Saturninus is the elder son of the deceased Emperor of Rome and a candidate for his throne, who appeals to the old aristocracy as being the elder son.
A young man, he proves to be untrustworthy, ungrateful, quarrelsome, lascivious and tyrannical. He disregards the old traditions of Rome, attempting to marry his brother’s betrothed, and shows no gratitude to Titus, to whom he owes the crown, even marrying the chief prisoner he brings home from his wars against the Goths. Saturninus is completely under Tamora’s spell, allowing the older woman to lead him by the nose and propose policy without the Emperor realizing that she is cheating on him. Not at all popular with the common people, Saturninus is afraid of them, and fears also losing his throne. He is more weak than evil, unwilling to see past the immediate appearance of things and taking the easiest course out. He is truly horrified at the murder of his brother Bassianus, even though he did not like said brother, and likewise at the guilt of his stepsons Demetrius and Chiron in Lavinia’s rape and Titus’s killing of the latter. He is not the happiest of men.