Act 5, scene 1
Lucius enters with his army. He addresses his men, saying he is receiving letters from Rome indicating that he has a lot of support and that the Roman citizens hate their emperor. The Goth warriors pledge to follow him.
A Goth enters, with Aaron, who carries his baby. The Goth says he found them both in a monastery. Lucius recognizes Aaron as the man who cut off Titus’s hand. He guesses immediately that the baby is Tamora’s and gives orders to hang both Aaron and the baby. Aaron protests, but Lucius says the baby must die first. Aaron is forced to climb a ladder. Aaron asks that the child be spared and taken to Tamora. He says he will tell Lucius things that will be to his advantage, about murder, rape, treason, and other crimes, if he will promise to spare the child. Lucius agrees to allow the child to live.
Aaron admits that Tamora is the mother of his child. He also tells Lucius that Chiron and Demetrius killed Bassianus and committed the assault on Lavinia, and that is was he, Aaron, who put them up to it. He also wrote the letter that seemed to incriminate the two brothers. Further, Aaron says he laughed when he saw the heads of Titus’s two sons delivered to him, along with his own severed hand. Also, Tamora loved hearing that story, when he told it to her. When Lucius asks him if he is sorry for what he has done, Aaron replies that he is only sorry he has not done a thousand more similar acts. He confesses to other hideous crimes, which he committed with no more reluctance than he would show in killing a fly.
Lucius orders Aaron to be brought down from the ladder. Hanging is too good for him, Lucius, says, and some other torment must be devised.
Aemilius enters with the message about the parley at Titus’s house. Lucius accepts.
The scene-stealer here is not the virtuous but dull Lucius, bringer of justice, but the arch-villain Aaron, who revels in his evil with great aplomb. He is unflinching in the prospect of death, and evil though he is, he is a protective father who does his utmost to ensure that his child lives and prospers. Some scholars believe that the character of Aaron was molded after the evil characters depicted in the plays of Christopher Marlowe, an Elizabethan dramatist who died in 1593. In particular, the speech in which Aaron boasts of his evil deeds is modeled on the speech by Barabas in Marlowe’s play, The Jew of Malta.
Act 5, scene 2
Tamora and her two sons enter, disguised. She plans to tell Titus that she is an allegorical personage called Revenge, sent from hell to aid him in his revenge. She thinks the plan will work because she thinks Titus has gone mad. They knock at Titus’s door. Titus is vexed at being disturbed. He recognizes Tamora but she denies it, saying she is Revenge, and is his friend, come to help him. Titus says that by her side (that is, Chiron and Demetrius) are the allegorical personages Rape and Murder. (Titus sees through the disguise immediately.) He tells her to stab them, then he will go along with her. Tamora, attempting to deflect Titus, says that the two are her ministers, called Rape and Murder because they take vengeance on those who commit such acts. Titus pretends to be convinced.
Titus exits, and Tamora thinks she has convinced him that she is indeed Revenge. She plans to make him send for Lucius and she will find a way of dispersing the Goth army or make them Lucius’s enemies.
Titus returns. Going along with the deception, he welcomes Revenge, Rape and Murder to his house, although he also notes the absence of a figure representing the Moor (Aaron). Chiron and Demetrius say that if they are showed a murderer or rapist, they will kill him. Titus tells them to go to the streets of Rome and when they see someone like themselves, they must stab them, then go to the emperor’s court and kill the empress and her Moor.
Tamora, still thinking that Titus is convinced by their deception, says they will do it. She asks him to send for Lucius and announce there will be a banquet at Titus’s house. The emperor, empress, and her two sons will be present, she says, and they will kneel before him.
Marcus enters, and Titus, going along with the scheme, tells him to convey the invitation to Lucius. Tamora says she is leaving and taking Rape and Murder with her, but Titus asks that they should stay with him. Either that or he will rescind the invitation to Lucius. Tamora tells her sons to stay, and just go along with Titus’s lunacy.
In an aside, Titus reveals that he knows perfectly well who they are and is only feigning madness. He says he will outwit all three of them. Tamora exits.
Titus calls for Publius and others. While at first appearing to go along with the notion that Chiron and Demetrius are Rape and Murder, he then orders them to be captured and bound.
Titus reenters with a knife, and Lavinia enters carrying a basin. Addressing Chiron and Demetrius directly, he catalogs their crimes. He says he will cut their throats while Lavinia holds a basin to receive their blood. He will then grind their bones to powder, make a paste of it with their blood, and make a pie crust. Then he will bake two pasties made out of their heads and serve the pie to their mother at the banquet that is to take place at his house. He cuts their throats.
The horror reaches at least one climax here in this gruesome scene, although more horrors are to come.
The elaborate ruse by which Tamora hopes to deceive Titus may strike modern audiences as unconvincing and even absurd. But Shakespeare is following one of the standard ingredients in revenge plays, the real or pretended madness of the hero. In this scene, Tamora thinks Titus is mad and will be easy to deceive. Titus, however, only pretends to fall for her deception and is clearly allowing Tamora to go on believing that he is mad. Audiences may decide that in addition to his pretended madness Titus may actually be less than entirely sane at this point, given the nature of the revenge he plans.