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Summary Act 1


With their respective supporters in tow, Saturninus and Bassianus, the sons of a deceased Roman emperor, make their respective cases to be crowned Rome’s new emperor before the tribunes and senators of Rome. A tribune Marcus Andronicus implores them not to get ahead themselves, and informs them of the high council’s decision to make Titus Andronicus, Marcus’ brother and Rome’s most illustrious military man, a third candidate for the emperorship. Ostensibly, both Saturninus and Bassianus show their approval of the decision by dismissing their followers and in effect submitting the final decision as to who is to be Emperor to the vote of the senators and tribunes. Anon, to the sound of drums and trumpets, Titus Andronicus returns to Rome a conquering hero. With him are four of his twenty-five sons, who have managed to survive the war against the Goths; his Goth captives Tamora the Queen of Goths, her three sons (Alarbus, Demetrius, and Chiron), and Tamora’s lover the Moor Aaron; and a coffin of one his--Titus'--twenty-one dead sons. Presently, Titus authorizes his surviving sons to butcher and sacrifice Tamora’s oldest son Alarbus so as to appease the restless spirits of his twenty-one deceased sons. Tamora begs on her knees to spare her child to no avail. By and by, the bloody deed is done and Titus is greeted by his daughter Lavinia and then by his brother Marcus who informs Titus of his candidacy to the emperorship. Saturninus, who had earlier approved of the candidacy, shows his true colors at this point as he rebukes Titus for attempting to steal his rightful crown. Nonetheless, Titus, arguing that he is too old for the job, rejects his candidacy and endorses Saturninus, the elder son of the deceased emperor, to be Rome’s new emperor. Titus’ endorsement is such that Saturninus is unanimously voted emperor. With the emperorship secured, Saturninus offers to do a good turn for Titus: he offers to wive Titus’ daughter Lavinia, making her Empress of Rome. Titus agrees to the arrangement only to have it annulled when Bassianus, claiming he and Lavinia are in love, whisks her away with the aid of Titus’ surviving sons and Titus’ brother Marcus. Outraged, Titus kills one of his sons Mutius while trying to reacquire Lavinia. By and by, Titus’ brother and other sons return to have Mutius honorably buried. At first, Titus refuses to oblige their wish, but their persistence persuades him to relent and to let them honorably bury Mutius. Alas, Saturninus is none too pleased with Titus. Indeed, he holds it against Titus for failing to reacquire Lavinia, this despite marrying Tamora the Queen of Goths on the heels of losing Lavinia. Moreover, Saturninus now regards his brother Bassianus, Titus' sons, and Marcus Andronicus enemies of the state. To everyone’s relief, however, Tamora, the new empress of Rome, prevails upon her new husband Saturninus to let bygones be bygones and accept Titus (and everyone else) as a loyal and faithful subject. Alas, unbeknownst to everyone, Tamora's ulterior motive is to preserve her new found status which will provide her with the means to exact revenge on Titus and his sons.

William Shakespeare