Uncontrolled and an unnecessary excess of atrocities and carnage are committed when vengeance is in your heart, death in your hand, and blood and retribution are hammering in your head, issuing gratuitous violence from start to finish. The story begins in Rome, where Saturninus and his brother Bassianus, sons of the late emperor, appear before the senators, both demanding to succeed their father as the next Caesar. Saturninus argues that he is the rightful heir because he is the first-born son. Titus Andronicus, the brother of Marcus Andronicus who is the only voice of reason and calmness determines the valiant general who has just returned home in triumph from a ten-year war with the Goths, must be the one chosen to decide who should get the throne.
A coffin containing one of Titus’s two sons slain in battle is being carried by Lucius and Quintus two of his other living sons. Titus gives a short speech in which he laments the loss of many of his sons and countrymen in the drawn-out campaign. Lucius demands a human sacrifice to appease the spirits of the dead and insists that the victim must be cut to pieces and thrown atop the funeral pyre of his brothers. Tamora, Queen of the Goths pleads with Titus, begging him not to kill her son Alarbus, but Titus tells her that her son has been marked, and he must die, to appease his son’s groaning shadows that are gone. Of course Tamora wants to get revenge for this.
Titus decides that Saturninus is to be the new emperor and he hopes that his daughter Lavinia will become the new queen, but Saturninus becomes captivated by Tamora’s beauty and Bassianus seizes Lavinia, claiming her as his betrothed. Things start to get out of control as Titus brands Lucius and Marcus as being traitors and calls for the imperial guards, however Bassianus and Marcus escape with Lavinia. Mutius another one of Titus’s sons blocks the doors to prevent the guards from chasing after Bassianus, and orders Lucius, Quintus, and Martius another son of Titus to help Bassianus hide Lavinia. Titus tries to follow them but Mutius refuses to let him pass. Outraged, Titus stabs and kills Mutius. Lucius re-enters to see his brother dead and he denounces his father’s unjust and despicable behavior, but the remorseless Titus is concerned only with returning Lavinia to the emperor.
Saturninus announces that Tamora shall be his new wife, and she gladly accepts. Bassianus and Lavinia are brought before the emperor and he accuses Bassianus of raping Rome by kidnapping Lavinia. Tamora comes forth to defend Titus, telling the court that, since she is now a happy Roman, all previous quarrels should be forgotten. Tamora is seeking revenge at a later time, and when the right time arrives she wants to massacre them all of them and make them beg in the streets. Saturninus forgives Titus and suggests that a double wedding take place the next day, with Tamora and Lavinia brides to himself and Bassianus.
Tamora’s servant and lover, Aaron the Moor, celebrates his queen’s new title as empress of Rome. Tamora’s sons, Chiron and Demetrius, fight over Lavinia and Aaron proposes that the brothers should rape Lavinia during the next day’s hunt. Aaron buries a bag of gold under a tree and Demetrius and Chiron stab the new groom Bassianus and they drag Lavinia off for their pleasure. After Chiron and Demetrius ravish Lavinia, they cut off her hands and cut out her tongue to prevent her from revealing the perpetrators of the crime. The suffering Lavinia is found in the woods by her uncle Marcus and brought to her father. Aaron frames Titus’s sons, Martius and Quintus, for the murder of Bassianus and Titus pleads for mercy, but Saturninus commands that Titus’s sons be executed.
Aaron says that Saturninus has declared that Titus’s severed hand will be accepted as payment for the crimes of Martius and Quintus. Aaron hacks through Titus’s wrist and carries the hand away, but only moments after Aaron leaves, a messenger comes to Titus, carrying the heads of Martius and Quintus and Titus’s severed hand. Titus realizes that Aaron has tricked him and his sorrow turns into uncontrollable rage. Lavinia having no hands and no tongue tries to give her young nephew a message by drawing attention to the book that young Lucius is reading. Titus and Marcus are quick to make the connection, and they ask Lavinia to write in the sand the names of her attackers. When she reveals the sons of Tamora are to blame, Titus and Marcus vow mortal revenge upon these traitorous Goths.
Tamora has a new son, but the baby is black and it clearly belongs to Aaron and not Saturninus and Tamora wants Aaron to kill the infant, but he kills the nurse instead. The inveterate Moore who is a victim of a racially biased society is set on a path of evil and these miseries are more than may be born, as he feels that black is the best color, because it does not deign to take on any other colors. A clown carrying two pigeons brings a message, but as soon as the message is read, the clown is hanged immediately, since no one loves the messenger who brings bad news.
Aaron and his child are captured by a Goth and brought before Lucius, who promptly sentences them both to hang. Aaron tells Lucius that he will confess all if the child is spared. Lucius agrees, and Aaron reveals that Chiron and Demetrius killed Bassianus and raped and mutilated Lavinia. He brags about his part in the evil doings, and is sorry only that death will stop him from performing ten thousand more.
Tamora thinks that Titus has gone insane, so she suggests that he bring the emperor to a great feast, where Titus can then carry out his revenge. Titus says that he likes the idea, and asks if she will leave Chiron and Demetrius with him. She agrees and bids Titus farewell. The two young Goths are gagged and bound and their throats are slit, while the Roman general discusses his plan to grind their bones to dust and make a paste of it with their blood, so it will become pie crust. He will then bake them and serve the boys to their mother at the banquet, so she will eat what she has produced.
Saturninus and Tamora arrive at the feast and take their places at the banquet table, with Titus dressed in a cook’s cap and apron, he bids them welcome. He tells the guests a story about a father who killed his own daughter because she had been raped, then he seizes and kills Lavinia. Saturninus asks Titus to tell him who raped Lavinia, but Titus waits until the empress has taken a bite of the meat pie before he reveals that he knows Chiron and Demetrius are the attackers. He tells the guests that the two are both baked in this pie and then he stabs Tamora. Saturninus leaps across the table and kills Titus. Lucius then kills Saturninus. The noblemen attending the banquet declare Lucius the new emperor, and Titus is exonerated. Aaron is brought forth and Lucius decides that he should be buried to the neck in sand and starved.
Written for RayNotBradbury Cool Writing Prompt – The Shakespeare Treasury – Titus.