Act 4, scene 3
Titus, Marcus, young Lucius, Publius, and others enter carrying bows and arrows. Letters are attached to the arrows. Titus rants about the lack of justice and tells Publius and Sempronius that they must dig down into the earth into Pluto’s realm and deliver a petition for justice. Marcus and Publius, Titus’s nephew, think that Titus has gone mad. They resolve to keep a careful watch on him. Publius humors him by saying that he will indeed gain revenge from hell. Titus continues to rant, saying that since there is no justice in earth or hell they must appeal to heaven for it. He distributes the arrows, to which are attached letters to each of the gods, calling for justice to be done. They shoot the arrows into the city. A Clown enters with a basket containing two pigeons. Titus thinks this is some kind of response to the letters to the gods. He asks the Clown what Jupiter says. But the Clown says he is just going to a judicial hearing about a brawl. Titus tells him to take his pigeons to the emperor, who will give him justice. Titus gives him some money, and writes a letter for the Clown to give to the emperor.
A common feature of Elizabethan revenge tragedies was the madness of the hero. Sometimes the madness is genuine and sometimes it is feigned. Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedyprovides an example, as does Shakespeare’s Hamlet. In the latter case, Hamlet feigns madness. So when Shakespeare has Titus rant in this scene and appear somewhat deranged, he is merely following the convention of the genre. Elizabethan audiences would have expected this and recognized it as such.
Act 4, scene 4
Saturnius, Tamora, Chiron, and Demetrius enter. Saturnius carries the arrows that were shot into the city. He is offended. He insists that in executing Titus’s sons he has behaved lawfully and does not want to put up with what he sees as Titus’s pretended madness—addressing letters to the gods calling for justice and shooting them into the streets of Rome. Saturnius considers this a libel on the Roman senate. He says he will bring justice to Titus. Tamora pretends to defend Titus, saying that his behavior is due to grief at the loss of his sons, but in an aside (a comment that no one on stage hears) makes it clear that she and Aaron have their own plans to deal with Titus.
The Clown enters and gives the emperor the letter from Titus. The emperor reads the letter and then tells the Clown that he is to be hanged. Saturnius rages against Titus, insists again that Titus’s sons were lawfully executed, and gives instructions for Titus to be dragged “hither by the hair.”
Aemilius enters and announces that an army of Goths, led by the exiled Lucius, is marching on Rome. This news worries Saturnius, because he knows that public opinion opposed the exiling of Lucius and many people want him to be the emperor.Saturnius fears a citizens’ revolt. Tamora tells him not to worry; she has a plan to work on Titus so that he will tell his son Lucius to call off his attack. She tells Aemilius to convey to Lucius that a parley (a conference between two opposing sides) is to be held at Titus’s house. Tamora tells the emperor she has a plan to get Titus to separate Lucius from the Goth army.
The action here is fairly straightforward. The hero, Titus, is using feigned madness to achieve his goals and by doing so is infuriating Saturnius. The main plotting, however, is done not by Titus or Saturnius but Tamora, who has a scheme for every situation.