Titus Andronicus


SCENE I. Rome. A street.

[Enter Senators, Tribunes, and Officers of Justice, with MARTIUS and QUINTUS bound, passing on to the place of execution; TITUS going before, pleading.]


Hear me, grave fathers! noble tribunes, stay!

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 watch'd;

And for these bitter tears, which now you see

Filling the aged wrinkles in my cheeks;

Be pitiful to my condemned 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.

[Throwing himself on the ground.]

For these, tribunes, in the dust I write

My heart's deep languor and my soul's sad tears:

Let my tears stanch the earth's dry appetite;

My sons' sweet blood will make it shame and blush.

[Exeunt Senators, Tribunes, &c., with the prisoners.]

O earth, I will befriend thee more with rain

That shall distil from these two ancient urns,

Than youthful April shall with all his 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,

So thou refuse to drink my dear sons' blood.

[Enter Lucius with his sword drawn.]

O reverend tribunes! O gentle aged men!

Unbind my sons, reverse the doom of death;

And let me say, that never wept before,

My tears are now prevailing orators.


O noble father, you lament in vain:

The tribunes hear you not, no man is by;

And you recount your sorrows to a stone.


Ah, Lucius, for thy brothers let me plead.--

Grave tribunes, once more I entreat of you.


My gracious lord, no tribune hears you speak.


Why, 'tis no matter, man: if they did hear,

They would not mark me; if they did mark,

They would not pity me; yet plead I must,

And bootless unto them.

Therefore I tell my sorrows to the stones;

Who, though they cannot answer my distress,

Yet in some sort they are better than the tribunes,

For that they will not intercept my tale:

When I do weep they humbly at my feet

Receive my tears, and seem to weep with me;

And were they but attired in grave weeds,

Rome could afford no tribunes like to these.

A stone is soft as wax, tribunes more hard than stones;

A stone is silent, and offendeth not,--

And tribunes with their tongues doom men to death.


But wherefore stand'st thou with thy weapon drawn?


To rescue my two brothers from their death:

For which attempt the judges have pronounc'd

My everlasting doom of banishment.


O happy man! 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 banished!--

But who comes with our brother Marcus here?



Titus, prepare thy aged eyes to weep;

Or if not so, thy noble heart to break:

I bring consuming sorrow to thine age.


Will it consume me? let me see it then.


This was thy daughter.


Why, Marcus, so she is.


Ay me! this object kills me!


Faint-hearted boy, arise, and look upon her.--

Speak, my Lavinia, what accursed hand

Hath made thee handless in thy father's sight?

What fool hath added water to the sea,

Or brought a fagot to bright-burning Troy?

My grief was at the height before thou cam'st;

And now, like Nilus, it disdaineth bounds.

Give me a sword, I'll chop off my hands too;

For they have fought for Rome, and all in vain;

And they have nurs'd this woe in feeding life;

In bootless prayer have they been held up,

And they have serv'd me to effectless use:

Now all the service I require of them

Is that the one will help to cut the other.--

'Tis well, Lavinia, that thou hast no hands;

For hands to do Rome service, are but vain.


Speak, gentle sister, who hath martyr'd thee?


O, that delightful engine of her thoughts,

That blabb'd them with such pleasing eloquence,

Is torn from forth that pretty hollow cage,

Where, like a sweet melodious bird, it sung

Sweet varied notes, enchanting every ear!


O, say thou for her, who hath done this deed?


O, thus I found her straying in the park,

Seeking to hide herself, as doth the deer

That hath receiv'd some unrecuring wound.


It was my deer; and he that wounded her

Hath hurt me more than had he kill'd me dead:

For now I stand as one upon a rock,

Environ'd with a wilderness of sea;

Who marks the waxing tide grow wave by wave,

Expecting ever when some envious surge

Will in his brinish bowels swallow him.

This way to death my wretched sons are gone;

Here stands my other son, a banish'd man;

And here my brother, weeping at my woes:

But that which gives my soul the greatest spurn

Is dear Lavinia, dearer than my soul.--

Had I but seen thy picture in this plight

It would have madded me: what shall I do

Now I behold thy lively body so?

Thou hast no hands to wipe away thy tears,

Nor tongue to tell me who hath martyr'd thee:

Thy husband he is dead; and for his death

Thy brothers are condemn'd, and dead by this.--

Look, Marcus!--ah, son Lucius, look on her!

When I did name her brothers, then fresh tears

Stood on her cheeks, as doth the honey dew

Upon a gather'd lily almost wither'd.


Perchance she weeps because they kill'd her husband:

Perchance because she knows them innocent.


If they did kill thy husband, then be joyful,

Because the law hath ta'en revenge on them.--

No, no, they would not do so foul a deed;

Witness the sorrow that their sister makes.--

Gentle Lavinia, let me kiss thy lips;

Or make some sign how I may do thee ease:

Shall thy good uncle, and thy brother Lucius,

And thou, and I, sit round about some fountain,

Looking all downwards, to behold our cheeks

How they are stain'd, like meadows yet not dry,

With miry slime left on them by a flood?

And in the fountain shall we gaze so long,

Till the fresh taste be taken from that clearness,

And made a brine-pit with our bitter tears?

Or shall we cut away our hands like thine?

Or shall we bite our tongues, and in dumb shows

Pass the remainder of our hateful days?

What shall we do? let us, that have our tongues,

Plot some device of further misery,

To make us wonder'd at in time to come.


Sweet father, cease your tears; for at your grief

See how my wretched sister sobs and weeps.


Patience, dear niece.--Good Titus, dry thine eyes.


Ah, Marcus, Marcus! brother, well I wot

Thy napkin cannot drink a tear of mine,

For thou, poor man, hast drown'd it with thine own.


Ah, my Lavinia, I will wipe thy cheeks.


Mark, Marcus, mark! I understand her signs:

Had she a tongue to speak, now would she say

That to her brother which I said to thee:

His napkin, with his true tears all bewet,

Can do no service on her sorrowful cheeks.

O, what a sympathy of woe is this,--

As far from help as limbo is from bliss!

[Enter AARON.]


Titus Andronicus, my lord the emperor

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 king: he for the same

Will send thee hither both thy sons alive:

And that shall be the ransom for their fault.


O gracious emperor! O gentle Aaron!

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 chop it off?


Stay, father! 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.


Which of your hands hath not defended Rome,

And rear'd aloft the bloody battle-axe,

Writing destruction on the enemy's castle?

O, none of both but are of high desert:

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.


Nay, come, agree whose hand shall go along,

For fear they die before their pardon come.


My hand shall go.


By heaven, it shall not go!


Sirs, strive no more: such wither'd 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.


Agree between you; I will spare my hand.


Then I'll go fetch an axe.


But I will use the axe.

[Exeunt LUCIUS and MARCUS.]


Come hither, Aaron; I'll deceive them both:

Lend me thy hand, and I will give thee mine.


[Aside.] If that be call'd deceit, I will be honest,

And never whilst I live deceive men so:--

But I'll deceive you in another sort,

And that you'll say ere half an hour pass.

[He cuts off TITUS'S hand.]

[Re-enter LUCIUS and MARCUS.]


Now stay your strife: what shall be is despatch'd.--

Good Aaron, give his majesty my hand:

Tell him it was a hand that warded him

From 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 purchas'd at an easy price;

And yet dear too, because I bought mine own.


I go, Andronicus: and for thy hand

Look by and by to have thy sons with thee:--

[Aside] Their heads I mean. O, how this villainy

Doth fat me with the very thoughts of it!

Let fools do good, and fair men call for grace:

Aaron will have his soul black like his face.



O, here I lift this one hand up to heaven,

And bow this feeble ruin to the earth:

If any power pities wretched tears,

To that I call!--[To LAVINIA.] What, wilt thou kneel with me?

Do, then, dear heart; for heaven shall hear our prayers;

Or with our sighs we'll breathe the welkin dim,

And stain the sun with fog, as sometime clouds

When they do hug him in their melting bosoms.


O brother, speak with possibilities,

And do not break into these deep extremes.


Is not my sorrow deep, having no bottom?

Then be my passions bottomless with them.


But yet let reason govern thy lament.


If there were reason for these miseries,

Then into limits could I bind my woes:

When heaven doth weep, doth not the earth o'erflow?

If the winds rage, doth not the sea wax mad,

Threatening the welkin with his big-swol'n face?

And wilt thou have a reason for this coil?

I am the sea; hark, how her sighs do flow!

She is the weeping welkin, I the earth:

Then must my sea be moved with her sighs;

Then must my earth with her continual tears

Become a deluge, overflow'd and drown'd;

For why my bowels cannot hide her woes,

But like a drunkard must I vomit them.

Then give me leave; for losers will have leave

To ease their stomachs with their bitter tongues.

[Enter a Messenger, with two heads and a hand.]


Worthy Andronicus, ill art thou repaid

For that good hand thou sent'st the emperor.

Here are the heads of thy two noble sons;

And here's thy hand, in scorn to thee sent back,--

Thy grief their sports, thy resolution mock'd:

That woe is me to think upon thy woes,

More than remembrance of my father's death.



Now let hot Aetna cool in Sicily,

And be my heart an ever-burning hell!

These miseries are more than may be borne.

To weep with them that weep doth ease some deal;

But sorrow flouted at is double death.


Ah, that this sight should make so deep a wound,

And yet detested life not shrink thereat!

That ever death should let life bear his name,

Where life hath no more interest but to breathe!

[LAVINIA kisses him.]


Alas, poor heart, that kiss is comfortless

As frozen water to a starved snake.


When will this fearful slumber have an end?


Now farewell, flattery; die, Andronicus;

Thou dost not slumber: see thy two sons' heads,

Thy warlike hand, thy mangled daughter here;

Thy other banish'd son with this dear sight

Struck pale and bloodless; and thy brother, I,

Even like a stony image, cold and numb.

Ah! now no more will I control thy griefs:

Rent off thy silver hair, thy other hand

Gnawing with thy teeth; and be this dismal sight

The closing up of our most wretched eyes:

Now is a time to storm; why art thou still?


Ha, ha, ha!


Why dost thou laugh? it fits not with this hour.


Why, I have not another tear to shed:

Besides, this sorrow is an enemy,

And would usurp upon my watery eyes,

And make them blind with tributary tears:

Then which way shall I find revenge's cave?

For these two heads do seem to speak to me,

And threat me I shall never come to bliss

Till all these mischiefs be return'd again

Even in their throats that have committed them.

Come, let me see what task I have to do.--

You heavy people circle me about,

That I may turn me to each one of you,

And swear unto my soul to right your wrongs.--

The vow is made.--Come, brother, take a head;

And in this hand the other will I bear.

And, Lavinia, thou shalt be employ'd in these things;

Bear thou my hand, sweet wench, between thy teeth.

As for thee, boy, go, get thee from my sight;

Thou art an exile, and thou must not stay:

Hie 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.



Farewell, Andronicus, my noble father,--

The woefull'st man that ever liv'd in Rome:

Farewell, proud Rome; till Lucius come again,

He leaves his pledges dearer than his life:

Farewell, Lavinia, my noble sister;

O, would thou wert as thou 'tofore hast been!

But now nor Lucius nor Lavinia lives

But in oblivion and hateful griefs.

If Lucius live, he will requite your wrongs,

And make proud Saturnine and his empress

Beg at the gates, like Tarquin and his queen.

Now will I to the Goths, and raise a power

To be reveng'd on Rome and Saturnine.


SCENE II. Rome. A Room in TITUS'S House. A banquet set out.



So so, now sit: and look you eat no more

Than will preserve just so much strength in us

As will revenge these bitter woes of ours.

Marcus, unknit that sorrow-wreathen knot:

Thy niece and I, poor creatures, want our hands,

And cannot passionate our tenfold grief

With folded arms. This poor right hand of mine

Is left to tyrannize upon my breast;

And, when my heart, all mad with misery,

Beats in this hollow prison of my flesh,

Then thus I thump it down.--

[To LAVINIA] Thou map of woe, that thus dost talk in signs!

When thy poor heart beats with outrageous beating,

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,

That all the tears that thy poor eyes let fall

May run into that sink, and, soaking in,

Drown the lamenting fool in sea-salt tears.


Fie, brother, fie! teach her not thus to lay

Such violent hands upon her tender life.


How now! has sorrow made thee dote already?

Why, Marcus, no man should be mad but I.

What violent hands can she lay on her life?

Ah, wherefore dost thou urge the name of hands;--

To bid Aeneas tell the tale twice o'er

How Troy was burnt and he made miserable?

O, handle not the theme, to talk of hands,

Lest we remember still that we have none.--

Fie, fie, how frantically I square my talk,--

As if we should forget we had no hands,

If Marcus did not name the word of hands!--

Come, let's fall to; and, gentle girl, eat this.--

Here is no drink! Hark, Marcus, what she says;--

I can interpret all her martyr'd signs;--

She says she drinks no other drink but tears,

Brew'd with her sorrow, mesh'd upon her cheeks:--

Speechless complainer, I will learn thy thought;

In thy dumb action will I be as perfect

As begging hermits in their holy prayers:

Thou shalt not sigh, nor hold thy stumps to heaven,

Nor wink, nor nod, nor kneel, nor make a sign,

But I of these will wrest an alphabet,

And by still practice learn to know thy meaning.


Good grandsire, leave these bitter deep laments:

Make my aunt merry with some pleasing tale.


Alas, the tender boy, in passion mov'd,

Doth weep to see his grandsire's heaviness.


Peace, tender sapling; thou art made of tears,

And tears will quickly melt thy life away.--

[MARCUS strikes the dish with a knife.]

What dost thou strike at, Marcus, with thy knife?


At that that I have kill'd, my lord,--a fly.


Out on thee, murderer! thou kill'st my heart;

Mine eyes are cloy'd with view 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 kill'd a fly.


But how if that fly had a father and mother?

How would he hang his slender gilded wings

And buzz lamenting doings in the air!

Poor harmless fly,

That with his pretty buzzing melody

Came here to make us merry! and thou hast kill'd him.


Pardon me, sir; 'twas a black ill-favour'd fly,

Like to the empress' Moor; therefore I kill'd him.


O, O, O!

Then pardon me for reprehending thee,

For thou hast done a charitable deed.

Give me thy knife, I will insult on him,

Flattering myself as if it were the Moor

Come hither purposely to poison me.--

There's for thyself, and that's for Tamora.--

Ah, sirrah!

Yet, I think, we are not brought so low

But that between us we can kill a fly

That comes in likeness of a coal-black Moor.


Alas, poor man! grief has so wrought on him,

He takes false shadows for true substances.


Come, take away.--Lavinia, go with me;

I'll to thy closet; and go read with thee

Sad stories chanced in the times of old.--

Come, boy, and go with me: thy sight is young,

And thou shalt read when mine begin to dazzle.