Titus Andronicus: Act 2 - scene 1,2,3
Act 2, scene 1
Aaron enters. He is Tamora’sattendant, and sees in her rapid ascension a chance for him to rise, too. He plans to seduce her. He also wants to bring down the Roman emperor.
Chiron and his elder brother Demetrius enter, quarreling. They both have designs on Lavinia. They draw their swords, but Aaron intervenes. He says it is dangerous for them to try to win Lavinia’s love, since she is betrothed to the powerful Bassianus. Tamora also would not approve of it. The brothers are undeterred at first, even though Aaron warns them that to pursue Lavinia could cost them their lives. Demetrius says he would do anything to win her love. He thinks it will be easy. Aaron steps in again and asks if either would have any objection if they both (Demetrius and Chiron) were to have Lavinia. They say no. Aaron explains his plan. He says Lavinia is chaste and they must pursue a faster course than trying to woo her in the traditional way. He says that tomorrow during the hunt they will be able to get Lavinia in a secluded place in the woods and rape her. He also says they should inform Tamora of their plans, and she will help. Both brothers like the idea and agree to it.
Aaron was mute in Act 1 but is now given a voice, only to reveal that he is an unprincipled villain, although a villain with great zest and comic appeal. He will do whatever it takes to advance his own position and bring down the Romans. Chiron and Demetrius need no persuading to agree to a plan to rape Lavinia.
Act 2, scene 2
Titus, Marcus, and his three sons are looking forward to the hunt, which is about to begin. Saturnius, Tamora, Bassianus, Lavinia, Chiron and Demetrius enter. Titus greets them all warmly. The horses and chariots are ready, and Marcus boasts about how good his dogs are. Demetrius comments to Chiron about their darker purpose.
The warmth and good cheer expressed between the two groups (with the exception of Chiron and Demetrius) in this short scene is in marked contrast to what is actually going to happen. It is just a short lull before the horrors of the next scene unfold.
Act 2, scene 3
Aaron enters alone. He is burying some gold under a tree, as part of his plot.
Tamora enters. She makes it very clear that she wants to take Aaron as her lover, right there, under some trees, and while the hunt is going on elsewhere. Aaron responds by telling her that he is thinking not of love but of vengeance and death. He explains his revenge plot: Bassianus will be murdered and Lavinia raped. He gives Tamora a letter and tells her to give it to the emperor. He does not say what is in it.
Bassianus and Lavinia enter. Aaron exits. After some hostilecomments are exchanged between Bassianus and Tamora, the atmosphere gets more nasty. Lavinia comments that Tamora and Aaron are obviously having a tryst, and Bassianus accuses her more directly and forcefully. Lavinia says to Bassianus that they should leave Tamora and Aaron to enjoy each other. Bassianus says the emperor will be informed of what they have discovered.
Chiron and Demetrius enter. Tamora invents a story that Bassianus and Lavinia enticed her to this isolated spot and threatened to tie her to a tree and leave her to die, stung by the poisonous creatures that come at night. She says they would have done it had not her two sons arrived on the scene.
Demetrius and then Chiron stab Bassianus, killing him. Tamora is about to kill Lavinia when Demetrius stops her. He and Chiron make their intentions clear, that they are going to rape Lavinia. Tamora tells them to kill her as well, so she does not tell on them. Chiron says they will ensure that does not happen.
Lavinia pleads with Tamora and the brothers for mercy. Tamora shows her none. She reminds her sons of how her other son, Alarbus, was ordered to be killed by Titus. Lavinia then begs to be killed straightaway. But no one listens to her pleas. Chiron and Demetrius carry off Lavinia, and Demetrius also takes the body of Bassianus, which they intend to dump in a hole. Tamora exits to be with Aaron.
Aaron enters with two of Titus’s sons, Quintus and Martius. Martius stumbles into the hole where Bassianus’s corpse has been dumped. Aaron exits, planning to bring the emperor there, hoping to incriminate the sons.
Martius is unable to get out of the hole, and Quintus tries to help him, but succeeds only in falling into the hole himself.
The emperor and Aaron enter. Martius tells him Bassianus is dead, and at first Saturnius at first does not believe him, since it was only an hour ago that he left his brother with Lavinia at a lodge.
Tamora, Titus, and Lucius enter. Tamora brings with her the letter that Aaron gave her to give to her husband. Saturnius reads the letter, which tells the unidentified recipient to dig a grave for Bassianus because they plan to kill him. The letter also mentions the gold hidden under the tree, which is to be a reward for the person who digs the grave. The authors of the letter do not identify themselves, but finding Martius and Quintus in the hole with the dead body of Bassianus, Saturnius immediately assumes they are the murderers. Aaron produces the bag of gold from under the tree.
Titus accepts that if his sons are indeed guilty, they should be put to death, but Saturnius has already decided on their guilt. Tamora pretends to Titus that she will appeal to the emperor on his behalf and his sons will be safe.
In keeping with the play as a whole, this is a brutal scene, although worse is to come. Aaron reveals himself as a skillful plotter of evil. By the end of the play he will stand out, like two other Shakespeare characters—Iago in Othello and Richard III—as completely evil, with no redeeming qualities. Tamora, plotting adultery, encouraging murder and ready to commit it herself, all the while maintaining an innocent exterior when it is necessary, is also showing her credentials as an evil character. Set against this are the trials of Titus Andronicus, himself not an evil character but not entirely innocent either of the troubles that befall him. Underlying the conflict is the clash between civilized Rome and the barbarism of the Goths, although Rome, if civilized, is still brutal in its execution of its version of justice.