by William Shakespeare
Presented by Paul W. Collins
© Copyright 2011 by Paul W. Collins
By William Shakespeare
Presented by Paul W. Collins
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Note: Spoken lines from Shakespeare’s drama are in the public domain, as is the Globe edition (1864) of his plays, which provided the basic text of the speeches in this new version
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Student, beware: This is a presentation, not a scholarly work, so you should be sure your teacher, instructor or professor considers it acceptable as a reference before quoting characters’ comments or thoughts from it in your report or term paper.
Dominant in Dominion
Rome, after enduring a long war with the Goths, now suffers internal turmoil: the emperor—by tradition known as “Caesar”—has died, and his sons, each with a following of armed supporters, both seek to be named his successor by the Senate.
On the city’s highest hill, the wealthy, powerful senators and the tribunes who represent commoners have met at the marble-columned Capitol entrance this afternoon. They stand at the top of the wide steps to hear the brothers’ arguments—from behind high iron gates, now closed and guarded.
Saturninus, a coarse man of forty-one, glares up at the lawmakers. He is the elder of the sons, and has come here angrily, intending to seize control of the country by threat of force. “Noble patricians, patrons of my right, I defend the justice of my cause with arms!” He turns to his companions. “And countrymen, my loving followers, plead my successive title with your swords!
“I am his first-born son that was the last who wore the imperial diadem of Rome; then let my father’s honours live in me—do not wrong mine age with this indignity!”
In the listening crowd, some citizens back away when the men with him, thumping their shields and pounding heavy spear-shafts on the stone pavement, voice encouragement—ominously.
By law, though, the Senate elects the republic’s ruler. Bassianus, a tall man of thirty-two, has brought his own supporters here to counter his disreputable brother’s demand.
“Romans, friends, followers, favorers of my right,” he cries, “if ever Bassianus, Caesar’s son, were gracious in the eyes of royal Rome, hold thou this passage to the Capitol!—and suffer not dishonour to approach the imperial seat—consecrated to virtue!—to justice, continence and nobility!
“But let deserving in pure election shine!—and, Romans, fight for freedom in your choice!”
Above, the senators make way for one of the tribunes, coming from within the building; he brings the crown. Marcus Andronicus, a stately man of fifty, holds it aloft as he addresses the emperor’s sons.
“Princes, who strive by factions and by friends ambitiously for rule and empery, know that the people of Rome, for whom we stand as a special party, have, by common voice, in election for the Roman empery, chosen Andronicus!—surnamèd ‘Pious’ for many good and great services to Rome!”
The people’s candidate is Titus Andronicus, sixty-six, Rome’s general commander of the army. He is also Marcus Andronicus’s older brother.
“A nobler man, a braver warrior, lives not this day within the city walls!” says Marcus. “He by the Senate is accited home from weary wars against the barbarous Goths—he that with his sons—a terror to our foes!—hath yokèd a nation strong, trained up in arms!
“Ten years are spent since first he undertook this cause for Rome, and chastised with arms our enemies’ pride! Five times he hath returned, bleeding, to Rome, bearing his valiant sons in coffins from the field!
“And now at last, laden with honour’s spoils, returns the good Andronicus to Rome—renownèd Titus, flourishing in arms!”
He faces the brothers. “Let us entreat, in honour of his name whom worthily you now would see succeeded in the Capitol,”—Caesar, “whom you profess to honour and adore, and in the Senate’s right, that you withdraw you, and abate your strength! Dismiss your followers,” he urges the emperor’s sons, “and, as suitors should, plead your deserving in peace and humbleness!”
Saturninus’s face shows his contempt. “How fairly the tribune speaks, calming my thoughts,” he says sourly. His men laugh.
But Bassianus tells the tribune, “Marcus Andronicus, I rely on thine uprightness and integrity; and so well do I love and honour thee and thine—thy noble brother Titus and his sons, and her to whom my thoughts are humbled, all-gracious Lavinia, Rome’s rich ornament,”—Bassianus is engaged to marry Titus’s daughter, twenty-two—“that I will here dismiss my loving friends, and to my fortunes and the people’s favor commit my cause in balance to be weighed.”
He speaks with his companions, and the young followers soon leave, heading down into the city.
Saturninus, sure that his imperious demand will prevail, turns to his supporters. “Friends that have been thus forward in my right, I thank you all, and here dismiss you all—and to the love and favor of my country commit myself, my person, and the cause.” His followers stamp away—grumbling.
Saturninus confronts the senators. “Rome, be as just and gracious unto me as I am confident—and kind to thee. Open the gates and let me in!”
“Tribunes, admit me, a poor competitor,” says Bassianus calmly.
The gates swing apart, and the brothers march up into the Capitol.
In a shaded cemetery at the edge of the city, preparations have been made for a state funeral for Caesar. An elaborate wake is to follow, along with feasting in honor of the deceased sovereign.
Among the throng, which includes many senators, some have come here mainly in anticipation of the war hero’s arrival.
A flourish of trumpets is heard, and from the street a military officer comes through the gate, strides along a high stone wall, and stops near the dark opening into the massive tomb of the Andronici. “Romans, make way!” calls the captain to the many nobles, gentles and common citizens. “The good Andronicus—pattern of virtue, Rome’s best champion, successful in the battles that he fights!—with honour and with fortune is returnèd from where he circumscribed with his sword!—and brought to yoke the enemies of Rome!”
Accompanied by strident trumpets, then pounding drums, a procession comes slowly through the gate and into cemetery.
The proud general, riding a black stallion, leads several sullen prisoners. Walking, their hands bound, are Tamora, queen of the defeated Goths, her three sons, and her chief officer, Aaron, an Ethiopian. Soldiers guard the captives.
Martius and Mutius, the general’s younger sons, march in next; behind them are four foot-soldiers wheeling two carts, each bearing a black-draped coffin; following are Lucius and Quintus, Titus’s elder sons.
At the entrance to the crypt, Titus dismounts and steps forward to speak.
“Hail, Rome!—victorious in thy mourning attire! Lo!—as does the ship that hath dischargèd her freight return with precious lading to the bay from whence at first she weighed her anchor, now cometh Andronicus, bound with laurel boughs, to re-salute his country with his tears—tears of true joy for his return to Rome!”
The army’s commander can see that nearly the full Senate is gathered here. He invokes the city’s patron deity, Jupiter—supreme among the gods: “Thou, great defender of this capital, stand gracious to the rites that we intend!
“Romans, of my five-and-twenty valiant sons—half the number that King Priam”—Troy’s legendary patriarch—“had, behold the poor remains, alive and dead. These who survive, let Rome reward with love; these that I bring unto their last home, with burial amongst their ancestors.” Two of his sons, killed in recent fighting, lie in the coffins.
He adds, wryly, “Here, Goths have given me leave to sheathe my sword.” The defeated queen glares at the Romans, but her head is held high, even as the citizens stare.
The general chides himself: “Titus, unkind and careless of thine own, why suffer’st thou thy sons, yet unburièd, to hover on the dreadful shore of Styx? Make way to lay them by their brethren.” Interment will free the two souls to cross the mythical river into the land of the dead. He tells his deceased sons, “There greet in silence, as the dead are wont; and sleep in peace, slain in your country’s wars.”
Titus steps back as soldiers lift the coffins, and he turns to the tomb. “O sacred receptacle of my joys, sweet cell of virtue and nobility, how many sons of mine hast thou storèd here, that thou wilt never render to me more?”
Lucius, Titus’s oldest son, calls for a ritual offering to the gods. “Give us the proudest prisoner of the Goths, that we may hew his limbs, and on a pyre ad manes fratrum”—to our brothers’ spirits—“sacrifice his flesh, before this earthy prison of their bones, so that their shades be not unappeasèd, nor we disturbed by prodigies on earth!”—haunted.
Titus Andronicus points to Alarbus, who is twenty. “I give you him, the noblest that survives, the eldest son of this distressèd queen.”
Tamora, startled, cries out, “Wait, Roman brethren! Gracious conqueror, victorious Titus, rue the tears I shed!—a mother’s tears in passion for her son! And if thy sons were ever dear to thee, oh, think my son to be as dear to me!
“Sufficeth it not that we are brought to Rome, to beautify thy triumph and return, captive to thee and to thy Roman yoke?—but must my sons be slaughtered in the streets for valiant doings in their country’s cause? Oh, if to fight for ruler and commonweal were piety in thine, it is in these!
“Andronicus, stain not thy tomb with blood!
“Wilt thou draw near to the nature of the gods? Draw near them, then, in being merciful! Sweet mercy is nobility’s true badge! Thrice-noble Titus, spare my first-born son!”
Says Titus coldly, “Patient yourself, madam, and pardon me.” He regards his sons. “These are brethren, whom you Goths beheld alive and dead. And for brethren slain, these living ask, religiously, a sacrifice. For this your son is markèd—and die he must, to appease the groaning shadows of those who are gone.”
“Away with him!” commands Lucius, “and make a fire straight! With our swords let’s hew his limbs!—lay them upon a pyre of wood till they be consumèd clean!” The four brothers drag Alarbus, struggling futilely, behind the tomb.
Sobs Tamora, “Oh, cruel, irreligious piety!”
Her youngest son, Chiron, had shared the common belief that Romans disdain human sacrifice. “Was ever Scythia half so barbarous?” He gasps as they hear Alarbus’s echoing screams of pain and horror.
In the silence that follows, his brother Demetrius mutters with disgust, “Compare not Scythia to ambitious Rome! Alarbus goes to rest—but we survive to tremble under Titus’ threatening looks!
“Then, madam, stand resolvèd,” he tells his mother, “and hope withal the self-same gods that armed the Queen of Troy with opportunity for sharp revenge upon the Thracian tyrant in his tent may favor Tamora, Queen of the Goths—when Goths were Goths and Tamora was queen!—to repay among her foes their bloody wrongs!”
Lucius, Quintus, Martius and Mutius return, their swords and hands glistening with blood.
Says Lucius, raising his wet blade, “See, lord and father!—now we have performèd our Roman rites. Alarbus’ limbs are lopped, and his entrails feed the sacrificing fire!—whose smoke, like incense, doth perfume the sky!
“Nought remaineth but to inter our brethren, and with loud ’larums welcome them to Rome!”
Titus nods. “Let it be so; and let Andronicus make this, his last farewell to their souls.” Trumpets are sounded. “In peace and honour rest you here, my sons, Rome’s readiest champions. Repose you here at rest, secure from worldly chances and mishaps. Here lurks no treason; here no envy swells; here grow no damnèd grudges; here are no storms, no noise—only silence, and eternal sleep.
“In peace and honour rest you here, my sons.”
Lavinia comes before him. “In peace and honour live Lord Titus long!—my noble lord and father, live in fame!
“Lo, at this tomb my tributary tears I render for my brethren’s obsequies; and at thy feet I kneel, with tears of joy, shed on the earth, for thy return to Rome! Oh, bless me here with thy victorious hand, whose fortunes Rome’s best citizens applaud!”
Titus Andronicus beams, taking her hand as she rises. “Kind Rome, that hast thus lovingly preservèd the cordial of mine age to gladden my heart! Lavinia, live!—outlive thy father’s days and Fame’s eternal date, for Virtue’s praise!”
The gentlewoman has upheld the family’s fierce dignity, and its pride in the Andronicus name, during the soldiers’ absence; she hopes that, with Prince Bassianus, she can foster a thriving civil society, through reason, rectitude, and the careful administration of justice.
With the other two tribunes, Marcus Andronicus has come to the mausoleum. “Long live Lord Titus, my belovèd brother, gracious triumpher, in the sight of Rome!”
“Thanks, gentle tribune, noble brother Marcus!” says the general, smiling.
Marcus greets Titus’s sons: “And welcome, nephews, from successful wars!—you that survive, and you that sleep in fame. Fair lords, your fortunes are alike: you all drew your swords in your country’s service.”
He touches a bier. “But find safer triumphs now, in this funeral pomp, you that hath aspirèd to Solon’s happiness,”—wise acceptance, “and triumph over Chance, in Honour’s bed,” he says solemnly.
At Titus’s nod, the soldiers carry the coffins into the tomb; they return, and its iron gates are closed.
Marcus now addresses his brother. “Titus Andronicus, the people of Rome, whose friend in justice thou hast ever been, send thee, by me, their tribune in their trust, this palliament of white and spotless hue,”—he offers a long coat, “and name thee in election for the empiry, with these our late-deceasèd emperor’s sons!”
Saturninus and Bassianus, each with his own attendants and cordon of guards, stand watching the Andronici—and each other. The older brother, who strongly resents this intrusion during the funeral of the man whose dignity he means to inherit, is now increasingly perturbed by a further challenge.
Marcus tells his brother, “Be candidatus then, and put it on—and help to set a head on headless Rome!”
The graying general demurs. “A better head her glorious body fits than his that shakes for age and feebleness! What?—should I don this robe, and trouble you—be chosen with proclamations?—today resign my life, and set abroad on new business for you all—then yield up rule tomorrow?
“Rome, I have been thy soldier forty years, and led my country’s strength successfully—and burièd one-and-twenty valiant sons—knighted in the field, slain manfully in arms, in right and noble service of their country. Give me a staff of honour for mine age, but not a sceptre to control the world! Upright he held it, lords, who held it last!” he cries, in a loyal tribute to the dead emperor.
But Marcus urges his brother to stand for election: “Titus, thou shalt ask—and obtain the empery!”
Saturninus is irked by his assurance. Glaring at Marcus, he challenges: “Proud and ambitious tribune!—canst thou foretell?”
Titus smiles at him. “Patience, Prince Saturninus,—”
“Romans, do me right!” cries that prince, red-faced, to his followers. “Patricians, draw your swords!—and sheathe them not till Saturninus be Rome’s emperor!
“Andronicus,” he growls, “I would thou wert shipped to hell, rather than rob me of the people’s hearts!”
Lucius is indignant: “Proud Saturnine!—interrupter of the good that noble-minded Titus means to thee!”
“Content thee, prince!” pleads Titus; he is deeply respectful of rank and hereditary authority. “I will restore to thee the people’s hearts, and wean them from themselves,” he assures the blusterer.
But now Bassianus steps forward. “Andronicus, I do not flatter thee, but honour thee, and will do so till I die! If thou strengthen my faction with thy friends, I will most thankful be—and thanks, to men of noble minds, is honourable meed.”
Titus lifts his hands before the adoring crowd. “People of Rome—and people’s tribunes here—I ask your voices and your suffrages. Will you bestow them friendly for Andronicus?”
The tribunes look around at the cheering citizens, then at each other, and nod agreement. “To gratify the good Andronicus, and gratulate his safe return to Rome,” says the oldest, “the people will accept whom he admits.”
Titus nods. “Tribunes, I thank you! Then this request I make: that you create”—elect by acclamation—“the emperor’s elder son, Saturninus, your lord!—whose virtues will, I hope, reflect on Rome as Titan’s rays do on earth, and ripen justice in this commonweal!
“Then, if you will elect by my advice, crown him!—and say, ‘Long live our emperor!’”
Marcus proclaims it: “With voices and applause of every sort, patricians and plebeians, we create Lord Saturninus Rome’s great emperor!—and say, ‘Long live our Emperor Saturninus!’”
As the crowd shouts its approval, the trumpeters play an elaborate flourish.
Saturninus accedes with seeming grace; but he seethes at the old general’s temerity and presumption. “Titus Andronicus, for thy favors done to us in our election this day, I give thee thanks… in accord with thy deserts—and will with deeds requite thy gentleness.” His true meaning is dire. An underling family usurped his title merely to reject it; now the rightful heir has been given his own—power that he could, should, have taken.
He will be revenged—beginning now. “And, for an onset, Titus, to advance thy name and honourable family, Lavinia will I make my empress—Rome’s royal mistress, mistress of my heart!—and in the sacred Pantheon will her espouse!
“Tell me, Andronicus, doth this motion please thee?” He smirks, in bullying triumph, at Bassianus.
Says the dutiful general, “It doth, my worthy lord! And in this match I hold me highly honoured by Your Grace!” The gentleman sees it as the highest sign of favor: an ennobling alliance. “And here in sight of Rome, to Saturninus, emperor and commander of our commonweal—the wide world’s emperor!—do I consecrate my sword, my chariot, and my prisoners—presents well worthy Rome’s imperial lord!
“Receive them, then, as the tribute that I owe—mine honour’s ensigns, humbled at thy feet!”
Saturninus looks at the kneeling warrior, at Lavinia—who is clearly distressed, then at his own fuming brother, Bassianus. The emperor is calm—for now. “Thanks, noble Titus, father of my life,” he says, with deep sarcasm. “How proud I am of thee, and of thy gifts, Rome shall record,” he says—a thin smile masking his anger. He addresses the crowd: “And when I do forget the least of these… unspeakable deserts, Romans, forget your fealty to me!”
Titus goes to Tamora. “Now, madam, you are prisoner to an emperor!” He pulls her forward. “To him that, for your honour and your state, will use you and your followers nobly.”
Saturninus eyes the sultry beauty; her complexion has not been sheltered from the sun, and she is exotically tan; her arms are bare, wrists bound with leather. He stares intently. “A goodly lady, trust me—of the hue that I would choose, were I to choose anew!
“Clear up, fair queen, that cloudy countenance!” he says. “Though chance of war”—a deliberate diminution of Titus’s accomplishment—“hath wrought this change in cheer, thou comest not to be made a scorn in Rome. Princely shall be thy usage in every way! Rest on my word, and let not disconcert daunt all your hopes!”
Tamora, glad to be away from Titus Andronicus, looks up hopefully at the new ruler; she smiles, warmly, as their eyes meet.
“Madam,” says Saturninus, taking her hand, “he who comforts you can make you greater than the Queen of Goths!”
He notes with pleasure the pale countenance of his newly betrothed. “Lavinia, you are not displeasèd with this…?”
“Not I, my lord,” she claims, “sith true nobility warrants these words of princely courtesy.”
Saturninus is enjoying Tamora’s knowing look. “Thanks, sweet Lavinia,” he says, turning his back to her. “Romans, let us go!” he cries, elated. “Ransomless here, we set our prisoners free!” He, too, understands gesture; their easy release mocks Titus’s triumph.
He tells attendants, “Proclaim our honours, lords, with trumpet and drum!”
Martial music plays tribute to the new emperor, and the throng watches happily as the patrician lords congratulate each other and enjoy the celebration. The prisoners’ bonds are removed; the Goths and Ethiopian stand free.
Saturninus, dissolute and devoid of finesse, is speaking to Tamora—very closely. She smiles and nods; he slides an arm around her waist, and starts to lead her away.
Suddenly Bassianus steps forward and seizes Lavinia’s hand. “Lord Titus, by your leave,” he cries, “this maid is mine!”
Titus is taken aback. “What, sir?—are you in earnest, then, my lord?”
“Aye, noble Titus!—and withal resolvèd, myself to do this by reason and by right!”
Marcus Andronicus nods approval. “‘Suum cuique’”—unto each his own—“is our Roman justice. This prince in justice seizeth but his own.”
Lucius, at thirty Titus’s eldest surviving son, also voices support: “And what he would do, that shall, if Lucius live!”
The affront to his new sovereign has stunned and appalled the aging, long-unchallenged general. “Traitors, avaunt!” he cries to his brother and eldest son. He looks around. “Where is the emperor’s guard? Treason, my lord!” he calls to Saturninus. “Lavinia is seizèd!”
Saturninus looks back. “Seizèd? By whom?”
Bassianus is defiant: “By him that justly may bear his betrothèd from all the world away!” Taking Lavinia by the arm, he hurries out to the street, accompanied by his tribune-uncle Marcus.
Titus’s sons know of the sordid reputation Saturninus has earned—and they have just witnessed his blatant disrespect for their beloved sister. “Brothers, help to convey her hence! Away!” cries Mutius, at sixteen, the youngest, “and with my sword I’ll keep this door safe!” After Lucius, Quintus and Martius have followed Marcus, he stands blocking the path.
Titus, sword drawn, heads toward the entrance. He tells his son, “Follow, my lord, and I’ll soon bring her back!”
“My lord, you pass not here!” says Mutius.
“What?—villain boy!” cries Titus, instantly enraged. “Barr’st me my way in Rome?” He stabs Mutius, who stares for a moment, wide-eyed in disbelief. Then, as Titus roughly jerks the blade free, he falls.
The boy moans. “Help… Lucius!” He gasps, and breathes another feeble “help….” And then he dies.
During the fray, Demetrius, Chiron and Aaron have clustered around Tamora; she stands near Saturninus, now protected by a phalanx of guards, as the crowd edges back from Titus.
Lucius, returning, halts at the entrance and looks down, aghast. He sees the bloody sword. “My lord, you are unjust!” he tells his father, “and more than so!—in wrongful quarrel you have slain your son!”
Titus is furious. “Not thou nor he is any son of mine! My sons would never so dishonour me! Traitor, restore Lavinia to the emperor!”
Lucius stares at him angrily. “Dead, if you will; but not to be his wife, she who is another’s lawful promised love!” He turns, and strides away.
As the general starts after him, Saturninus laughs harshly. “No, Titus, no!
“The emperor needs her not!—neither her, nor thee, nor any of thy stock! I’ll trust, at leisure, him that mocks me, once; thee, never!—nor thy traitorous, haughty sons!—confederates all, thus to dishonour me!
“Was there none else in Rome to make a stale”—to insult—“but Saturninus?” he shouts angrily. “Full well, Andronicus, agree these deeds with that proud brag of thine, that said’st I begged the empire at thy hands!”
Titus Andronicus blinks, astonished; he has not said—nor ever thought—such a thing. “Oh, monstrous! What reproachful words are these?”
“But go thy ways,” Saturninus tells Lavinia’s father. “Go, give that exchanging-piece to him that flourishes for her with his sword! A valiant son-in-law thou shalt enjoy!—one fit to bandy with thy lawless sons!—to ruffian in the commonwealth of Rome!”
The loyal, doughty general staggers. “These words are razors to my wounded heart!”
“And therefore, lovely Tamora,” says Saturninus, pulling her closer to his side, “Queen of Goths—who like the stately Phoebe ’mongst her nymphs dost outshine the gallant’st dames of Rome!—if thou be pleased with this, my sudden choice, behold: I choose thee, Tamora, for my bride!—and will create thee Empress of Rome!”
Tamora, her cheeks still streaked by tears for Alarbus, again smiles—a slow, odd smile.
“Speak, Queen of Goths!” says Saturninus. “Dost thou applaud my choice?” But her eyes are fixed on Titus; she simply nods.
“And here I swear by all the Roman gods,” says the profane potentate, “sith priest and holy water are so near, and tapers burn so bright, and everything in readiness for Hymenaeus stands,”—suits a wedding, “I will not re-salute the streets of Rome, nor climb to my palace, till from forth this place I lead, espousèd, my bride along with me!”
Says Tamora, kneeling, “And here, in sight of heaven, to Rome I swear: if Saturninus advance the Queen of Goths, she will be a handmaiden to his desires, a loving nurse and mother to his youth!”
Saturninus is pleased. “Ascend, fair queen!” he tells the dusky damsel.
He addresses the patricians: “Pantheon of lords, accompany your noble emperor and his lovely bride, sent by the heavens for Prince Saturninus, whose wisdom hath her fortune conquerèd!”
He points to an area before the tables set out for the funeral repast. “There shall we consummate our spousal rites!”
The voracious nobles follow their new sovereign, eager to partake of the arrogated feast, and to carouse at his nuptials.
Protestations of Love
Titus Andronicus, sword still dripping his son’s blood, watches as the emperor leaves. I am not bid to wait upon this bride, he notes morosely. Titus, when wert thou wont to walk alone, dishonoured thus, and challengèd?
He looks up as his brother returns, with Lucius, Quintus and Martius.
Marcus stares down at the boy’s body. “Oh, Titus, see!—oh, see what thou hast done!—in a bad quarrel slain a virtuous son!”
“No, foolish tribune, no!—no son of mine!” cries the warrior. His sword rises to point at the others. “Nor thou,” he tells Lucius, “nor these, confederated in the deed that hath dishonoured all our family! Unworthy brother and unworthy sons!”
Tears run down Lucius’s face as he kneels beside the corpse. “But let us give him burial as becomes Mutius, give burial with our brethren.”
“Traitors, away!” cries Titus. “He rests not in this tomb! Five hundred years hath this monument stood, which I have sumptuously re-edified! Here none but soldiers and Rome’s servitors repose in fame—none basely slain in brawls! Bury him where you can; he comes not here.”
“My lord, this is impiety in you!” says Marcus. “My nephew Mutius’ deeds do plead for him!—he must be buried with his brethren!”
“And shall!” cries Martius, “or him we will accompany!”
Titus steps toward them, blade forward. “And ‘shall’?—what villain was it that spake that word?”
Says Quintus, “He that would vouch it in any place but here!”—before the family’s tomb.
“What?—would you bury him in my despite?”
“No, noble Titus,” says his brother gently, “only entreat of thee to pardon Mutius, and to bury him.”
“Marcus, even thou hast struck upon my crest!—and, with these boys, mine honour thou hast wounded! My foes I do count you, every one! So trouble me no more, but get you gone!”
Martius turns away. “He is not with himself; let us withdraw.”
Quintus shakes his head. “Not I, till Mutius’ bones be burièd!”
But Marcus kneels—and at his urging, Titus’s sons slowly join him. He looks up at the general. “Brother, for in that name doth Nature plead—”
“Father,” says Quintus, “and in that name doth Nature speak—”
Titus interrupts: “Speak thou no more; that all the rest will speed!”—saving time.
His brother tries again: “Renownèd Titus, more than half my soul—”
“Dear Father,” says Lucius, “soul and substance of us all—”
“Suffer thy brother Marcus to inter his noble nephew here in Virtue’s nest—one who died in honour, and Lavinia’s cause.” The tribune knows how to move Titus, despite his glaring. “Thou art a Roman—be not barbarous! The Greeks, upon advisement, did bury Ajax, who slew himself; and wise Laertes’ son”—Ulysses, who had fought Ajax—“did graciously plead for his funeral. Let not young Mutius, then, who was thy joy, be barred his entrance here.”
After a moment, Titus sheathes his sword. “Rise, Marcus, rise,” he says wearily. “The dismall’st day is this that e’er I saw, to be dishonoured by my sons in Rome!
“Well, bury him—and bury me the next.”
Titus waits outside the mausoleum, as Marcus and his nephews lift the body. In the crypt they kneel beside him. “There lie thy bones, sweet Mutius, with thy friends,” says Lucius, “till we with trophies do adorn thy tomb.”
Says Marcus, “No man shed tears for noble Mutius. He died in a virtuous cause, and lives in fame!”
As they stand, heads bowed in silent mourning, sounds of revelry drift over from the wedding—which they can see taking place.
Marcus returns to Titus. “My lord, to step out of these dreary dirges: how comes it that the subtle Queen of Goths is of a sudden thus advancèd in Rome?”
“I know not, Marcus, but I know she is; whether by device or no, the heavens can tell.” Titus ponders. “Is she not then beholden to the man that brought her so far for this high good turn?
“Yes!—and will nobly him remunerate!”
To the career soldier, war has always been simply a business; the tribune is considerably less sanguine. But as they weigh Tamora’s obligations of honor, a trumpet flourish signals the emperor’s return.
Well guarded, Saturninus and his attendants are followed by Tamora, her sons, and Aaron. They pause as Bassianus and Lavinia, with many well-armed friends, return to the cemetery entrance, then come to stand, defiantly, beside Marcus Andronicus.
“So, Bassianus, you have played with your prize!” says the emperor with lewd contempt. “God give you joy, sir, of your gallant bride.”
“And you of yours, my lord,” retorts his brother, with obvious revulsion. “I say no more, nor wish no less; and so, I take my leave.”
“Traitor!” cries Saturninus. “If Rome have law or we have power, thou and thy faction shall repent this rape!”
“Rape, call you it, my lord?—to seize my own!—my true-betrothèd love!—and now my wife! But let the laws of Rome determine all; meanwhile I am possessèd of what is mine!”
“’Tis good, sir,” mutters the ruler resentfully. “You are very short with us—but, if we live, we’ll be as sharp with you!”
Retorts Bassianus, “My lord, for what I have done, as best I may I must answer—and shall—with my life!”
And he tries to defend his father-in-law. “Only thus much I give Your Grace to know, by all the duties that I owe to Rome: this noble gentleman, Lord Titus here, is in opinion and in honour wrongèd! In the rescue of Lavinia, with his own hand he did slay his youngest son in zeal to you, highly movèd to wrath!—but only to be condemnèd for what he freely gave!
“Receive him, then, Saturninus, into favor, who hath expressed himself in all his deeds a father and a friend to thee and Rome!”
Titus, standing between the opponent factions, scorns the rebel’s help. “Prince Bassianus, give me leave to plead my deeds!” he demands, angrily. He motions toward his own brother and sons. “’Tis thou and those that have dishonoured me! Rome and the righteous heavens be my judges how I have loved and honoured Saturninus!” He kneels before the emperor, head bowed.
The sovereign’s new wife curtseys to her husband. “My worthy lord, if ever Tamora were gracious in those princely eyes of thine, then hear me speak, indifferently for all—and at my suit, sweet, pardon what is past.”
“What, madam?—be dishonoured openly!—and basely put it up without revenge?”
“Not so, my lord!—the gods of Rome forfend I should be author of dishonour to you! But on mine honour dare I undertake for good Lord Titus’ innocence in all; his fury—not dissembled!—bespeaks his griefs!
“Then, at my suit, look graciously upon him!—lose not so noble a friend on vain suppose, nor with sour looks afflict his gentle heart!”
She touches his arm, and whispers; Saturninus alone can hears what she urges: “Be won, in the end—dissemble from all your grievous discontents! You are but newly planted on your throne; lest, then, the people, and patricians too, upon a just survey take Titus’ part, and so supplant you for ingratitude—which Rome reputes to be a heinous sin—yield to entreaty!
“And then let me alone; I’ll find a day to massacre them all, and raze their faction and their family!—the cruel father and his traitorous sons, to whom I suèd for my dear son’s life!—and make them know what ’tis to let a queen kneel in the street and beg for grace in vain!” She sees Saturninus’s nod.
Says Tamora, aloud, “Come, come, sweet emperor; come, Andronicus!” She faces Saturninus. “Take up this good old man, and cheer the heart that dies in the tempest of thine angry frown!”
Grumbles Saturninus, “Rise, Titus, rise; my empress hath prevailed.”
“I thank Your Majesty, and her, my lord!” says Titus, coming to his feet. “These words, these looks, infuse new life in me!” He bows, pleased with the gratitude he expected.
“Titus, I am incorporate, now, in Rome,” Tamora tells him, “a Roman happily adopted, and must advise the emperor for his good. This day all quarrels die, Andronicus.” She turns to Saturninus. “And let it be mine honour, good my lord, that I have reconciled your friends and you.
“As for you, Prince Bassianus, I have passed my word and promise to the emperor that you will be more mild and tractable.
“And fear not, lords—nor you, Lavinia. By my advice, all humbled on your knees, you shall ask pardon of his majesty.” Her smile seems kind and inviting.
The Andronici, members of a family that has fiercely devoted itself to serving Rome for generations, are loath to thwart its ruler, and eager to end the antagonism of imperial authority. They kneel.
“We do,” says, Lucius, “and vow to heaven and to his highness that what we did was as mildly as we might, tendering our sister’s honour and our own.”
“That, on mine honour, here I do assert,” adds Marcus.
Saturninus is disgusted by what he sees as a display of weakness. “Away, and talk not; trouble us no more.” He starts to go.
“Nay, nay, sweet emperor, we must all be friends!” cries Tamora cheerfully. “The tribune and his nephews kneel for grace! I will not be denied!—sweet heart, look back!”
Saturninus stops. “Marcus, at my lovely Tamora’s entreaties, then, for thy sake and thy brother’s, here I do remit these young men’s heinous faults. Stand up.
“Lavinia, though like a churl you left me, I found a friend; and sure as death I swore I would not part a bachelor from the priest! Come, if the emperor’s court can feast two brides, you are my guest, Lavinia.” He regards the others sourly. “And your friends.”
He gives his wife a lustful smile. “This day shall be a love-day, Tamora!”
Titus is both relieved and happy. “Tomorrow, an it please Your Majesty to hunt the panther and the hart with me, with horn and hound we’ll give Your Grace bon jour!”
Saturninus always enjoys killing. “Be it so, Titus—and grand merci, too!”
Walking on a street just outside the imperial palace in Rome, Aaron, thirty-five, considers the former prisoners’ recent change in standing. Saturninus has been crowned by the Senate, and the clever queen’s party has joined his royal household.
Now climbeth Tamora Olympus’ top, safe out of fortune’s shot, and sits aloft, secure from thunder’s crack or lightning flash!—advanced above pale Envy’s threatening reach!
As when the golden sun salutes the morn, and, having gilt the ocean with his beams, gallops round the zodiac in his glistering coach, and o’erlooks the highest-peering hills, so Tamora: upon her wit doth earthly Honour wait, and Virtue stoops and trembles at her frown!
Then, Aaron, arm thy heart, and fit thy thoughts to mount aloft with thy imperial mistress, and mount her pitch —he grins lasciviously— whom thou in triumph long hast prisoner held, fettered in amorous chains, and faster bound to Aaron’s charming eyes than is Prometheus tied to Caucasus!
Away with slavish clothes and servile thoughts! I will be bright, and shine in pearl and gold, to wait upon this new-made empress!
To wait, said I?—to wanton with this queen, this goddess, this Semiramis, this nymph!—this siren who will charm Rome’s Saturninus—and see his ship’s wreck!—and his commonweal’s!
He hears a clamor approaching. Halloa! What storm is this?
Tamora’s sons, Demetrius and Chiron, eighteen and sixteen, are again in a loud dispute:
“Chiron, thy years want wit, and thy wit wants edge and manners, to intrude where I am gracèd—and may, for aught thou know’st, affected be!”—might be fancied.
“Demetrius, thou dost over-ween in all—and so in this, bearing down on me with brave looks! ’Tis not as if the difference of a year or two makes me less gracious, or thee more fortunate! I am as able and as fit as thou to serve, and to deserve my mistress’ grace!
“And that my sword upon thee shall prove, and plead my passions for Lavinia’s love!”
Aaron is accustomed to the princes’ bickering. Clubs, clubs! he thinks wryly, as if summoning constables, these lovers will not keep the peace! Still, he wants no disturbance in their rich new domiciling.
Demetrius sneers at his brother. “Why, boy, although our mother ill-advisedly gave you a dancing-rapier for your side, are you so desperate grown as to threaten your friends? Go to!—leave your lath”—piece of wood—“glued within your sheath till you know better how to handle it!”
“Meanwhile, sir, with the little skill I have, full well shalt thou perceive how much I dare!” replies Chiron.
“Ay, boy!—grow ye so brave?” They draw their slender blades and square off.
Aaron steps between them, and they back away from his powerful form. “Why, how now, lords! So near the emperor’s palace dare you draw, and maintain such a quarrel openly?
“Full well I perceive the ground of all this grudge! I would not for a million in gold that the cause were known to them it most concerns—nor for much more would your noble mother be so dishonoured in the court of Rome!
“For shame! Put up!”
Demetrius protests: “Not I, till I have sheathed my rapier in his bosom, and withal thrust these reproachful speeches down his throat that he hath breathèd in my dishonour here!”
“For thou I am prepared and full-resolvèd!” cries Chiron. “Foul-spoken coward, that thunder’st with thy tongue, and with thy weapon nothing darest perform!”
“Away, I say!” demands Aaron, waving down their weapons, and looking around to see if they are being observed. “Now, by the gods that warlike Goths adore, this petty brabble will undo us all!”
As the boys sheathe their rapiers, Aaron’s frown deepens. “Why, lords, know you not how dangerous it is to set upon a prince’s right? What, then?—is Lavinia become so loose, or Bassianus so degenerate, that for her love such quarrels may be broached without his controlment, justice, or revenge? Young lords, beware!
“And should the empress know of this discord’s ground,”—argument’s cause, with a play on dissonant tune, he warns, “the music would not please!”
“I care not if she and all the world knew!” insists Chiron. “I love Lavinia more than all the world!”
“Youngling, learn thou to make some lesser choice,” says Demetrius. “Lavinia is thine elder brother’s hope!”
Aaron stares at them. “Why, are ye mad? Or know ye not how furious and impatient they be in Rome, and cannot brook competitors in love? I tell you, lords, you do but plot your deaths by this device!”
“Aaron, a thousand deaths would I oppose, to achieve her whom I love!” proclaims Chiron.
“To achieve her!” laughs Aaron. “How?”
Demetrius defends the intended seduction. “Why makest thou it so strange? She is a woman, therefore may be wooed; she is a woman, therefore may be won; she is Lavinia, therefore must be loved!”
Aaron chuckles at the virgin’s swaggering assurance.
“What, man?” says Demetrius defensively. “More water glideth by the mill than the miller knows of; and easy it is to steal a slice from a cut loaf, we know! Though Bassianus be the emperor’s brother, better than he have worn Vulcan’s badge!”—horns, the mark of cuckoldry.
Aye—and as good as Saturninus may! thinks Aaron.
“Then why should he despair who knows how to court-it, with words, fair looks, and gifts?” asks Demetrius. He regards Aaron. “What?—hast not thou full often struck a doe, and borne her cleanly past the keeper’s nose?”—stolen a game-preserve deer.
The suitors “love” is clearly lust. Aaron regards them. “Why then it seems some certain snatch or so would serve your turns.”
“Aye, so long as the turn were served!” says Chiron hungrily.
Demetrius nods. “Aaron, thou hast hit it.”
Aaron laughs. “I would you had ‘hit it,’ too!”—had sex. “Then we should not be tried with this ado! Why, hark ye, hark ye!—are you such fools as to square off over this?” The Moor has an idea. “Would it offend you, then, if both should succeed?”
“’Faith, not me,” Chiron admits.
Demetrius shrugs. “Nor me, if I were one.”
“For that same, be friends, and join for what you jar about!” says Aaron. “’Tis policy and stratagem that must do what you desire—and so you must resolve that what you cannot achieve as you would, you must perforce accomplish as you may.
“Take this from me: Lucrece was not more chaste than this Lavinia, Bassianus’ love!” The fabled Roman lady’s suicide after her rape by a member of the royal family began the Tarquins’ demise. “A speedier course than lingering languishment must ye pursue—and I have found the path!
“My lords, a hunt is at hand; there will the lovely Roman ladies troop. The forest walks are wide and spacious—and many solemn, unfrequented spots there are, fitted by kind for rape and villainy! Thither single you out, then, this dainty doe—and strike her home by force, if not by words! This way, or not at all, stand you in hope.
“Come, come! Our empress—her sacred wit consecrated to villainy and vengeance!—will we acquaint with all that we intend! And she shall pile our engines with advice that will not suffer you to square each other, but advance you both to your wishes’ height!”
The Ethiopian warrior looks around warily. “The emperor’s court is like the house of Fame: a palace full of ears, eyes, and tongues.” He raises an eyebrow. “But the woods are ruthless, dreadful, deaf, and dull; there speak—and strike, brave boys, then take your turns!—there serve your lusts, shadowed from heaven’s eye, and revel in Lavinia’s treasury!”
Chiron tells his brother, dryly, “This counsel, lad, smells of no cowardice.”
Demetrius is undaunted. “Sit fas aut nefas,”—right or wrong, “till I find the stream to cool this heat, a charm to calm these fits, per Styga, per manes vehor!”—I suffer the torments of Hell.
In the Woods
“The hunt is up!” cries an exuberant Titus Andronicus, reigning in his horse before the tents of the royal encampment in a forest near Rome. “The morn is bright and dry, the fields are fragrant, and the woods are green!”
Dismounting, he smiles at the gentlemen who have ridden here with him: his brother Marcus and his sons Lucius, Quintus and Martius. “Uncouple the hounds, and let’s make a bay”—a din of dogs’ barking—“to wake the emperor and his lovely bride, and rouse the princes! Ring a hunter’s peal, then, so that all the court may echo with the noise!
“Sons, let it be your charge, as it is ours, to attend the emperor’s person carefully,” he urges. “I have been troubled in my sleep this past night; but the dawning day new comfort hath inspirèd.”
At his signal to their attendants, the hounds are set free, howling, and the trumpets blare.
Soon the Andronici are joined by Saturninus and Tamora, then Bassianus and Lavinia, all with attendants. Demetrius and Chiron emerge from their own tent, yawning.
Titus is laughing. “Many good morrows to Your Majesty! Madam, to you as many and as good! I promised Your Grace a hunter’s peal!”
“And you have rung it lustily, my lord,” grumbles Saturninus, “somewhat too early for new-married ladies.” Tamara look tired.
Bassianus grins at that. “Lavinia, how say you?”
She laughs, blushing. “I say, no; I have been broad awake two hours and more!”
“Come on, then,” says Saturninus, “horse and chariots let us have, and to our sport.” He glances at Tamora. “Madam, now shall ye see our Roman hunting!”
“I have dogs, my lord, that will rouse the proudest panther before the chase!” boasts Marcus, “and climb the highest promontory top!”
Titus motions for more mounts to be brought forward. “And I have horses that will follow where the game makes way, and run like swallows o’er the plain!”
The hunters climb into their saddles, and, following the frantic pack, head off into the woods.
The empress’s sons watch Lavinia closely.
Says Chiron, “We who hunt not with horse nor hound, still hope to pluck a dainty doe to ground!”
Not far from the camp in a dim, shaded gully, Aaron, here alone, is kneeling; he has been digging, using his knife to loosen the loam, hands to move it aside—and back. He that has wit would think that I had none, burying so much gold under a tree, though never after to inherit it!
He finishes, and rises. Let him that thinks of me so abjectly know that these coins must pay for a stratagem which, cunningly effected, will beget a very excellent piece of villainy! Here hides this gold for their unrest who’d have their alms from the emperess’s chest!
And so, repose, sweet gold! With a foot he scatters dead leaves over the cache’s covering soil. He looks up and sees Tamora.
The royal hunters have all returned to the camp for the midday meal. After it, while her husband snores in his tent, she has crept away to meet her lover by the brook. “My lovely Aaron, wherefore look’st thou sad, when everything doth make a gleeful boast?
“The birds chant melody on every bush; the snake lies coilèd in the cheerful sun; the green leaves quiver with the cooling wind, and make a checkered shadow on the ground. Under their sweet shade, Aaron, let us sit.
“And whilst a babbling echo masks the hounds’ shrill replies to the well-tuned horns, as if a double hunt were heard at once, let us lie down and mock their yowling noise!”
Her eyes flash. “And, after such a conflict as it was supposed the wandering prince and Dido”—the Trojan hero Aeneas and his lover, the Queen of Carthage—“once enjoyed, when by a happy storm they were surprisèd, and curtained within a counsel-keeping cave, we may—our pastimes done, each wreathèd in the other’s arms—possess a golden slumber, whiles hounds and horns and sweet, melodious birds be unto us as is a nurse’s song of lullaby, to bring her babe asleep….”
Aaron is wiping dirt from his hands. “Madam, though Venus govern your desires, Saturn is dominator over mine! What signifies my deadly-standing eye, my silence, and my cloudy melancholy?—my fleece of woolly hair that now uncurls, even as doth an adder when it unrolls to do some fatal execution!”
She grins, picturing a rising serpent, but he shakes his head. “No, madam, these are no venereal signs!—vengeance is in my heart, death in my hand, blood and revenge are hammering in my head!”
Their meeting is not to be an interlude, but part of a scheme. “Hark, Tamora—the empress of my soul, which never hopes more heaven than rests in thee!—this is the day of doom for Bassianus! His Philomel”—a mythological victim of rape—“must lose her tongue today!—thy sons make pillage of her chastity, and wash their hands in Bassianus’ blood!
“Seest thou this letter?” He pulls a rolled sheet from a coat pocket. “Take it up, I pray thee, and give the emperor this fatal-plotted scroll.”
He embraces Tamora and kisses her. “Now question me no more,” he says, looking over her shoulder; his lure has worked. “We are espied! Here comes a parcel of our hoped-for booty—who dread not yet their lives’ destruction!”
Tamora is delighted. “Ah, my sweet Moor, sweeter to me than life!” she says, touching his chest.
“No more, great empress!—Bassianus comes! Be cross with him, and I’ll go fetch thy sons to back thy quarrels, whatsoe’er they be!” He hurries away toward the boy-princes’ tent.
Lord Bassianus and Lady Lavinia slowly approach Tamora. “Who have we here?” says he, smiling politely. “Rome’s royal empress, unfurnished of her well-beseeming troop? Or is it, dressed like her, Diana,”—virgin goddess of the hunt, “who hath abandoned her holy groves to see the general hunting in this forest?”
“Saucy observer of our private steps,” snaps Tamora, “had I the power that some say Diana had, thy temples should be planted presently with horns, as were Actaeon’s—and the hounds should thrive upon thy new-transformèd limbs, unmannerly intruder as thou art!” After the myth’s hunter saw Diana bathing, she turned him into a deer that was killed by his own dogs.
Lavinia retorts, “Under your patience, gentle empress, ’tis thought you have a goodly gift in horning—and ’tis suspected that your Moor and you have singled forth to try such experiments! Jove shield your husband from his hounds today!—’twere a pity if they should mistake him for a stag.”
They both saw Aaron, as he hurriedly left Tamora. “Believe me, queen,” says Bassianus, “your swarthy Cimmerian”—dark demon—“doth make Your Honour of his body’s hue: stainèd, detested, and abominable! Why are you sequestered from all your train, dismounted from your snow-white goodly steed, and wandered hither to an obscure plot, accompanied but with a barbarous Moor, if foul desire had not conducted you?”
“And is being interrupted in your great sport reason to berate my noble lord for sauciness?” asks Lavinia indignantly. She turns to Bassianus. “I pray you, let us hence, and let her enjoy her raven-coloured love; this ravine fits the purpose surpassingly well.”
Bassianus tells Tamora, “The emperor my brother shall have notice of this!”
Adds Lavinia, “Aye—for these slips have now made him regarded as a good emperor—being so mightily abusèd!”
As her sons come to her, Tamora demands angrily, “Why have I patience to endure all this?”
“How now, dear sovereign, and our gracious mother?” asks Demetrius. “Why doth Your Highness look so pale and wan?”
“Have I not reason, think you, to look pale? These two have enticed me hither to this place—a barren, detested vale! You see the trees, though it is yet summer, are forlorn and lean, o’ercome with moss and baleful shrub! Here never shines the sun; here nothing breeds, unless the nightly owl or fatal raven!
“And when they showed me this abhorrent pit, they told me that here, at the dead time of night, a hundred fiends, a thousand hissing snakes, ten thousand swelling toads, and as many hedgehogs would make such fearful and appalling cries that any mortal body hearing them should straight fall mad!—or else suddenly die!
“No sooner had they told this hellish tale but they told me they would bind me here, unto the body of a dismal yew, and leave me to that miserable death!
“And then they called me ‘foul adulteress,’ ‘lascivious Goth,’ and all the bitterest terms to such effect that ever ear did hear!”
Bassianus and Lavinia exchange looks, annoyed but amused by the extravagant lies.
Tamora continues: “And—had you not by wondrous fortune come!—this vengeance on me they had executed!
“Revenge it, as you love your mother’s life, or be ye not henceforth callèd my children!”
Demetrius draws his rapier. “This is a witness that I am thy son!” he cries—and pierces Bassianus—who, surprised and shocked, staggers, then falls.
“And this for me, struck home to show my strength!” says Chiron, stabbing the downed man.
Lavinia gapes, aghast, as her husband lies dying. She turns to the older woman, expecting to be killed. “Aye, come, Semiramis—nay, Tamora!—for no name fits thy barbarous nature but thine own!”
“Give me thy poniard!” demands Tamora of Demetrius. “You shall know, my boys, that your mother’s hand shall right your mother’s wrong!”
But he pulls back the bloody knife. “Stay, madam; there is more that belongs to her! First thrash the wheat, then after burn the straw! This minion stood upon her chastity, upon her nuptial vow, her loyalty—and with that painted hope, braved Your Mightiness! And shall she carry that on unto her grave?”
“If she do, I would I were an eunuch!” cries Chiron. “Drag her husband hence, to some secret hole, and make his dead trunk pillow to our lust!” Aaron has shown them a deep pit, dug by the huntsmen to serve as a trap for wild beasts.
Tamora waves him on. “But when ye have the honey ye desire,” she warns, “let not this wasp outlive it, to sting us both!”
“I warrant you, madam, we will make that sure!” says Chiron. He grabs Lavinia by the arm. “Come, mistress! Now perforce we will enjoy that finely preservèd decency of yours!”
Lavinia cries out, “Oh, Tamora, thou bear’st a woman’s face—”
“I will not hear her speak; away with her!”
“Sweet lords, entreat her hear me but a word!”
Demetrius urges his mother. “Listen, fair madam—let it be your glory to see her tears! But be your heart to them as unrelenting as flint to drops of rain.”
Lavinia asks him, “When did the tiger’s young ones tutor the dam? Oh, do not teach her wrath—she taught it thee! The milk thou suckedst from her did turn to marble; even at thy teat thou hadst thy tyranny!
“Yet every mother breeds not sons alike.” She turns to the younger boy. “Do thou entreat her show a woman’s pity!”
Chiron laughs. “What?—wouldst thou have me prove myself a bastard?”
“’Tis true the raven doth not hatch a lark,” Lavinia admits. “Yet have I heard—oh, could I find it true!—that the lion, moved by pity, did endure to have his princely claws parèd all away!
“Some say that ravens foster forlorn children, even whilst their own birds famish in their nests! Oh, be to me, though thy hard heart say no, nothing so kind, only somewhat pitying!”
The warrior queen only frowns at the civilian lady. “I know not what it means; away with her.”
“Oh, let me teach thee!” pleads Lavinia—trying to stall; help might yet come. “For my father’s sake, who gave thee life, when well he might have slain thee, be not obdurate!—open thy deaf ears!”
Tamora laughs. “Hadst thou in thy person ne’er offended me, even for his sake am I pitiless! Remember, boys?—I poured forth tears in vain, to save your brother from the sacrifice! But fierce Andronicus would not relent! Therefore, away with her—use her as you will!—and the worse for her, the better loved by me!”
Lavinia falls to her knees, grasping at the empress’s hand. “Oh, Tamora, be callèd a gentle queen, and with thine own hands kill me in this place! For ’tis not life that I have begged so long; poor I was slain when Bassianus died.”
“What begg’st thou, then? Foolish woman, let me go!”
Lavinia, her father’s proud daughter, dreads dishonor. “’Tis immediate death I beg!—and one thing more, that womanhood denies my tongue to tell…. Oh, keep me from their worse-than-killing lust, and tumble me into some loathsome pit, where never man’s eye may behold my body! Do this, and be a charitable murderer!”
With a scornful laugh, Tamora shoves her away. “So should I rob my sweet sons of their fee! No!—let them satisfy their lust on thee!”
From behind, Demetrius seizes both of Lavinia’s arms. “Away!—for thou hast stayed us here too long.”
“No grace?” cries Lavinia to Tamora. “No womanhood?” She sees Demetrius’s flushed face. “Ah, beastly creature!—the blot and enemy to our general name!”—humanity. “Let chaos fall—”
“Nay, then I’ll stop your mouth!” says Chiron, clamping a hand on her face. He pulls the struggling lady away, in among some brush and ferns, and looks down at a space beside him. “Bring thou her husband,” he tells his brother. “This is the hole where Aaron bid us hide him.”
Demetrius pulls the bloody body through the bramble; then, with a booted foot, he pushes Bassianus into the pit.
Together, he and Chiron drag Lavinia further into the woods.
“Fare well, my sons!” cries Tamora after them. “See that you make her secure! Ne’er let my heart know merry cheer indeed, till all the Andronici be made away!”—killed.
Now will I hence to seek my lovely Moor, and let my spleenful sons this trull deflower!
Aaron urges Quintus and Martius to hurry past him. “Come on, my lords!—the better foot before! Straight will I bring you to the loathsome pit where I espied the panther fast asleep!” Titus’s men have dug several traps for beasts the hunters might flush from hiding.
Having eaten little and drunk much—Aaron provided the wine—the two drowsy gentlemen stumble on ahead. “My sight is very dull, whate’er it bodes,” says Quintus thickly, trying to clear his head.
“And mine, I promise you,” says Martius. “Were’t not for shame, well could I leave our sport to sleep a while!” As they clump through the thick bushes, he tumbles heavily into a pit.
Quintus blinks. “What?—art thou fall’n?” He back away, unsteadily, and stares. “What subtle hole is this, whose mouth is covered with rude-growing briers—upon whose leaves are drops of new-shed blood, as fresh as morning dew distillèd on flowers? A very fatal place it seems to me!
“Speak, brother!—hast thou hurt thee with the fall?”
A wail comes from below. “Oh, my brother!—hurt by the dismallest object that ever eye with sight made heart lament!”
Quintus edges forward cautiously, trying to keep his balance.
Aaron quietly backs away. Now will I fetch the emperor to find them here, so he thereby may give a likely guess that these were they who made away with his brother! Hurrying, he makes his way through the woods.
Martius calls up again, stunned and scared. “Why dost not comfort me, and help me out from this unhallowèd and blood-stained hole?”
“I am seized by a strange fear!—a chilling sweat o’er-runs my trembling joints!—my heart suspects more than mine eye can see!”
“To prove thou hast a truly divining heart,” says Martius, “look thou and Aaron down into this den, and see a fearful sight of blood and death!”
Quintus peers around, blinking, and finds himself alone. “Aaron is gone!—and my consternate heart will not permit mine eyes at once to behold a thing whereat it trembles by surmise! Oh, tell me how it is!—for ne’er till now was I a child to fear what I know not!”
“Lord Bassianus lies here, bereaved of blood, all in a heap like a slaughtered lamb, in this dark, detested, blood-drinking pit!”
“If it be dark, how dost thou know ’tis he?”
In the muck below, Martius, his back pressed against the dank-earth wall, can see a narrow shaft of light reaching the corpse. “Upon his bloody finger he doth wear a precious ring, that lightens all the hole—which, like a taper in some tomb, doth shine upon the dead man’s earthy cheeks, and shows the ragged entrails of the pit!
“So pale did shine the moon on Pyramus when he saw night bathed in maiden’s blood!
“O brother, if fear hath made thee faint, as me it hath, help me with thy fainting hand!—out of this fell, devouring receptacle, as hateful as Cocytus’ misty mouth!”—where that river flows into Hades.
Quintus kneels, perched at the edge. “Reach me thy hand, that I may help thee out, or, lacking strength to do thee so much good, I may be plucked into the swallowing womb of this deep pit, poor Bassianus’ grave!” They clasp hands, but Martius soon groans in frustration. “I have not strength to pluck thee to the brink!”
“Nor I the strength to climb without thy help!”
Grasping a large root beside a tree, Quintus leans further forward. “Thy hand once more! I will not loose it again till thou art here aloft, or I below!” As the brothers strain, he realizes he is slipping. “Thou canst not come to me—I come to thee!” He falls headlong into the animal trap.
Advised that a plot may be afoot, Saturninus comes to investigate. “Along with me!” he tells his attendants and Aaron, as they approach. “I’ll see what hole is here, and what he is that just now has leaped into it.
“Say!—who art thou that lately didst descend into this gaping hollow of the earth?”
“The unhappy son of old Andronicus!” cries Martius. “Brought hither in a most unfortunate hour, to find thy brother Bassianus—dead!”
“My brother dead? I know thou dost but jest!—he and his lady are both at the lodging upon the north side of this pleasant chase; ’tis not an hour since I left them there.”
“We know not when you left him all alive, but now, alas, here have we found him dead!”
Tamora and her attendants approach, apparently looking for Saturninus; following after are Titus Andronicus and his son Lucius. “Where is my lord the emperor?” she calls ahead.
“Here, Tamora, though grievèd with a killing grief!”
She rushes to him. “Where is thy brother Bassianus?”
“Now to the bottom dost thou search my wound!—poor Bassianus here lies murderèd!”
Tamora moans: “Then all too late I bring this fatal writing!—the complot of this timeless tragedy!—and wonder greatly that a man’s face can enfold in pleasing smiles such murderous tyranny!” She hands Saturninus a piece of parchment.
He examines it, then reads aloud: “‘…and if we miss meeting him handily, sweet huntsman—Bassianus ’tis we mean—do thou so much for him!—thou know’st our meaning.
“‘Look for thy reward among the nettles at the elder-tree which overshades the mouth of that same pit where we decreed to bury Bassianus.
“Do this, and you purchase us as thy lasting friends!’”
As Aaron begins poking around at the base of the tree, Saturninus looks up, shaking his head angrily, “Oh, Tamora! Was ever heard the like? This is the pit, and this the elder-tree!”
He turns to his attendants and points to the hole. “Look, sirs,” he growls, “to see if you can find the huntsmen out that have murdered Bassianus here.”
“My gracious lord, here is a bag of gold!” cries Aaron, kneeling beside the tree. He holds up the soiled sack.
Saturninus shouts at Titus: “Two of thy whelps, fell curs of bloody breed, have here bereft my brother of his life!
“Sirs, drag them from the pit unto prison!” he orders his men, “There let them bide until we have devised some never-heard-of torturing pain for them!”
Tamora watches—apparently with surprise. “What, are they in this pit? Oh, wondrous thing! How easily murder is discoverèd!”
Titus, stung by this dreadful new family betrayal, kneels. “High Emperor, upon my feeble knee I beg this boon, with tears not lightly shed: that this deadly crime of my accursèd sons—accursèd if the fault be proven in them—”
“If it be provèd!” roars Saturninus. “You see it is apparent! Who found this letter? Tamora, was it you?”
“Andronicus himself did take it up.” She had carefully positioned it for him to find.
“I did, my lord,” Titus admits, “yet let me be their bail; for, by my fathers’ reverend tomb, I vow they shall be ready at Your Highness’ will to answer your suspicion with their lives!”
Saturninus angrily brushes past him. “Thou shalt not bail them!
“See thou follow me,” he tells his attendants. “Some bring the murdered body, some the murderers! Let them not speak a word!—for their guilt is plain! By my soul, were there a worse end than death, that end upon them should be executed!” He storms away, muttering.
As men bring rope to extract the living and the dead, Tamora moves toward the retired general. “Andronicus, I will entreat the emperor! Fear not for thy sons; they shall do well enough….”
Titus ignores her; two of his sons have further dishonored him. “Come, Lucius, come! Stay not to talk with them!”
Humiliated and angry, he follows Saturninus back to the hunters’ camp.
The forest is still and dim. In a silent dell, two young men wipe their weapons.
Beside them lies Lavinia, ashen and torn, bleeding. She has been raped, twice, and the assailants have cut off her hands with a sword, then attacked with a knife.
Demetrius laughs. “So, now go tell—if thy tongue can speak!—who ’twas that cut thy tongue and ravished thee!”
Chiron jeers, “Write down thy mind; bewray thy meaning so—if thy stumps will let thee play the scribe!”
Lavinia attempts to rise; she looks down, angrily, at her cruelly injured limbs.
Demetrius watches her agonized effort. “See how, with signs and tokens, she can scowl!”
Chiron tells her, as if chiding, “Go home, call for sweet water, wash thy hands.”
“She hath no tongue to call, nor hands to wash; and so let’s leave her to her silent walks.”
As they stride away, Chiron looks back, disgusted. “If ’twere my case, I should go hang myself!”
“If thou hadst hands to help thee knot the cord!” laughs Demetrius.
Strolling from the quiet camp, Marcus hears a sound in the brush; he looks up and spots a fleeing figure. Who is this?—my niece, that flies away so fast? “Cousin, a word; where is your husband?” he calls, hurrying into the greenwood after her.
Lavinia has moved past the pit, now empty, and is seeking the shelter of her tent, and help from the women who attend her. Marcus finds her, gasping and benumbed, leaning back against the wide trunk of an ancient willow.
What he sees is appalling. If I do dream, would all my wealth could wake me! If I be awake, may some planet strike me down, that I might slumber in eternal sleep!
As she slides slowly down the bole, he kneels beside her. “Speak, gentle niece!” He has pulled off his cloak, and is cutting it into strips to stem the bleeding. What stern, ungentle hands have lopped and hewed, and made thy body bare of her two branches—those sweet ornaments whose circling shadows kings have sought to sleep in, yet might not gain so great a happiness as have thy love!
“Why dost not speak to me?” He gasps when she opens her mouth. Alas!—a crimson river of warm blood, like to a bubbling fountain stirred with wind, doth rise and fall between thy rosèd lips, coming and going with thy honey breath! “Surely some Tereus hath deflowered thee—and, lest thou shouldst reveal him, cut thy tongue!” In the myth, the king who raped princess Philomela was turned into a bird.
Lavinia nods, and stares down at the dead brown leaves.
“Ah, now thou turn’st away thy face for shame.” But she looks up at him—glaring.
He sees her anger. “Notwithstanding all this loss of blood, as from a conduit with three issuing spouts—yet do thy cheeks look red as the sun’s face, flushing at being blemished by a cloud!
“Shall I speak for thee?—shall I say ’tis so?
“Oh, that I knew thy heart!—and knew the beast, that I might rail at him to ease my mind!”
He has bandaged her injured arms, tying the cloth tightly.
Sorrow concealèd, like an oven stopped up, doth burn the heart to cinders where it is! Fair Philomela, she lost but her tongue, and into a lengthy sampler sewed her mind! The story’s lady had thus revealed the culprit’s name. But, lovely niece, that means is cut from thee; a craftier Tereus, cousin, hast thou met, and he hath cut off those pretty fingers that could have better sewed than Philomel!
Oh, had the monster seen those lily hands tremble like aspen-leaves upon a lute, and make the silken strings delight to kiss them, he would not then have touched them for his life! Or had he heard the heavenly harmony which that sweet tongue hath made, he would have dropped his knife, and fallen asleep as did Cerberus at the feet of Orpheus!
Weeping, he gently lifts the lady, helping her to stand. “Come, let us go and make thy father blind; for such a sight will blind a father’s eye! One hour’s storm can drown the fragrant meads; what will whole months of tears from thy father’s eyes?”
She turns away, dreading further humiliation—yet determined to be revenged.
“Do not draw back, for we will mourn with thee!
“Oh, could our mourning ease thy misery!”
As two Roman tribunes, who also serve as judges, lead shackled Martius and Quintus, both of them battered, gagged and guarded—and just now sentenced—back to the palace, and the site of their imminent public execution, the procession passes the waiting Titus Andronicus.
“Hear me, grave fathers!” cries the general as they go by. “Noble tribunes, stay!” He kneels. “For pity of mine age, whose youth was spent in dangerous wars, whilst you securely slept!—for all my blood in Rome’s great quarrel shed; for all the frosty nights that I have stood watch!—and for these bitter tears, which now you see filling the agèd wrinkles in my cheeks—be pitiful to my condemnèd sons, whose souls are not corrupted as ’tis thought!
“For two and twenty sons I never wept, because they died in honour’s lofty bed!”
But the passing tribunes, patricians, and citizens, all sternly silent, ignores his pleas.
Left behind, he is on his hands and knees now, and weeping. For these—these tribunes!—in the dust I write my heart’s deep anguish with my soul’s sad tears!
He stares down. Let my tears stanch the dry earth’s appetite; my sons’ sweet blood would make it blush with shame!
Sobbing, he sprawls on the pavement. O earth, I will befriend thee with more rain, that shall distil from these two ancient urns, than youthful April shall, with all its showers! In summer’s drought, I’ll drop upon thee still; in winter, with warm tears I’ll melt the snow, and keep eternal spring-time on thy face!—if thou refuse to drink my dear sons’ blood!
Lucius, looking around warily, sword in hand, comes to find him.
Titus cries out, to the distant judges. “O reverend tribunes!—O gentle, agèd men!—unbind my sons!—reverse the doom of death!—and let me, who never wept before, say my tears are now prevailing orators!”
Lucius kneels beside him. “Ah, noble father, you lament in vain; the tribunes hear you not. No man is by, and you recount your sorrows to stone.”
“Oh, Lucius, for thy brothers let me plead!” wails Titus. “Grave tribunes, once more I entreat of you—”
“My gracious lord, no tribune hears you speak.”
The old general goans, sits up, and wipes away tears with the heels of his dusty hands. “Well, ’tis no matter, man—if they did hear, they would not mark me; or if they did mark, they would not pity me—yet plead I must!
“Therefore I tell my sorrows to the stones—who, though they cannot cure my distress, yet in some sort they are better than the tribunes, in that they will not interrupt my tale! When I do weep, they humbly, at my feet, receive my tears, and seem to weep with me. And, though they are in but grave attire, Rome could provide me no tribune like these; a stone is soft as wax—tribunes more hard than stones! A stone is silent, and offendeth not—but tribunes with their tongues doom men to death!”
Slowly, he rises to his feet. “But wherefore stand’st thou with thy weapon drawn?”
“To rescue my two brothers from their death,” says Lucius, of his failed effort before the brief trial. “For which attempt,” he adds sourly, “the judges have pronounced my everlasting doom—of banishment.”
“O happy man!” cries Titus. “They have befriended thee! Why, foolish Lucius, dost thou not perceive that Rome is but a wilderness of tigers? Tigers must prey, and Rome affords no prey but me and mine! How happy art thou, then, from these devourers to be banishèd!
“But who comes with our brother Marcus, here?” The lady, he sees, is wrapped in a dark cloak, and a black veil conceals her face; Marcus has brought Lavinia, whose bodily wounds have been treated.
“Titus, prepare thine agèd eyes to weep,” warns Marcus, his own tears flowing, “and if not so, thy noble heart to break! I bring consuming sorrow to thine age….”
“Will it consume me?—let me see it, then!” Titus would welcome an escape from his pain.
Marcus lowers the veil from her pallid face, and lifts an edge of the cloak to reveal her severed limbs. “This was thy daughter.”
Titus is moved, mightily, by her face—tremulous, now, before her father. “Why, Marcus,” he says softly, “so she is.”
“Ay me!” cries Lucius, falling to his knees and pressing his head with his hands. “This object kills me!”
“Faint-hearted boy, arise,” demands Titus gruffly, “and look upon her.
“Speak, Lavinia!—what accursèd hand hath made thee handless in thy father’s sight?—what fool hath added water to the sea, or brought a torch to bright-burning Troy? My grief was at the height before thou camest—and now like the Nile it disdaineth bounds!
“Give me the sword,” he tells Lucius. “I’ll chop off my hands too!—for they have fought for Rome, but all in vain!—and, by feeding my life, they have nursed this woe! In bootless prayer have they been held up!—and they have servèd me to effectless use! Now all the service I require of them is that the one will help to cut off the other.
“’Tis well, Lavinia, that thou hast no hands—for hands to do Rome service act but vainly!”
Lucius, standing, wipes his eyes. “Speak, gentle sister!—who hath martyred thee?”
Marcus’s tears start again. “Ah, the delightful engine of her thoughts that spoke them with such pleasing eloquence is torn from forth that pretty hollow cage, where, like a melodious bird, it sung sweet varièd notes, enchanting every ear.”
Lucius now sees, between her lips, an edge of red-stained linen. “Oh, say thou for her!—who hath done this deed?”
“Thus I found her, straying in the preserve,” Marcus tells them, “seeking to hide herself, as doth the deer that hath receivèd some incurable wound.”
Titus groans “It was my dear! And he that wounded her hath hurt me more than had he killed me dead! For now I stand like one upon a rock environed by a wilderness of sea, who marks the waxing tide grow, wave by wave—hoping ever for some ambitious surge to swallow him in its brinish bowels!”
He says, motioning toward the palace, “This way to death my wretched sons are gone. Here stands my other son, a banished man—and here’s my brother, weeping for my woes!
“But that which gives my soul the greatest harm is dear Lavinia—dearer than my soul! Had I seen but thy picture in this plight it would have maddened me!—what shall I do now that I behold thy living body so? Thou hast no hands to wipe away thy tears, nor tongue to tell me who hath martyred thee!
“Thy husband, he is dead—and for his death thy brothers are condemnèd!—and dead, by now!”
He sees the change in her face: redoubled dismay. “Look, Marcus! Ah, son Lucius, look on her! When I did name her brothers, then fresh tears stood on her cheeks, as doth the lonely dew upon a gathered lily, almost withered.”
“Perchance she weeps because they killed her husband,” says Marcus. He sees her flash of fury. “Perchance because she knows them innocent!”
Says Titus, mordantly, “If they did kill thy husband, then be joyful!—because the law hath taken revenge on them.” Her sob makes him repent. “No, no!—they would not do so foul a deed! Witness the sorrow that their sister makes!
“Gentle Lavinia, let me kiss thy lips….” She backs away, crimson-bandaged wrists crossed before her face. “Or make some sign how I may do thee ease!
“Shall thy good uncle, and thy brother Lucius, and I sit round about some fountain pool, all looking downwards to behold our cheeks, how they are stainèd, like meadows yet not dry, with miry slime left on them by a flood? And in the fountain shall we gaze so long that the fresh taste be taken from that clearness, and make a brine-pit with our bitter tears?
“Or shall we cut away our hands, like thine?
“Or shall we bite our tongues, and in silent gesturing pass the remainder of our hateful days?
“What shall we do?”
Anger overtakes him. “Let us that have our tongues plot some device!—of such miseries as to make us wondered at in time to come!” he cries in a desperate rage.
Lavinia, finally hearing what she needs to hear, is again moved.
“Sweet father, cease your tears,” says Lucius, “forsee how my wretched sister, at your grief, sobs and weeps!”
Marcus puts an arm around her shoulders. “Patience, dear niece! Good Titus, dry thine eyes.”
Titus nods. “Ah, Marcus, Marcus!—brother, well I wot thy kerchief cannot drink a tear of mine—for thou, poor man, hast drowned it with thine own.”
Lucius offers her his. “Ah, my Lavinia, I will wipe thy cheeks.” He starts to do so, but she backs away. The lady, suffering intense frustration, wants no more sympathy—she craves vengeance.
“Mark, Marcus, mark; I understand her signs,” says Titus—who does not. “Had she a tongue to speak, now would she say that to her brother which I said to thee: his kerchief, with his true tears all bewet, can do no service on her sorrowful cheeks.
“Oh, what a symphony of woe is this!—as far from help as Limbo is from bliss!”
They see a large man walking toward them from the palace.
Aaron approaches. “Titus Andronicus, my lord Saturninus sends thee this word: that if thou love thy sons, let Marcus, Lucius, or thyself, old Titus—or any one of you—chop off your hand and send it to the emperor. He, for the same, will send thee hither both thy sons alive, and that shall be the ransom for their offense.”
“Oh, gracious emperor! O gentle Aaron!” cries Titus gratefully. “Did ever raven sing so like a lark that gives sweet tidings of the sun’s uprise? With all my heart, I’ll send the emperor my hand! Good Aaron, wilt thou help to lop it off?”
“Stay, father!” cries Lucius, “for that noble hand of thine, that hath thrown down so many enemies, shall not be sent!—my hand will serve the turn! My youth can better spare my blood than you, and therefore mine shall save my brothers’ lives!”
But Marcus asks them, “Which of your hands hath not defended Rome, and reared aloft the bloody battle-axe, writing destruction on the enemy’s castle? Oh, not one of both but is of high deserving!
“My hand hath been but idle; let it serve to ransom my two nephews from their death! Then have I kept it to a worthy end!”
Aaron is impatient. “Nay, agree whose hand shall go along, for fear they die before their pardon come!”
“My hand shall go!” insists Marcus.
“By heaven, it shall not go!” says Lucius.
“Sirs, strive no more!” says Titus. He holds up his hands. “Such withered herbs as these are meet for plucking up—and therefore mine!”
“Sweet Father, if I shall be thought thy son, let me redeem my brothers both from death!”
“And, for our father’s sake—and mother’s care—now let me show a brother’s love to thee!”
Titus sighs. “Agree between you; I will spare my hand.”
“Then I’ll go fetch an axe!” says Lucius.
“But I will use the axe!” insists Marcus as they go.
“Come hither, Aaron,” says Titus. “Lend me thy hand, and I will give thee mine! I’ll deceive them both!”
Thinks Aaron, If that be callèd deceit, I will be honest!—and never whilst I live deceive men so!
But I’ll deceive you in another sort—one that you’ll see ere half an hour pass!
Lavinia turns away as Titus offers the other man his sword, hilt-first. With a quick downward stroke, Aaron severs the general’s left hand.
Marcus and Lucius return, and find Titus gripping his arm to slow the spurting. “Now stay your strife!—what shall be is dispatchèd!
“Good Aaron, give his majesty my hand! Tell him it was a hand that warded him from a thousand dangers! Bid him bury it—more hath it merited; that let it have!
“As for my sons, say I account of them as jewels purchased at an easy price!” And yet dearly, too, he thinks, because I’ve bought what is mine own!
Aaron drops the sword. “I go, Andronicus. And for thy hand, look by and by to have thy sons with thee.” Their heads, I mean! he thinks, gleefully. Oh, how this villainy doth baste me with the very thought of it! Let fools do good, and fair men call for grace!—Aaron will have his soul black like his face! With the bloody, severed hand dangling at his side by its thumb, he heads back to the palace.
Titus falls to his knees. “Oh, here I lift this one hand up to heaven, and bow this feeble ruin to the earth!” he moans, as the pain increases. “If any power pities wretched tears, to that I call!”
Lavinia sees that he, too, feels rising anger; she goes to him.
“What, wilt thou kneel with me? Do, then, dear heart!—for Heaven shall hear our prayers!—or with our sighs we’ll breathe the very sky dim, and stain the sun with fog!—as clouds sometimes do, when they hug it in their melting bosoms!”
The tribune ties the bleeding stump with a cord he has brought. “Oh, brother, speak of possibilities, and do not break into these deep extremes!” The once-powerful general has never before resorted to prayer.
“Are not my sorrows deep, having no bottom? Then be my passions bottomless with them!”
“But yet let reason govern thy lamenting.” Marcus dresses the wound with cloth.
“If there were reason for these miseries, then into limits could I bind my woes!”
Titus’s ire is growing. “When heaven doth weep, doth not the earth o’erflow? If the winds rage, doth not the sea wax mad, threatening the sky with its big-swol’n face?”
He nods toward Lavinia. “Hark, how her sighs do blow!—she is the weeping firmament, I the earth! Then must my sea be movèd by her sighs; then must my earth with her tears’ continual deluge be overflowed—and drownèd!
“If thou wilt have the reason for this broil: I am the sea!
“As for why: my guts cannot contain her woes!—like a drunkard I must vomit them!
“Then give me leave! For losers will have leave to ease their indignation with their bitter tongues!”
One of the tribunes’ men comes to them with a heavy basket. He says, sadly, “Worthy Andronicus, ill art thou repaid for that good hand thou sent’st the emperor.
“Here are the heads of thy two noble sons.” He places them, as he was ordered, on the pavement before Titus. Each has been ducked into a bucket of water to rinse off blood; sightless eyes, still open behind clinging wet hair, make the faces seem to gape. “And here’s thy hand, in scorn to thee sent back.”
Saturninus, who will not miss his troublesome brother, again asserts his churlish self.
The man shakes his head. “Thy griefs are their sports, thy resolution mocked!—so much that woe grips me, thinking upon thy woes!—more than remembrance of my father’s death!” He has long admired the distinguished officer; as he leaves them, he is weeping.
Marcus is livid. “Now let hot Aetna”—a volcano—“cool in Sicily, and be my heart an ever-burning hell! These miseries are more than may be borne! To weep with those who weep doth deal some ease—but sorrow flouted is death doubled!”
Lucius is devastated. “Oh, that this sight should make so deep a wound, and yet detested life not shrink thereat!—that ever Death should let life bear the name, when life hath share in no more than breathing!”
Lavinia, though, is even more grimly determined. She kisses her father’s cheek.
“Alas, poor heart,” Marcus tells her, “that kiss is comfortless as frozen water to a starvèd snake!”
Titus groans. “When will this fearful slumber”—nightmare—“have an end?”
Cries Marcus, “No!—farewell, false hope!—die! Andronicus, thou dost not slumber! Look at thy two sons’ heads!—thy warlike hand!—thy mangled daughter here!—thine other, banished son, by this dire sight struck pale and bloodless! And thy brother—even I—like a stone image, cold and numb!
“Now no more would I restrain thy griefs! Rend off thy silver hair!—thine other hand gnaw free with thy teeth!—and let that dismal sight be the closing up of our most-wretched eyes!”
But the general, he sees, is standing silent, transfixed in thought. “Now is a time to storm! Why art thou still?”
After a moment, Titus Andronicus looks up—and laughs, in a harsh spasm.
Marcus stares. “Why dost thou laugh? It fits not with this hour!”
“I have not another tear to shed.”
The old soldier is very tired; but he straightens. “Besides, this watery sorrow—that would usurp my eyes, make them blind with tributary tears—is an enemy! Then which way shall I find Revenge’s cave?” He looks down at the grotesque remains. “For these two heads do seem to speak to me, and warn me that I shall never come to bliss till all these mischiefs be returned again, even in their throats who have committed them!”
He thinks. “Come, let me see what tasks I have to do.
“You heavy-hearted people, circle me about, so that I may turn me to each one of you, and swear unto my soul to right your wrongs!” They stand around him, and Titus faces each, and listens, grasping a shoulder. “The vow is made.
“Come, brother, take a head; and in this hand the other I will bear.
“These arms…” he begins—and realizes that force will no longer serve him. He looks down at his storied sword, lying on the pavement and smeared with his own blood. Marcus picks it up.
The lady steps forward expectantly. Says Titus, “Lavinia, thou shalt be employed. Bear thou my hand, sweet wench, between thy teeth.” She nods; he gives it to her.
As Titus and Marcus lift each head, gently, by the hair, the general tells Lucius, “As for thee, boy, go, get thee from my sight!—thou art an exile, and thou must not stay! Hie thee to the Goths—and raise an army there! And, if you love me, as I think you do, let’s kiss and part, for we have much to do!”
The father embraces his last living son. Then Titus, Marcus and Lavinia, each with a horrid burden, start toward the warrior’s house.
Lucius watches as they go. Farewell Andronicus, my noble father—the woefull’st man that ever lived in Rome!
Farewell, proud Rome. Till Lucius come again, he leaves his pledges!—valued more than his life!
Farewell, Lavinia, my noble sister—oh, would thou wert as thou heretofore hast been! But now neither Lucius nor Lavinia lives but in oblivion and hateful grief!
If Lucius live, he will requite your wrongs!—and make proud Saturninus and his empress beg at the gates, like Tarquin and his queen!
Now will I to the Goths and raise a power, to be revengèd on Rome and Saturninus!
In a small room of Titus Andronicus’s huge, darkened home, a scant noon meal has been set out, for him and Marcus, and for Lavinia and a boy of ten, Lucius’s only son.
“So, so. Now sit,” Titus tells them. “And look you eat no more than will preserve just so much strength in us as will revenge these bitter woes of ours.”
But as the others take seats, the distraught tribune continues pacing, head bowed, arms crossed.
“Marcus, unknit that sorrow-wreathen knot,” Titus tells him. “Thy niece and I, poor creatures, lack our hands, and cannot personate our tenfold grief with folded arms.
“This poor right hand of mine is left to tyrannize upon my breast! When, mad with misery, my heart beats in this hollow prison of my flesh, then thus I thump it down!”
His grandson watches, not eating, as he pounds his own chest angrily, again and again. Martius and Quintus were interred beside Martius months ago, but Titus has shown deepening depression—and festering rage. Marcus, watching the sullen soldier, thinks his brother left more of himself at the tomb than one of his hands. The intensely proud warrior seems to have aged; vacillating from sorrow to fury, he speaks more slowly now, in late autumn, most often of revenge.
Lavinia frowns, and motions for him to stop striking himself; others have inflicted enough pain.
Titus stops. “Thou map of woe, who thus dost talk in signs, when thy poor heart beats with outragèd berating, thou canst not strike it thus to make it still.
“Wound it with sighing, girl—kill it with groans! Or get some little knife between thy teeth, and just against thy heart make thou a hole—so that all the tears that thy poor eyes let fall may run into that sink, and, soaking in, drown the lamenting fool in seeing’s salt tears!”
“Fie, brother, fie!” says Marcus. He can see his sister’s suffering, but not the deadly resolve it has engendered. “Teach her not thus to lay such violent hands upon her tender life!”
Titus replies with scorn. “How now?—has sorrow made thee dote already? Why, Marcus, no man should be reckless if not I!
“And what violent hands can she lay on her life?
“Wherefore dost thou urge the name of hands?—bid Aeneas tell the tale twice o’er how Troy was burnt, and he was made miserable! Oh, handle not thy theme by talking of hands, lest we remember that we two still have but one!”
Titus sees Marcus’s stricken look. “Fie, fie, how franticly I square in my talk!” he says to Lavinia. “As if we could forget we had no hands, if Marcus did not name the word hands.
“Come, let’s fall to; and, gentle girl, eat this.” He spoons up some gruel, which Lavinia chews, then swallows, but only with difficulty. She shakes her head at his offer of wine.
Says Titus, as his brother takes a seat, “Hark, Marcus, what she says: ‘Here is no drinking.’ I can interpret all her martyred signs; she says she drinks no other drink but tears, brewed with her sorrow, markèd down upon her cheeks!
“Speechless complainant, I will learn thy thought!—to thy silent action will I be as perfected as are begging hermits in their holy prayers! Thou shalt not sigh, nor hold thy stumps to heaven, nor blink, nor nod, nor kneel, nor make a sign, but I from these will wrest an alphabet, and by continual practise, learn to know thy meaning!”
Her obvious frustration upsets young Lucius. “Good grandsire, leave these bitter deep laments!” he says tearfully. “Make my aunt merry, with some pleasing tale!”
Marcus, cutting bread, smiles kindly. “Alas, the tender boy, in passion movèd, doth weep to see his grandsire’s heaviness.”
“Peace, tender sapling,” the warrior tells the lad sourly. “Thou art made of tears—and tears will quickly melt thy life away.”
Marcus, irked by the cynical comment to a child, smacks the haft down onto the table.
Titus sees his glare. “What dost thou strike at, Marcus, with thy knife?”
“At that which I have killed, my lord. A fly.” But his irritation is still apparent.
“Out on thee, murderer!—thou kill’st my heart!—mine eyes are cloyèd with views of tyranny! A deed of death done on the innocent becomes not Titus’ brother! Get thee gone! I see thou art not for my company!”
“Alas, my lord, I have but killed a fly.”
Titus’s gaze is steady, but whatever he sees—or remembers, now—is far away. “But what if that fly had a mother?—and father!”
He says, softly, “How he would hang his from slender, gilded wings, and buzz in the air, lamenting our doings….
“Poor harmless fly, that, with his pretty buzzing melody, came here to make us merry! And…”—his voice cracks, “thou hast killed him!”
“Pardon me, sir; it was a black, ill-favored fly,” says Marcus carefully, “like the empress’ Moor; therefore I killed him.” He wants to call Titus back from maudlin musing.
“Oh, oh, oh, then pardon me for reprehending thee, for thou hast done a charitable deed!” says Titus with sarcasm; he has never before been patronized. “Give me thy knife!—I will assault him—flattering myself that the Moor come hither purposely to poison me, as it were!” He grabs the knife and stabs at the air. “‘There’s for thyself, and that’s for Tamora! Hah! sirrah!’”
He drops the knife to the table. “I think we are not yet brought so low but that, between us, we cannot kill a fly that comes in likeness of a coal-black Moor.”
Alas, poor man! thinks Marcus, watching him. Grief has so wrought on him that he takes false shadows for true substances!
Titus soon summons the servants to the table. “Come, take away.
“Lavinia, walk with me. I’ll go to thy room, and read with thee sad stories of what chancèd in the times of old.” He smiles at his grandson. “Come, boy, and go with me! Thy sight is young, and thou shalt read when mine begin to dazzle.”
Outside, in the formal garden behind the tall building, young Lucius runs, still clutching three books, from the mansion—with Lavinia chasing him. He dashes, gasping for breath, up to Titus.
“Help, Grandsire, help! My Aunt Lavinia follows me everywhere, I know not why! Good Uncle Marcus, see how swiftly she comes!” He ducks behind the men. “Alas, sweet aunt, I know not what you mean!”
Marcus smiles. “Stand by me, Lucius; do not fear thine aunt.”
“She loves thee, boy!—too well to do thee harm,” Titus assures him.
“Aye,” says the banished lord’s son, “when my father was in Rome she did.”
Marcus sees the lady’s frantic demeanor, her rapid gestures toward the boy. “What means my niece Lavinia by these signs?”
“Fear her not, Lucius,” says Titus, as she draws her stumps toward herself, repeatedly, pleading for a book. “Something doth she mean—see, Lucius, see how much she makes of thee! Some whither would she have thee go with her.
“Ah, boy,” he says, remembering better times, “Cornelia never with more care read to her sons”—the Roman lady’s boys became famous as outspoken reformers, “sweet poetry, and Tully’s Orator, than Lavinia hath read to thee.”
But now she cannot speak, and Marcus thinks she wants someone to aloud read to her. He asks Lucius, “Canst thou not guess wherefore she plies thee thus?”
“My lord, I know not, I, nor can I guess!—unless some fit of frenzy do possess her!” says the child, setting the books on the grass. “For I have heard my grandsire say full oft that extremity of grief would make men mad; and I have read that Hecuba of Troy ran mad through sorrow! Although, my lord, I know my noble aunt loves me as dear as e’er my mother did, and would not, but in a fury, fright my youth, that which made me to throw down my books and fly made me to fear!
“Causeless, perhaps; but pardon me, sweet aunt! And, madam, if my Uncle Marcus do, I will most willingly attend Your Ladyship,” he says, tentatively coming forward.
Marcus kindly puts a hand on his shoulder. “Lucius, I will.”
But Lavinia is on her knees, now, beside them, jostling the volumes with the bandaged ends of her arms.
“How now, Lavinia?” says Titus. “Marcus, what means this? Some book is there that she desires to see….” He kneels and spreads them before her. “Which is it, girl, of these? Open them, boy.” He sees that two are children’s stories.
He rises, and tells Lavinia, “But thou art deeper read and better skilled! Come and take choice of all my library—and so beguile thy sorrow, till the heavens reveal the damnèd contriver of this deed!”
Titus frowns. “Why lifts she up her arms in sequence thus?”
Marcus watches her vigorous movements. “I think she means that there was more than one confederate in the crime! Aye, more there was… or else she heaves them for revenge!”
Lavinia nods to confirm both readings.
Titus watches her push open one volume and scrape aside some pages. “Lucius, what book is that she tosseth so?”
“Grandsire, ’tis Ovid’s Metamorphoses; my mother gave it me.”
“Perhaps she culled it from among the rest for love of her that’s gone,” says Marcus; the gentlewoman died two years ago.
“Soft! See how busily she turns the leaves! What would she find?” Titus helps her, turning the pages, and soon she taps the one she wants. “Lavinia, shall I read?
“This is the tragic tale of Philomel, and treats of Tereus’ treason and his rape—and rape, I fear, was root of thine anguish.”
“See, brother, see!” cries Marcus, as Lavinia jabs at the pages. “Note how she quotes the leaves!”
Titus asks: “Lavinia, wert thou thus seizèd, sweet girl?—ravished and wronged as Philomela was—forcèd in a ruthless, vast and gloomy woods?” He looks at the book’s picture. “See, see! Aye, there is such a place where we did hunt—oh, would we had never, never hunted there, patterned as was that which the poet here describes by nature: made for murders and for rapes!”
“Oh, why should Nature build so foul a den, unless the gods delight in tragedies?” murmurs Marcus, as Lavinia rises.
“Give signs, sweet girl,” pleads Titus, “for here are none but friends, what Roman lord it was durst do the deed! If slunk not Saturninus, as did erstwhile Tarquin to sin in Lucrece’s bed, who left the camp?”
Marcus moves to a stone bench. “Sit down, sweet niece. Brother, sit down by me. Apollo, Pallas, Jove or Mercury, inspire me, that I may this treason find!
“My lord, look here. Look here, Lavinia.” He points to bare ground in front of the bench. “This sandy plot is plain; guide, if thou canst, this, after me.” Holding one end of a slender garden pole in his mouth, he scratches on the ground by moving the other end, clamped between his boots. “I have writ my name—without the help of any hand at all!
“Cursèd be that heart that forced us to this shift,” he mutters, carefully positioning the pole for her. “Write thou, good niece!—and here display, at last, what God will have revealèd for revenge!
“Heaven guide thy pen to print thy sorrows plain, that we may know the traitors and the truth!”
With the bare wood gripped between her teeth, she guides the stick’s far end with her feet.
Marcus stares. “Oh, do ye read, my lord, what she hath writ! ‘Stuprum, Chiron Demetrius.’” Stuprum is a Latin word for rape.
“What?” cries Titus. “What?—the lustful sons of Tamora performers of this heinous, bloody deed!” He shouts to the sky: “Magni Dominator poli, tam lentus audis scelera, tam lentus vides?”—Great God of all, are you so slow to see wrongs, so slow to hear?
“Oh, calm thee, gentle lord!” says Marcus, “although I know enough is written there upon this earth to stir a mutiny in the mildest thoughts, and arm the minds of infants to exclaim!
“My lord, kneel down with me!” says the tribune. “Lavinia, kneel—and kneel, sweet boy, thou hero of Roman hope!—and swear with me!—as the woeful Lucius Junius Brutus,”—founder of Rome, “and the father of that chaste, dishonourèd dame swore for Lucrece’s rape—that with as good counsel we will prosecute mortal revenge upon these traitorous Goths!—and see their blood, or die with his reproach!”
Brutus led the revenge taken by Lucrece’s family, bringing about the Tarquin king’s expulsion and the founding the Roman Republic—deteriorated, now, into empire. Marcus wants the Andronici to rid their country of dictatorship and foreign infection.
But Titus shrugs. “’Tis sure enough—if you know how. But if you hunt these bear-whelps, their dam will wake—and if she once get wind of you, then beware! She’s with the lion still deeply in league, and lulls him whilst she playeth on her back”—calms him with sex. “Then, when he sleeps, she will do whatever she list! You are a young huntsman, Marcus. Let it alone.”
Says Titus, looking again at the scratched indictment, “Then come. I will go get a leaf of brass, and with a gad of steel will write these words, then lay it by. The angry northern wind will blow these sands abroad, like Sibyl’s leaves,”—the oracle’s spoken words, “and where’s your lesson, then?” He will make a lasting record of his family’s reason for revenge.
He smiles. “Boy, what say you?”
Lucius’s young son replies sternly: “I say, my lord, that if I were a man, their mother’s bed-chamber should not be safe for those bad bondman to the yoke of Rome!”—evil serfs.
Marcus is pleased. “Aye, that’s my boy! Thy father hath full oft for this ungrateful country done the like!”
“And, Uncle, so will I, an if I live!”
Titus motions them toward a door. “Come, go with me into mine armoury, Lucius. I’ll fit thee withal. My boy, you shalt carry from me to the empress’ sons presents that I intend to send them both. Come, come—thou’lt do thy message, wilt thou not?”
“Aye—with my dagger in their bosoms, Grandsire!”
“No, boy, not so. I’ll teach thee another course.” Once again himself, and a master of stratagem, he already has the beginning of a scheme. “Lavinia, come. Marcus, look to my house. Lucius and I’ll go brave it at the court.” He sees Marcus’s disapproval. “Aye, marry, we will, sir!—and we’ll be waited on!”
With the lady and the boy, the old gentleman goes to select weapons—for gifts.
Marcus fears that the soldier, in his proud fealty, is again yielding to Saturninus. He looks skyward. O heavens, can you hear the good man groan, and not relent?—or not impassion him?
Marcus, attend him in his reverie!—one who hath more scars of sorrow in his heart than foemen’s marks upon his battered shield!—but yet is so just that he will not revenge!
Revenge, ye heavens, for old Andronicus!
Within the palace, Aaron sits on a stone bench by a window, whetting the long, curved blade of his scimitar, and listening to Tamara’s sons squabble.
A servant enters, and speaks to Chiron, who tells his brother, “Demetrius, here’s the son of Lucius; he hath some message to deliver us.”
Aaron looks up. “Aye—some mad message from his mad grandfather!” It is widely reported in Rome that the old man now spends most of his days mired in impotent incoherence.
Lucius approaches the brothers and bows. “My lords, with all the humbleness I may, I greet Your Honours from Andronicus.” And pray the Roman gods confound you both!
“Gramercy, lovely Lucius,” says Demetrius. “What’s the news?”
The child is thinking, That you are both deciphered as villains!—marked with rape!—that’s the news! But he says: “May it please you, my grandsire, well advisèd, hath sent by me the goodliest weapons of his armoury to gratify your honourable youth—the hope of Rome!—for so he bade me say.” He sets two costly, polished-silver scabbards on a table.
“And so I do, and present Your Lordships with his gifts so that, whenever you have need, you may be armèd and appointed well! And so I’ll leave you both.” Like bloody villains! Young Lucius again bows, and he goes to tell Titus that his offering was accepted.
The princes extract the elegant swords, and examine their excellent steel.
Demetrius, slashing a blade through the air, stops to look again at its fine scabbard. “What’s here? A scroll and writing round about. Let’s see.” He unwraps it and reads aloud: “‘Integer vitae, scelerisque purus, non eget Mauri jaculis, nec arcus.’”
“Oh, ’tis a verse in Horace. I know it well,” says Chiron glibly. “I read it in a grammar long ago.” He does not offer its meaning, nor does his brother ask.
“Aye, just,” says Aaron dryly. “A verse in Horace; right, you have it!” The poet’s Latin line, he knows, is: “Righteous life, free of crime, needs not the Moor’s javelin or bow.”
He thinks, watching the two foppish ruffians, Now what a thing it is to be an ass! Here’s found no jest! The old man hath sounded their guilt!—and sends them weapons wrapped about with lines that, beyond their feeling, wound to the quick!
Were our witty empress well and afoot, she would applaud Andronicus’s gibe! But let her rest in her unrest awhile. Tamora has been indisposed for a week.
“And now, young lords, was’t not a happy star led us to Rome?—strangers, and more than so, captives—to be advancèd to this height!” He well remembers Lucius’s demand for sacrifice. “It did me good to brave the tribune!—in his brother’s hearing—before the palace gate!”
Demetrius is still waving a bright sword about. “But me more good, to see so great a lord basely obsequious, and sending us gifts!”
Aaron laughs. “Had he not reason, Lord Demetrius?—did you not use his daughter very friendly?”
Demetrius nods. “I would we had a thousand Roman dames at such a bay, to serve our lust by turns!”
His brother concurs heartily. “A charitable wish!—and full of love!”
“Here lacks but your mother, for to say Amen!”
“And that would she for twenty thousand more!” says Chiron.
“Come, let us go,” says Demetrius, “and pray to all the gods for our belovèd mother in her pains.”
Aaron returns to sharpening. Pray to the devils; the gods have given up on us.
Echoing down a long corridor comes a brief, triumphant sounding of horns. “Why do the emperor’s trumpets flourish thus?” asks Demetrius.
“Belike for joy the emperor hath a son,” says Chiron sourly; they would not relish the advent of a preferred rival.
“Soft! Who comes here?” says Demetrius.
A plump, middle-aged woman holding a small bundle rushes into the room. “Good morrow, lords!” She asks urgently, “Oh, tell me, did you see Aaron the Moor?”
He stands and comes to them. “Well, more or less,” he says, playing on Moor, “or ne’er a whit at all—here Aaron is! Then what with Aaron, now?”
“Oh, gentle Aaron, ye are all undone!” wails the nurse. “Now help!—or woe betide thee ever more!”
He frowns “Why, what a caterwauling dost thou keep! What dost thou wrap and fumble in thine arms?”
The nurse angrily shifts the wriggling blanket. “Oh, that which I would hide from heaven’s eye!—our empress’ shame, and stately Rome’s disgrace! She is delivered, lords; she is deliverèd!”
“I mean, she is brought a-bed!”
“Well, God give her good rest! What hath He sent her?”
He laughs. “Why then she is the Devil’s dam—a royal issue!” He has ruminated on the character of a child born to surly Saturninus and his wily empress.
“A joyless, dismal, bleak, and sorrowful issue!” cries the nurse. “Here is the babe—as loathsome as a toad amongst the fairest breeders of our clime! The empress sends it to thee—with thy stamp, thy seal!—and bids thee christen it with thy dagger’s point!”
“’Zounds, ye whore! Is black so base a hue? Sweet blowse, you are a beauteous blossom, sure!”
“Villain, what hast thou done?” demands Demetrius.
“That which thou canst not undo!” retorts Aaron.
Chiron stares. “Thou hast undone our mother!”
Aaron grins. “Villain, I have done thy mother.”
But Demetrius is frantic: “And therein, hellish dog, thou hast undone! Woe is her luck—and damnèd her loathèd choice! Accursèd be the offspring of so foul a fiend!”
“It shall not live!” cries Chiron.
Aaron is glaring. “It shall not die.”
“Aaron, it must,” says the nurse, “the mother wills it so!”
“What, must it, nurse?” he murmurs. “Then let no man but I do execution on my flesh and blood.”
“I’ll broach the tadpole on my rapier’s point!” cries Demetrius. “Nurse, give it me; my sword shall soon dispatch it!”
Aaron brandishes his scimitar. “Sooner shall this sword plough up thy bowels!”
He takes the child from the nurse, steps away, and—watching the others carefully—unwraps the top of the blanket. He smiles at the child’s face, then looks up. “Stay, murderous villains!—will you kill your brother?
“Now, by the burning tapers of the sky, that shone so brightly when this boy was begot, he dies upon my scimitar’s sharp point who touches this, my first-born son and heir!
“I tell you, younglings, not Enceladus, with all his threatening band of Typhon’s brood,”—the giant and his hundred-headed monsters, “nor great Hercules, nor the god of war, shall seize this prey out of his father’s hands!
“What, what?—unsanguine, shallow-hearted boys! Ye white-limed walls!—ye painted alehouse signs! Coal black is better than any other hue, in that it scorns to bear another hue!—for all the water in the ocean can never turn the swan’s black legs to white, though she lave them hourly in the flood!
“Tell the empress from me, I am of age to keep mine own! Excuse it how she can!”
Demetrius’s new sword is back in its sheath, but he is very perturbed. “Wilt thou betray thy noble mistress thus?”
Aaron shrugs. “My mistress is my mistress; this,” he says, holding up the infant, “myself!—the vigour and the picture of my youth! This before all the world do I prefer; this despite all the world will I keep safe—or some of you in Rome shall smoke for it!”—lose steaming blood.
“By this our mother is forever shamèd!” moans Demetrius.
“Rome will despise her for this foul departure!” says Chiron.
“The emperor in his rage will pronounce her death!” cries the nurse.
“I blush to think upon this ignominy!” groans Chiron.
“Well, there’s a privilege your beauty bears!” says Aaron. “Fie, treacherous hue, that will betray with blushing the secret acts and counsels of the heart!” He regards the baby. “Here’s a young lad framed of another leer! Look how the black slave smiles upon the father, as if to say, ‘Old lad, I am thine own!’
“He is your brother, lords—senses fed with that self-same blood that first gave life to you; and from that womb where you imprisoned were, he is enfranchisèd and come to light! Aye, although my seal be stampèd in his face, he is your brother by the surer side!”—the maternal.
The nurse is worried. “Aaron, what shall I say unto the empress?”
Demetrius now pleads. “Advise thee, Aaron, what is to be done, and we will all subscribe to thy advice! Save thou the child—so long as we may all be safe!”
“Then sit we down,” says Aaron, nodding, “and let us consult. My son and I will have the wind of you”—watch warily, he says still holding the scimitar. He waits until the other three have taken seats opposite him at the heavy table. “Keep there. Now talk at pleasure about your safety.”
Demetrius asks the nurse, “How many women saw this ‘child’ of his?”
Growls Aaron, “Why so, brave lord? When we join in league, I am a lamb—but if you brave the Moor, the chafèd boar, the mountain lioness, the ocean swells not so as Aaron storms!
“But say: again, how many saw the child?”
The nurse knows: “Cornelia the midwife and myself; and no one else but the deliverèd empress.”
“The empress, the midwife and yourself,” says Aaron, frowning. “Two may keep counsel—when the third’s away”—to tell, as is the nurse. “Go to the empress; tell her I said this….” He swings his blade up in a short arc, deftly cutting the startled nurse’s throat. He laughs, mimicking her dying gasps as she falls to the floor: “Wheak, wheak!—so cries a pig preparèd for the spit!”
Demetrius clambers away from the squirting blood—and the weapon. “What mean’st thou, Aaron! Wherefore didst thou this?”
“Oh, Lord, sir!”—a menial’s standard non-reply. Carefully wiping the blade clean on the nurse’s apron, the Moor explains: “’Tis a deed of policy. Shall she live to betray this ‘guilt’ of ours?—a long-tongued, babbling gossip? No, lords, no!
“And now be it known to you my full intent. Not far lives one Muliteus, my countryman. His wife but yesternight was brought to bed; his child is like to her—fair as you are!
“Go compact with him, and give the mother gold; tell them both the circumstance of all—and how by this their child shall be substituted in the place of mine!—be receivèd for the emperor’s heir and be advancèd, to keep this tempest from whirling in the court.
“Then let the emperor dandle him for his own!
“Hark ye, lords.” His blade points at the nurse. “Ye see I have given her the purgative—but you must needs bestow her funeral. The fields are near, and you are gallant grooms”—stable hands.
The princes smart at the insult, but dare make no reply.
“That done,” says Aaron, “see that you take no long delay, but immediately send the midwife to me! The midwife and the nurse well made away, then let the ladies tattle what they please.”
Chiron does admire ruthlessness. “Aaron, I see thou wilt not trust the air with secrets!”
Says Demetrius, “For this care of Tamora, herself and hers are highly bound to thee!”
He and Chiron carry the corpse out to the wooded grounds for the first hasty burial.
Aaron holds his son, and thinks ahead.
Now secretly to the Goths, as swift as swallow flies!—there to repose this treasure in mine arms, and to greet the empress’ friends.
Come on, you thick-lipped slave, I’ll bear you hence.
Because it is you that puts us to our shifts, —compel flight from wealth— I’ll cabin you in a cave, make you food of berries and roots, feed you curds and whey, and suckle you on the goat—and bring you up to be a warrior, and to command a camp!
Standing at a scarred-pine table outside the back of his huge house this evening, Titus has been writing small notes that plead for help from the gods. At the general’s request, Marcus’s grown son Publius has brought here several other gentlemen, all relatives.
Marcus and his nephew’s boy Lucius carry bows made of tough yew, and on the table are arrows—the shaft of each wrapped with a message, a strip of paper fastened on with wax.
“Come, Marcus; come, kinsmen! This is the way!” calls Titus. He claps young Lucius on the shoulder. “Sir Boy, now let me see your archery! Look ye, draw back far enough, and ’tis there straight!”—soon delivered. “Terras Astraea reliquit!”—Astraea, goddess of justice, has relinquished the earth. “Be you remembered, Marcus: she’s gone, she’s fled!” he cries.
The tribune and Publius exchange looks; lately Titus has raved on to any who will listen about his search, conspicuous but futile, for Justice.
“Sirs, take you to your tools!” calls Titus, to those conscripted as archers.
“You, cousins,” he tells the other visitors, “shall go sound the ocean and cast your nets!—haply you may catch her in the sea!” He frowns. “Yet there is as little justice as on land….
“No, Publius and Sempronius, you must do it: ’tis you must dig with mattock and with spade, and pierce the inmost centre of the earth!
“Then when you come to Pluto’s region,”—the underworld, “I pray you deliver him this petition,” he says, handing Publius one of his longer notes. “Tell him it is to Justice—and for aid—and that it comes from old Andronicus, shaken with sorrows in ungrateful Rome!”
Titus looks around, sadly. “Ah, Rome.” Well, well; I made thee miserable when I threw the people’s suffrages on him that thus doth tyrannize o’er me.
Accusing the state is a capital offense; praying to a goddess is an act of piety. And if the gods don’t receive his notes, mortals on the ground can read them—and will talk about them. Some retribution has already begun: under Saturninus’s vicious dominion, Romans have come to realize that the old soldier’s strident pleas, though lawful, are hopeless. Ever more fearful, citizens avoid being seen with Titus.
“Go, get you gone,” he tells those who are to seek out Astraea at sea, “and pray take care, all, to leave not a man-of-war unsearchèd!” He whispers conspiratorially: “This wicked emperor may have shipped her hence—and, kinsmen, there we may go pipe for Justice!”
He goes to sit at the table; again he writes, as the others watch and wait.
“Oh, Publius,” says Marcus quietly, “is not this a heavy case?—to see thy noble uncle thus distract!”
His son nods. “And therefore, my lord, it highly concerns us to attend him carefully, by day and night, and feed his mood kindly as we may, till cureful time beget some remedy!”
Now the tribune tells them, “Kinsmen, his sorrows are past remedy. Join with the Goths, and wreak revengeful war upon Rome for its ingratitude!—and vengeance on the traitor Saturninus!”
Titus returns to them with more notes. “Publius, how now? How now, my masters?” He looks eagerly from face to face. “What—have you met with her?”
“No, my good lord,” says Publius. “But Pluto sends you word: if you will have revenge from Hell, you shall!
“Marry, as for Justice,” he says, with a side glance at Marcus, “she is so employèd, he thinks, with Jove in heaven, or somewhere else, that perforce you must needs wait a while….”
Titus frowns. “He doth me wrong to feed me with delays! I’ll dive into the burning lake below, and pull her out of Acheron by the heels!”
He wags his head in frustration. “Marcus, we are but shrubs, no cedars we, no big-bonèd men framed of the Cyclops’ size…
“—but mettle, Marcus: steel at the very back!…
“—yet wrung with more wrongs than our backs can bear.
“And, sith there’s no justice on earth nor in hell, we will solicit heaven, and move the gods to send down Justice to wreak for our wrongs!
“Come, to this gear!” He gives the men message-laden arrows. “You are a good archer, Marcus! Ad Jovem,” he says, noting how the first is addressed, “that’s for you! Here, Ad Apollinem.” He finds the one for Mars, god of war. “Ad Martem—that’s for myself!
“Here, boy, to Pallas; here, to Mercury! To Saturn, Caius—not to Saturninus!—you were as good to shoot against the wind!
“To it, boy! Marcus, loose when I bid! On my word, I have written to effect!—there’s not a god left unsolicited!” He steps away to watch the arrows’ upward flight.
- Marcus privately advises the others: “Kinsmen, shoot all your shafts into the court! We will afflict the emperor in his pride!”
“Now, masters, draw!” commands Titus. They notch the arrows, tug back the strings, and, at his command, send the messages aloft—arcing toward the palace. “Oh, well said, Lucius! Good boy!—in Virgo’s lap! Give it to Pallas!”—Athena is also the goddess of war.
Marcus, knowing where the messages are falling, hears palace, but he assures the old man: “My lord, I aimed a mile beyond the moon! Your letter is with Jupiter by now!” Jupiter rules the gods of Rome.
Titus watches as the arrows fall. “Publius, Publius!” he cries, “what hast thou done? See, see!—thou hast shot off one of Taurus’s horns!”—a star in the bull-shaped constellation. The notes were meant to inflame the city’s populace, and they have; but now the court will be alerted—and provoked.
Marcus, indulging delirium, seems jocund. “That was the sport, my lord! When Publius shot, the bull, being gallèd, gave nearby Aries such a knock that both of the ram’s horns fell down into the court!
“And who should find them but the villain empress! She laughed!—and told the Moor he could not choose but give them to his master as a present!”
“Well, there it goes,” says Titus. “God give his lordship joy in them.” The game he hunts is being flushed from cover.
A man is coming up the lane from the general’s stable; he carries a wicker cage containing two pigeons.
“News, news from heaven!” cries Titus upon seeing the birds—the kind, he seems to be thinking, that when released from afar, carry home small, rolled messages tied to their legs. “Marcus, the post is come!
“Sirrah, what tidings?” asks Titus, running to meet the fellow. “Have you any letters? Shall I have justice? What says Jupiter?”
The unfamiliar name puzzles the groom for a moment. “Oh, the gibbet-maker!—he says that he hath taken them down again, for a man must not be hanged ’till ‘the next week’”—a legal phrase cited, wryly, by the condemned: next week is always a week away.
“But what says Jupiter, I ask thee!”
“Alas, sir, I know not Jubider. I never drank with him in all my life.”
Titus stares, blinking. “Why, villain, art not thou the carrier?”
“Aye, of my pigeons, sir; nothing else.”
Titus seems surprised. “Why—didst thou not come from heaven?”
“From heaven! Alas, sir, I never went there!—God forbid I should be so bold as to press on to heaven in my young days!
“Why, I am going with my pigeons to the tribunal plebes,”—the tribunes, commoners who serve as magistrates, “to take up the matter of a brawl betwixt my uncle and one of the emperial’s men.” The tasty birds are to be delivered as the customary bribe.
Marcus offers Titus an idea: “Why, sir, that is as fit as can be to serve for your oration! Let him deliver the pigeons to the emperor from you!” He hopes to keep the enfeebled gentleman from confronting Saturninus.
Titus looks at the stable hand dubiously. “Tell me, can you deliver an oration to the emperor with grace?”
“Nay, truly, sir, I could never say grace in all my life!” The man’s meager diet is eaten without ceremony.
Titus has decided. “Sirrah, come hither! Make no more ado, but give your pigeons to the emperor! Through me, thou shalt have justice at his hands!
“Hold, hold,” he says, before any question arises. “Meanwhile, here’s money for these duties!” The silver coins equal the man’s wages for about two years. “Give me pen and ink!” At the table, Titus writes. He asks the servant, “Sirrah, can you with grace deliver a supplication?”
“Aye, sir!” says he, staring at the money in his hand; whatever the thing may be, he will carry it to the ruler.
“Then here is a supplication for you. And when you come to him, at the first approach you must kneel, then kiss his foot! Then deliver up your pigeons, and look for your reward.
“I’ll be at hand, sir. See that you do it bravely!”
“I warrant you, sir!” the man tells the general.
“Sirrah, hast thou a knife? Come, let me see it. Here, Marcus, fold it within the oration.” He tells the lowly courier, “For thou must make it like an humble supplicant! And when thou hast given it to the emperor,” he tells the man, “knock at my door, and tell me what he says.”
“God be with you, sir; I will!”
Titus heads inside to make some preparations; he expects to hear from Saturninus—soon. “Come, Marcus, let us go. Publius, follow me.”
With the caged pigeons slung on his back, the delighted messenger hurries toward the palace, eager to gain further riches.
Her Sons Discovered
Saturninus rages to his courtiers. “Why, lords, what wrongs are these!” he cries, shaking a fistful of Titus’s little notes. “Was ever seen an emperor in Rome thus overborne, troubled—confronted thus?—and, for extending equal justice, used with such contempt?” He knows that similar missives have been found throughout the capital.
He had welcomed his contentious brother’s death, and he quickly used the opportunity to execute, in apparent indignation, two of the proud Andronici; he hadn’t even waited to enjoy seeing them tortured much.
“My lords, you know—the righteous gods know!—however these disturbers of our peace may buzz in the people’s ears, there hath passèd nought but what was even with law against the willful sons of old Andronicus!
“And what if his sorrows have so overwhelmed his wits?—shall we be thus afflicted in his wreck—his fits, his frenzy, and his bitterness?
“And now he writes to heaven for his redress! See!—here’s to Jove, and this to Mercury, this to Apollo, this to the god of war—sweet scrolls to fly about the streets of Rome!” he says angrily. “What’s this but libelling against the Senate, blazoning out ‘injustice’ everywhere?
“A goodly notion, is it not, my lords?” he snarls, flinging away the notes. “As if to say in Rome were no justice!” That argument, he knows—as do the legislators—now rings true with many. “But if I live, his feignèd fantasies shall be no shelter to these outrages, and he and his shall know that justice lives—in Saturninus’ hell!—which, if asleep, he’ll awake, and in fury shall cut off the proud’st conspirator that lives!”
Tamora puts down the arrow she has been examining, and strokes his arm. “My gracious lord—my lovely Saturninus, lord of my life, commander of my thoughts!—calm thee, and bear the faults of Titus’ age, the effects of sorrow over his valiant sons, whose loss hath pierced him deep, and scarred his heart! And, rather than prosecute as thou meanest for these contempts, best comfort his distressèd plight!”
The empress thinks her husband’s response, typically abrupt and harsh, would make matters even worse, politically, among the nobility. Thus shall it well become high-witted Tamora to gloss over withal. But, Titus, I have touched thee to the quick!—spilled thy life-blood out! she thinks, gloating.
If Aaron now be wise, then all is safe! The anchor’s in the port! The palace, celebrating the substitute infant’s arrival, was surprised to learn that Aaron had departed—probably, it is thought, to return to his home land.
Still, she knows that Andronicus must be dealt with, soon.
The royal attendants have admitted a laborer who brings a request for the emperor.
“How now, good fellow,” says Tamora. “Wouldst thou speak with us?”
“Yea, forsooth, if Your Mistress-ship be emperial.”
“Empress I am, but yonder sits the emperor.”
“’Tis he!” says the stable man in awe. “God and Saint Stephen give you ‘Good-day!’” he tells Saturninus. “I have brought you a letter, and a couple of pigeons, here!”
Saturninus unfolds the paper—and finds a knife. “Go,” he tells the guards, “take him away, and hang him instantly!”
The servant is confused. “How much money am I to have?”
Tamora tells him coldly, “Come, sirrah, you must be hanged.”
“Hanged! By’r Lady, then I have brought up a-neck at the far end!”—finished his race.
Saturninus is again stewing about Titus. “Despiteful and intolerable wrongs! Shall I endure this monstrous villainy? May this be borne?—as if his traitorous sons, who died by law for murder of our brother, have by my means been butchered wrongfully! Neither age nor honour shall shield license!
“I know from whence this same device proceeds! Go!—drag the villain thither by the hair!” Two of the emperor’s guards haul away the poor man and his shaken birds.
Tamora listens, prudently silent, as Saturninus fulminates against Andronicus.
“For this proud mock I’ll be thy slaughterman, sly, frantic wretch!—who helped to make me great in hope thyself should govern Rome—and me!”
He is still ruminating darkly when an agitated old nobleman hurries to him, and bows. “What news with thee, Emillius?”
“Arm, arm, my lord!—Rome never had more cause!” cries the silver-haired senator. “The Goths have gathered head!—and with a power of high-resolvèd men bent to despoil they hither march amain!—under conduct of Lucius, son to old Andronicus!—and who in the course of this revenge bids to do as much as ever Coriolanus did threaten!” That arrogant general of old, banished by Rome, joined an enemy to return, seize territory, and besiege the capital.
Saturninus is stunned. “Is warlike Lucius general of the Goths?” He paces. “These tidings nip me, and hang the head as flowers’ bitten with frost, or grass beat down by storms! Ay, now begin our sorrows to approach!
“’Tis he the common people love so much! Myself hath often overheard them say, when I have walkèd like a private man,”—in disguise, “that his banishment was wrongful—and they have wished that Lucius were their emperor!”
“Why should you fear?” asks Tamora. “Is not your city strong?”
“Aye, but the citizens favor Lucius!—and will revolt from me to succor him!”
Tamora faces him. “Emperor, be thy thoughts imperious like thy name!
“Is the sun dimmed, that gnats do fly in its light? The eagle suffers little birds to sing—and cares not what they mean thereby, knowing that with the shadow of his wings he can at pleasure stint their melody! Even so mayst thou the giddy men of Rome!”
He is ready to listen.
“Then cheer thy spirit!” she tells him, smiling confidently. “For know thou, emperor, I will enchant the old Andronicus with words most sweet—and yet more dangerous than baits to fish or honey-stalks”—clover—“to sheep, when the one is wounded by the hook, the other fatted with delicious feed!”—readied for slaughter.
Saturninus scowls. “But he will not entreat his son for us!” Lucius—an excellent, experienced commander, and one who knows Rome’s weaknesses—is the greater threat.
“If Tamora entreat him, then he will! For I can soothe—and fill his agèd ears with such golden promises that, were his heart almost impregnable, his old ears deaf, yet should both ear and heart obey my tongue!”
She turns to Lord Emillius. “Go thou before; be our ambassador. Say that the emperor requests a parley with warlike Lucius, and appoint the meeting even at his father’s house, old Andronicus’s estate.”
The emperor agrees. “Emillius, do this message honourably. And if he insist on a hostage for his safety, bid him demand what pledge will please him best.”
Emillius bows. “Your bidding shall I do effectually.” He goes to meet with the banished Lord Lucius, who is returning with a fierce army of new allies.
Tamora assures Saturninus, smoothly, “And I will go to old Andronicus and temper him, with all the art I have, to pluck proud Lucius from the warlike Goths!
“And now, sweet emperor, be blithe again!—and bury all thy fear in my devices….”
But the burly man, worried, disdains the sensual offer. He turns away. “Then go and plead—suck-cessfully—to him!”
To the environs of Rome, Lord Lucius has lead an army combined under the colors of several Goth factions. This morning their trumpets sound, and the captains meet with him in preparation for besieging the capital.
“Approvèd warriors—and my faithful friends,” he tells them, “I have received letters from great Romans which signify what hate they bear their emperor, and how desirous of our sight they are! Therefore, great lords, be, as your titles witness, imperious, and adamant about your wrongs! And wherein Rome hath done you any scath, let him”—Saturninus—“make treble satisfaction!”
The Goths’ chief, a massive, grizzled warrior, respects the younger man. “Brave slip!—sprung from the great Andronicus, whose name was once our terror, now our comfort—whose high exploits and honourable deeds ingrateful Rome requites with foul contempt—be bold in us!
“We’ll follow where thou lead’st like swarming bees, led by their master to the flowered fields on summer’s hottest day, and be avenged on cursèd Tamora!”
The other officers well remember wrongs inflicted upon them by their queen; and, further aggrieved by the losses they suffered while following her, they concur—loudly. “As he saith, so say we all with him!” cries the eldest.
“I humbly thank him, and I thank you all!” says Lucius. Their assault against a city already verging on revolt may well succeed. “But who comes here, led by a lusty Goth?” he asks, as a tall warrior, with his sword drawn, prods forward an Ethiopian. Aaron is carrying his infant son.
“Renownèd Lucius,” says the soldier, “from our troop I strayed, to gaze upon a ruinous monastery; and, as I earnestly did fix mine eye upon the wasted building, suddenly I heard a child cry beyond a wall!
“I made unto the noise, and soon I heard the crying babe, controllèd with this discourse: ‘Peace, tawny slave, half me and half thy dam! Did not thy hue bewray whose brat thou art—had Nature lent thee but thy mother’s look—villain, thou mightst have been an emperor!
“‘But where the bull and cow are both milk-white, they never do beget a coal-black calf!
“‘Peace, villain, peace!’—even thus he berated the babe—‘for I must bear thee to a trusty Goth who, when he knows thou art the empress’ babe, will hold thee dearly for thy mother’s sake.’
“With this my weapon drawn, I rushed upon him suddenly, seized him, and brought him hither—to use as you think needful of the man.”
“O worthy Goth!” cries Lucius. “This is the incarnate devil that robbed Andronicus of his good hand! This is the pearl that pleased your empress’ eye!—and here’s the base fruit of his burning lust!
“Say, wall-eyed slave: whither wouldst thou convey this growing image of thy fiend-like face?” But Aaron stands silent. “Why dost not speak? What, deaf? Not a word?
“A halter, soldiers!—hang him on this tree!—and by his side this fruit of bastardy!”
“Touch not the boy,” demands Aaron, “he is of royal blood!”
Lucius sneers. “Too like the sire ever to be good! First hang the child, so that he may see it sprawled!—a sight to vex a father’s soul withal! Get me a ladder!”
A rope is tied around Aaron’s neck, and its other end is thrown over a limb of the tree. At sword-point he is compelled to ascend the soldiers’ scaling ladder. The line is pulled taut over a limb above him, then tied below.
“Lucius, save the child, and bear it from me to the empress,” says Aaron. “If thou do that, I’ll show thee wondrous things it may advantage thee highly to hear! If thou wilt not, befall what may befall, I’ll say no more than ‘Vengeance rot you all!’”
Lucius considers; the empress will not welcome this infant. “Say on. And if it please me which thou speak’st, thy child shall live, and I will see it nourishèd.”
Aaron laughs. “If it please thee!—I assure thee, Lucius, ’twill vex thy soul to hear what I shall speak!—for I must talk of murders, rapes and massacres, acts of black night, abominable deeds, complots of mischief, treason!—villainies rueful to hear, yet pitilessly performèd!
“But this shall all be buried by my death, unless thou swear to me my child shall live!”
“Tell on thy mind—I say thy child shall live.”
“Swear that he shall, and then I will begin.”
Now Lucius laughs. “Whom should I swear by? Thou believest in no god! That granted, how canst thou believe an oath?”
“What if I do not?—as, indeed, I do not. Yet, because I know thou art religious, and hast a thing within thee callèd conscience—along with twenty popish emblems, and ceremonies which I have seen thee careful to observe—therefore I urge thine oath. I know an idiot holds his bauble”—fetish—“for a god—and keeps the oath which by that god he swears; to that I’ll urge him.
“Therefore thou shalt vow by that same god—what god soe’er it be, that thou adorest and hast in reverence—to save my boy, to nourish and bring him up!—or else I will reveal nought to thee!”
Lucius already knows or suspects what evils have been done; but, influenced by the words of a Nazarene prophet, he thinks for a moment. He looks up at the helpless man, a prisoner of vengeance, and chooses to free himself. “Even by my God, I swear to thee I will.”
Aaron regards him with confirmed contempt. “First know thou, I begot him on the empress!”
Lucius is disgusted. “Oh, most insatiate and sybaritic woman!”
“Lucius, that was but a deed of charity, compared to that which thou shalt hear of me anon!
“’Twas her two sons that murdered Bassianus! They cut thy sister’s tongue, and ravished her, then cut her hands—trimmed her as thou saw’st!”
For a moment, Lucius gapes. “O detestable villain!—call’st thou that trimming?”
“Well, she was washed and cut and trimmed!”—as in dressing fish for cooking. “And ’twas trim sport for them that had the doing of it!”
“Oh, barbarous, beastly villains—like thyself!”
Aaron looks down on him. “Indeed!—I was their tutor, instructing them! That cocking spirit they had from their mother—as sure a card as ever won a hand! That bloody mind, I think, they learned from me, as true a dog as ever fought with ’s head!
“Why, let my deeds be witness to my worth: I tricked thy brethren to that guileful hole where the corpse of dead Bassianus lay! I wrote the letter that thy father found, and hid the gold cited within the letter, confederated with the queen and her two sons!”
Aaron laughs, despite the tight noose’s chafing. “Then what is it wherein thou hast cause to rue that I had no stroke of mischief in?
“I played the cheater for thy father’s hand! And when I had it, drew myself apart and almost broke my heart—with extreme laughter!
“I pride me that, when for his hand he got his two sons’ heads, l through the crevice of a wall beheld his tears!—and laughed so heartily that both mine eyes were rainy like his!
“And when I told the empress of this sport, she almost swoonèd at my pleasing tale—and for my tidings gave me twenty kisses!”
Even the tough old Goth is sickened. “What?—canst thou say all this and never blush?”
Aaron spits at his former ally. “Aye—like a black dog, as the saying goes!”
Lucius asks, “Art thou not sorry for these heinous deeds?”
“Aye—that I had not done a thousand more! Even now I curse any day—although I think, few come within the compass of my curse!—wherein I did not some notorious ill—such as kill a man, or else devise his death; ravish a maid, or plot the way to do it; accuse some innocent, and forswear myself; set deadly enmity between two friends; make poor men’s cattle break their necks; set fire to barns and hay-stacks in the night!—and bid the owners quench them with their tears!
“Oft have I diggèd up dead men from their graves, and set them upright at their dear friends’ doors, just when their sorrows were almost forgot!—and on their skins, as on the bark of trees, have with my knife carvèd in Roman letters, ‘Let not your sorrow die, though I am dead!’
“I have done a thousand dreadful things as willingly as one would kill a fly, and indeed nothing grieves me heartily but that I cannot do ten thousand more!”
Lucius realizes that Aaron is trying to provoke a swift execution. “Bring down the devil; for he must not die so sweet a death as hanging immediately.”
Aaron is furious: “If there be devils, would I were a devil, living and burning in everlasting fire, if only I might have your company in hell—to torment you with my bitter tongue!”
Lucius motions to the soldiers bringing him down. “Sirs, stop his mouth, and let him speak no more.” They untie the noose, and gag the prisoner. Aaron is led away in shackles.
A Goth captain comes to Lucius. “My lord, there is a messenger from Rome desires to be admitted to your presence.”
“Let him come near.” He sees a nobleman he knows. “Welcome, Emillius! What’s the news from Rome?”
The emissary bows. “Lord Lucius, and you princes of the Goths, the Roman emperor greets you all by me! And, as he understands you are in arms, he craves a parley at your father’s house, willing you to demand your hostages; they shall be immediately deliverèd.”
The big Goth looks to the exile. “What says our general?”
Slowly, Lucius nods. “Emillius, let the emperor give his pledges unto my father and my uncle Marcus, and we will come.”
He speaks to the captains, and they return to their troops, already encamped in positions facing the city, to wait for word.
Lucius specifies terms to Lord Emillius for the meeting at Rome between potentate and avenger.
Visitors have crept up to one side of Titus Andronicus’s mansion this afternoon—a woman and two young men, their faces darkened with stain, and all in outlandish black clothes and hats. They have heard much about the retired general’s distraction, and the eccentric manifestations of his anger and pain.
“Thus—in this strange and sad habiliment—I will encounter with Andronicus,” Tamora tells her sons, “and say I am Revenge!—sent from below to join with him, and right his heinous wrongs!” She almost laughs at the old man—and intends to torture and dement him further.
“Knock at his study,” she says, “where they say he keeps to ruminate strange plots of dire revenge; tell him Revenge is come to join with him, and work destruction on his enemies!”
Demetrius raps, slowly and loudly, three times.
After a moment, Titus comes to open a second-story window. “Who doth molest my contemplation?” He looks down, eyes searching the shadows below. “Is it your trick to make me ope the door?—so that my sad decrees may fly away, and all my study be to no effect! You are deceivèd!—for see here: what I mean to do, in bloody lines I have set down!” He shakes several sheets in his one hand. “And what is written shall be executed!”
The female speaks gravely: “Titus, I am come to talk with thee—”
“No, not a word! How can I grace my talk, lacking a hand to give it action? Thou hast the odds on me,” he tells the three. “Therefore no more!”
“If thou didst know me, thou wouldst talk with me!”
“I am not mad; I know thee well enough!” He raises an arm. “Witness: this wretched stump! Witness: these crimson lines!”—the notes written with blood. He points to his wrinkled face. “These trenches made by grief and care witness the tiring day and heavy night!
“Witness all sorrows that I know thee well for our proud empress, mighty Tamora!
“Is not thy coming for my other hand?” he wails.
“Know, thou sad man, I am not Tamora!—she is thine enemy, and I thy friend!
“I am Revenge!—sent from the infernal kingdom to ease the gnawing vulture of thy mind by working wreakful vengeance on thy foes!
“Come down, and welcome me to this world’s light; confer with me on murder and death!
“There’s not a hollow cave or lurking-place, no vast obscurity or misty vale, where bloody Murder or detested Rape can crouch in fear but I will find them out!—and in their ears tell them my dreadful name—Revenge!—which makes the foul offender quake!”
The old man peers down at the fell figures—considering, now, it seems. “Art thou Revenge?” he asks, hopefully. “And art thou sent to me to be a torment to mine enemies?”
“I am! Therefore come down and welcome me!”
Titus studies the three. “Do me some service, ere I come to thee,” he tells the speaker. “Lo, where Rape and Murder stand by thy side; now give me some assurance that thou art Revenge: stab them! Or tear them on thy chariot wheels!—and then I’ll come and be thy waggoner, and whirl along with thee about the globe!
“Provide thee with two proper palfreys,”—horses, “black as jet, to pull thy vengeful waggon swift away, and seek out murderers in their guilty caves! And when thy cart is loaden with their heads, I will dismount, and by the waggon-wheel trot like a servile footman all day long, even from Hyperion’s rising in the east until his very downfall in the sea!
“And day by day I’ll do this heavy task!—if thou destroy Rapine and Murder, there.”
The demoniac female protests: “These are my ministers, and come with me!”
“Are these thy ministers? What are they called?”
“Rapine and Murder—therefore callèd because they take vengeance on such kind of men!”
Titus stares, blinking, and rubs his forehead. “Good Lord, how like the empress’ sons they are!—and you the empress….”
He whimpers, “But we worldly men have miserable, mad, mistaking eyes….”
He appears to decide. “O sweet Revenge, now do I come to thee!—and if one arm’s embracement will content thee, I will embrace thee in it by and by!” With that he hurries away from the window.
Tamora laughs. “Thus closing with him fits his lunacy! Whate’er I forge to feed his brain-sick fits,” she tells the boys, “do you uphold and maintain in your speeches!
“For now he firmly takes me for Revenge; and I’ll make him, being credulous in this mad thought, send for Lucius, his son! Then, whilst I at the banquet hold him sure, out of hand I’ll find some cunning practise to scatter and disperse the giddy Goths!—or, at the least, make them his enemies!
“See, here he comes!—and I must ply my theme….”
Titus opens the door, and gleefully joins the grim-looking trio. “Long have I been forlorn—and all for thee! Well come, dread Fury, to my woeful house! Rapine and Murder, you are well come too!
“How like the empress and her sons you are; well were you fitted had you but a Moor!—could not all Hell afford you such a devil? For, well I know, the empress never wags but in her company there is a Moor—and, would you represent our queen aright, it were appropriate you had such a devil.
“But welcome as you are! What shall we do?”
“What wouldst thou have us do, Andronicus?” asks Tamora.
Says Demetrius eagerly, “Show me a murderer! I’ll deal with him!”
“And show me a villain that hath done a rape,” says Chiron. “I am sent to be revenged on him!”
“Show me a thousand that have done thee wrong,” cries Tamora, “and I will be revengèd on them all!”
Titus rubs his hands together happily in anticipation. “Look round about the wicked streets of Rome; and when thou find’st a man that’s like thyself, good Murder, stab him!—he’s a murderer!
“Go thou with him,” he tells the other specter, “and when it is thy hap to find another that is like to thee, good Rapine, stab him!—he’s a ravisher!
“Go thou with them, then,” he tells Tamora. “In the emperor’s court there is a queen attended by a Moor; well mayst thou know her by thine own proportion, for up and down she doth resemble thee! I pray thee, do on them some violent death! They have been violent to me and mine.”
She nods. “Well hast thou lessoned us; this shall we do!” Her smile is charming. “But would it please thee, good Andronicus, to send for Lucius, thy thrice-valiant son, who leads towards Rome a band of warlike Goths, and bid him come and banquet at thy house?
“When he is here, even at thy solemn feast I will bring in the empress and her sons, the emperor himself, and all thy foes!—and at thy mercy shalt they stoop and kneel!—and on them shalt thou ease thine angry heart!
“What says Andronicus to this device?”
Exuberant with delight, he turns back to the open door. “Marcus, my brother!—’tis sad Titus calls! Go, gentle Marcus, to thy nephew Lucius!—thou shalt inquire him out among the Goths. Bid him repair to me, and bring with him some of the chiefest princes of the Goths!
“Bid him encamp his soldiers where they are. Tell him the emperor, and the empress, too, feast at my house!—and he shall feast with them!
“This do thou for my love—and so let him, as he regards his agèd father’s life!”
They can hear, from inside, the reply: “This will I do, and soon return again!”
“Now will I hence about thy business,” Tamora tells Titus, “and take my ministers along with me.”
But the old gentleman craves company. “Nay, nay, let Rape and Murder stay with me!” He pouts: “Or else I’ll call my brother back again, and cleave to no revenge but by Lucius.”
Tamora moves aside to confer with her sons in whispers. “What say you, boys? Will you bide with him whiles I go tell my lord the emperor how I have governed our determinèd jest? Yield to his mood, smooth and speak him fair, and tarry with him till I return.”
Titus watches, smiling benignly; but he is thinking. I know them all, though they suppose me mad, and will o’erreach them in their own device!—a pair of cursèd hell-hounds and their dam!
Says Demetrius, with his customary cockiness, “Madam, depart at pleasure; leave us here.”
Tamora waves gaily. “Farewell, Andronicus! Revenge now goes to lay a complot to betray thy foes!”
Calls Titus as she goes, “I know thou dost—and, sweet Revenge, fare well!”
His mother has gone, and Chiron is already bored with the prank. “Tell us, old man: how shall we be employed?”
“I have work enough for you to do,” Titus tells him, and calls into the house: “Publius! Come hither, Caius, and Valentine!” Three men immediately emerge from the house—swords drawn.
“What is your will?” asks Publius, as they surround the dark duo.
“Know you these two?”
“The empress’ sons, I take them,” says Publius. “Chiron and Demetrius.”
Titus laughs. “Fie, Publius, fie! Thou art too much deceivèd—the one is Murder; Rape is the other’s name—and therefore bind them, gentle Publius!” As Caius and Valentine hold rapier-points to the scoundrels’ throats, Publius ties their hands behind them.
“Oft have you heard me wish for such an hour, and now I find it,” Titus tells his kinsmen. “Therefore bind them sure—and stop their mouths, if they begin to cry out.” He goes into the house to arrange for Tamora’s banquet.
“Villains, forbear!” demands Chiron indignantly. “We are the empress’ sons!”
“And therefore do we what we are commanded,” says Publius. “Stop close their mouths!—let them not speak a word,” he tells the others, who cram in cloths. “Is he sure-bound? Look that you bind them fast!”
After a moment, Titus returns, bearing a long knife. His daughter comes with him; cradled in her truncated arms she carries a basin. He stands beside the two. “Come, come, Lavinia! Look!—thy foes are bound!”
The youths’ cries are muffled as they stare, wide-eyed in horror, at their victim.
Titus frowns. “Sirs, stop their mouths! Let them not speak to me—but let them hear what fearful words I utter!”
Publius knocks off their black hats, and with his left hand steadies each head while his right fist rams the clumps of cloth further into mouths left bloody.
Titus move before them. “O villains! Chiron and Demetrius, here stands the spring whom you have stained with mud, this goodly summer with your winter mixèd! You killed her husband, and for that vile crime, two of her brothers were condemned to death!—my hand cut off and made a merry jest!
“Both her sweet hands, her tongue—and more dear than hands or tongue, her spotless chastity!—inhuman traitors, that you constrained and forcèd!”
He watches them struggling, terrified—and he laughs, angrily. “What would you say, if I should let you speak? Villains in shame, you could not beg for grace!
“Hark, wretches, how I mean to murder you.” He holds the gleaming blade before their faces. “This one hand yet is left to cut your throats, whilst Lavinia ’tween her stumps doth hold the basin that receives your guilty blood!”
At his nod, the criminals are forced to their knees.
“You know your mother means to feast with me—calls herself ‘Revenge,’ and thinks me mad! Hark, villains: I will grind your bones into dust!—and with it and your blood I’ll make a pastry!—and of the pastry, a crust I will shape to make two pies of your shameful heads!—and bid that strumpet your unhallowèd dam to swallow, like the earth, her own increase!
“This is the feast that I have bidden her to, and this the banquet she shall surfeit on! For you used my daughter worse than Philomel! Then worse than Procne”—Philomela’s sister—“will I be revengèd!
“And now prepare your throats!” The captives, stiffening futilely as their heads are forced back, groan and gulp. “Lavinia, come, receive the blood. And when they are dead, let me go grind their bones small, to powder, and with this hateful liquor temper it; and in that dough let their vile heads be baked!”
Chiron watches, sweating, as Titus, slowly, almost delicately, draws the gleaming blade across Demetrius’s neck, and blood spurts forth.
When the flow from Demetrius stops, the knife slides again, and Chiron’s lifeblood gushes into the basin. Soon, both lie, pale behind their garish red wounds, dead.
Titus urges the others, “Come, come!—be every one helpful in preparing this banquet, which I wish may prove more stern and bloody than the Centaurs’ feast!”—an irony: Chiron was the name of the only wise and kindly centaur among those creatures.
Carefully steadying the basin, Titus helps Lavinia to rise.
He looks down at the dead Goth youths. “So now bring them in, for I’ll play the cook—and see them ready before their mother comes!”
The corpses are dragged inside at the back of the building—then into the big kitchen, and to its butcher table.
Beside the tall mansion of Titus Andronicus tonight, torches light the terrace, where tables and chairs have been brought out, and servants hurry from within, bringing baskets of bread and flagons of wine to accompany a supper. The retired officer will host a parley between the Emperor of Rome and the commanding general of a besieging army—Titus’s banished son.
Lucius Andronicus is first to arrive, with several Goth lords from their encampment, and he brings a shackled prisoner. “Uncle Marcus, since it is my father’s mind that I repair to Rome, mine is content.”
“And ours with thine,” says the Goths’ chief, “befall what Fortune will.” He and the captains from the northern land are indeed thinking of fortune: even a successful siege in winter would prove long and costly, but a negotiated settlement could soon mean vast wealth. And Rome’s willingness to talk implies weakness.
Lucius pushes Aaron forward. “Good uncle, take you in this barbarous Moor—this ravenous tiger, this accursèd devil! Let him receive no sustenance; fetter him till he be brought unto the empress’ face, for testimony on her foul proceedings.
“And see that our friends’ ambush be strong!” he urges. “I fear the emperor means no good to us,” he adds, wryly.
“Some devil whisper curses in mine ear,” mutters Aaron, “and prompt me, that my tongue may utter forth the venomous malice of my swelling heart!”
“Away, inhuman dog!—unhallowèd slave!” growls Lucius. “Sirs, help our uncle to convey him in!” Two Goths roughly seize Aaron by the arms and drag him away.
As Marcus returns, a party of noblemen arrives, just after their heralds, with senators and tribunes.
“The trumpets show the emperor is at hand,” says Lucius, and Saturninus’ own horns soon blare out a long flourish.
Lord Emillius is among those following the Roman ruler and his empress, who is no longer disguised.
The haughty emperor greets Lucius with contempt: “What?—hath the firmament more suns than one?”
Lucius’s laugh is defiant. “What boots it thee to call thyself the sun?”
Marcus chides both: “Rome’s emperor, and nephew, you break the parle! These quarrels must be quietly debated. The feast is ready!—which the careful Titus hath ordainèd to an honourable end: for peace, for love, for league—and good to Rome!
“Please you, therefore, draw nigh and take your places.”
“Marcus, we will!” says Saturninus—taking the seat at the head of the front table.
As the company sits down to eat, soft and airy music of hautboys and lutes begins.
A jovial Titus, dressed as a cook, joins them. “Welcome, my gracious lord!—welcome, dread queen!—welcome, ye warlike Goths! Welcome, Lucius!” He waves forward a kitchen helper who is supporting, on his shoulder, a tray with two large, brown-crusted dishes. “And welcome, all!
“Although the cheer be poor, ’twill fill your stomachs! Please you, eat all of it!”
A serving-man ladles savory brown stew and pastry from the steaming pies onto two trenchers, which another then carries to the royal guests. Household servants begin taking various foods to the other visitors.
Saturninus grabs a spoon and eats. He glances up, chewing. “Why art thou thus attirèd, Andronicus?” The old fool, he sees, has surrendered all dignity.
“Because I would be sure to have all well, entertaining Your Highness, and your empress!”
A lady wearing a long cloak and dark veil comes to stand near him.
Saturninus and his wife are enjoying wine with the spicy meat dish. Tamora pauses and smiles, raising a cup. “We are beholden to you, good Andronicus!”
Titus bows, slowly, not taking his eyes from her. “If Your Highness knew my heart… you were.”
He moves closer to the emperor’s table, and stands just across from him; the lady follows closely. The old general seems thoughtful; he poses a question about a legendary Roman centurion’s act, committed in the name of love and honor. “My lord the emperor, resolve me this: was it well done of rash Virginius to slay his daughter with his own right hand, because she was enforcèd, stained and deflowered?”
Saturninus nods, his mouth full; he swallows. “It was, Andronicus.” He quaffs more wine.
“Your reason, mighty lord?”
The emperor shrugs. “Because the girl should not survive her shame, and by her presence ever renew his sorrows.”
“A reason mighty, strong and effectual,” says Titus, “a pattern, precedent, and lively warrant, for me, most wretched, to perform the like.”
Tears run down his cheeks as the waiting lady now beside him removes her veil, but she seems beatified.
He stabs her through the heart. “Die, die, Lavinia—and thy shame with thee!” sobs Titus. “And, with thy shame, die thy father’s sorrow!”
She falls; her relief has finally come.
Saturninus has risen, and he stares, aghast. “What hast thou done?—unfatherly and unnatural!”
“Killed her for whom my tears have made me blind! I am as woeful as Virginius was—and have a thousand times more cause than he to do this outrage! And now it is done.”
Saturninus is perplexed. “What?—was she ravishèd? Tell who did the deed!”
Titus turns to Tamora. “Will’t please you eat more? Will’t please Your Highness feed?”
She frowns. “Why hast thou slain thine only daughter thus?”
“Not I!—’twas Chiron and Demetrius! They ravished her, and cut away her tongue—and they ’twas they that did her all this wrong!”
Saturninus signals to his guards. “Go fetch them hither to us immediately!”
Titus laughs. “Why, there they are, both!—bakèd in that pie!—whereof their mother daintily hath fed, eating the flesh that she herself hath bred!”
The nearby tables are jarred as guests suddenly rise, and Tamora staggers up, a hand covering her mouth.
“’Tis true, ’tis true!” cries Titus angrily. “Witness: my knife’s sharp point!” He stabs Tamora in the stomach, and twists the blade upward before pulling it free. She gasps and cries out, reaching down, but falling forward. Blood runs down at the front of the table’s white cloth as she gapes up at him, shocked and choking.
Then her head drops, and she is dead.
Saturninus shouts, drawing his sword, “Die, frantic wretch, for this accursèd deed!” With a powerful thrust he kills Titus Andronicus.
“Can the son’s eye behold his father bleed?” cries Lord Lucius. He slashes the emperor’s arm with a sword-stroke, then pierces him with another. “There’s meed for meed: death for a deadly deed!”
Saturninus, eyes bulging in pain and fury, crumples to the ground, where he soon perishes, his teeth still bared in an angry scowl.
During the ensuing tumult and clamor, Lucius and his son, with Marcus and the others of their family, rush into the house. They emerge, above, onto a wide balcony in front of the eaves one story higher.
Marcus steps forward and addresses the crowd below. “You sad-faced men—people and sons of Rome, by uproar scattered like a flight of fowl by winds and high, tempestuous gusts!—oh, let me teach you how to knit again this divided wheat into one mutual sheaf!—these broken limbs again into one body!”
Below, Lord Emillius, turning to those milling around him, raises his arms and calls, loudly, “Lest Rome herself be bane unto herself, and she to whom mighty kingdoms court’sy do shameful execution upon herself, like a forlorn and desperate castaway, listen!
“If my frosty hair and beard—signs of age, grave witnesses of true experience—cannot induce you to attend my words,” he says, and looks up at the tribune, “let speak Rome’s dear friend!—as erst did our ancestor,”—Aeneas, “when with solemn tongue he discoursèd to love-sick Dido’s sad, attending ear the story of that baleful, burning night when subtle Greeks overcame King Priam’s Troy!
“Tell us what traitor hath bewitchèd our ears, or who hath brought in the fatal engine,”—like the wooden horse, “that gives our Troy, our Rome, this civil wound!”
All now watch Marcus, who is wiping his eyes. “My heart is not compacted of flint nor steel,”—to generate fire, “nor can I utter all our bitter grief but that floods of tears will drown my oratory—break off my utterance even at the time when it should move you to attend me most, lending your kind commiseration!
“Here is a captain—let him speak the tale; your hearts will throb and weep to hear him!”
He motions Lucius forward.
The warrior looks down. “Then, noble auditory, be it known to you that cursèd Chiron and Demetrius were they that murdered our emperor’s brother!—and they it were that ravished our sister!
“For their deadly deeds, our brothers were beheaded!—our father’s tears despisèd!—and he basely cozened out of that true hand that fought Rome’s quarrels, and sent her enemies unto the grave!
“Lastly, myself—unkindly banishèd, the gates shut on me, and turnèd out, weeping, to beg relief among Rome’s enemies!—who drowned their enmity in my true tears, and oped their arms to embrace me as a friend!
“Be it known to you of Rome, I am the spurned-forth who have preservèd her welfare with my blood!—and from her bosom took the enemy’s point by sheathing the steel in my adventurous body! You know I am no braggart—alas, my scars can witness, silent although they are, that my report is just, and full of truth!
“But, soft—methinks I do digress too much, citing my worthless praise. Ah, pardon me; for when no friends are by, men praise themselves.”
Marcus steps to the balustered stone rail. “Now is my turn to speak.” At his nod, an attendant brings Aaron’s infant son. “Behold this child! Of this was Tamora deliverèd—the issue of an irreligious Moor, chief architect and plotter of these woes! The villain is alive, in Titus’ house, and he is witness to this as true!
“Now judge what cause had Titus to revenge these wrongs!—unspeakable, beyond enduring!—more than any living man could bear!
“Now that you have heard the truth, what say you, Romans?”
The dazed patricians look around at each other; their ruler has been slain, but the intemperate tyrant will hardly be mourned. And the senators are well aware that their leaderless nation’s capital faces imminent siege.
Standing with the outcast general, his brother, the tribune, now asks: “Have we done aught amiss?
“Show us wherein—and, from this place where you behold us now, the poor remainder of Andronici will all cast us down, and headlong on the ragged stones beat forth our brains, to make a mutual closure of our family!
“Speak, Romans, speak! And if you say we shall, lo, hand in hand, Lucius and I will fall!”
But below, Lord Emillius moves to the front, looking up happily, one arm lifted. “Come, come, thou reverèd man of Rome! Bring our emperor gently by thy hand—Lucius—our emperor!
“For well I know, the common voice do cry it shall be so!”
The Romans, free of the despot and his minions, cheer and shout. “Lucius! All hail Rome’s royal emperor!”
Marcus and Lucius smile in acknowledgement. Marcus tells his attendants as they move toward the stairs, “Go, go into old Titus’ sorrowful house, and hither hale that misbelieving Moor, to be adjudgèd unto some direful, slaughtering death as punishment for his most wicked life!”
On the terrace, the crowd’s acclamation is loud and enthusiastic. Cries a senator, as the others press in around the acclaimed ruler, “Lucius! All hail, Rome’s gracious governor!”
Lucius bows deeply. “Thanks, gentle Romans! May I govern so!—to heal Rome’s harms, and wipe away her woe!
“But, gentle people, give me air awhile, for nature puts me to a heavy task.” As a space clears, he approaches the body of Titus Andronicus.
“Stand all aloof,” he asks, “but, Uncle, draw you near, to shed obsequious tears upon this trunk.” He kneels at his father’s side. “Oh, take this warm kiss on thy pale cold lips, these sorrowful drops upon thy blood-stained face—the last true duties of thy noble son.”
The tribune comes to the body. “Tear for tear, and loving kiss for kiss, thy brother Marcus tenders on thy lips! Oh, were the sum of these that I should pay countless and infinite, yet would I pay them!”
Lucius calls his son. “Come hither, boy; come. Come and learn from us to melt in showers!” He puts a hand on the tearful lad’s shoulder. “Thy grandsire loved thee well! Many a time he danced thee on his knee, sang thee asleep, his loving breast thy pillow! Many a matter hath he told to thee, meet and agreeing with thine infancy! Then in respect for that, like a loving child shed ye some small drops from thy tender spring, because kindred nature doth require it so.”
Their new ruler rises, and regards the Romans. “Friends should associate with friends, in grief and woe. Bid him farewell; commit him to the grave; do him that kindness, and take leave of him.”
“O Grandsire, Grandsire!” cries young Lucius. “Even with all my heart would I were dead, so you did live again!” He looks up at his father. “Oh, my lord, I cannot speak to him for weeping; my tears will choke me, if I ope my mouth!”
Lucius’s soldiers have brought Aaron to him.
Lord Emillius steps forward. “You sad Andronici, have done with woes,” he urges kindly. “Give sentence on this execrable wretch, that hath been breeder of these dire events.”
Lucius has been considering the man—one who craves control, and who detests delay.
“This doom we pronounce: set him breast-deep in earth, and famish him; there let him stand, and rave, and cry for food! If any one relieves or pities him, for that offence he dies.
“Some stay to see him fastened into the earth,” Lucius tells his soldiers.
As he is taken away, Aaron calls back, over his shoulder, “Oh, why should wrath be mute, and fury silent? I am no baby, that with base prayers I should repent the evils I have done! Ten thousand worse than ever yet I did would I perform, if I might have my will! If one good deed in all my life I did, I do repent it—from my very soul!” He is dragged away to be buried, nearly to the neck, and to begin, with flies buzzing about his head, the long wait for an ignominious death.
The new sovereign takes full command. “Some loving friends convey the emperor hence, and give him burial in his father’s grave.
“My father and Lavinia shall forthwith be enclosèd in our household’s monument.
“As for that heinous tiger Tamora, no funeral rite, no man in mourning clothes! No mournful bell shall ring her burial—but throw her forth to beasts and birds of prey! Her life was beast-like, and devoid of pity; and, being so, she shall have like want of pity.
“See justice done on Aaron, that damnèd Moor, by whom our heavy sorrows had their beginning.”
Emperor Lucius Andronicus tells the Romans, “Then, afterwards, on to ordering well the state, so that like events may ne’er it ruinate!”