The Tragedy of Titus Andronicus (an Early Tragedy)
In Rome, all gather to see the late emperor buried. Saturninus, his eldest son, declares he should be the next emperor, but his brother Bassianus wants to hold an election, hoping himself to be elected. However, Titus' brother Marcus Andronicus (the Tribune of Rome) announces that the Senate has elected Titus the new emperor, as reward for long years of service as a military commander. Saturninus and Bassianus seem to peacefully withdraw their claims. Titus Andronicus then appears, back from the 10 year war with the Goths, in which he killed the Goth king, King Priam, and captured the queen Tamora and her three sons, Alarbus, Demetrius, and Chiron. Immediately, Titus' three living sons Lucius, Quintus, and Martius sacrifice Alarbus to appease the Roman gods, bringing Tamora to curse the Romans (interestingly, Titus had 21 other sons die valiantly in war over the years). When Marcus attempts to name Titus emperor, he refuses, claiming to be only a soldier. Marcus agrees to allow Titus to choose between Saturninus and Bassianus; he chooses the elder, Saturninus, who is immediately crowned emperor, then names Titus' daughter Lavinia his empress (although she loves Bassianus). Next, Tamora and her sons are brought in and presented to Saturninus, who immediately falls in love with Tamora, and to the surprise of all sets her and her sons free. Bassianus then declares he is in love with Lavinia, but her own father Titus declares she should stay with Saturninus. Her brothers protect her and Bassianus as they flee, with Titus' son Mutius blocking the way. In the chase, Titus kills his own son, Mutius for defying Titus' orders. Saturninus appears and declares he no longer cares about Lavinia, and, to Titus' amazement and dismay, declares Tamora the new empress (although she loves Aaron the Moor, who is from Africa). Titus' brother Marcus and Titus' sons Lucius, Quintus, and Martius beg Titus to let Mutius be buried in the Andronicus tomb. Although difficult, they eventually convince him as such. Saturninus then reappears and accuses Bassianus of being a traitor. Tamora, though, after much persuasion, convinces Saturninus to forgive all, including Titus for murdering his son. In private, she vows to one day massacre them all. They then leave to see Saturninus marry Tamora and hold a feast.
Before the palace, Aaron ponders how he will wait on Tamora and continue to woo her. He comes across her sons Demetrius and Chiron quarreling since they both love the already engaged Lavinia. Aaron tries to convince them they are insane to pursue her, but it is to no avail. He then convinces them to attempt to rape her in the woods when she goes for a walk while the Roman men are out on a hunt. Before the hunt, Titus tells his sons to protect the emperor and his party, as Titus has had a bad night's sleep. In the forest, Aaron and Tamora meet and he announces today is the day Bassianus will die, then gives her a scroll to give to Saturninus. Bassianus and Lavinia appear and question Tamora about being with the Moor. Demetrius and Chiron then appear and Tamora tells them that Bassianus had threatened her, provoking both sons to stab and kill him. They drag him away, and, against her pleadings, drag Lavinia to rape her. Separately in the forest, Aaron leads Titus' sons Quintus and Martius to the pit where Bassianus is buried. Martius falls in and Aaron goes to get Saturninus. Trying to help his brother, Quintus falls in too. Saturninus arrives and is told of Bassianus' death, then Tamora gives Saturninus the scroll which describes the plot, causing Saturninus to immediately accuse Quintus and Martius of killing Bassianus and has them imprisoned while Titus pleads for their lives to no avail. Separately, Demetrius and Chiron drop off Lavinia in the forest, her tongue cut off and both her hands cut off so she cannot tell who has ravished her; yet, she still lives. Marcus finds her and plans to bring her to her father Titus.
Back in Rome, Titus pleads to the Tribunes to let his sons live, but they ignore him. Even after they leave, he continues to plead, even to the stones of the buildings, until his son Lucius appears and tells Titus he (Lucius) has been banished from Rome for trying to free his brothers. Marcus then appears with Lavinia, causing Titus, Lucius, and Marcus to all weep for her. Aaron appears and informs them that Saturninus has declared he will free Titus' sons if one of the men will send Saturninus his hand cut off. All pledge their hands and Lucius and Marcus leave to get an axe. While gone, though, Titus lets Aaron cut off his hand. Aaron privately tells the audience he'll bring Titus his sons' heads and Titus' hand back within one half hour. Sure enough, a messenger appears with Titus' sons' heads and Titus' hand in scorn from the emperor. Titus tells his banished son Lucius to go to the Goths and raise an army to be "revenged on Rome and Saturnine". At Titus' house, he, Lavinia, Marcus, and Lucius' son (young Lucius) eat dinner while we see Titus slowly going mad.
Still at Titus' house, Lavinia leads Titus, Marcus, and young Lucius to a book describing a rape, prompting the men to realize she was raped. They then have her write in sand with a stick who did it: she writes "Rape. Chiron. Demetrius." Titus vows to revenge their deed. He sends young Lucius to Chiron and Demetrius with weapons and a scroll describing the rape in riddles. Chiron and Demetrius do not catch on, but Aaron does (privately) and he decides not to tell anyone. All learn that Tamora has given birth to a son. Her nurse brings the babe to Aaron to show him it is black and he is obviously the father; the nurse says Tamora wants the baby killed before Saturninus sees it. Aaron convinces her not to kill it, then kills the nurse so she cannot tell anyone of the baby. Aaron tells Chiron and Demetrius to send him the midwife so he can kill her too, then they can bury the women. He also tells them to go to Muliteus' wife and give her gold to let them have her newborn child, which they will give to Tamora, and thus deceive Saturninus. In private, Aaron decides he will take his baby back to the Goths and hide it there, raising it to be a warrior. Before the palace, Titus, Marcus, his son Publius, and young Lucius arrive with letters on the ends of arrows. Titus wants the letters shot to the Gods, demanding justice be brought to Rome. Pretending to do so, Marcus has the men shoot them into the palace's courtyard. Titus also entreats a clown to give one of the letters to Saturninus, and he agrees. Saturninus receives the letters, but only grows in anger. When the clown presents Titus' letter, Saturninus orders the clown killed. Aemilius arrives and announces Lucius is attacking Rome with help from the Goths. Saturninus fears the citizens will favor Lucius and dethrone him. Tamora convinces Saturninus to let her try to convince Titus to stop his son's attack.
In a plain outside Rome, Lucius and the Goths appear. Aaron and his baby are brought in, captured at a monastery. In return for his baby's safety, Aaron promises to tell of all his misdeeds. Lucius agrees and Aaron tells of Chiron and Demetrius rape and torture of Lavinia, murder of Bassianus, and framing of Lucius' brothers. Aaron admits he was behind it all and he and Tamora laughed at length at it all. Lucius does not hang Aaron, but rather promises a more painful torture. At Titus' house, Tamora appears disguised as Revenge, with her sons disguised as Rape and Murder. Titus initially recognizes them, but Tamora convinces him they are Revenge, Rape, and Murder, and befriends him. He asks them to seek out Demetrius, Chiron, and Tamora and kill them. Tamora agrees, but asks him to bid Lucius come to his house and Titus bids Marcus to do so. Titus privately reveals that he is not mad, and he knows who they really are. Tamora leaves, but Titus asks "Murder" and "Rape" to stay with him. After she leaves, Titus calls Publius and others in to bind and gag Demetrius and Chiron. He then tells them he knows of their deeds and will slit their throats, whilst Lavinia catches their blood in a basin. He tells them he will then grind up their bones to make a pie crust, and use their heads to make the pastry, then serve it to their mother. He kills them, then begins to cook. At Titus' house, Lucius and the Goths arrive with Aaron and order him imprisoned. Next, Saturninus and Tamora arrive and sit down for dinner, Saturninus and Tamora eating the pies. In front of them, Titus kills Lavinia to end her shame and suffering over her rape. He tells all Chiron and Demetrius raped her, prompting Saturninus to order them brought to him, but Titus announces they have just eaten them. Titus then kills Tamora, Saturninus kills Titus, and Lucius kills Saturninus. Later, Lucius explains all of the events to the Roman people, who immediately proclaim him the new emperor. Lastly, Lucius orders Aaron buried breast deep and starved to death. As for Tamora, he orders her to have no funeral, but her body be thrown to the birds of prey.