Titus Andronicus

Act II

SCENE I. Rome. Before the palace.

[Enter AARON.]


Now climbeth Tamora Olympus' top,

Safe out of fortune's shot; and sits aloft,

Secure of thunder's crack or lightning's flash;

Advanc'd above pale envy's threatening reach.

As when the golden sun salutes the morn,

And, having gilt the ocean with his beams,

Gallops the zodiac in his glistening coach,

And overlooks the highest-peering hill;

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, whom thou in triumph long

Hast prisoner held, fett'red in amorous chains,

And faster bound to Aaron's charming eyes

Than is Prometheus tied to Caucasus.

Away with slavish weeds 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, that will charm Rome's Saturnine,

And see his shipwreck and his commonweal's.--

Holla! what storm is this?

[Enter DEMETRIUS and CHIRON braving.]


Chiron, thy years wants wit, thy wit wants edge

And manners, to intrude where I am grac'd;

And may, for aught thou know'st, affected be.


Demetrius, thou dost over-ween in all;

And so in this, to bear me down with braves.

'Tis not 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 approve,

And plead my passions for Lavinia's love.


[Aside.] Clubs, clubs! These lovers will not keep the peace.


Why, boy, although our mother, unadvis'd,

Gave you a dancing-rapier by your side,

Are you so desperate grown to threat your friends?

Go to; have your lath glu'd 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.


Ay, boy, grow ye so brave?

[They draw.]


[Coming forward.] Why, how now, lords!

So near the emperor's palace dare ye draw,

And maintain such a quarrel openly?

Full well I wot the ground of all this grudge:

I would not for a million of gold

The cause were known to them it most concerns;

Nor would your noble mother for much more

Be so dishonour'd in the court of Rome.

For shame, put up.


Not I, till I have sheath'd

My rapier in his bosom, and withal

Thrust those reproachful speeches down his throat

That he hath breath'd in my dishonour here.


For that I am prepar'd and full resolv'd,--

Foul-spoken coward, that thunder'st with thy tongue,

And with thy weapon nothing dar'st perform.


Away, I say!--

Now, by the gods that warlike Goths adore,

This pretty brabble will undo us all.--

Why, lords, and think you not how dangerous

It is to jet upon a prince's right?

What, is Lavinia then become so loose,

Or Bassianus so degenerate,

That for her love such quarrels may be broach'd

Without controlment, justice, or revenge?

Young lords, beware! and should the empress know

This discord's ground, the music would not please.


I care not, I, knew she and all the world:

I love Lavinia more than all the world.


Youngling, learn thou to make some meaner choice:

Lavina is thine elder brother's hope.


Why, are ye mad? or know ye not in Rome

How furious and impatient they be,

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 propose to achieve her whom I love.


To achieve her!--How?


Why mak'st thou it so strange?

She is a woman, therefore may be woo'd;

She is a woman, therefore may be won;

She is Lavinia, therefore must be lov'd.

What, man! more water glideth by the mill

Than wots the miller of; and easy it is

Of a cut loaf to steal a shive, we know:

Though Bassianus be the emperor's brother,

Better than he have worn Vulcan's badge.


[Aside.] Ay, and as good as Saturninus may.


Then why should he despair that knows to court it

With words, fair looks, and liberality?

What, hast not thou full often struck a doe,

And borne her cleanly by the keeper's nose?


Why, then, it seems some certain snatch or so

Would serve your turns.


Ay, so the turn were serv'd.


Aaron, thou hast hit it.


Would you had hit it too!

Then should not we be tir'd with this ado.

Why, hark ye, hark ye,--and are you such fools

To square for this? Would it offend you, then,

That both should speed?


Faith, not me.


Nor me, so I were one.


For shame, be friends, and join for that you jar:

'Tis policy and stratagem must do

That you affect; and so must you resolve

That what you cannot as you would achieve,

You must perforce accomplish as you may.

Take this of me,--Lucrece was not more chaste

Than this Lavinia, Bassianus' love.

A speedier course than lingering languishment

Must we pursue, and I have found the path.

My lords, a solemn hunting is in hand;

There will the lovely Roman ladies troop:

The forest walks are wide and spacious;

And many unfrequented plots there are

Fitted by kind for rape and villainy:

Single you thither, 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, with her sacred wit

To villainy and vengeance consecrate,

Will we acquaint with all what we intend;

And she shall file our engines with advice

That will not suffer you to square yourselves,

But to your wishes' height advance you both.

The emperor's court is like the house of fame,

The palace full of tongues, of eyes, and ears:

The woods are ruthless, dreadful, deaf, and dull;

There speak and strike, brave boys, and take your turns;

There serve your lust, shadowed from heaven's eye,

And revel in Lavinia's treasury.


Thy counsel, lad, smells of no cowardice.


Sit fas aut nefas, till I find the stream

To cool this heat, a charm to calm these fits,

Per Styga, per manes vehor.


SCENE II. A Forest near Rome; a Lodge seen at a distance. Horns

and cry of hounds heard.

[Enter TITUS ANDRONICUS, with hunters, &c., MARCUS, LUCIUS,



The hunt is up, the morn is bright and gay,

The fields are fragrant, and the woods are green.

Uncouple here, and let us make a bay,

And wake the emperor and his lovely bride,

And rouse the prince, and ring a hunter's peal,

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:

I have been troubled in my sleep this night,

But dawning day new comfort hath inspir'd.


DEMETRIUS, CHIRON, and Attendants.]

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;

Somewhat too early for new-married ladies.


Lavinia, how say you?


I say no; I have been broad awake two hours and more.


Come on then, horse and chariots let us have,

And to our sport.--[To TAMORA.] Madam, now shall ye see

Our Roman hunting.


I have dogs, my lord,

Will rouse the proudest panther in the chase,

And climb the highest promontory top.


And I have horse will follow where the game

Makes way, and run like swallows o'er the plain.


Chiron, we hunt not, we, with horse nor hound,

But hope to pluck a dainty doe to ground.


SCENE III. A lonely part of the Forest.

[Enter AARON with a bag of gold.]


He that had wit would think that I had none,

To bury so much gold under a tree,

And never after to inherit it.

Let him that thinks of me so abjectly

Know that this gold must coin a stratagem,

Which, cunningly effected, will beget

A very excellent piece of villainy:

And so repose, sweet gold, for their unrest

[Hides the gold.]

That have their alms out of the empress' chest.

[Enter TAMORA.]


My lovely Aaron, wherefore look'st thou sad

When everything does make a gleeful boast?

The birds chant melody on every bush;

The snakes lie rolled in the cheerful sun;

The green leaves quiver with the cooling wind,

And make a chequer'd shadow on the ground:

Under their sweet shade, Aaron, let us sit,

And whilst the babbling echo mocks the hounds,

Replying shrilly to the well-tun'd horns,

As if a double hunt were heard at once,

Let us sit down and mark their yelping noise;

And,--after conflict such as was suppos'd

The wandering prince and Dido once enjoy'd,

When with a happy storm they were surpris'd,

And curtain'd with a counsel-keeping cave,--

We may, each wreathed in the other's arms,

Our pastimes done, 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.


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 an adder when she doth unroll

To do some fatal execution?

No, madam, these are no venereal signs,

Vengeance is in my heart, death in my hand,

Blood and revenge are hammering in my head.

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 must lose her tongue to-day,

Thy sons make pillage of her chastity,

And wash their hands in Bassianus' blood.

Seest thou this letter? take it up, I pray thee,

And give the king this fatal-plotted scroll.--

Now question me no more,--we are espied;

Here comes a parcel of our hopeful booty,

Which dreads not yet their lives' destruction.


Ah, my sweet Moor, sweeter to me than life!


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.




Who have we here? Rome's royal empress,

Unfurnish'd of her well-beseeming troop?

Or is it Dian, habited like her,

Who hath abandoned her holy groves

To see the general hunting in this forest?


Saucy controller of my private steps!

Had I the power that some say Dian had,

Thy temples should be planted presently

With horns, as was Actaeon's; and the hounds

Should drive upon thy new-transformed limbs,

Unmannerly intruder as thou art!


Under your patience, gentle empress,

'Tis thought you have a goodly gift in horning;

And to be doubted that your Moor and you

Are singled forth to try experiments;

Jove shield your husband from his hounds to-day!

'Tis pity they should take him for a stag.


Believe me, queen, your swarth Cimmerian

Doth make your honour of his body's hue,

Spotted, detested, and abominable.

Why are you sequester'd from all your train,

Dismounted from your snow-white goodly steed,

And wander'd hither to an obscure plot,

Accompanied but with a barbarous Moor,

If foul desire had not conducted you?


And, being intercepted in your sport,

Great reason that my noble lord be rated

For sauciness.--I pray you let us hence,

And let her joy her raven-coloured love;

This valley fits the purpose passing well.


The king my brother shall have notice of this.


Ay, for these slips have made him noted long:

Good king, to be so mightily abus'd!


Why have I patience to endure all this?



How now, dear sovereign, and our gracious mother!

Why doth your highness look so pale and wan?


Have I not reason, think you, to look pale?

These two have 'ticed me hither to this place:--

A barren detested vale you see it is:

The trees, though summer, yet forlorn and lean,

O'ercome with moss and baleful mistletoe:

Here never shines the sun; here nothing breeds,

Unless the nightly owl or fatal raven:--

And when they show'd me this abhorred pit,

They told me, here, at dead time of the night,

A thousand fiends, a thousand hissing snakes,

Ten thousand swelling toads, as many urchins,

Would make such fearful and confused cries

As any mortal body hearing it

Should straight fall mad or else die suddenly.

No sooner had they told this hellish tale

But straight they told me they would bind me here

Unto the body of a dismal yew,

And leave me to this miserable death:

And then they call'd me foul adulteress,

Lascivious Goth, and all the bitterest terms

That ever ear did hear to such effect:

And had you not by wondrous fortune come,

This vengeance on me had they executed.

Revenge it, as you love your mother's life,

Or be ye not henceforth call'd my children.


This is a witness that I am thy son.



And this for me, struck home to show my strength.

[Also stabs BASSIANUS, who dies.]


Ay, come, Semiramis,--nay, barbarous Tamora,

For no name fits thy nature but thy own!


Give me thy poniard;--you shall know, my boys,

Your mother's hand shall right your mother's wrong.


Stay, madam; here is more belongs to her;

First thrash the corn, then after burn the straw:

This minion stood upon her chastity,

Upon her nuptial vow, her loyalty,

And with that painted hope braves your mightiness:

And shall she carry this unto her grave?


An if she do, I would I were an eunuch.

Drag hence her husband to some secret hole,

And make his dead trunk pillow to our lust.


But when ye have the honey we desire,

Let not this wasp outlive, us both to sting.


I warrant you, madam, we will make that sure.--

Come, mistress, now perforce we will enjoy

That nice-preserved honesty of yours.


O 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.


Listen, fair madam: let it be your glory

To see her tears; but be your heart to them

As unrelenting flint to drops of rain.


When did the tiger's young ones teach the dam?

O, do not learn her wrath,--she taught it thee;

The milk thou suck'dst from her did turn to marble;

Even at thy teat thou hadst thy tyranny.--

Yet every mother breeds not sons alike:

[To CHIRON.] Do thou entreat her show a woman's pity.


What, wouldst thou have me prove myself a bastard?


'Tis true, the raven doth not hatch a lark:

Yet have I heard,--O, could I find it now!--

The lion, mov'd with pity, did endure

To have his princely paws par'd all away.

Some say that ravens foster forlorn children,

The whilst their own birds famish in their nests:

O, be to me, though thy hard heart say no,

Nothing so kind, but something pitiful!


I know not what it means:--away with her!


O, let me teach thee! for my father's sake,

That gave thee life, when well he might have slain thee,

Be not obdurate, open thy deaf ears.


Hadst thou in person ne'er offended me,

Even for his sake am I pitiless.--

Remember, boys, I pour'd forth tears in vain

To save your brother from the sacrifice;

But fierce Andronicus would not relent:

Therefore away with her, and use her as you will;

The worse to her the better lov'd of me.


O Tamora, be call'd a gentle queen,

And with thine own hands kill me in this place!

For 'tis not life that I have begg'd so long;

Poor I was slain when Bassianus died.


What begg'st thou, then? fond woman, let me go.


'Tis present death I beg; and one thing more,

That womanhood denies my tongue to tell:

O, 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.


So should I rob my sweet sons of their fee:

No, let them satisfy their lust on thee.


Away! for thou hast stay'd us here too long.


No grace? no womanhood? Ah, beastly creature!

The blot and enemy to our general name!

Confusion fall,--


Nay, then I'll stop your mouth:--bring thou her husband.

This is the hole where Aaron bid us hide him.

[DEMETRIUS throws BASSIANUS'S body into the pit; then exit with

CHIRON, dragging off LAVINIA.]


Farewell, my sons: see that you make her sure:--

Ne'er let my heart know merry cheer indeed

Till all the Andronici be made away.

Now will I hence to seek my lovely Moor,

And let my spleenful sons this trull deflower.


[Re-enter AARON, with QUINTUS and MARTIUS.]


Come on, my lords, the better foot before:

Straight will I bring you to the loathsome pit

Where I espied the panther fast asleep.


My sight is very dull, whate'er it bodes.


And mine, I promise you; were't not for shame,

Well could I leave our sport to sleep awhile.

[Falls into the pit.]


What, art thou fallen?--What subtle hole is this,

Whose mouth is cover'd with rude-growing briers,

Upon whose leaves are drops of new-shed blood

As fresh as morning dew distill'd on flowers?

A very fatal place it seems to me.--

Speak, brother, hast thou hurt thee with the fall?


O brother, with the dismallest object hurt

That ever eye with sight made heart lament!


[Aside] Now will I fetch the king to find them here,

That he thereby may have a likely guess

How these were they that made away his brother.



Why dost not comfort me, and help me out

From this unhallow'd and blood-stained hole?


I am surprised with an uncouth fear;

A chilling sweat o'er-runs my trembling joints;

My heart suspects more than mine eye can see.


To prove thou hast a true divining heart,

Aaron and thou look down into this den,

And see a fearful sight of blood and death.


Aaron is gone; and my compassionate heart

Will not permit mine eyes once to behold

The thing whereat it trembles by surmise:

O, tell me who it is; for ne'er till now

Was I a child to fear I know not what.


Lord Bassianus lies embrewed here,

All on a heap, like to a slaughter'd lamb,

In this detested, dark, blood-drinking pit.


If it be dark, how dost thou know 'tis he?


Upon his bloody finger he doth wear

A precious ring that lightens all the hole,

Which, like a taper in some monument,

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 by night lay bath'd in maiden blood.

O brother, help me with thy fainting hand,--

If fear hath made thee faint, as me it hath,--

Out of this fell devouring receptacle,

As hateful as Cocytus' misty mouth.


Reach me thy hand, that I may help thee out;

Or, wanting strength to do thee so much good,

I may be pluck'd into the swallowing womb

Of this deep pit, poor Bassianus' grave.

I have no strength to pluck thee to the brink.


Nor I no strength to climb without thy help.


Thy hand once more; I will not lose again,

Till thou art here aloft, or I below:

Thou canst not come to me,--I come to thee.

[Falls in.]



Along with me: I'll see what hole is here,

And what he is that now is leap'd into it.--

Say, who art thou that lately didst descend

Into this gaping hollow of the earth?


The unhappy sons of old Andronicus,

Brought hither in a most unlucky hour,

To find thy brother Bassianus dead.


My brother dead! I know thou dost but jest:

He and his lady both are at the lodge

Upon the north side of this pleasant chase;

'Tis not an hour since I left them there.


We know not where you left them all alive;

But, out, alas! here have we found him dead.

[Re-enter TAMORA, with Attendants; TITUS ANDRONICUS and LUCIUS.]


Where is my lord the king?


Here, Tamora; though griev'd with killing grief.


Where is thy brother Bassianus?


Now to the bottom dost thou search my wound;

Poor Bassianus here lies murdered.


Then all too late I bring this fatal writ,

[Giving a letter.]

The complot of this timeless tragedy;

And wonder greatly that man's face can fold

In pleasing smiles such murderous tyranny.


[Reads] 'An if we miss to meet him handsomely,--

Sweet huntsman, Bassianus 'tis we mean,--

Do thou so much as dig the grave 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 purchase us thy lasting friends.'

O Tamora! was ever heard the like?--

This is the pit and this the elder-tree:--

Look, sirs, if you can find the huntsman out

That should have murder'd Bassianus here.


My gracious lord, here is the bag of gold.

[Showing it.]


[To TITUS] Two of thy whelps, fell curs of bloody kind,

Have here bereft my brother of his life.--

Sirs, drag them from the pit unto the prison:

There let them bide until we have devis'd

Some never-heard-of torturing pain for them.


What, are they in this pit? O wondrous thing!

How easily murder is discovered!


High emperor, upon my feeble knee

I beg this boon, with tears not lightly shed,

That this fell fault of my accursed sons,--

Accursed if the fault be prov'd in them,--


If it be prov'd! You see it is apparent.--

Who found this letter? Tamora, was it you?


Andronicus himself did take it up.


I did, my lord: yet let me be their bail;

For, by my fathers' reverend tomb, I vow

They shall be ready at your highness' will

To answer their suspicion with their lives.


Thou shalt not bail them: see thou follow me.--

Some bring the murder'd body, some the murderers:

Let them not speak a word,--the guilt is plain;

For, by my soul, were there worse end than death,

That end upon them should be executed.


Andronicus, I will entreat the king:

Fear not thy sons; they shall do well enough.


Come, Lucius, come; stay not to talk with them.

[Exeunt severally. Attendants bearing the body.]

SCENE IV. Another part of the Forest.

[Enter DEMETRIUS and CHIRON, with LAVINIA, ravished; her hands

cut off, and her tongue cut out.]


So, now go tell, an if thy tongue can speak,

Who 'twas that cut thy tongue and ravish'd thee.


Write down thy mind, bewray thy meaning so,

An if thy stumps will let thee play the scribe.


See how with signs and tokens she can scrowl.


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.


An 'twere my case, I should go hang myself.


If thou hadst hands to help thee knit the cord.


[Enter MARCUS.]


Who is this?--my niece,--that flies away so fast?

Cousin, a word; where is your husband?--

If I do dream, would all my wealth would wake me!

If I do wake, some planet strike me down,

That I may slumber an eternal sleep!--

Speak, gentle niece,--what stern ungentle hands

Hath lopp'd, and hew'd, and made thy body bare

Of her two branches,--those sweet ornaments

Whose circling shadows kings have sought to sleep in,

And might not gain so great a happiness

As half thy love? Why dost not speak to me?--

Alas, a crimson river of warm blood,

Like to a bubbling fountain stirr'd with wind,

Doth rise and fall between thy rosed lips,

Coming and going with thy honey breath.

But sure some Tereus hath deflowered thee,

And, lest thou shouldst detect him, cut thy tongue.

Ah, now thou turn'st away thy face for shame:

And notwithstanding all this loss of blood,--

As from a conduit with three issuing spouts,--

Yet do thy cheeks look red as Titan's face

Blushing to be encounter'd with a cloud.

Shall I speak for thee? shall I say 'tis so?

O, that I knew thy heart, and knew the beast,

That I might rail at him, to ease my mind!

Sorrow concealed, like an oven stopp'd,

Doth burn the heart to cinders where it is.

Fair Philomela, why she but lost her tongue,

And in a tedious sampler sew'd her mind;

But, lovely niece, that mean is cut from thee;

A craftier Tereus, cousin, hast thou met,

And he hath cut those pretty fingers off

That could have better sew'd than Philomel.

O, 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 touch'd them for his life!

Or had he heard the heavenly harmony

Which that sweet tongue hath made,

He would have dropp'd his knife, and fell asleep,

As Cerberus at the Thracian poet's feet.

Come, let us go, and make thy father blind;

For such a sight will blind a father's eye:

One hour's storm will drown the fragrant meads;

What will whole months of tears thy father's eyes?

Do not draw back, for we will mourn with thee:

O, could our mourning case thy misery!