamorphosis of Titus from a noble and suffering man to an irrational revenging beast.

His laughter is the playís supreme dramatic irony. It has been anticipated by a more obscure one, Lavinia kissing Titus, which Marcus misinterprets as gentle, but which is a silent communication of her resolve for revenge.

Act III is a pivot in the structure of the play, lying between the two main sequences of action, the beastly crimes before and the even more bestial revenge to come, promised by Titus seeking "Revengeís cave". The central action is superbly dramatic: the extreme change of mood when Titus caps the climax of Marcusí lament with a burst of laughter. This moment is the dramatic center of the whole play, the point at which suffering drives Titus from passive grief to insane activity. It is provoked by the grotesquely comic presentation of the lurid action in which Aaron persuades Titus to lose his hand. The grotesque edge, here, develops into open farce as the Andronici fall to wrangling over whose hand should be cut off.

Aaron is shown exultant in his wickedness. He is placed outside the restrictive laws of life by his association with the empress, and still more by his conscious commitment to villainy. Titusí laughter marks his transition from an object of sympathy to one of total alienation. Alienation of mind because he is seen to be insane; alienation of sympathy, because he puts himself beyond the range of human approval. This alienation forms an important idea in the play: that men may be driven by suffering, net to ennoblement, but to become sub - human revenges.

Irony in the relations of the brothers, Titus and Marcus, becomes inevitable. Because Marcus remains a touchstone of sanity and moral judgment, and must henceforth be excluded from Titus plans. Lavinia is the agent of Titusí metamorphosis, and she is also his bestial accomplish in revenge. The roots of bestiality glimpsed in both in the first two acts emerge now as they leave the stage bearing the emblems of their purpose, the heads of Titusí sons, his hand between Laviniaís teeth. The scene ends with Lucius alone, announcing a conventional and respectable revenge: he will collect on army to attack Rome, destroy Saturninus and Tamora, and restore the order which has been so profoundly disturbed.

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