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A Study Guide
Complete Annotated Text of the Play
Prepared by Michael J. Cummings
Table of Contents
Type of Work
Composition and First
Were the Goths?
Tone and Conflict
Figures of Speech
Allusions and Direct References
Parallel With Othello
Essay: Titus as a Shrewd Business Coup
Questions and Essay Topics
Text of the Play
About the Author of This Study
Type of Work
William Shakespeare's Titus
Andronicus is a tragic stage play that has many
characteristics of black comedy.
The play was highly popular in Shakespeare's time
because of its depiction of extreme violence and gore.
Many Elizabethans enjoyed bloody spectacles, whether on
the stage or out in the open air. For example, many
people who attended Titus Andronicus also
attended bear-baiting exhibitions in London arenas. In
these exhibitions, a bear was chained to a post in an
enclosed area. Fighting dogs were then unleashed to
attack the bear. A bloody battled ensued. At times, the
bear was released to harry the dogs. Queen Elizabeth I
was among the spectators who enjoyed this sport.
Composition and First Performance
Shakespeare wrote the
play between 1589 and 1594 (probably 1593). The earliest known
performance of Titus Andronicus was at the Rose
Theatre in the London borough of Southwark on January
24, 1594. The play was a hit at the box office and was
performed again on January 29, February 6, and at other
times in Shakespeare's lifetime.
was published in two formats: quarto and folio. The
difference between them was size. A quarto page was
about 9½ inches wide and 12 inches high; a folio page
was much larger: 12 inches wide and 19 inches high. The
play was printed in a quarto edition in 1594 by John
Danter under the title A Romaine Tragedy of Titus
Andronicus for two book dealers, Edward White and
Thomas Millington. It was the first Shakespeare play to
see print. Other quarto editions followed in 1600, and
1611. The 1594 quarto was a relatively good rendering of
Shakespeare's original manuscript, but the other two
quartos contain errors. The play was printed again in
1623 in folio format as part of a collection that
included thirty-five other Shakespeare plays. Because
this book was the first collection of Shakespeare's
plays in one volume, it came to be known as the First
Folio. Other folios were printed in 1632, 1663 and 1685.
The 1623 folio edition, like the 1594 quarto edition,
was a close reproduction of the original, proofread
Probable Main Sources
One of Shakespeare's main sources for Titus
Andronicus was Thyestes, by Seneca
the Younger (4 BC-AD 65), a Roman dramatist of Spanish
birth and a tutor to Emperor Nero. Seneca wrote plays that described in
elaborate detail the grisly horror of murder and
contains murder, rape, and cannibalism. Shakespeare also
borrowed from Hecuba, by the Greek playwright
Euripides (480?-406 BC). This play centers on an event
at the end of the Trojan War, after the Greeks conquer
and burn the city of Troy. This event focuses on the
Greeks' capture and enslavement of the queen of Troy,
Hecuba. Over Hecuba's pleas, the Greeks sacrifice one of
her daughters, Polyxena, to honor the memory of the
great Greek warrior Achilles. In Titus Andronicus,
the Romans capture the queen of the Goths, Tamora, and
sacrifice one of her sons after Tamora begs the Romans
to spare him. Shakespeare also drew upon the story of
"Procne and Philomela" as told in Metamorphoses,
by Ovid (43 BC-AD 17). In this story, Philomela is raped
and mutilated, as is Lavinia, the daughter of Titus
Andronicus. Shakespeare may also have imitated the
blood-and-guts horror and brutality portrayed in The
Spanish Tragedy, by Thomas Kyd (1558-1594).
The action of the play
takes place in Italy—including Rome, a forest near Rome,
and plains near Rome—after the Romans defeat an army of
Goths (a Germanic people that frequently raided Roman
provinces). Titus Andronicus is fictional, but it
is set against real events that took place between
between the third and fifth centuries AD. At that time,
the Roman Empire was in decline and Goths from the north
were pushing southward and threatening Rome and its
Who Were the Goths?
Sweden, the Goths later settled in regions around
the Baltic Sea and later the Black Sea, according
to the sixth-century historian Jordanes, himself a
Goth. Around AD 370, the Goths broke into two
groups: Those that moved eastward became known as
Ostrogoths; those that moved westward became known
as Visigoths. The Goths gradually extended power
and influence in Europe and in 410 entered and
Andronicus: Noble Roman general who has won a long
war against the Goths but lost many of his sons in battle.
Although he is at first a reasonable man, events of the play
transform him into a mentally unstable man bent on
Tamora, Aaron, Saturninus
Saturninus: Duplicitous and
selfish older son of the late Emperor of Rome. Saturninus
succeeds his father after Titus Andronicus, citing his
advancing age, declines to accept the throne.
Bassianus: Younger son of the
late emperor and brother of Saturninus. He is in love with
Tamora: Queen of the Goths,
who is unrelenting in her desire to avenge the execution of
her son Alarbus at the hands of her Roman captors. Near the
end of the play, she unwittingly eats a meat pie made of the
flesh of her dead sons.
Alarbus, Demetrius, Chiron: Sons of
Aaron: A diabolical Moor and
lover of Tamora. Aaron is evil personified, but he has a
redeeming quality: love for his child. A
Moor was a Muslim of mixed Arab and Berber descent.
Berbers were North African natives who eventually
accepted Arab customs and Islam after Arabs invaded
North Africa in the seventh century AD. The term has
been used to refer in general to Muslims of North
Africa and to Muslim conquerors of Spain. The word Moor
derives from a Latin word, Mauri, used to
name the residents of the ancient Roman province of
Mauritania in North Africa. To use the term "black
Moor" is not to commit a redundancy, for there are
white Moors as well as black Moors, the latter
mostly of Sudanese origin. In placing a Moor in a
play about ancient Rome, Shakespeare was guilty of a
literary faux pas. A Moor was a Muslim, or follower
of Islam. However, Islam was not founded until the
early seventh century. Titus Andronicus is
set between the third and fifth centuries AD.
Lavinia: Innocent daughter of
Titus Andronicus. She is the victim of horrible crimes,
including rape, the amputation of her hands, and the
excision of her tongue.
Marcus Andronicus: Tribune of
the people and brother of Titus. A tribune was an elected
official dedicated to protecting the rights of the common
people, called plebeians, from offenses by the privileged
people, or patricians.
Lucius, Quintus, Martius, Mutius: Sons
of Titus Andronicus. Lucius is the oldest of Titus's living
Young Lucius: Son of Lucius. He
is identified in the dialogue as "Boy."
Publius: Son of Marcus the
Sempronius, Caius, Valentine:
Kinsmen of Titus. Valentine assists in the capture of Chiron
and Demetrius, who raped and mutilated Lavinia.
Aemilius: A noble Roman who acts as a negotiator between
the Romans and the Goths. At the end of the play, he
recommends that Lucius be crowned as the new emperor.
Nurse: Woman who brings Aaron
his baby, the offspring of a tryst between Aaron and Tamora.
Captain, Tribune, Messenger, Clown
Romans and Goths
Minor Characters: Senators, Tribunes,
Officers, Soldiers, Attendants.
When General Titus Andronicus returns to
Rome after defeating the Goths in a ten-year campaign,
the citizens hail him as a hero. Among his captives are
the Queen of the Goths, Tamora, and her three sons,
Alarbus, Demetrius, and Chiron. Also accompanying Tamora
is her lover Aaron, a Moor. Titus has lost many sons in
the war and, when the tomb of the Andronicus family is
opened to receive the bodies, Titus grieves deeply,
O sacred receptacle
[tomb] of my joys,
To give them a fitting funeral, Lucius,
the oldest of Titus’s three living sons, suggests a human
sacrifice. Titus singles out Alarbus, Tamora’s oldest son.
She pleads for her son’s life:
Sweet cell of
virtue and nobility,
How many sons of
mine hast thou in store,
That thou wilt
never render to me more! (1.1.97-100)
Victorious Titus, rue
the tears I shed,
Titus replies that “die he must, / To
appease their groaning shadows that are gone”
(1.1.130-131). Lucius and attendants seize Alarbus and
remove him to his place of execution. There, they hew his
limbs and “feed the sacrificing fire” (1.1.150). The death
of Alarbus triggers a series of gruesome murders and
mutilations occurring throughout the play. Lavinia, the
gentle daughter of Titus, then comes forth to greet her
father, shedding tears of grief for her brothers who died
in the war and tears of joy at the sight of Titus.
A mother’s tears in
passion for her son:
And if thy sons
were ever dear to thee,
O, think my son to
be as dear to me! (1.1.110-113)
Meanwhile, it so happens that the imperial crown is up for
grabs, the emperor having just died. When it is offered to
Titus, he refuses it, saying he “shakes for age and
feebleness” (1.1.196), and recommends Saturninus, the
oldest son of the dead emperor, for the crown. Titus also
recommends that Saturninus choose Lavinia, Titus’s
daughter, as his wife and empress.
becomes emperor, Tamora's beauty captivates him. He frees
her and her sons. Then Bassianus, the brother of
Saturninus, objects to the proposed marriage of Saturninus
and Lavinia because Lavinia is betrothed to him. With the
help of Lavinia’s brothers, he steals her away. Titus is
angry—so angry that he kills his son Mucius when he bars
Titus from pursuing the lovers. Later, Saturninus decides
that he fancies Tamora more than Lavinia, then marries
Tamora and makes her empress. Tamora begins plotting
revenge against Titus for allowing the slaughter of her
son. Before the palace, Tamora’s lover, Aaron, exalts
Tamora, and describes how he will serve her and “wanton”
her. He predicts that she will bring ruin to Rome,
I will be bright, and
shine in pearl and gold,
Tamora’s sons Demetrius and Chiron quarrel
over Lavinia. Each lusts after her, and each plans to
claim the right to take her from Bassianus. Aaron suggests
that they share the lovely Lavinia by taking turns raping
her in the seclusion of a forest. The occasion will come
during a hunt in the woods for game. Emperor Saturninus,
Queen Tamora, and many others are to take part in the
hunt. On the day of the hunt, Aaron and Tamora rendezvous
in the woods. Tamora speaks of her desire that they may
soon lie down “wreathed in each other’s arms / [and] . . .
possess a golden slumber'' (2.3.29-30). Aaron confides to
her that he is preoccupied with seeking revenge against
their enemies, then gives her a letter she is to present
to Saturninus. Its contents will abet Tamora’s desire to
bring down Titus.
To wait upon this
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 ship
wrack [shipwreck] and his commonweal’s. (2.1.21-26)
When Bassianus and Lavinia discover
Aaron and Tamora together, Tamora fears that the intruders
will tattletale to the emperor. So she calls out for her
sons, Demetrius and Chiron. When they arrive, Tamora
pretends Bassianus has threatened her. Ever ready to
defend mommy dearest, the sons kill Bassianus, dump him in
a pit, then drag Lavinia off to satisfy their lust. But
not only do they rape her, they also mutilate her, cutting
off her hands and tearing out her tongue so that she will
not be able to speak or write their names in attempting to
identify her rapists. Aaron leads Titus’s sons Quintus and
Martius to the pit where Bassianus lies dead under cover
of brush. Martius falls in. While Aaron goes to fetch
Saturninus, Quintus falls in, too, trying to rescue
Martius. Saturninus arrives with Aaron. With them are
Titus, Lucius, and attendants. Martius, who has discovered
the body Bassianus, informs Saturninus that his brother is
dead. Tamora then presents Aaron’s letter to Saturninus.
It falsely implicates Martius and Quintus in the murder of
Saturninus imprisons them. Judges later sentence them to
death in spite of Titus’s pleas on their behalf. Lavinia,
of course, cannot testify in their favor, for she has no
tongue. When Titus, Lucius, and Titus’s brother Marcus
discuss their options, the evil Aaron arrives and tells
them that Saturninus will free the sons of Titus if
Marcus, Lucius, or Titus cuts off his hand and sends it to
the emperor. It is Titus, though, who allows Aaron to cut
off his hand and take it to Saturninus. Within a half
hour, however, the emperor returns the hand, together with
the heads of Titus’s imprisoned sons, in a show of scorn
and contempt. Titus orders his son Lucius to flee the city
and enlist an army of Goths to overthrow Saturninus. The
loss of his sons takes a severe toll on Titus: He begins
to go mad. Then Lavinia informs Titus and others about her
rape and mutilation by writing in sand with a stick held
in her mouth.
Meanwhile, Tamora has a baby. It is
obviously Aaron’s because it has the dark complexion of a
Moor. Worried that her husband, Saturninus, will find out
about it, Tamora wants it killed. Aaron has other plans.
First, he kills the baby’s midwife and nurse to keep
secret the baby’s existence. Next, he substitutes a white
baby for his own, then leaves with his child to go to the
Goths to have them raise it.
By this time, Lucius is marching on Rome with his army of
Goths. Aaron and his baby, who have been captured, appear.
Aaron agrees to tell all he knows if his child is allowed
to live. It is now Titus’s turn for revenge. He cuts the
throats of Tamora’s sons Demetrius and Chiron, then has a
pie prepared of their remains. At his home, dressed as a
cook, he serves the pie to Saturninus and Tamora, who are
seated at a banquet table, unaware of recent events,
notably the deaths of Demetrius and Chiron. With Titus is
Lavinia, dressed in a veil. After welcoming the emperor
and the queen, he bids them eat of the pie, which they
do—heartily. Titus then kills Lavinia to put her out of
her misery. When Tamora asks why he killed his own
daughter, Titus tells her that the deed was really done by
Demetrius and Chiron. “They ravish’d her, and cut away her
tongue” (5.3.61), he explains. Saturninus then asks that
Demetrius and Chiron be brought before him. But Titus
Why, there they are
both, baked in that pie;
He flashes the knife he
used to prepare the pie, then uses it to kill Tamora. In
retaliation, Saturninus kills Titus, and Lucius kills
Saturninus. Lucius takes command of Rome as the new
emperor. There is unfinished business: Aaron. Lucius
orders him to be buried up to his chest, then starved to
mother daintily hath fed,
Eating the flesh
that she herself hath bred. (5.3.64-66)
Critical Appraisal of the
Andronicus was a critically acclaimed box-office
hit in Shakespeare's time. In Palladis Tamia,
English author Francis Meres (1565-1647)
singled out Titus Andronicus as one of
Shakespeare's "excellent" plays. The play
continued to please audiences and critics in
performances during Shakespeare's lifetime and
from 1700 until recent times, critics generally
criticized the work as foul and vulgar, with few
redeeming qualities. In modern times, the play regained
its popularity with audiences and critics. Following are
excerpts from commentary of literary critics about the
English critic and
essayist William Hazlitt described the play as being so
bad that he believed Shakespeare could not have written
it. He said, in part:
Andronicus is certainly as unlike Shakespeare's
usual style as it is possible. It is an accumulation
of vulgar physical horrors, in which the power
exercised by the poet bears no proportion to the
repugnance excited by the subject. The character of
Aaron the Moor is the only thing which shows any
originality of conception; and the scene in which he
expresses his joy at the blackness and ugliness of his
child begot in adultery', the only one worthy of
Shakespeare. Even this is worthy of him only in the
display of power, for it gives no pleasure.
Shakespeare managed these things differently. Nor do
we think it a sufficient answer to say that this was
an embryo or crude production of the author. In its
kind it is full grown, and its features decided and
overcharged. It is not like a first imperfect essay,
but shows a confirmed habit, a systematic preference
of violent effect to everything else. There are
occasional detached images of great beauty and
delicacy, but these were not beyond the powers of
other writers then living. The circumstance which
inclines us to reject the external evidence in favour
of this play being Shakespeare's is, that the
grammatical construction is constantly false and mixed
up with vulgar abbreviations, a fault that never
occurs in any of his genuine plays. A similar defect,
and the halting measure of the verse are the chief
objections to Pericles of Tyre, if we except
the far-fetched and complicated absurdity of the
story. The movement of the thoughts and passions has
something in it not unlike Shakespeare, and several of
the descriptions are either the original hints of
passages which Shakespeare has engrafted on his other
plays, or are imitations of them by some contemporary
poet. The most memorable idea in it is in Marina's
speech, where she compares the world to 'a lasting
storm, hurrying her from her friends'.—Characters
of Shakespeare's Plays. London: C. H. Reynell,
1817. Online at Project Gutenberg
essayist, and lexicographer Samuel Johnson also doubted that
Shakespeare wrote the play. In Volume III of Notes to
Shakespeare, he wrote:
barbarity of the spectacles, and the general massacre, which
are here exhibited, can scarcely be conceived tolerable to any
audience; yet we are told by [Ben] Jonson, that they were not
only borne, but praised. That Shakespeare wrote any part . .
. , I see no reason for believing.
produced at the beginning of this play, by which it is
ascribed to Shakespeare, is by no means equal to the
argument against its authenticity, arising from the total
difference of conduct, language, and sentiments, by which it
stands apart from all the rest. [Francis] Meres had probably no
other evidence than that of a title-page, which, though in
our time it be sufficient, was then of no great authority;
for all the plays which were rejected by the first
collectors of Shakespeare's works, and admitted in later
editions, and again rejected by the critical editors, had
Shakespeare's name on the title, as we must suppose, by the
fraudulence of the printers, who, while there were yet no
gazettes, nor advertisements, nor any means of circulating
literary intelligence, could usurp at pleasure any
celebrated name. Nor had Shakespeare any interest in
detecting the imposture, as none of his fame or profit was
produced by the press.
T. S. Eliot
American-British writer and critic T. S. Eliot wrote that Titus
Andronicus "is one of the stupidest and most uninspired
plays ever written, a play in which it is incredible that
Shakespeare had any hand at all." But Eliot also criticized
one of Shakespeare's greatest plays, Hamlet, saying,
"We must simply admit that here Shakespeare tackled a problem
which proved too much for him."
David Bevington (1931-
Encyclopaedia Britannica, American literary critic and
Shakespeare scholar David Bevington wrote that Titus
Andronicus "relates its story of revenge and political
strife with a uniformity of tone and consistency of dramatic
In an undated
Internet article, Indiana's Richmond Shakespeare Festival
observed the following: "Titus Andronicus is violent.
It is gruesome. It is probably inappropriate for children. But
so are most newscasts. And at the heart of Titus
Andronicus is a specific and all-too-familiar form of
human tragedy, in which the failure of empathy and habit of
violence propel well-meaning citizens into cycles of
ever-escalating revenge, and give free rein to the worst of
human inclinations." <http://www.richmondshakespearefestival.org/plays/titus-andronicus/>
theatre critic Charles Spencer wrote in December 2016:
For many of us
Shakespeare is a fount of wisdom and beauty, and it is
shocking to discover him writing the Elizabethan equivalent
of a slasher movie. Yet if you have the stomach for it, the
play is wonderfully gripping and seems to speak across the
centuries to the horrors of our own troubled times, with its
catalogue of dreadful violence and burning hatreds.
In Titus Andronicus, revenge
becomes a rolling juggernaut that destroys all in its
path. Once revenge is set in motion by the execution of
Alarbus in the first act, the play becomes a bloodbath,
with each side in the conflict taking turns murdering,
maiming, immolating, and mutilating. The word revenge
and its forms occurs thirty-four times in the play, vengeance
seven times, vengeful twice, and avenge
once. Words associated with revenge are spoken
hundreds of times. They include blood (and its
forms, such as bloody), thirty-eight; murder,
twenty-six; kill, nineteen; slaughter
three; slay, two. Aaron tells Tamora that he is
preoccupied with vengeance: "Blood and revenge are
hammering in my head." Tamora, enraged by a plot against
her, imposes revenge as a duty on her sons, telling them
you not by wondrous fortune come,
all the acts of vengeance in the play, the protagonist,
Titus, outdoes everyone, serving Tamora and Saturninus a
baked meat pie made of diced Demetrius and Chiron, the sons
of Tamora. Presumably Titus used "corpse helper" to season
the pie, for Tamora ate her fill of "the flesh that she
herself hath bred."
This vengeance on me had they executed.
Revenge it, as you love your mother's
Or be ye not henceforth call'd my
Betrayal is the handmaiden of power. In
good faith, Titus yields the throne to Saturninus.
Saturninus then turns against Titus. Other characters
betray one another for their own selfish ends. Tamora
even betrays her own child (fathered by Aaron).
Believing that Saturninus will find out about it, she
recommends that it be put to death. Aaron, however,
wants the child and takes it to the Goths to have them
raise it. Before he leaves, he murders the baby's nurse
and midwife to prevent them from telling others about
the existence of the child.
Commiting Evil for
Aaron does evil for evil’s sake. He
delights in the bloody mayhem, no motive required. After
cutting off Titus's hand—the price Titus has to pay to
secure a promise for the return of his sons—Aaron says:
I go, Andronicus: and for thy hand
near the end of the play, he observes:
Look by and by to have thy sons with
Their heads, I mean. O, how this
Doth fat me with the very thoughts of it!
Tut, I have done a
thousand dreadful things
Aaron's actions carry on the tradition of
the malevolent Duke of Gloucester in another Shakespeare
play, Richard III, and foreshadow the machinations
of the diabolical Iago in a later Shakespeare play, Othello.
As willingly as one
would kill a fly,
And nothing grieves
me heartily indeed
But that I cannot
do ten thousand more. (5.1.145-148)
Violence to gain revenge occurs throughout the play. There
are beheadings, stabbings, amputations, the severing of a
tongue, the dismemberment of bodies, and other gory
events. Apparently, the desire for revenge is so great
that it turns human beings into beasts. Titus
Andronicus is a relevant in today's world in that in
reminds audiences that the kind of barbarity depicted in
the play is the same kind of barbarity used by
terrorists--and even governments--to pursue their goals.
Tactics include decapitation, immolation, torture,
assassination, arson, suicide bombings, explosions, rocket
attacks, knife attacks, the slaughtering of children, and
shootings with automatic weapons.
Aaron is evil. There is no question about that. But how
did he get that way? Perhaps prejudice against him turned
him against the world. Bassianus says of him:
Believe me, queen, your
swarth [dark; black] Cimmerian
When Marcus kills a fly, Titus asks why
he killed a harmless creature. Marcus answers,
[Cimmerian: One of a
race of people living in a land of darkness at the edge
of the world. Bassianus is comparing Aaron to a
Doth make your honour
of his body’s hue,
Spotted, detested, and
Pardon me, sir; it was
a black ill-favour’d fly,
Titus answers, "Then pardon me for
reprehending thee, / For thou hast done a charitable deed"
(3.2.71-72). When a nurse presents Aaron the infant he
fathered with Tamora, she says,
Like to the empress’
Moor; therefore I kill’d him. (3.2.68-69)
Here is the babe, as
loathsome as a toad
Aaron replies, ’Zounds, ye whore! is black
so base a hue? (4.2.72-75)
Amongst the fairest
breeders of our clime.
The empress sends it
thee, thy stamp, thy seal,
And bids thee christen
it with thy dagger’s point.
The climax of a
play or another literary work, such as a short story or a
novel, can be defined as (1) the turning point at which
the conflict begins to resolve itself for better or worse,
or as (2) the final and most exciting event in a series of
events. The climax of Titus Andronicus occurs,
according to the first definition, when Titus descends
into madness in Act 3. According to the second definition,
the climax begins in the final act when Tamora dines on
the meat pie containing the flesh of her sons. It
continues when Titus kills Tamora, Saturninus kills Titus,
and Lucius kills Saturninus and becomes the new emperor.
Tone and Conflict
The play begins in joy and sorrow—joy, because the Romans
under Titus Andronicus have conquered the Goths; sorrow,
because Andronicus has lost sons in the war. "Hail, Rome,"
Titus says, "victorious in thy mourning weeds [clothes]"
(1.1.75). But the burial rites become savagely vengeful
when Lucius asks for "the proudest prisoner of the Goths /
That we may hew his limbs" and sacrifice him to appease
the spirits. Titus grants him the oldest son of Tamora,
the queen of the Goths. When he is sacrificed forthwith,
new conflict erupts between the Romans and the Goths.
Bitterness and rancor then dominate the rest of the play
as the foes each plot revenge. Another conflict develops
when Saturninus, the son of the late emperor of Rome,
turns against Titus Andronicus after the latter yields the
crown to him.
humor is a form of comedy that parodies, satirizes,
trivializes, or exaggerates a morbid, solemn, or tragic
event. An actor performs black humor with a deadly serious
demeanor and a deadpan face. In English literature,
Shakespeare became one of the earliest practitioners of
black humor when he debuted Titus Andronicus.
Following is an example of a darkly hilarious scene in
which Aaron tells Titus that he can rescue two of his sons
in exchange for one of his hands, to be sent to the
emperor. Titus replies:
O gentle Aaron!
son Lucius, good fellow that he is, then offers his hand in
place of his father’s; Titus’s brother Marcus does the same.
An argument breaks out over who will part with a hand. While
Lucius and Marcus fetch an axe to sever one or the other’s
hand, Titus says, “Come hither, Aaron; I'll deceive them
both: / Lend me thy hand, and I will give thee mine”
(3.1.193-194). Aaron chops off Titus’s hand. When Lucius and
Marcus return, Titus coolly says,
Did ever raven sing so like a lark,
That gives sweet tidings of the sun’s
With all my heart, I’ll send the emperor
Good Aaron, wilt thou help to chop it
Good Aaron, give his majesty my hand:
Shakespeare knew the meaning of black humor long before that
term was invented. By the way, during Shakespeare’s time, Titus
Andronicus was one of his most popular plays—if not the most popular. At the
end of the day, he went home with a jingling pocket,
recognition, and a brain full of ideas for other tragedies.
Tell him it was a hand that warded
From thousand dangers; bid him bury it.
In spite of the gruesome plot, Titus
Andronicus contains much beautiful imagery, spoken
often, ironically, by villains. For example, Aaron hails
Tamora’s ascendancy to the throne as queen with nature
metaphors and an allusion to Apollo, the sun god, driving
his chariot across the sky:
Now climbeth Tamora Olympus’ top,
Act 2, Tamora speaks nature metaphors to charm Aaron.
Safe out of fortune’s shot; and sits
Secure of thunder’s crack or lightning
Advanc’d above pale envy’s threatening
As when the golden sun salutes the
And, having gilt the ocean with his
Gallops the zodiac in his glistering
And overlooks the highest-peering
Upon her wit doth earthly honour
And virtue stoops and trembles at her
My lovely Aaron, wherefore look’st thou
Metaphors: Ugly Beauty
When every thing doth make a gleeful
The birds chant melody on every
The snake lies rolled in the cheerful
The green leaves quiver with the cooling
And make a chequer’d shadow on the
Under their sweet shade, Aaron, let us
And, whilst the babbling echo mocks the
Replying shrilly to the well-tuned
As if a double hunt were heard at
Let us sit down and mark their yelping
And, after conflict such as was
The wandering prince
and Dido once enjoy’d,
When with a happy storm they were
And curtain’d with a counsel-keeping
We may, each wreathed in the other’s
Our pastimes done, possess a golden
Whiles hounds and horns and sweet
Be unto us as is a nurse’s song
Of lullaby to bring her babe asleep.
Shakespeare sometimes wraps repulsive images in pleasing
ones or tucks them into rhythmically pleasing lines.
Lucius reports in Act 1 that
Alarbus’ limbs are lopp’d,
Act 2, Martius, upon discovering Bassianus dead in a pit,
And entrails feed the sacrificing
Whose smoke, like incense, doth perfume
the sky. (1.1.149-151)
Upon his bloody finger he doth wear
in Act 2, Marcus greets Lavinia—whose
hands have just been cut off—with
A precious ring, that lightens all the
Which, like a taper in some
Doth shine upon the dead man’s earthy
And shows the ragged entrails of the
So pale did shine the moon on Pyramus
When he by night lay bath’d in maiden
Speak, gentle niece, what stern ungentle
Other Figures of Speech
Have lopp’d and hew’d and made thy body
Of her two branches, those sweet
Whose circling shadows kings have sought
to sleep in. (2.4.19-22) .
are additional examples of figures of speech in the
Repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words
followers, favourers of my right
Anaphora: Repetition of phrases clauses or sentences at
the beginning of successive groups of words
In this detested,
If I do
dream, would all my wealth would wake me!
Addressing an abstraction or a thing, present or absent;
addressing an absent entity or person; addressing a deceased
If I do
wake, some planet strike me down, (2.4.16-17)
me, grave fathers! noble tribunes, stay!
pity of mine age, whose youth was spent
In dangerous wars, whilst you securely
all my blood in Rome’s great quarrel shed;
all the frosty nights that I have watch’d;
these bitter tears, which now you see. (3.1.3-8)
Witness this wretched
these crimson lines;
Witness these trenches made by grief and
Witness the tiring day and heavy
Witness all sorrow, that I know thee
For our proud empress, mighty Tamora. (5.2.25-29)
O earth! I will befriend thee more with
Metaphor: Comparison of unlike objects without using
like, as, or than
That shall distill from these two ancient
Than youthful April shall with all his
In summer’s drought I’ll drop upon thee
In winter with warm tears I’ll melt the
And keep eternal spring-time on thy
So thou refuse to drink my dear sons’ blood.
Speak, gentle niece, what stern ungentle
Onomatopoeia: Word that
imitates a sound
Have lopp’d and hew’d and made thy body
Of her two branches, those sweet
Comparison of severed hands to
branches and ornaments
map of woe (3.2.14)
Comparison of Lavinia to a map
Poor harmless fly,
Oxymoron: Placing two contrary or opposite words side by
That, with his pretty buzzing melody,
Came here to make us merry! and thou hast
kill’d him. (3.2.65-68)
charitable murderer (2.3.183)
Contradictory statement made in an attempt to convey a truth
A stone is
soft as wax, tribunes more hard than stones. (3.1.48)
Simile: Comparison of unlike objects without using like,
as, or than
Lord Bassianus lies embrewed here,
All on a heap, like to a slaughter’d
Comparison of Bassianus to a lamb
concealed, like to an oven stopp’d,
Doth burn the heart to cinders where it is. (2.4.39-40)
Upon his bloody finger he doth wear
A precious ring, that lightens all the
Which, like a taper in some
Doth shine upon the dead man’s earthy
Comparison of a ring to a lighted
a crimson river of warm blood,
Like to a bubbling fountain stirr’d
Doth rise and fall between thy rosed
Comparison of the accumulating blood
to a bubbling fountain
Allusions and Direct References
alluded frequently to Greek mythology and history in Titus
Andronicus, as well as his other works, to
invigorate the dialogue and enrich his descriptions. His
knowledge of mythology was remarkable at a time when books
on the topic were in severely limited supply. Following is
a partial list of allusions in the play. An allusion is an
indirect reference to a person, a place, a thing, or an
idea in mythology, literature, history, or everyday life.
For example, if the leader of a country faced a difficult
decision that would affect the lives of millions, he might
say, “I carry the weight of the world on my shoulders.”
His statement would be an indirect reference, or allusion,
to the task of the Greek god Atlas, who bore the sky on
his shoulders. A direct reference, on the other hand, is a
specific mention of a person, a place, a thing, or an idea
in mythology, literature, history, or everyday life. For
example, a television baseball announcer might say, “This
batter has the potential to become another Babe Ruth.”
Ruth (1895-1948) was the greatest hitter in baseball when
he played for the New York Yankees in the 1920s and 1930s.
In Greek mythology, a hunter who
happened upon Diana, the moon goddess, when she was
bathing. Her beauty enraptured him. When she noticed
him staring, she was deeply offended. She then
imposed a penalty on the intruder: he must not
speak. If he did so, she would turn him into a stag.
When he called out to his hunting companions, she
made good on her threat. Actaeon became an antlered
stag. His hunting dogs then attacked him and killed
him, unaware that their master had been transformed
into a deer.]
Aeneas (3.2.27): Trojan warrior. After
Troy fell to the Greeks at the end of the ten-year war
between Greece and Troy, Aeneas escaped the city and sailed
to Italy, where he founded a new Troy, Rome.
(4.1.69): God of the sun, depicted as
driving a golden chariot across the sky. He was also the
god of prophecy, music, poetry, and medicine. He was
sometimes referred to as Phoebus or Phoebus Apollo when he
was spoken of as the sun god. Apollo was the son of Zeus
and Leto, the daughter of Titans. The Greeks highly
revered him and built many temples in his honor. One such
temple at Delphi was the site of a famous oracle, the
Pythia, who pronounced prophecies as the mouthpiece of
Powerful Greek warrior in the Trojan War, second second only to Achilles in battlefield
prowess among the Greeks. After the war, he killed himself
after failing to win the armor of the dead Achilles.
Cocytus (2.3.242): River in Hades.
Cimmerian (2.3.76): Person residing
in a region of everlasting darkness.
Dian (2.3.65): Another name for
Diana, the Roman name for Artemis, goddess
of the hunt in Greek mythology. She was the twin sister of
(2.3.25): Queen of Carthage, who had a love affair with Aeneas and killed herself after he
Hymenaeus (1.1.338): God of
Jove: (4.1.69): King of the Olympian
gods. Jove is an alternate Roman name for Jupiter. Jove's
Greek name was Zeus.
Laertes (1. 1.394): Father of
Odysseus (Roman name, Ulysses), the wily Greek who devised
the Trojan horse.
Laertes' son (1. 1.394): Odysseus
(Roman name, Ulysses). See the previous entry for more
(2.1.118): Lucretia, Roman woman raped by Lucius Tarquinius
(Tarquin the Proud), the king of Rome before it became a
Mercury (4.1.69): Messenger god. His
Greek name was Hermes.
Olympus: (2.1.1): Mountain abode of
the Greek gods.
Pallas: (4.1.69): Alternate name for
Athena (Roman name, Minerva), the goddess of wisdom and war.
(2.4.46): Another name for a nightingale. Philomel
is derived from the name Philomela. In Greek mythology.
Philomela was a princess of Athens. Her sister, Procne, was
married to King Tereus of Thrace. Not satisfied with only
one of the sisters, Tereus lusted after Philomela and one
day raped her. To prevent her from revealing his crime, he
cut out her tongue. However, Philomel embroidered a tapestry
depicting his brutality and showed it to her sister. The two
women then plotted against Tereus and ended up serving him
his son, Itys, in a stew. When Tereus discovered what they
did, he chased them with an axe. The gods then turned
Philomela into a nightingale and Procne into a swallow,
enabling them to fly away.
(2.3.237): The lover of Thisbe. Pyramus and Thisbe were
Babylonians who were the subject of a story by the Roman
poet Ovid (43 BC-17 AD) in his long poem Metamorphoses.
When Pyramus thinks a lion has killed Thisbe, he kills
himself. Thisbe is still alive, however. But when she
discovers the body of Pyramus, she also kills
Phoebe (1.1.329): Alternate name for
Diana, the Greek goddess of the hunt. Her Greek name was
Priam (1.1.85): King of Troy at the
time of the Trojan War.
Queen of Troy
(1.1.141): Hecuba, wife of Priam, king of Troy.
(2.1.24): Beautiful Assyrian queen of
the Ninth Century BC. After her husband, King Ninus, died,
she ruled for many years and built the fabled city of
Styx (1.1.93): River in Hades.
Tereus (2.4.44): See Philomel.
Tarquin (3.1.307): See Lucrece.
Thracian tyrant: Polymnestor. After
he killed Hecuba's son, Polydorus,
Hecuba gained revenge by killing his two sons and blinding
Typhon (4.2.99): In Greek mythology,
a monster with a hundred heads.
Venus: (2.3.33): Roman name for
Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love.
Parallel With Othello
Titus Andronicus: Shrewd Business Coup
introduces an evil Moor named Aaron who displays
goodness near the end when he pleads for his child's
life. Othello introduces an upright and
righteous Moor who displays evil when he suspects his
wife of infidelity and, at the end of the play, kills
her. Like Othello, Aaron is the brunt of racist
Titus Andronicus is evidence that William Shakepeare was a
shrewd businessman and self-promoter. Aware that
Elizabethan audiences had a huge appetite for bearbaiting,
bullbaiting, dog-fighting, and cock-fighting, he may have
decided to give the people what they wanted—another bloody spectacle—when he staged Titus.
The play was immensely successful.
my view, Titus Andronicus is a jolly good play, a
running hyperbole which, like Voltaire’s Candide,
gives us an unbelievable world in order to make the real
world believable. In the real world, whether the real world
of four centuries ago or the real world of today, people
rape, poison, stab, shoot, lynch, torture, drown, cut off
heads, cut out tongues, declare war. Often, we onlookers
respond with passive acceptance: This is the way of
things. We must accept the fact that there will always be
“the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”—or bombs and missiles—raining down on us.
When he wrote the play in his late twenties, he was
struggling for recognition in a city that already had
several established playwrights with enormous talent, such
as Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Lodge, and George Peele. To
get the attention of the theatre-going public, Shakespeare
needed a play that would pack the audiences in. Violent
revenge plays happened to be au courant at that
time, especially those written after the manner of the
ancient Roman playwright Seneca. Many of Seneca's dramas
were grisly, verily hemorrhaging with gore. So Shakespeare
borrowed a few pages from Seneca’s bloody book, including
part of the story line of Seneca’s play Thyestes.
The plot of that play originated in a Greek myth about
Thyestes, the son of Pelops of Mycenae. When Thyestes and
his older brother, Atreus, were adults, Atreus became the
king of Mycenae after Pelops died. Atreus then drove his
brother out of the city after the latter challenged him
for the throne. One account of this tale says Thyestes had
first seduced Atreus’s wife, Aërope, to gain possession of
a golden lamb that conferred on its owner the rulership of
When Thyestes left the city, he took with him Atreus’s
child, Pleisthenes, and reared the boy. One day, he sent
Pleisthenes on a mission to kill Atreus. But the murder
plot was foiled and Pleisthenes was killed. Atreus did not
immediately realize that his would-be murderer was his own
son. However, after he
discovered to his horror the identity of the assailant,
Atreus hatched a plot to get even with his brother: He
invited Thyestes to a banquet, pretending he was ready to
reconcile with his brother. The main course turned out to
be the cooked remains of the sons of Thyestes. Thyestes
then laid a heavy curse on the house of Atreus, which
lasted for generations.
Shakespeare drew upon Seneca’s adaptation of this myth, as
well as other works that discussed it, to create his own
version of the story. The result was a horrific drama
featuring decapitation, amputation, cannibalism, excision
of a tongue, and rape. In other words, a bloody good play—with a meat pie to die
Of course, many critics in later times—from the eighteenth century
onward—attacked the play as
“Shakespeare’s worst” because of all the bloodletting; it
was politically incorrect, unfit for sensitive audiences.
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) wrote of Titus: “The barbarity
of the spectacles, and the general massacre which are here
exhibited, can scarcely be conceived tolerable to any
audience.” T.S. Eliot (1888-1965) said it was one of the
“stupidest” plays in history. Joseph Sobran, a syndicated
newspaper columnist in the U.S., assessed the play this
way: "This is generally—more
or less universally—regarded
as Shakespeare’s worst play. It’s so much worse than
anything else he wrote that many scholars have doubted
that he wrote it. The critical consensus may be summed up
in two words: it stinks." Shakespeare scholar Harold Bloom
(1930- ), a humanities professor at Yale and New York
University and author of Shakespeare: The Invention of
the Human, argues that "Titus Andronicus is ghastly
bad. I can concede no intrinsic value to Titus
Text of Titus
The following version of
Titus Andronicus is based
on the text in the authoritative 1914 Oxford Edition of
Shakespeare's works, edited by W. J. Craig. The text numbers the
lines, including those with stage directions such as "Enter" and
"Exit." Notes and definitions (annotations) appear in red
type in brackets.
Annotations by Michael J. Cummings
Act 1, Scene 1: Rome.
Act 2, Scene 1: Rome. Before the
Act 2, Scene 2: A forest.
Act 2, Scene 3: A lonely part of the
Act 2, Scene 4: Another part of the
Act 3, Scene 1: Rome. A street.
Act 3, Scene 2: Rome. A room in
Titus's house. A banquet set out.
Act 4, Scene 1: Rome. Titus's garden.
Act 4, Scene 2: Rome. A room in the
Act 4, Scene 3: Rome. A public place.
Act 4, Scene 4: Rome. Before the
Act 5, Scene 1: Plains near Rome.
Act 5, Scene 2: Rome. Before Titus's
Act 5, Scene 3: Rome. The court of
Titus's house. A banquet set out.
Act 1, Scene 1
The Tomb of the Andronici [plural of Andronicus]
appearing. The Tribunes and Senators aloft [on a balcony above the stage]; and then
enter Saturninus and his Followers at one door, and Bassianus and
his Followers at the other, with drum and colours [flag].
[Saturninus and Bassianus enter the Roman
Senate, which is in view of the tomb of the Adronicus family.]
SATURNINUS: Noble patricians, patrons of my
Defend the justice of my cause with arms;
And, countrymen, my loving followers,
Plead my successive title with your swords:
I am his first-born son that was the last
That wore the imperial diadem of Rome;
Then let my father’s honours live in me,
Nor wrong mine age with this indignity.
[Lines 3-10. Saturninus is the first-born
son of the late emperor of Rome. As such, he believes he has an
indisputable right to become the new emperor. He asks the
patricians, or noblemen of Rome, to support him in his cause
even if it means they must take up arms.]
BASSIANUS: Romans, friends, followers, favourers of
If ever Bassianus, Cæsar’s son,
Were gracious in the eyes of royal Rome,
Keep then this passage to the Capitol,
And suffer not dishonour to approach
The imperial seat, to virtue consecrate,
To justice, continence, and nobility;
But let desert in pure election shine,
And, Romans, fight for freedom in your choice.
[Lines 11-19: Bassianus, the younger son of
the late emperor, also curries the favor of the Roman elite. He
believes he has the necessary virtues and good judgment to
become the new ruler.]
Enter MARCUS ANDRONICUS, aloft, with the crown.
MARCUS: Princes, that strive by factions and by
Ambitiously for rule and empery [absolute
Know that the people of Rome, for whom we stand
A special party, have, by common voice,
In election for the Roman empery,
Chosen Andronicus, surnamed Pius [Titus
For many good and great deserts to Rome:
A nobler man, a braver warrior,
Lives not this day within the city walls:
He by the senate is accited [summoned]
From weary wars against the barbarous Goths;
That, with his sons, a terror to our foes,
Hath yok’d [subdued] a nation,
strong, train’d up in arms.
Ten years are spent since first he undertook
This cause of Rome, and chastised [conquered]
Our enemies’ pride: five times he hath return’d
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,
Renowned Titus, flourishing in arms.
Let us entreat, by honour of his name,
Whom worthily you would have now succeed,
And in the Capitol and senate’s right,
Whom you pretend to honour and adore,
That you withdraw you and abate your strength;
Dismiss your followers, and, as suitors should,
Plead your deserts in peace and humbleness.
[Lines 42-49: Marcus asks Saturninus and
Bassianus to give up their claims and withdraw their armies.]
SATURNINUS: How fair the tribune speaks to calm my
BASSIANUS: Marcus Andronicus, so I do affy [trust]
In thy uprightness and integrity,
And so 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 [daughter of Titus],
Rome’s rich ornament,
That I will here dismiss my loving friends [dismiss
And to my fortunes and the people’s favour
Commit my cause in balance to be weigh’d. [Exeunt
the Followers of BASSIANUS.
SATURNINUS: Friends, that have been thus forward in my
I thank you all and here dismiss you all;
And to the love and favour of my country
Commit myself, my person, and the cause. [Exeunt
the Followers of SATURNINUS.
Rome, be as just and gracious unto me
As I am confident and kind to thee.
Open the gates, and let me in.
BASSIANUS: Tribunes, and me, a poor competitor. [Flourish. They go up into the
Enter a Captain.
CAPTAIN: Romans, make way! the good
Patron of virtue, Rome’s best champion,
Successful in the battles that he fights,
With honour and with fortune is return’d
From where he circumscribed with his sword [surrounded
with his armies],
And brought to yoke [brought to submission],
the enemies of Rome.
Drums and trumpets sounded, and then enter MARTIUS and MUTIUS;
after them two Men bearing a coffin covered with black; then
LUCIUS and QUINTUS. After them TITUS ANDRONICUS; and then
TAMORA, with ALARBUS, CHIRON, DEMETRIUS, AARON, and other Goths,
prisoners; Soldiers and people following. The bearers set
down the coffin, and TITUS speaks.
TITUS: Hail, Rome, victorious in thy mourning weeds [clothes]!
Lo! as the bark [boat], that hath
discharg’d her fraught [discharged its
Returns with precious lading [cargo]
to the bay
From whence at first she weigh’d her anchorage,
Cometh Andronicus, bound with laurel boughs [victory
To re-salute his country with his tears,
Tears of true joy for his return to Rome.
Thou great defender of this Capitol,
Stand gracious to the rites that we intend!
Romans, of five-and-twenty valiant sons,
Half of the number that King Priam had,
Behold the poor remains, alive, and dead!
These that survive let Rome reward with love;
These that I bring unto their latest home.
With burial among their ancestors:
Here Goths have given me leave to sheathe my
Titus, unkind and careless of thine own,
Why suffer’st thou thy sons, unburied yet
To hover on the dreadful shore of Styx?
[Styx: A river in the Underworld, or Hades,
over which the souls of the dead were ferried to reach their
Make way to lay them by their brethren. [The tomb is
There greet in silence, as the dead are wont,
And sleep in peace, slain in your country’s
O sacred receptacle of my joys,
Sweet cell of virtue and nobility,
How many sons of mine hast thou in store,
That thou wilt never render to me more!
LUCIUS: Give us the proudest prisoner of the
That we may hew his limbs, and on a pile
Ad manes fratrum sacrifice his flesh,
Before this earthy prison of their bones;
That so the shadows be not unappeas’d,
Nor we disturb’d with prodigies on earth.
[Lines 103-106: Sacrifice him to the spirits
of our brothers before this prison which encloses their bones so
that the gods are appeased and will not disturb us with ill
omens and prophecies.]
TITUS: I give him you, the noblest that
The eldest son of this distressed queen.
TAMORA: Stay, Roman brethren! Gracious
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,
O! think my son to be as dear to me.
Sufficeth not that we are brought to Rome,
To beautify thy triumphs and return,
Captive to thee and to thy Roman yoke;
But must my sons be slaughter’d in the streets
For valiant doings in their country’s cause?
O! if to fight for king and commonweal
Were piety in thine, it is in these.
Andronicus, stain not thy tomb with blood:
Wilt thou draw near 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.
TITUS: Patient yourself, madam, and pardon
These are their brethren, whom your Goths beheld
Alive and dead, and for their brethren slain
Religiously they ask a sacrifice:
To this your son is mark’d, and die he must,
To appease their groaning shadows that are gone.
LUCIUS: Away with him! and make a fire
And with our swords, upon a pile of wood,
Let’s hew his limbs till they be clean consum’d. [Exeunt
LUCIUS, QUINTUS, MARTIUS, and MUTIUS, with
TAMORA: O cruel, irreligious piety!
CHIRON: Was ever Scythia half so
[Scythia: Ancient region north of the Black
Sea inhabited by barbarians]
DEMETRIUS: Oppose not Scythia to ambitious
Alarbus goes to rest, and we survive
To tremble under Titus’ threatening look.
Then, madam, stand resolv’d; but hope withal
The self-same gods, that arm’d the Queen of Troy
With opportunity of sharp revenge
Upon the Thracian tyrant in his tent,
[Queen of Troy:
Hecuba. After the Greeks defeated Troy in the Trojan War, they
slaughtered many Trojans, including Hecuba's daughter, Polyxena,
and her son, Polydorus. When taken to the king of Thrace, she
gained revenge, gouging out his eyes.]
May favour Tamora, the Queen of Goths—
When Goths were Goths, and Tamora was queen—
To quit the bloody wrongs upon her foes.
Re-enter LUCIUS, QUINTUS, MARTIUS, and MUTIUS, with their swords
LUCIUS: See, lord and father, how we have
Our Roman rites. Alarbus’ limbs are lopp’d,
And entrails [intestines] feed the
Whose smoke, like incense, doth perfume the sky.
Remaineth nought but to inter our brethren,
And with loud ’larums welcome them to Rome.
[Lines 152-153: All that remains is to bury
our brethren, welcoming them home to Rome with loud trumpet
TITUS: Let it be so; and let Andronicus
Make this his latest farewell to their souls. [Trumpets
sounded, and the coffin laid in the tomb.
In peace and honour rest you here, my sons;
Rome’s readiest champions, repose you here in
Secure from worldly chances and mishaps!
Here lurks no treason, here no envy swells,
Here grow no damned drugs, here are no storms,
No noise, but silence and eternal sleep:
In peace and honour rest you here, my sons!
LAVINIA: In peace and honour live Lord Titus
My noble lord and father, live in fame!
Lo! at this tomb my tributary tears
I render for my brethren’s obsequies [funeral
And at thy feet I kneel, with tears of joy
Shed on the earth for thy return to Rome.
O! bless me here with thy victorious hand,
Whose fortunes Rome’s best citizens applaud.
TITUS: Kind Rome, that hast thus lovingly
The cordial of mine age to glad my heart!
Lavinia, live; outlive thy father’s days,
And fame’s eternal date, for virtue’s praise!
Enter MARCUS ANDRONICUS and Tribunes; re-enter SATURNINUS,
BASSIANUS and Others.
MARCUS: Long live Lord Titus, my beloved
Gracious triumpher in the eyes of Rome!
TITUS: Thanks, gentle Tribune, noble brother
MARCUS: And welcome, nephews, from successful
You that survive, and you that sleep in fame!
Fair lords, your fortunes are alike in all,
That in your country’s service drew your swords;
But safer triumph is this funeral pomp,
That hath aspir’d to Solon’s happiness,
[Solon: Ancient Athenian lawmaker (circa
638-558 BC) known for his wisdom.]
And triumphs over chance in honour’s bed.
Titus Andronicus, the people of Rome, [Solon:
Ancient Athenian lawmaker known for his wisdom.]
Whose friend in justice thou hast ever been,
Send thee by me, their tribune and their trust,
This palliament [robe] of white and
And name thee in election for the empire,
With these our late-deceased emperor’s sons:
Be candidatus [a candidate for election as
emperor] then, and put it on,
And help to set a head on headless Rome.
TITUS: A better head her glorious body
Than his that shakes for age and feebleness.
What should I don this robe, and trouble you?
Be chosen with proclamations to-day,
To-morrow yield up rule, resign my life,
And set abroad new business for you all?
Rome, I have been thy soldier forty years,
And led my country’s strength successfully,
And buried one-and-twenty valiant sons,
Knighted in field, slain manfully in arms,
In right and service of their noble country.
Give me a staff of honour for mine age,
But not a sceptre to control the world:
Upright he held it, lords, that held it last.
MARCUS: Titus, thou shalt obtain and ask the empery [obtain and ask to be emperor].
SATURNINUS: Proud and ambitious tribune, canst thou
TITUS: Patience, Prince Saturninus.
SATURNINUS: Romans, do me right:
Patricians, draw your swords, and sheathe them
Till Saturninus be Rome’s emperor.
Andronicus, would thou wert shipp’d to hell,
Rather than rob me of the people’s hearts!
LUCIUS: Proud Saturnine, interrupter of the
That noble-minded Titus means to thee!
TITUS: Content thee, prince; I will restore to
The people’s hearts, and wean them from
BASSIANUS: Andronicus, I do not flatter
But honour thee, and will do till I die:
My faction if thou strengthen with thy friends,
I will most thankful be; and thanks to men
Of noble minds is honourable meed [reward].
TITUS: People of Rome, and people’s tribunes
I ask your voices and your suffrages [I ask
you to approve my recommendation]:
Will you bestow them friendly on Andronicus?
TRIBUNES: To gratify the good Andronicus,
And gratulate [welcome joyfully] his
safe return to Rome,
The people will accept whom he admits.
TITUS: Tribunes, I thank you; and this suit I
That you create your emperor’s eldest son,
Lord Saturnine; whose virtues will, I hope,
Reflect on Rome as Titan’s [the sun god's]
rays 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: With voices and applause of every
Patricians [noblemen] and plebeians
Lord Saturninus Rome’s great emperor,
And say, ‘Long live our Emperor Saturnine!’ [A long flourish.
SATURNINUS: Titus Andronicus, for thy favours
To us in our election this day,
I give thee thanks in part of thy deserts,
And will with deeds requite thy gentleness:
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 [temple
dedicated to the gods] her espouse [marry].
Tell me, Andronicus, doth this motion please
TITUS: It doth, my worthy lord; and in this
I hold me highly honour’d of your Grace:
And here in sight of Rome to Saturnine,
King 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 imperious lord:
Receive them then, the tribute that I owe,
Mine honour’s ensigns humbled at thy feet.
SATURNINUS: Thanks, noble Titus, father of my
How proud I am of thee and of thy gifts
Rome shall record, and, when I do forget
The least of these unspeakable deserts,
Romans, forget your fealty [loyalty]
it. [To TAMORA.] Now, madam, are you prisoner to an
To him that, for your honour and your state,
Will use you nobly and your followers.
SATURNINUS: A goodly lady, trust me; of the
That I would choose, were I to choose anew.
Clear up, fair queen, that cloudy countenance:
Though chance of war hath wrought this change of
Thou com’st not to be made a scorn in Rome:
Princely shall be thy usage every way.
Rest on my word, and let not discontent
Daunt all your hopes: madam, he [who]
Can make you greater than the Queen of Goths.
Lavinia, you are not displeas’d with this?
LAVINIA: Not I, my lord; sith [since]
Warrants these words in princely courtesy.
SATURNINUS: Thanks, sweet Lavinia. Romans, let us
Ransomless here we set our prisoners free:
Proclaim our honours, lords, with trump and drum. [Flourish. SATURNINUS courts TAMORA in
BASSIANUS: Lord Titus, by your leave, this maid is
mine. [Seizing LAVINIA.
TITUS: How, sir! Are you in earnest then, my
BASSIANUS: Ay, noble Titus; and resolv’d
To do myself this reason and this right.
MARCUS: Suum cuique is our Roman justice:
[Suum cuique: May each person have his own;
to each his own]
This prince in justice seizeth but his own.
LUCIUS: And that he will, and shall, if Lucius
TITUS: Traitors, avaunt [get going]!
Where is the emperor’s guard?
Treason, my lord! Lavinia is surpris’d.
[Line 293: They are committing treason, my
lord Saturninus, by taking Lavinia from you.]
SATURNINUS: Surpris’d! By whom?
BASSIANUS: By him that justly may
Bear his betroth’d from all the world away. [Exeunt
MARCUS and BASSIANUS with LAVINIA.
MUTIUS: Brothers, help to convey her hence
And with my sword I’ll keep this door safe. [Exeunt
LUCIUS, QUINTUS, and MARTIUS.
TITUS: Follow, my lord, and I’ll soon bring her
MUTIUS: My lord, you pass not here.
TITUS: What! villain boy;
Barr’st me my way in Rome? [Stabs MUTIUS.
MUTIUS: Help, Lucius, help! [Dies.
LUCIUS: My lord, you are unjust; and, more than
In wrongful quarrel you have slain your son.
TITUS: Nor thou, nor he, are any sons of
My sons would never so dishonour me.
Traitor, restore Lavinia to the emperor.
LUCIUS: Dead, if you will; but not to be his
That is another’s lawful promis’d love.
SATURNINUS: No, Titus, no; the emperor needs her
Nor her, nor thee, nor any of thy stock:
I’ll trust, by leisure, him that mocks me once;
[Line 313: You'll test my patience if you
dare to mock me once;]
Thee never, nor thy traitorous haughty sons,
Confederates all thus to dishonour me.
Was none in Rome to make a stale
But Saturnine? Full well, Andronicus,
Agreed these deeds with that proud brag of
That saidst I begg’d the empire at thy hands.
[Lines 317-320: Wasn't there anyone else in
Rome to make a fool of except me? You, Adronicus, went along
with the plans against me and made me beg the empire from you.]
TITUS: O monstrous! what reproachful words are
SATURNINUS: But go thy ways; go, give that changing piece [that fickle woman]
To him that flourish’d for her with his sword.
A valiant son-in-law thou shalt enjoy;
One fit to bandy with thy lawless sons,
To ruffle in the commonwealth of Rome.
TITUS: These words are razors to my wounded
SATURNINUS: And therefore, lovely Tamora, Queen of
That like the stately Phœbe [Diana, the
moon goddess] ’mongst her nymphs,
Dost overshine the gallant’st dames of Rome,
If thou be pleas’d with this my sudden choice,
Behold, I choose thee, Tamora, for my bride,
And will create thee Empress of Rome.
Speak, Queen of Goths, dost thou applaud my
And here I swear by all the Roman gods,
Sith [since] priest and holy water
are so near,
And tapers burn so bright, and every thing
In readiness for Hymenæus [god of marriage]
I will not re-salute the streets of Rome,
Or climb my palace, till from forth this place
I lead espous’d my bride along with me.
TAMORA: And here, in sight of heaven, to Rome I
If Saturnine advance the Queen of Goths,
She will a handmaid be to his desires,
A loving nurse, a mother to his youth.
SATURNINUS: Ascend, fair queen, Pantheon [temple of the gods]. Lords,
Your noble emperor, and his lovely bride,
Sent by the heavens for Prince Saturnine,
Whose wisdom hath her fortune conquered:
There shall we consummate our spousal rights. [Exeunt
all but TITUS.
TITUS: I am not bid to wait upon this
Titus, when wert thou wont to walk alone,
Dishonour’d thus, and challenged of wrongs?
Re-enter MARCUS, LUCIUS, QUINTUS, and MARTIUS.
MARCUS: O! Titus, see, O! see what thou hast
In a bad quarrel slain a virtuous son.
TITUS: No, foolish tribune, no; no son of
Nor thou, nor these, confederates in the deed
That hath dishonour’d all our family:
Unworthy brother, and unworthy sons!
LUCIUS: But let us give him burial, as
Give Mutius burial with our brethren.
TITUS: Traitors, away! he rests not in this
This monument five hundred years hath stood,
Which I have sumptuously re-edified:
Here none but soldiers and Rome’s servitors [persons
who have distinguished themselves in service to the state]
Repose in fame; none basely slain in brawls.
Bury him where you can; he comes not here.
MARCUS: My lord, this is impiety in you.
My nephew Mutius’ deeds do plead for him;
He must be buried with his brethren.
QUINTUS and MARTIUS: And shall, or him we will
TITUS: And shall! What villain was it spake that
QUINTUS: He that would vouch it in any place but
TITUS: What! would you bury him in my despite [would you bury him against my wishes]?
MARCUS: No, noble Titus; but entreat of
To pardon Mutius, and to bury him.
TITUS: Marcus, even thou hast struck upon my crest [even you have insulted me],
And, with these boys, mine honour thou hast
My foes I do repute you every one;
So, trouble me no more, but get you gone.
MARTIUS: He is not with himself [He
is not himself]; let us withdraw.
QUINTUS: Not I, till Mutius’ bones be buried. [MARCUS
and the sons of TITUS kneel.
MARCUS: Brother, for in that name doth nature
QUINTUS: Father, and in that name doth nature
TITUS: Speak thou no more, if all the rest will
MARCUS: Renowned Titus, more than half my
LUCIUS: Dear father, soul and substance of us
MARCUS: Suffer thy brother Marcus to inter
His noble nephew here in virtue’s nest,
That died in honour and Lavinia’s cause.
Thou art a Roman; be not barbarous:
The Greeks upon advice did bury Ajax
That slew himself; and wise Laertes’ son
Did graciously plead for his funerals.
[Ajax: Roman name for Aias, a gigantic
Greek warrior who fought in the Trojan War. After
the death of Achilles—the greatest of the Greek
warriors—he goes mad with rage when the Greek
generals Agamemnon and Menelaus award Achilles'
armor to Odysseus (Roman name: Ulysses) instead of
to him. In his madness, he kills sheep in the belief
that they are Odysseus, Agamemnon, and Menelaus,
then falls on his sword.]
[Laertes: Father of Odysseus (Ulysses).]
Let not young Mutius then, that was thy
Be barr’d his entrance here.
TITUS: Rise, Marcus, rise.
The dismall’st day is this that e’er I saw,
To be dishonour’d by my sons in Rome!
Well, bury him, and bury me the next. [MUTIUS is put into
LUCIUS: There lie thy bones, sweet Mutius, with thy
Till we with trophies do adorn thy tomb.
ALL: [Kneeling.] No man shed tears for noble
He lives in fame that died in virtue’s cause.
MARCUS: My lord,—to step out of these dreary
How comes it that the subtle Queen of Goths
Is of a sudden thus advanc’d in Rome?
TITUS: I know not, Marcus; but I know it
Whether by device or no, the heavens can tell.
Is she not, then, beholding to the man
That brought her for this high good turn so far?
MARCUS: Yes, and will nobly him
Flourish. Re-enter, on one side,
SATURNINUS, attended; TAMORA, DEMETRIUS, CHIRON, and AARON: on the
other side, BASSIANUS, LAVINIA and Others.
SATURNINUS: So, Bassianus, you have play’d your
God give you joy, sir, of your gallant bride.
BASSIANUS: And you of yours, my lord! I say no
Nor wish no less; and so I take my leave.
SATURNINUS: Traitor, if Rome have law or we have
Thou and thy faction shall repent this rape.
BASSIANUS: Rape call you it, my lord, to seize my
My true-betrothed love and now my wife?
But let the laws of Rome determine all;
Meanwhile, I am possess’d of that is mine.
SATURNINUS: ’Tis good, sir: you are very short [discourteous; curt] with
But, if we live, we’ll be as sharp with you.
BASSIANUS: My lord, what I have done, as best I
Answer I must and shall do with my life.
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 wrong’d;
That, in the rescue of Lavinia,
With his own hand did slay his youngest son,
In zeal to you and highly mov’d to wrath
To be controll’d in that he frankly gave:
Receive him then to favour, Saturnine,
That hath express’d himself in all his deeds
A father and a friend to thee and Rome.
TITUS: Prince Bassianus, leave to plead my deeds [stop speaking for me]:
’Tis thou and those that have dishonour’d me.
Rome and the righteous heavens be my judge,
How I have lov’d and honour’d Saturnine!
TAMORA: My worthy lord, if ever Tamora
Were gracious in those princely eyes of thine,
Then hear me speak indifferently [objectively;
without bias] for all;
And at my suit, sweet, pardon what is past [let
bygones be bygones].
SATURNINUS: What, madam! be dishonour’d
And basely put it up without revenge?
[Lines 48-49: Are you asking that I should
not seek revenge for being dishonored openly?]
TAMORA: Not so, my lord; the gods of Rome
I should be author to dishonour you!
[Lines 450-451: Not true, my lord. The gods
of Rome forbid that I should cause you dishonor.]
But on mine honour dare I undertake
For good Lord Titus’ innocence in all,
Whose fury not dissembled [not pretended]
speaks his griefs.
Then, at my suit [request], look
graciously on him;
Lose not so noble a friend on vain suppose [supposition;
Nor with sour looks afflict his gentle heart.
to SATURNINUS.] My lord, be rul’d by me, be won at
Dissemble all your griefs and discontents:
You are but newly planted in 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 at entreats, 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 sued for my dear son’s life;
And make them know what ’tis to let a queen
Kneel in the streets and beg for grace in vain.
[Lines 458-471: Tamora speaks in a whisper
so that only Saturninus can hear her. She urges him to go along
with her flattery of Titus and keep his complaints to himself.
Otherwise, he might stir up sympathy for Titus, causing the
Romans to turn against Saturninus. Tamora promises that she will
one day "massacre" the Titus faction, which made her beg for her
son's life. She will make Titus and his supporters regret that
they ever wronged her.]
[Aloud.] Come, come, sweet emperor; come,
Take up this good old man, and cheer the heart
That dies in tempest of thy angry frown.
SATURNINUS: Rise, Titus, rise; my empress hath
TITUS: I thank your majesty, and her, my
These words, these looks, infuse new life in me.
TAMORA: Titus, I am incorporate in [I
am part of] Rome,
A Roman now adopted happily,
And must advise the emperor for his good.
This day all quarrels die, Andronicus;
And let it be mine honour, good my lord,
That I have reconcil’d your friends and you.
For you, Prince Bassianus, I have pass’d
My word and promise to the emperor,
That you will be more mild and tractable.
And fear not, lords, and you, Lavinia,
By my advice, all humbled on your knees,
You shall ask pardon of his majesty.
LUCIUS: We do; and vow to heaven and to his
That what we did was mildly, as we might,
Tendering our sister’s honour and our own.
[Lines 490-491: We do ask pardon. What we
did was the least we were expected to do on behalf of our
sister's honor and our own.]
MARCUS: That on mine honour here I do
SATURNINUS: Away, and talk not; trouble us no
TAMORA: Nay, nay, sweet emperor, we must all be
The tribune and his nephews kneel for grace;
I will not be denied: sweet heart, look back.
SATURNINUS: Marcus, for thy sake, and thy brother’s
And at my lovely Tamora’s entreats,
I do remit these young men’s heinous faults:
Lavinia, though you left me like a churl,
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
You are my guest, Lavinia, and your friends.
This day shall be a love-day, Tamora.
TITUS: To-morrow, an [if] it
please your majesty
To hunt the panther and the hart [male
deer] with me,
With horn and hound we’ll give your Grace bon
SATURNINUS: Be it so, Titus, and gramercy [many thanks] too. [Trumpets.
Act 2, Scene 1
Rome. Before the
AARON: Now climbeth Tamora Olympus’ top,
[Olympus: Greece's Mount Olympus, home of
the gods, used figuratively here.]
Safe out of Fortune’s shot [safe from
misfortune]; and sits aloft,
Secure of thunder’s crack or lightning flash,
Advanc’d above pale envy’s threat’ning reach.
As when the golden sun salutes the morn,
And, having gilt the ocean with his beams,
Gallops the zodiac in his glistering coach;
And overlooks the highest-peering hills;
[Lines 7-11: Aaron compares Tamora to the
sun god, who—after rising in the morning and painting the ocean
with his golden rays—drives his golden chariot across the sky,
overlooking the highest hills. Tamora, as the new queen, will
also be in a lofty position.]
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, fetter’d in amorous chains,
And faster bound to Aaron’s charming eyes
Than is Prometheus tied to Caucasus.
[Lines 14-17: Then I will get ready to join
Tamora, who is my mistress, on those lofty heights and make love
to her. For she is chained to me by her love for me. She has no
more chance of escaping my charms than Prometheus did of
escaping from his shackles. (In Greek mythology, the Titan god
Prometheus was a benefactor of man. He stole fire from the gods
and gave it to humankind. For this offense, the king of the
gods, Jupiter (Greek name: Zeus), chained him to a rock on the
Caucasus Mountains. Each day, an eagle came to eat away his
liver, and each day the liver grew back. Eventually, Hercules
Away with slavish weeds [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,
[Semiramis: Legendary Queen of Babylonia,
famous for her beauty]
This siren, that will charm Rome’s Saturnine,
And see his ship wrack and his commonweal’s.
[Line 26: And bring him and his commonwealth
Holla! what storm is this?
Enter DEMETRIUS and CHIRON, braving [quarreling;
DEMETRIUS: Chiron, thy years want wit, thy wit wants
And manners, to intrude where I am grac’d,
And may, for aught thou know’st, affected be.
[Lines 29-31: Chiron, you lack the
intelligence and refinement to intrude upon Lavinia; she favors
me and, for all you know, may even love me.]
CHIRON: Demetrius, thou dost over-ween in
And so in this, to bear me down with braves.
[Lines 32-33: Demetrius, you're exaggerating
your qualities while criticizing mine.]
’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 [prove;
And plead my passions for Lavinia’s love.
AARON: Clubs, clubs! these lovers will not keep the
DEMETRIUS: Why, boy, although our mother,
Gave you a dancing-rapier [sword] by
Are you so desperate grown, to threat your
Go to; have your lath glued within your sheath
Till you know better how to handle it.
CHIRON: Meanwhile, sir, with the little skill I
Full well shalt thou perceive how much I dare.
DEMETRIUS: Ay, boy, grow ye so brave? [They
AARON: Why, how now, lords!
So near the emperor’s palace dare you draw,
And maintain such a quarrel openly?
Full well I wot [know] the ground of
[reason for] all this
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.
DEMETRIUS: Not I, till I have sheath’d
My rapier in his bosom, and withal
Thrust those reproachful speeches down his
That he hath breath’d in my dishonour here.
CHIRON: For that I am prepar’d and full
Foul-spoken coward, that thunder’st with thy
And with thy weapon nothing dar’st perform!
AARON: Away, I say!
Now, by the gods that war-like Goths adore,
This petty brabble [quarrel] will
undo us all.
Why, lords, and think you not how dangerous
It is to jet [tread] upon a prince’s
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! an [if] should
the empress know
This discord’s ground, the music would not
CHIRON: I care not, I, knew she and all the world: [I don't care if she or all the world knows:]
I love Lavinia more than all the world.
DEMETRIUS: Youngling, learn thou to make some meaner [less desirable]
Lavinia is thine elder brother’s hope.
AARON: Why, are ye mad? or know ye not in
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.
CHIRON: Aaron, a thousand deaths
Would I propose, to achieve her whom I love.
AARON: To achieve her! how?
DEMETRIUS: 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 [knows] the miller of; and
easy it is
Of a cut loaf to steal a shive [slice],
Though Bassianus be the emperor’s brother,
Better than he have worn Vulcan’s badge.
[Vulcan: Roman name for the Greek blacksmith
Ay, and as good as Saturninus may.
DEMETRIUS: Then why should he despair that knows to court
With words, fair looks, and liberality?
What! hast thou not full often struck a doe,
And borne her cleanly by the keeper’s nose?
[Lines 100-101: Haven't you ever killed a
female deer illegally and taken her past the gamekeeper's
AARON: Why, then, it seems, some certain snatch [taste; sampling] or so
Would serve your turns.
CHIRON: Ay, so the turn were serv’d.
DEMETRIUS: Aaron, thou hast hit it.
AARON: 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 [argue over] this?
Would it offend you then
That both should speed [that both of you
should have a chance with Lavinia]?
CHIRON: Faith, not me.
DEMETRIUS: Nor me, so I were one.
AARON: For shame, be friends, and join for that you jar [become partners in seeking what you want]:
’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.
[Lines 114-121: You
must use shrewdness and cunning to achieve your goal. Keep this
is mind. Lavinia, beloved of Bassianus, is just as virtuous as
Lucrece was. (Lucrece was raped by an acquaintance of her
husband. The rapist entered her home when she was alone.) I have
found a way to get to Lavinia.]
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 [open spaces]
Fitted by kind for rape and villainy:
[Line 126: Suited by their natural contours
for rape and villainy]
Single you thither then this dainty doe,
[Line 127: There you can separate this
dainty lady from the others]
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 that we intend;
[Lines 130-132: Come with me so that we can
acquaint our empress, Tamora—who has vowed vengeance and
villainy—with all that we intend to do.]
And she shall file our engines with
That will not suffer you to square yourselves,
But to your wishes’ height advance you both.
[Lines 133-135: And she shall give advice
that will help you to achieve your goal.]
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
[Lines 136-137: The emperor's court has too
many eyes and ears for you to do anything, but the woods are
dark and secret.]
There speak, and strike, brave boys, and take your
There serve your lusts, shadow’d from heaven’s
And revel in Lavinia’s treasury.
CHIRON: Thy counsel, lad, smells of no
DEMETRIUS: Sit fas aut nefas, till I find the
To cool this heat, a charm to calm these fits,
Per Styga, per manes vehor. [Exeunt.
[Lines 143-145: Whether it's right or wrong,
I'll find a stream to cool this passion of mine for Lavinia, a
charm to calm these fits. I am even willing to cross the River
Styx in hell and encounter the spirits there to satisfy my
Horns and cry of hounds heard. Enter TITUS ANDRONICUS, with
Hunters, &c.; MARCUS, LUCIUS, QUINTUS, and MARTIUS.
TITUS: The hunt is up, the morn is bright and
The fields are fragrant and the woods are green.
Uncouple here and let us make a bay,
[Line 5: Unleash the hounds and let them
howl for prey]
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. [A cry of hounds,
and horns winded [blown] in a
Enter SATURNINUS, TAMORA, BASSIANUS, LAVINIA, DEMETRIUS, CHIRON,
Many good morrows to your majesty;
Madam, to you as many and as good;
I promised your Grace a hunter’s peal.
SATURNINUS: And you have rung it lustily, my
Somewhat too early for new-married ladies.
BASSIANUS: Lavinia, how say you?
LAVINIA: I say, no;
I have been broad awake two hours and more.
SATURNINUS: Come on, then; horse and chariots let us
And to our sport.—[To TAMORA.] Madam, now shall ye
Our Roman hunting
MARCUS: I have dogs, my lord,
Will rouse the proudest panther in the chase,
And climb the highest promontory top.
TITUS: And I have horse will follow where the
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 [Lavinia]
to ground. [Exeunt.
Act 2, Scene 3
A lonely part of the
Enter AARON, with a bag of gold.
AARON: He that had wit would think that I had
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
That have their alms out of the empress’ chest. [Hides the
TAMORA: My lovely Aaron, wherefore [why]
look’st thou sad,
When every thing doth make a gleeful boast?
The birds chant melody on every bush,
The snake lies 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,
"Wandering prince" is an allusion to Aeneas, the hero of the Aeneid,
an epic poem by Virgil (70-19 BC). Aeneas, who escaped by ship
from Troy after the Greeks won the Trojan War, stopped at
Carthage in North Africa and had a love affair with its queen,
Dido. During a storm, they took refuge in a cave and made love.]
We may, each wreathed in the other’s
Our pastimes done, possess a golden slumber;
Whiles hounds and horns and sweet melodious
Be unto us as is a nurse’s song
Of lullaby to bring her babe asleep.
AARON: Madam, though Venus govern your
Saturn [god of agriculture in Roman
mythology] 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:
[venereal: Relating to sexual desire]
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
This is the day of doom for Bassianus;
His Philomel must lose her tongue to-day,
In Greek mythology, she was a princess of Athens who was raped
by her sister Procne's husband, Tereus, King of Thrace. Tereus
then cut out her tongue. To gain revenge, Procne killed her and
Tereus's son, cooked him, and served him as food to Tereus. When
he found out what he did, he attempted to murder the sisters,
but the gods turned them into birds—Philomela into a nightingale
and Procne into a swallow. In this passage, Philomel refers to
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 [portion] of our
Which dreads not yet their lives’ destruction.
TAMORA: Ah! my sweet Moor, sweeter to me than
AARON: No more, great empress; Bassianus
Be cross with him; and I’ll go fetch thy sons
To back thy quarrels, whatsoe’er they be.
Enter BASSIANUS and LAVINIA.
BASSIANUS: Who have we here? Rome’s royal
Unfurnish’d of her well-beseeming troop?
Or is it Dian [Diana, Roman goddess of the
moon], habited [dressed]
Who hath abandoned her holy groves,
To see the general hunting in this forest?
TAMORA: Saucy controller of our private steps!
[Line 64: How dare you interrupt our
Had I the power that some say Dian had,
Thy temples should be planted presently
With horns, as was Actæon’s; and the hounds
[Actaeon: In Greek mythology,
a hunter who happened upon Diana, the moon
goddess, when she was bathing. Her beauty
enraptured him. When she noticed him staring, she
was deeply offended. She then imposed a penalty on
the intruder: he must not speak. If he did so, she
would turn him into a stag. When he called out to
his hunting companions, she made good on her
threat. Actaeon became an antlered stag. His
hunting dogs then attacked him and killed him,
unaware that their master had been transformed
into a deer.]
Should drive upon thy new-transformed limbs,
Unmannerly intruder as thou art!
LAVINIA: Under your patience, gentle
’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!
[Lines 71-73: It is thought that you are an
adulteress and that you and your Moor plan to go forth
separately to try experiments. May Jove, the king of the gods,
shield your husband today from his hounds.]
’Tis pity they should take him for a stag.
BASSIANUS: Believe me, queen, your swarth [dark; black] Cimmerian
[Cimmerian: One of a race of people living
in a land of darkness at the edge of the world. Bassianus is
comparing Aaron to a Cimmerian.]
Doth make your honour of his body’s hue,
Spotted, detested, and abominable.
Why are you sequester’d [separated]
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?
LAVINIA: And, being intercepted in your
Great reason that my noble lord be rated
For sauciness. I pray you, let us hence,
And let her joy [enjoy] her
[Lines 84-85: Having been discovered in your
lovemaking with Aaron, you berated my noble lord for being bold.
Bassianus, let us go and leave her to her raven-colored lover.]
This valley fits the purpose passing
BASSIANUS: The king my brother shall have note of
LAVINIA: Ay, for these slips have made him noted
Good king, to be so mightily abus’d!
TAMORA: Why have I patience to endure all
Enter DEMETRIUS and CHIRON.
DEMETRIUS: How now, dear sovereign, and our gracious
Why doth your highness look so pale and wan?
TAMORA: Have I not reason, think you, to look
These two have ’tic’d [enticed] me
hither [here] to this
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
Unto the body of a dismal yew,
And leave me to this miserable death:
And then they called 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.
DEMETRIUS: This is a witness that I am thy son. [Stabs
CHIRON: And this for me, struck home to show my
strength. [Also stabs BASSIANUS, who dies.
LAVINIA: Ay, come, Semiramis [legendary
queen of Assyria], nay, barbarous
For no name fits thy nature but thy own.
TAMORA: Give me thy poniard [dagger];
you shall know, my boys,
Your mother’s hand shall right your mother’s
DEMETRIUS: Stay, madam; here is more belongs to
First thrash the corn, then after burn the
This minion [darling, used disdainfully]
stood upon her chastity,
Upon her nuptial vow, her loyalty,
And with that painted hope she braves your
And shall she carry this unto her grave?
CHIRON: An if she do, I would I were an
Drag hence her husband to some secret hole,
And make his dead trunk pillow to our lust.
TAMORA: But when ye have the honey ye
Let not this wasp outlive, us both to sting.
CHIRON: I warrant you, madam, we will make that
Come, mistress, now perforce we will enjoy
That nice-preserved honesty of yours.
LAVINIA: O Tamora! thou bear’st a woman’s
TAMORA: I will not hear her speak; away with
LAVINIA: Sweet lords, entreat her hear me but a
DEMETRIUS: Listen, fair madam: let it be your
To see her tears; but be your heart to them
As unrelenting flint to drops of rain.
[144-146: Listen, Mother. Take delight in
her tears, but don't let them soften your heart.]
LAVINIA: When did the tiger’s young ones teach the dam [mother]?
O! do not learn her wrath; she taught it thee;
The milk thou suck’dst from her did turn to
Even at thy teat thou hadst thy tyranny.
Yet every mother breeds not sons alike:
[To CHIRON.] Do thou entreat her show a woman
CHIRON: What! wouldst thou have me prove myself a
LAVINIA: ’Tis true! the raven doth not hatch a
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 [pared]
Some say that ravens foster forlorn children,
The whilst their own birds famish in their
O! be to me, though thy hard heart say no,
Nothing so kind, but something pitiful.
TAMORA: I know not what it means; away with
LAVINIA: O, let me teach thee! for my father’s
That gave thee life when well he might have slain
Be not obdurate, open thy deaf ears.
TAMORA: Hadst thou in person ne’er offended
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
The worse to her, the better lov’d of me.
LAVINIA: O Tamora! be call’d a gentle
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.
TAMORA: What begg’st thou then? fond [crazy;
stupid] woman, let me go.
LAVINIA: ’Tis present death I beg; and one thing
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.
TAMORA: So should I rob my sweet sons of their
No, let them satisfy their lust on thee.
DEMETRIUS: Away! for thou hast stay’d us here too
LAVINIA: No grace! no womanhood! Ah, beastly
The blot and enemy to our general name.
CHIRON: Nay, then I’ll stop your mouth. Bring thou her
This is the hole where Aaron bid us hide him. [DEMETRIUS
throws the body of BASSIANUS into the pit; then exeunt
DEMETRIUS and CHIRON, dragging off LAVINIA.
TAMORA: Farewell, my sons: see that you make her
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 [spiteful;
bad-tempered] sons this trull [harlot]
Enter AARON, with QUINTUS and MARTIUS.
AARON: Come on, my lords, the better foot
Straight will I bring you to the loathsome pit
Where I espied the panther fast asleep.
QUINTUS: My sight is very dull, whate’er it
[Line 201: I can't see well in this
darkness. Maybe that means something bad will happen to me.]
MARTIUS: And mine, I promise you: were ’t not for
Well could I leave our sport to sleep awhile. [Falls into
QUINTUS: What! art thou fall’n? What subtle hole is
Whose mouth is cover’d with rude-growing briers,
Upon whose leaves are drops of new-shed blood
As fresh as morning’s dew distill’d on flowers?
A very fatal place it seems to me.
Speak, brother, hast thou hurt thee with the
MARTIUS: O brother! with the dismall’st object
That ever eye with sight made heart lament.
Now will I fetch the king to find them here,
That he thereby may give a likely guess
How these were they that made away his brother.
MARTIUS: Why dost not comfort me, and help me
From this unhallow’d and blood-stained hole?
QUINTUS: I am surprised with an uncouth [peculiar] fear;
A chilling sweat o’erruns my trembling joints:
My heart suspects more than mine eye can see.
MARTIUS: To prove thou hast a true-divining
Aaron and thou look down into this den,
And see a fearful sight of blood and death.
QUINTUS: Aaron is gone; and my compassionate
Will not permit mine eyes once to behold
The thing whereat it trembles by surmise.
O! tell me how it is; for ne’er till now
Was I a child, to fear I know not what.
MARTIUS: Lord Bassianus lies embrewed [imbrued:
stained with blood] here,
All on a heap, like to a slaughter’d lamb,
In this detested, dark, blood-drinking pit.
QUINTUS: If it be dark, how dost thou know ’tis
MARTIUS: Upon his bloody finger he doth
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.
[Lines 237-238: The lover of Thisbe. Pyramus
and Thisbe, both Babylonians, were the subject of a story by the
Roman poet Ovid (43 BC-17 AD) in his long poem Metamorphoses.
When Pyramus thinks a lion has killed Thisbe, he kills himself.
Thisbe is still alive, however. But when she discovers the body
of Pyramus, she also kills herself.]
O brother! help me with thy fainting
If fear hath made thee faint, as me it hath,
Out of this fell devouring receptacle,
As hateful as Cocytus’ misty mouth.
[Cocytus: In Greek mythology, a river in
QUINTUS: Reach me thy hand, that I may help thee
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.
MARTIUS: Nor I no strength to climb without thy
QUINTUS: Thy hand once more; I will not loose
Till thou art here aloft, or I below.
Thou canst not come to me: I come to thee. [Falls
Re-enter AARON with SATURNINUS.
SATURNINUS: Along with me: I’ll see what hole is
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?
MARTIUS: The unhappy son of old
Brought hither in a most unlucky hour,
To find thy brother Bassianus dead.
SATURNINUS: My brother dead! I know thou dost but
He and his lady both are at the lodge [hunting
Upon the north side of this pleasant chase [game
’Tis not an hour since I left him there.
MARTIUS: We know not where you left him all
But, out alas! here have we found him dead.
Enter TAMORA, with Attendants; TITUS ANDRONICUS, and LUCIUS.
TAMORA: Where is my lord, the king?
SATURNINUS: Here, Tamora; though griev’d with killing
TAMORA: Where is thy brother Bassianus?
SATURNINUS: Now to the bottom dost thou search my
Poor Bassianus here lies murdered.
TAMORA: Then all too late I bring this fatal writ,
[Giving a letter.
The complot [plan] of this timeless
And wonder greatly that man’s face can fold
In pleasing smiles such murderous tyranny.
SATURNINUS: And if we miss to meet him
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 [elderberry]
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.
AARON: My gracious lord, here is the bag of
SATURNINUS: [To TITUS.] Two of thy whelps [sons], fell curs [dogs]
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.
TAMORA: What! are they in this pit? O wondrous
How easily murder is discovered!
TITUS: 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,—
SATURNINUS: If it be prov’d! you see it is
Who found this letter? Tamora, was it you?
TAMORA: Andronicus himself did take it up.
TITUS: I did, my lord: yet let me be their
For, by my father’s reverend tomb, I vow
They shall be ready at your highness’ will
To answer their suspicion with their lives.
SATURNINUS: Thou shalt not bail them: see thou follow
Some bring the murder’d body, some the
Let them not speak a word; the guilt is plain;
For, by my soul, were there worse end than
That end upon them should be executed.
TAMORA: Andronicus, I will entreat the
Fear not thy sons, they shall do well enough.
TITUS: Come, Lucius, come; stay not to talk with them.
Act 2, Scene 4
Another part of the
Enter DEMETRIUS and CHIRON, with LAVINIA, ravished; her hands cut
off, and her tongue cut out.
DEMETRIUS: So, now go tell, an if thy tongue can
Who ’twas that cut thy tongue and ravish’d thee.
CHIRON: Write down thy mind, bewray [reveal]
thy meaning so;
An if thy stumps will let thee play the scribe.
[play the scribe: Write a message.]
DEMETRIUS: See, how with signs and tokens she can scrowl [write; make a scroll].
CHIRON: Go home, call for sweet water, wash thy
DEMETRIUS: She hath no tongue to call, nor hands to
And so let’s leave her to her silent walks.
CHIRON: An ’twere my case, I should go hang myself.
[Line 11: If I were Lavinia, I would hang
DEMETRIUS: If thou hadst hands to help thee knit the
DEMETRIUS and CHIRON.
MARCUS: Who’s this? my niece, that flies away so
Cousin [used generally to refer to a
relative], a word; where is your
If I do dream, would all my wealth would wake
If I do wake, some planet strike me down,
That I may slumber in eternal sleep!
Speak, gentle niece, what stern ungentle hands
Have 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
And might not gain so great a happiness
As have 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 deflower’d thee,
[Tereus: See Philomel.]
And, lest thou shouldst detect him, cut thy
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 to an oven stopp’d,
Doth burn the heart to cinders where it is.
she but lost her tongue,
And in a tedious sampler [an embroidery]
sew’d her mind:
[Line 43: And revealed what happened to her]
But, lovely niece, that mean is cut from thee;
A craftier Tereus hast thou met withal,
And he hath cut those pretty fingers off,
That could have better sew’d than Philomela.
O! had the monster seen those lily hands
Tremble, like aspen-leaves, upon a lute,
And make the silken strings delight to kiss
He would not, then, have touch’d them for his
Or had he heard the heavenly harmony
Which that sweet tongue hath made,
He would have dropp’d his knife, and fell
As Cerberus at the Thracian poet’s feet.
[Line 54: In Greek mythology, Cerberus was a
fierce three-headed dog at the entrance to Hades. When he
encountered and heard the great musician and poet Orpheus, who
was attempting to rescue his beloved Eurydice, he fell asleep.]
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
Do not draw back, for we will mourn with thee:
O! could our mourning ease thy misery. [Exeunt.
Act 3, Scene 1
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.
TITUS: Hear me, grave fathers! noble tribunes,
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.
For these, these, tribunes, in the dust I write [He throws
himself on the ground.
My heart’s deep languor and my soul’s sad tears.
Let my tears stanch [allay] 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.
LUCIUS: O noble father, you lament in
The tribunes hear you not, no man is by;
And you recount your sorrows to a stone.
TITUS: Ah! Lucius, for thy brothers let me
Grave tribunes, once more I entreat of you,—
LUCIUS: My gracious lord, no tribune hears you
TITUS: Why, ’tis no matter, man: if they did
They would not mark me, or if they did mark,
They would not pity me, yet plead I must,
All bootless [uselessly] unto
Therefore I tell my sorrows to the stones,
Who, though they cannot answer my distress,
Yet in some sort they are better than the
For that they will not intercept [interrupt]
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 tribune like to these.
A stone is soft as wax, tribunes more hard than
A stone is silent, and offendeth not,
And tribunes with their tongues doom men to death.
But wherefore [why] stand’st thou
with thy weapon drawn?
LUCIUS: To rescue my two brothers from their
For which attempt the judges have pronounc’d
My everlasting doom of banishment.
TITUS: O happy man! they have befriended
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?
Enter MARCUS and LAVINIA.
MARCUS: Titus, prepare thy aged eyes to
Or, if not so, thy noble heart to break:
I bring consuming sorrow to thine age.
TITUS: Will it consume me? let me see it
MARCUS: This was thy daughter.
TITUS: Why, Marcus, so she is.
LUCIUS: Ay me! this object kills me.
TITUS: Faint-hearted boy, arise, and look upon
Speak, Lavinia, what accursed hand
Hath made thee handless in thy father’s sight?
What fool hath added water to the sea,
Or brought a faggot to bright-burning Troy?
[Lines 73-74: What fool has another tragedy
to make me cry even more, or brought a bundle of sticks to the
already-raging fire at Troy?]
My grief was at the height before thou
And now, like Nilus [Nile River], it
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 [futile; useless] 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.
LUCIUS: Speak, gentle sister, who hath martyr’d
MARCUS: O! that delightful engine [tongue]
of her thoughts,
That blabb’d them with such pleasing eloquence,
Is torn from forth that pretty hollow cage [mouth],
Where, like a sweet melodious bird, it sung
Sweet varied notes, enchanting every ear.
LUCIUS: O! say thou for her, who hath done this
MARCUS: O! thus I found her straying in the
Seeking to hide herself, as doth the deer,
That hath receiv’d some unrecuring wound [a
wound that won't heal].
TITUS: It was my dear; and he that wounded
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 [increasing]
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.
MARCUS: Perchance she weeps because they kill’d her
Perchance because she knows them innocent.
TITUS: If they did kill thy husband, then be
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
And made a brine-pit with our bitter tears?
[Lines 132-134: Shall we gaze so long into
the fountain that our tears pollute it with salt?]
Or shall we cut away our hands, like thine?
Or shall we bite our tongues, and in dumb shows [pantomimes]
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.
LUCIUS: Sweet father, cease your tears; for at your
See how my wretched sister sobs and weeps.
MARCUS: Patience, dear niece. Good Titus, dry thine
TITUS: Ah! Marcus, Marcus, brother; well I wot [know]
Thy napkin cannot drink a tear of mine,
For thou, poor man, hast drown’d it with thine
LUCIUS: Ah! my Lavinia, I will wipe thy
TITUS: Mark, Marcus, mark! I understand her
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.
AARON: Titus Andronicus, my lord the
Sends thee this word: that, if thou love thy
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.
TITUS: 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
Good Aaron, wilt thou help to chop it off?
LUCIUS: Stay, father! for that noble hand of
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’
MARCUS: Which of your hands hath not defended
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.
AARON: Nay, come, agree whose hand shall go
For fear they die before their pardon come.
MARCUS: My hand shall go.
LUCIUS: By heaven, it shall not go!
TITUS: Sirs, strive no more: such wither’d herbs as
Are meet for plucking up, and therefore mine.
LUCIUS: Sweet father, if I shall be thought thy
Let me redeem my brothers both from death.
MARCUS: And for our father’s sake, and mother’s
Now let me show a brother’s love to thee.
TITUS: Agree between you; I will spare my
LUCIUS: Then I’ll go fetch an axe.
MARCUS: But I will use the axe. [Exeunt
LUCIUS and MARCUS.
TITUS: Come hither, Aaron; I’ll deceive them
Lend me thy hand, and I will give thee mine.
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 [before]
half an hour pass. [Cuts off TITUS’ hand.
Re-enter LUCIUS and MARCUS.
TITUS: Now stay your strife: what shall be is
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.
AARON: I go, Andronicus; and for thy hand,
Look by and by to have thy sons with thee.
Their heads, I mean. O! how this villany
Doth fat [delight] 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.
TITUS: O! here I lift this one hand up to
And bow this feeble ruin to the earth:
If any power pities wretched tears,
To that I call! [To LAVINIA.] What! wilt thou kneel
Do, then, dear heart; for heaven shall hear our
Or with our sighs we’ll breathe the welkin [sky]
And stain the sun with fog, as sometime [sometimes]
When they do hug him in their melting bosoms.
MARCUS: O! brother, speak with
And do not break into these deep extremes.
TITUS: Is not my sorrow deep, having no
Then be my passions bottomless with them.
MARCUS: But yet let reason govern thy
TITUS: If there were reason for these
Then into limits [inside boundaries]
could I bind my woes.
When heaven doth weep, doth not the earth
If the winds rage, doth not the sea wax [grow]
Threat’ning the welkin [sky] with
his big-swoln [swollen]
And wilt thou have a reason for this coil [disturbance;
I am the sea; hark! how her sighs do blow;
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
Enter a Messenger, with two heads and a hand.
MESSENGER: Worthy Andronicus, ill art thou
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 griefs their sports, thy resolution mock’d;
[Line 247: Your griefs entertain them; they
That woe is me to think upon thy woes,
More than remembrance of my father’s death.
MARCUS: Now let hot Aetna [volcano]
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.
[Line 254: Sorrow that people mock doubles
LUCIUS: Ah! that this sight should make so deep a
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
[Lines 255-258: Life has become so sorrowful
that it is the same thing as death.]
MARCUS: Alas! poor heart; that kiss is
As frozen water to a starved snake.
TITUS: When will this fearful slumber have an
MARCUS: Now, farewell, flattery: die,
Thou dost not slumber: see, thy two sons’ heads,
Thy war-like 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?
TITUS: Ha, ha, ha!
MARCUS: Why dost thou laugh? it fits not with this
TITUS: Why, I have not another tear to
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 [warns] 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.
Lavinia, thou shalt be employ’d in these things:
Bear thou my hand, sweet wench, between thy
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. [Exeunt
TITUS, MARCUS, and LAVINIA.
LUCIUS: Farewell, Andronicus, my noble
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 [before]
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.
[Line 307: Tarquin the
Proud, the seventh king of Rome, who was banished for offenses
against the state.]
Now will I to the Goths, and raise a power,
To be reveng’d on Rome and Saturnine. [Exeunt.
Act 3, Scene 2
Rome. A room in
Titus's house. A banquet set out.
Enter TITUS, MARCUS, LAVINIA, and young LUCIUS, a Boy.
TITUS: So, so; now sit; and look you eat no more
[Line 3: Do it just so. It may refer
to putting food on the table or setting up a chair.]
Than will preserve just so much strength in us
As will revenge these bitter woes of ours.
Marcus, unknit that sorrow-wreathen knot:
[Line 6: Marcus, unfold your arms.]
Thy niece and I, poor creatures, want our hands,
And cannot passionate [express] our
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
When thy poor heart beats with outrageous
Thou canst not strike it thus to make it still.
Wound it with sighing, girl, kill it with
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.
MARCUS: Fie, brother, fie! teach her not thus to
Such violent hands upon her tender life.
TITUS: How now! has sorrow made thee dote
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 Æneas
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, mash’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
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.
BOY: Good grandsire, leave these bitter deep
Make my aunt merry with some pleasing tale.
MARCUS: Alas! the tender boy, in passion
Doth weep to see his grandsire’s heaviness.
TITUS: Peace, tender sapling; thou art made of
And tears will quickly melt thy life away. [MARCUS strikes
the dish with a knife.
What dost thou strike at, Marcus, with thy
MARCUS: At that that I have kill’d, my lord; a
TITUS: Out on thee, murderer! thou kill’st my
Mine eyes are cloy’d with view of tyranny:
[Line 57: I have seen enough tyranny
A deed of death, done on the innocent,
Becomes not Titus’ brother. Get thee gone;
I see, thou art not for my company.
MARCUS: Alas! my lord, I have but kill’d a
TITUS: But how if that fly had a father and a
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
MARCUS: Pardon me, sir; it was a black ill-favour’d
Like to the empress’ Moor; therefore I kill’d
TITUS: 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.
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.
MARCUS: Alas! poor man; grief has so wrought on
He takes false shadows for true substances.
TITUS: Come, take away. Lavinia, go with
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 begins to dazzle. [Exeunt.
Act 4, Scene 1
The garden of Titus.
Enter TITUS and MARCUS. Then enter young LUCIUS, LAVINIA
running after him.
BOY: Help, grandsire. help! my aunt Lavinia
Follows me everywhere, I know not why:
Good uncle Marcus, see how swift she comes:
Alas! sweet aunt, I know not what you mean.
MARCUS: Stand by me, Lucius; do not fear thine
TITUS: She loves thee, boy, too well to do thee
BOY: Ay, when my father was in Rome, she did.
MARCUS: What means my niece Lavinia by these
TITUS: Fear her not, Lucius: somewhat doth she
See, Lucius, see how much she makes of thee;
Some whither [somewhere] would she
have thee go with her.
Ah! boy; Cornelia never with more care
Read to her sons, than she hath read to thee
Sweet poetry and Tully’s Orator.
[Cornelia: Doting mother of two well-known
politicians, the Gracchi. She saw that they had a good
[Tully: Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC),
the famous Roman senator. He wrote a book called On the
Orator (De Oratore).]
MARCUS: Canst thou not guess wherefore [why] she plies thee thus?
BOY: My lord, I know not, I, nor can I guess,
Unless some fit or frenzy do possess her;
For I have heard my grandsire say full oft,
Extremity of griefs would make men mad;
And I have read that Hecuba
Ran mad through sorrow; that made me to fear,
Although, my lord, I know my noble aunt
Loves me as dear as e’er my mother did,
And would not, but in fury, fright my youth;
Which made me down to throw my books and fly,
Causeless, perhaps. But pardon me, sweet aunt;
And, madam, if my uncle Marcus go,
I will most willingly attend your ladyship.
MARCUS: Lucius, I will. [LAVINIA turns over the books
which LUCIUS had let fall.
TITUS: How now, Lavinia! Marcus, what means
Some book there is that she desires to see.
Which is it, girl, of these? Open them, boy.
But thou art deeper read, and better skill’d;
Come, and take choice of all my library,
And so beguile thy sorrow, till the heavens
Reveal the damn’d contriver of this deed.
Why lifts she up her arms in sequence thus?
MARCUS: I think she means that there was more than
Confederate [attacker] in the fact:
ay, more there was;
Or else to heaven she heaves them for revenge.
TITUS: Lucius, what book is that she tosseth so?
BOY: Grandsire, ’tis Ovid’s Metamorphoses;
My mother gave it me.
MARCUS: For love of her that’s gone,
Perhaps, she cull’d it from among the rest.
TITUS: Soft! see how busily she turns the leaves [pages]! [Helping her.
What would she find? 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 annoy.
MARCUS: See, brother, see! note how she quotes the
TITUS: Lavinia, wert thou thus surpris’d, sweet
Ravish’d and wrong’d, as Philomela
Forc’d [raped] in the ruthless,
vast, and gloomy woods?
Ay, such a place there is, where we did hunt,—
O! had we never, never hunted there,—
Pattern’d by that the poet here describes,
By nature made for murders and for rapes.
MARCUS: O! why should nature build so foul a
Unless the gods delight in tragedies?
TITUS: Give signs, sweet girl, for here are none but
What Roman lord it was durst do the deed:
Or slunk not Saturnine, as Tarquin erst,
That left the camp to sin in Lucrece’ bed?
[Lines 66-67: Was it Saturnine who raped
you, as Sextus Tarquinius, the son of Tarquin
the Proud, raped Lucrece?]
MARCUS: Sit down, sweet niece: brother, sit down by
Apollo, Pallas, Jove, or Mercury,
[Line 69: In classical
mythology, Apollo (Greek and Roman name) was the god of the sun,
music, poetry, and prophecy. Pallas was another name for Athena,
the Greek goddess of war and wisdom. Her Roman name was Minerva.
Jove was a Roman name for Zeus (Greek), king of the gods;
Mercury was the Roman name for Hermes (Greek), the messenger
Inspire me, that I may this treason find!
My lord, look here; look here, Lavinia:
This sandy plot is plain; guide, if thou canst,
This after me. [He writes his name with his staff, and
guides it with his feet and mouth.
I have writ my name
Without the help of any hand at all.
Curs’d be that heart that forc’d us to this shift!
Write thou, good niece, and here display at last
What God will have discover’d for revenge.
Heaven guide thy pen to print thy sorrows plain,
That we may know the traitors and the truth! [She takes the
staff in her mouth, and guides it with her stumps, and
TITUS: O! do you read, my lord, what she hath
Stuprum [rape], Chiron,
MARCUS: What, what! the lustful sons of Tamora
Performers of this heinous, bloody deed?
TITUS: Magni dominator poli,
Tam lentus audis scelera? tam lentus vides?
[Lines 85-86: Great god in the heavens, do
you hear of this crime without concern? Do you witness it
MARCUS: O! calm thee, gentle lord; although I
There is enough written upon this earth
To stir a mutiny in the mildest thoughts
And arm the minds of infants to exclaims.
My lord, kneel down with me; Lavinia, kneel;
And kneel, sweet boy, the Roman Hector’s hope;
[Hector: The greatest Trojan warrior in the
Trojan War. Marcus is saying that he hopes the boy will grow up
to be another Hector.]
And swear with me, as, with the woeful fere [wife]
And father of that chaste dishonour’d dame,
Lord Junius Brutus sware [swore] for
[Line 95: Junius Brutus was a friend of
Lucrece. He spearheaded the effort to banish her rapist and his
father, Tarquin the Proud, from Rome.]
That we will prosecute by good advice
Mortal revenge upon these traitorous Goths,
And see their blood, or die with this reproach.
TITUS: ’Tis sure enough, an [if]
you knew how;
But if you hunt these bear-whelps, then beware:
The dam will wake, an if she wind you once:
She’s with the lion deeply still in league,
And lulls him whilst she playeth on her back,
And when he sleeps will she do what she list [desires].
You’re a young huntsman, Marcus; let it alone;
And, come, I will go get a leaf of brass,
And with a gad of steel will write these words,
And lay it by: the angry northern wind
Will blow these sands like Sibyl’s leaves abroad,
[Sibyl: An oracle who wrote prophecies on
And where’s your lesson then? Boy, what say you?
BOY: I say, my lord, that if I were a man,
Their mother’s bed-chamber should not be safe
For these bad bond men to the yoke of Rome.
[Bond men: Demetrius and Chiron were
technically still prisoners of the Romans.]
MARCUS: Ay, that’s my boy! thy father hath full
For his ungrateful country done the like.
BOY: And, uncle, so will I, an if I live.
TITUS: Come, go with me into mine armoury:
Lucius, I’ll fit thee; and withal my boy
Shall 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?
BOY: Ay, with my dagger in their bosoms,
TITUS: No, boy, not so; I’ll teach thee another
Lavinia, come. Marcus, look to my house;
Lucius and I’ll go brave it at the court:
Ay, marry, will we, sir; and we’ll be waited on. [Exeunt
TITUS, LAVINIA, and Boy.
MARCUS: O heavens! can you hear a good man
And not relent or not compassion [sympathize
Marcus, attend him in his ecstasy,
That hath more scars of sorrow in his heart
Than foemen’s marks upon his batter’d shield;
But yet so just that he will not revenge.
Revenge, ye heavens, for old Andronicus! [Exit.
Act 4, Scene 2
Rome. A room in the
Enter, from one side, AARON, DEMETRIUS, and CHIRON; from the other
young LUCIUS, and an Attendant, with a bundle of weapons, and
verses writ upon them.
CHIRON: Demetrius, here’s the son of
He hath some message to deliver us.
AARON: Ay, some mad message from his mad
BOY: My lords, with all the humbleness I
I greet your honours from Andronicus;
And pray the Roman gods, confound you both!
DEMETRIUS: Gramercy [thanks],
lovely Lucius: what’s the news?
That you are both decipher’d [discovered;
found out], that’s the news,
For villains mark’d with rape. [Aloud.] May it please
My grandsire, well advis’d, 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;
And so I do, and with his gifts present
Your lordships, that whenever you have need,
You may be armed and appointed well.
And so I leave you both: [Aside.]
like bloody villains. [Exeunt
Boy and Attendant.
DEMETRIUS: What’s here? A scroll; and written round
[Reads.] "Integer vitæ, scelerisque purus,
Non eget Mauri jaculis,
[Lines 22-23: The man who leads a righteous
life and commits no crimes does not need the javelins or bow of
CHIRON: O! ’tis a verse in Horace; I know it
I read it in the grammar long ago.
AARON: Ay just, a verse in Horace; right, you have
Now, what a thing it is to be an ass!
Here’s no sound jest! the old man hath found their
And sends them weapons wrapp’d about with lines,
That wound, beyond their feeling, to the quick;
But were our witty empress well afoot,
She would applaud Andronicus’ conceit:
But let her rest in her unrest awhile.
[To them.] And now, young lords, was ’t not a happy
Led us to Rome, strangers, and more than so,
Captives, to be advanced to this height?
It did me good before the palace gate
To brave [insult] the tribune in his
DEMETRIUS: But me more good, to see so great a
Basely insinuate [flatter; kowtow to]
and send us gifts.
AARON: Had he not reason, Lord Demetrius?
Did you not use his daughter very friendly?
DEMETRIUS: I would we had a thousand Roman
At such a bay [in such a position,
cornered], by turn to serve our lust.
CHIRON: A charitable wish and full of
AARON: Here lacks but your mother for to say
CHIRON: And that would she for twenty thousand
DEMETRIUS: Come, let us go and pray to all the
For our beloved mother in her pains.
Pray to the devils; the gods have given us over [have abandoned us]. [Trumpets
DEMETRIUS: Why do the emperor’s trumpets flourish
CHIRON: Belike [probably], for
joy the emperor hath a son.
DEMETRIUS: Soft! [wait a minute; be
quiet] who comes here?
Enter a Nurse, with a blackamoor [dark-skinned]
NURSE: Good morrow, lords. O! tell me, did you
Aaron the Moor?
AARON: Well, more or less, or ne’er a whit at
Here Aaron is; and what with Aaron now?
NURSE: O gentle Aaron! we are all undone.
Now help, or woe betide thee evermore!
AARON: Why, what a caterwauling dost thou
What dost thou wrap and fumble in thine arms?
NURSE: O! that which I would hide from heaven’s
Our empress’ shame, and stately Rome’s disgrace!
She is deliver’d, lords, she is deliver’d.
AARON: To whom?
NURSE: I mean, she’s brought a-bed.
AARON: Well, God give her good rest! What hath he sent
NURSE: A devil.
AARON: Why, then she’s the devil’s dam: a joyful
NURSE: A joyless, dismal, black, and sorrowful
Here is the babe, as loathsome as a toad
Amongst the fairest breeders of our clime.
The empress sends it thee, thy stamp, thy seal,
And bids thee christen it with thy dagger’s
AARON: ’Zounds [by the wounds of the
crucified Christ], ye whore! is black so base a
Sweet blowse [harlot], you are a
beauteous blossom, sure.
DEMETRIUS: Villain, what hast thou done?
AARON: That which thou canst not undo.
CHIRON: Thou hast undone our mother.
AARON: Villain, I have done thy mother.
DEMETRIUS: And therein, hellish dog; thou hast
Woe to her chance, and damn’d her loathed
Accurs’d the offspring of so foul a fiend!
CHIRON: It shall not live.
AARON: It shall not die.
NURSE: Aaron, it must; the mother wills it
AARON: What! must it, nurse? then let no man but
Do execution on my flesh and blood.
DEMETRIUS: I’ll broach the tadpole [stab
the child] on my rapier’s point:
Nurse, give it me; my sword shall soon dispatch
AARON: Sooner this sword shall plough thy bowels up.
[Takes the Child from the Nurse, and draws.
Stay, murderous villains! will you kill your brother? [The child is the half-brother of Demetrius and
Now, by the burning tapers of the sky,
That shone so brightly when this boy was got,
He dies upon my scimitar’s sharp point
That touches this my first-born son and heir.
I tell you, younglings, not Enceladus [a
With all his threatening band of Typhon’s brood,
[Typhon: Monster with a hundred dragon
Nor great Alcides [Hercules], nor
the god of war,
Shall seize this prey out of his father’s hands.
What, what, ye sanguine [healthy;
confident], shallow-hearted boys!
Ye white-lim’d [limed] walls! ye
alehouse painted signs!
Coal-black is better than another 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,
Although she lave [wash] them hourly
in the flood.
Tell the empress from me, I am of age
To keep mine own, excuse it how she can.
DEMETRIUS: Wilt thou betray thy noble mistress
AARON: My mistress is my mistress; this
The vigour, and the picture of my youth:
This before all the world do I prefer;
This maugre [despite] all the world
will I keep safe,
Or some of you shall smoke [pay for]
for it in Rome.
DEMETRIUS: By this our mother is for ever
CHIRON: Rome will despise her for this foul
NURSE: The emperor in his rage will doom her
CHIRON: I blush to think upon this ignomy [ignominy: disgrace].
AARON: Why, there’s the privilege your beauty
Fie, treacherous hue! that will betray with
The close enacts and counsels of the heart:
Here’s a young lad fram’d of another leer [complexion]:
Look how the black slave smiles upon the father,
As who should say, ‘Old lad, I am thine own.’
He is your brother, lords, sensibly fed
Of that self blood that first gave life to you;
And from that womb where you imprison’d were
He is enfranchised and come to light:
Nay, he is your brother by the surer side,
Although my seal [color] be stamped
in his face.
NURSE: Aaron, what shall I say unto the
DEMETRIUS: Advise thee, Aaron, what is to be
And we will all subscribe to thy advice:
Save thou the child, so we may all be safe.
AARON: Then sit we down, and let us all
My son and I will have the wind [advice]
Keep there; now talk at pleasure of your safety. [They
DEMETRIUS: How many women saw this child of
AARON: Why, so, brave lords! when we join in
I am a lamb; but if you brave the Moor,
The chafed boar, the mountain lioness,
The ocean swells not so as Aaron storms.
But say, again, how many saw the child?
NURSE: Cornelia, the midwife, and myself,
And no one else but the deliver’d empress.
AARON: The empress, the midwife, and
Two may keep counsel when the third’s away.
Go to the empress; tell her this I said: [Stabbing
So cries a pig prepared to the spit.
DEMETRIUS: What mean’st thou, Aaron? Wherefore [why] didst thou this?
AARON: O lord, sir, ’tis a deed of policy:
Shall she live to betray this guilt of ours,
A long-tongu’d babbling gossip? no, lords, no.
And now be it known to you my full intent.
Not far, one Muli lives, my countryman;
His wife but yesternight was brought to bed.
His child is like to her, fair as you are:
Go pack with him, and give the mother gold,
And tell them both the circumstance of all,
And how by this their child shall be advanc’d,
And be received for the emperor’s heir,
And substituted in the place of mine,
To calm this tempest whirling in the court;
And let the emperor dandle him for his own.
Hark ye, lords; you see, I have given her physic, [Pointing
to the Nurse.
And you must needs bestow her funeral;
The fields are near, and you are gallant grooms.
This done, see that you take no longer days,
But send the midwife presently to me.
The midwife and the nurse well made away,
Then let the ladies tattle what they please.
CHIRON: Aaron, I see thou wilt not trust the
DEMETRIUS: For this care of Tamora,
Herself and hers are highly bound to thee. [Exeunt
DEMETRIUS and CHIRON, bearing off the Nurse’s
AARON: Now to the Goths, as swift as swallow
There to dispose this treasure in mine arms,
And secretly to greet the empress’ friends.
Come on, you thick-lipp’d slave, I’ll bear you
For it is you that puts us to our shifts:
I’ll make you feed on berries and on roots,
And feed on curds and whey, and suck the goat,
And cabin in a cave, and bring you up
To be a warrior, and command a camp. [Exit with the
Act 4, Scene 3
Rome. A public place.
Enter TITUS, bearing arrows, with letters on the ends of them;
with him MARCUS, young LUCIUS, PUBLIUS, SEMPRONIUS, CAIUS, and
other Gentlemen, with bows.
TITUS: Come, Marcus, come; kinsmen, this is the
Sir boy, now let me see your archery:
Look ye draw home enough, and ’tis there
[Line 5: Draw back far enough before releasing your arrow.
Terras Astrœa reliquit:
[Line 6: Astroea (also spelled Astraea) has
left the earth. Astraea was the Roman name for the Greek goddess
of justice, Dike.]
Be you remember’d, Marcus, she’s gone, she’s
Sirs, take you to your tools. You, cousins,
Go sound the ocean, and cast your nets;
Happily you may find her in the sea;
Yet there’s as little justice as at 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,
[Pluto: Roman name for Hades, King of the
I pray you, deliver him this petition;
Tell him, it is for justice and for aid,
And that it comes from old Andronicus,
Shaken with sorrows in ungrateful Rome.
Ah! Rome. Well, well; I made thee miserable
What time [at the time when] I threw
the people’s suffrages [votes; support]
On him [Saturninus] that thus doth
tyrannize o’er me.
Go, get you gone; and pray be careful all,
And leave you not a man-of-war unsearch’d:
This wicked emperor may have shipp’d her hence;
And, kinsmen, then we may go pipe for justice.
MARCUS: O Publius! is not this a heavy [worrisome] case,
To see thy noble uncle thus distract [mad;
PUBLIUS: Therefore, my lord, it highly us
By day and night to attend him carefully,
And feed his humour kindly as we may,
Till time beget some careful remedy.
MARCUS: Kinsmen, his sorrows are past
Join with the Goths, and with revengeful war
Take wreak on Rome for this ingratitude,
And vengeance on the traitor Saturnine.
TITUS: Publius, how now! how now, my
What! have you met with her?
PUBLIUS: No, my good lord; but Pluto sends you
If you will have Revenge from hell, you shall:
Marry [by the Virgin Mary], for
Justice, she is so employ’d,
He thinks, with Jove in heaven, or somewhere
So that perforce you must needs stay [wait]
TITUS: He doth me wrong to feed me with
I’ll dive into the burning lake below,
And pull her out of Acheron [a river in
Hades] by the heels.
Marcus, we are but shrubs, no cedars we;
No big-boned men framed of the Cyclops’ [one-eyed
But metal, Marcus, steel to the very back,
Yet wrung with wrongs more than our backs can
And sith [since] there’s no justice
in earth nor hell,
We will solicit heaven and move the gods
To send down Justice for to wreak our wrongs.
Come, to this gear [business; affair;
matter]. You are a good archer, Marcus. [He gives
them the arrows.
Ad Jovem [by Jove], that’s for you:
here, ad Apollinem [by Apollo]:
Ad Martem [by Mars], that’s for
Here, boy, to Pallas: here, to Mercury:
[Pallas: Another name for Athena, goddess of
wisdom and war, known to the Romans as Minerva]
To Saturn [god of agriculture in Roman
mythology], Caius, not to Saturnine;
[Lines 55-58: Jove,
Apollo, Mars, Athena, Mercury]
You were as good to shoot against the wind.
To it, boy! Marcus, loose when I bid.
Of my word, I have written to effect;
There’s not a god left unsolicited.
MARCUS: Kinsmen, shoot all your shafts into the
We will afflict the emperor in his pride.
TITUS: Now, masters, draw. [They shoot.] O! well
Good boy, in Virgo’s lap: give it Pallas.
[Virgo: One who claims the right to succeed
MARCUS: My lord, I aim a mile beyond the
Your letter is with Jupiter by this.
TITUS: Ha! Publius, Publius, what hast thou
See, see! thou hast shot off one of Taurus’
[Taurus: The Bull, a star constellation]
MARCUS: This was the sport, my lord: when Publius
The Bull, being gall’d, gave Aries [the
Ram, a constellation near Taurus] such a
That down fell both the Ram’s horns in the
And who should find them but the empress’
She laugh’d, and told the Moor, he should not
But give them to his master for a present.
TITUS: Why, there it goes: God give his lordship
Enter a Clown, with a basket, and two pigeons in it.
News! news from heaven! Marcus, the post is
Sirrah, what tidings? have you any letters?
Shall I have justice? what says Jupiter?
CLOWN: O! the gibbet-maker? He says that he hath taken them
down again, for the man must not be hanged till the next
TITUS: But what says Jupiter [Jove,
king of the gods], I ask thee?
CLOWN: Alas! sir, I know not Jupiter; I never drank with him
in all my life.
TITUS: Why, villain, art not thou the
CLOWN: Ay, of my pigeons, sir; nothing
TITUS: Why, didst thou not come from
CLOWN: From heaven! alas! sir, I never came there. God
forbid I should be so bold to press to heaven in my young days.
Why, I am going with my pigeons to the tribunal plebs, to take up
a matter of brawl betwixt my uncle and one of the emperial’s [emperor's] men.
MARCUS: Why, sir, that is as fit as can be to serve for your
oration; and let him deliver the pigeons to the emperor from
TITUS: Tell me, can you deliver an oration to the emperor
with a grace?
CLOWN: Nay, truly, sir, I could never say grace in all my
TITUS: Sirrah, come hither: make no more
But give your pigeons to the emperor:
By me thou shalt have justice at his hands.
Hold, hold; meanwhile, here’s money for thy
Give me pen and ink.
Sirrah, can you with a grace deliver a
CLOWN: Ay, sir.
TITUS: 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 then look for your reward.
I’ll be at hand, sir; see you do it bravely.
CLOWN: I warrant you, sir; let me alone.
TITUS: Sirrah, hast thou a knife? Come, let me see
Here, Marcus, fold it in the oration;
For thou hast made it like a humble suppliant:
And when thou hast given it to the emperor,
Knock at my door, and tell me what he says.
CLOWN: God be with you, sir; I will.
TITUS: Come, Marcus, let us go. Publius, follow me. [Exeunt.
Act 4, Scene 4
Rome. Before the palace.
Enter SATURNINUS, TAMORA, DEMETRIUS, CHIRON, Lords, and Others:
SATURNINUS with the arrows in his hand that TITUS shot.
SATURNINUS: Why, lords, what wrongs are these! Was ever
An emperor of Rome thus overborne [overburdened;
Troubled, confronted thus; and, for the extent
Of egal [equal] justice, us’d in
My lords, you know, as do the mightful gods,—
However these disturbers of our peace
Buzz in the people’s ears,—there nought hath
But even with law [according to law],
against the willful sons
Of old Andronicus. And what an if
His sorrows have so overwhelm’d his wits,
Shall we be thus afflicted in his wreaks,
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!
What’s this but libelling against the senate,
And blazoning [announcing; advertising]
our injustice every where?
A goodly humour, is it not, my lords?
As who would say, in Rome no justice were.
But if I live, his feigned ecstasies
Shall be no shelter to these outrages;
But he and his shall know that justice lives
In Saturninus’ health; whom, if she sleep,
He’ll so awake, as she in fury shall
Cut off the proud’st conspirator that lives.
TAMORA: My gracious lord, my lovely
Lord of my life, commander of my thoughts,
Calm thee, and bear the faults of Titus’ age,
The effects of sorrow for his valiant sons,
Whose loss hath pierc’d him deep and scarr’d his
And rather comfort his distressed plight
Than prosecute the meanest or the best
For these contempts.—[Aside.]
Why, thus it shall become
High-witted Tamora to gloze [flatter;
deceive] with all:
But, Titus, I have touch’d thee to the quick,
Thy life-blood out: if Aaron now be wise,
Then is all safe, the anchor’s in the port.
How now, good fellow! wouldst thou speak with
CLOWN: Yea, forsooth [in truth],
an [if] your mistership be
TAMORA: Empress I am, but yonder sits the
CLOWN: ’Tis he. God and Saint Stephen give you good den [good day; good afternoon].
[Saint Stephen: First Christian martyr, who
was stoned to death]
I have brought you a letter and a couple of pigeons here.
[SATURNINUS reads the letter.
SATURNINUS: Go, take him away, and hang him
CLOWN: How much money must I have?
TAMORA: Come, sirrah, you must be hanged.
CLOWN: Hanged! By ’r [our]
lady, then I have brought up a neck to a fair end. [Exit,
SATURNINUS: Despiteful and intolerable
Shall I endure this monstrous villainy?
I know from whence this same device proceeds:
May this be borne? As if his [Titus's]
That died by law for murder of our brother,
Have by my means been butcher’d wrongfully!
Go, drag the villain hither by the hair;
Nor age nor honour shall shape privilege.
For this proud mock I’ll be thy slaughterman;
Sly frantic wretch, that holp’st [helped]
to make me great,
In hope thyself should govern Rome and me.
What news with thee, AEMILIUS?
AEMILIUS: Arm, arm, my lord! Rome never had more
The Goths have gather’d head, and with a power
Of high-resolved men, bent to the spoil,
They hither march amain [with great
strength and speed], under conduct
Of Lucius, son to old Andronicus;
Who threats, in course of this revenge, to do
As much as ever Coriolanus did.
[Coriolanus: Roman soldier who turned
SATURNINUS: Is war-like Lucius general of the
These tidings nip me, and I hang the head
As flowers with frost or grass beat down with
Ay, now begin our sorrows to approach:
’Tis he the common people love so much;
Myself hath often heard them say,
When I have walked like a private man,
That Lucius’ banishment was wrongfully,
And they have wish’d that Lucius were their
TAMORA: Why should you fear? is not your city
SATURNINUS: Ay, but the citizens favour
And will revolt from me to succour [help]
TAMORA: King, be thy thoughts imperious, like thy
Is the sun dimm’d, that gnats do fly in it?
The eagle suffers little birds to sing,
And is not careful 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.
[Line 89: Like the eagle that can stop the
birds from singing, you can stop rebellious citizens of Rome.]
Then cheer thy spirit; for know, thou emperor,
I will enchant the old Andronicus
With words more sweet, and yet more dangerous,
Than baits to fish, or honey-stalks [clover]
Whenas [when] the one is wounded
with the bait,
The other rotted with delicious feed.
SATURNINUS: But he [Titus]
will not entreat his son for us.
TAMORA: If Tamora entreat him, then he
For I can smooth and fill his aged ear
With golden promises, that, were his heart
Almost impregnable, his old ears deaf,
Yet should both ear and heart obey my tongue.
[To AEMILIUS.] Go thou before, be our
Say that the emperor requests a parley
Of war-like Lucius, and appoint the meeting,
Even at his father’s house, the old Andronicus.
SATURNINUS: AEMILIUS, do this message
And if he stand on hostage for his safety,
Bid him demand what pledge will please him best.
AEMILIUS: Your bidding shall I do effectually.
TAMORA: Now will I to that old Andronicus,
And temper him with all the art I have,
To pluck proud Lucius from the war-like Goths.
And now, sweet emperor, be blithe again,
And bury all thy fear in my devices.
SATURNINUS: Then go successantly [successfully],
and plead to him. [Exeunt.
Act 5, Scene 1
Plains near Rome.
Flourish. Enter LUCIUS, and an army
of Goths, with drums and colours.
LUCIUS: Approved warriors, and my faithful
I have received letters from great Rome,
Which signify what hate they bear their emperor,
And how desirous of our sight they are.
Therefore, great lords, be, as your titles
Imperious and impatient of your wrongs;
And wherein Rome hath done you any scath [injustice;
Let him make treble [triple]
FIRST GOTH: Brave slip, sprung from the great
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 stinging bees in hottest summer’s day
Led by their master to the flower’d fields,
And be aveng’d on cursed Tamora.
GOTHS: And, as he saith, so say we all with
LUCIUS: I humbly thank him, and I thank you
But who comes here, led by a lusty Goth?
Enter a Goth, leading AARON, with his Child in his arms.
SECOND GOTH: Renowned Lucius, from our troops I
To gaze upon a ruinous monastery;
And as I earnestly did fix mine eye
Upon the wasted building, suddenly
I heard a child cry underneath a wall.
I made unto the noise; when soon I heard
The crying babe controll’d with this discourse:
‘Peace, tawny slave, half me and half thy dam!
Did not thy hue bewray [betray; reveal]
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 rates the
‘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 rush’d upon him,
Surpris’d him suddenly, and brought him hither,
To use as you think needful of the man.
LUCIUS: O worthy Goth, this is the incarnate
That robb’d Andronicus of his good hand:
This is the pearl that pleas’d your empress’
And here’s the base fruit of his burning lust.
Say, wall-ey’d [staring; glaring]
slave, whither wouldst thou convey
This growing image of thy fiend-like face?
Why dost not speak? What! deaf? not a word?
A halter, soldiers! hang him on this tree,
And by his side his fruit of bastardy.
AARON: Touch not the boy; he is of royal
LUCIUS: Too like the sire for ever being
First hang the child, that he may see it sprawl;
A sight to vex the father’s soul withal.
Get me a ladder. [A ladder brought, which AARON is made to
AARON: Lucius, save the child;
And bear it from me to the empress.
If thou do this, I’ll show thee wondrous things,
That highly may advantage thee to hear:
If thou wilt not, befall what may befall,
I’ll speak no more but ‘Vengeance rot you all!’
LUCIUS: Say on; and if it please me which thou
Thy child shall live, and I will see it
AARON: An if it please thee! why, assure thee,
’Twill vex thy soul to hear what I shall speak;
For I must talk of murders, rapes, and
Acts of black night, abominable deeds,
Complots [plans; plots] of mischief,
Ruthful [heart-rending; pitiful] to
hear, yet piteously perform’d:
And this shall all be buried by my death,
Unless thou swear to me my child shall live.
LUCIUS: Tell on thy mind: I say, thy child shall
AARON: Swear that he shall, and then I will
LUCIUS: Who should I swear by? thou believ’st no
That granted, how canst thou believe an oath?
AARON: What if I do not? as, indeed, I do
Yet, for I know thou art religious,
And hast a thing within thee called conscience,
With twenty popish tricks and ceremonies,
Which I have seen thee careful to observe,
Therefore I urge thy oath; for that I know
An idiot holds his bauble 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 ador’st and hast in reverence,
To save my boy, to nourish and bring him up:
Or else I will discover nought to thee.
LUCIUS: Even by my god I swear to thee I
AARON: First, know thou, I begot him on the
LUCIUS: O most insatiate and luxurious [promiscuous; lustful]
AARON: Tut! Lucius, this was but a deed of
To that which thou shalt hear of me anon [in
’Twas her two sons that murder’d Bassianus;
They cut thy sister’s tongue and ravish’d her,
And cut her hands and trimm’d her as thou
LUCIUS: O detestable villain! call’st thou that
AARON: Why, she was wash’d, and cut, and trimm’d, and
Trim sport for them that had the doing of it.
LUCIUS: O barbarous, beastly villains, like
AARON: Indeed, I was their tutor to instruct
That codding [lustful] spirit had
they from their mother,
As sure a card as ever won the set;
That bloody mind, I think, they learn’d of me
As true a dog as ever fought at head.
Well, let my deeds be witness of my worth.
I train’d [pointed; lured] thy
brethren to that guileful hole
Where the dead corpse of Bassianus lay;
I wrote the letter that thy father found,
And hid the gold within the letter mention’d,
Confederate with the queen and her two sons:
And what not done, that thou hast cause to rue,
Wherein I had no stroke of mischief in it?
I play’d the cheater for thy father’s hand,
And, when I had it, drew myself apart,
And almost broke my heart with extreme laughter.
I pry’d [pried] me through the
crevice of a wall
When, for his hand, he had his two sons’ heads;
Beheld his tears, and laugh’d so heartily,
That both mine eyes were rainy like to his:
And when I told the empress of this sport,
She swounded [swooned] almost at my
And for my tidings gave me twenty kisses.
FIRST GOTH: What! canst thou say all this, and never
AARON: Ay, like a black dog, as the saying
LUCIUS: Art thou not sorry for these heinous
AARON: Ay, that I had not done a thousand
Even now I curse the day, and yet, I think,
Few come within the compass of my curse,
Wherein I did not some notorious ill:
[Lines 130-131: Few come near me who do not
suffer some calamity.]
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 on barns and hay-stacks in the night,
And bid the owners quench them with their tears,
Oft have I digg’d up dead men from their graves,
And set them upright at their dear friends’
Even when their sorrows almost were forgot;
And on their skins, as on the bark of trees,
Have with my knife carved in Roman letters,
‘Let not your sorrow die, though I am dead.’
Tut! I have done a thousand dreadful things
As willingly as one would kill a fly,
And nothing grieves me heartily indeed
But that I cannot do ten thousand more.
LUCIUS: Bring down the devil, for he must not
So sweet a death as hanging presently.
AARON: If there be devils, would I were a
To live and burn in everlasting fire,
So I might have your company in hell,
But to torment you with my bitter tongue!
LUCIUS: Sirs, stop his mouth, and let him speak no
Enter a Goth.
GOTH: My lord, there is a messenger from
Desires to be admitted to your presence.
LUCIUS: Let him come near.
Welcome, AEMILIUS! what’s the news from Rome?
AEMILIUS: Lord Lucius, and you princes of the
The Roman emperor greets you all by me;
And, for he understands you are in arms,
He craves a parley at your father’s house,
Willing you to demand your hostages,
And they shall be immediately deliver’d.
FIRST GOTH: What says our general?
LUCIUS: AEMILIUS, let the emperor give his
Unto my father and my uncle Marcus,
And we will come. March away. [Exeunt.
Act 5, Scene 2
Enter TAMORA, DEMETRIUS, and CHIRON, disguised.
TAMORA: Thus, in this strange and sad
I will encounter with Andronicus,
And say I am Revenge, sent from below
To join with him and right his heinous wrongs.
Knock at his study, where, they say, he keeps,
To ruminate strange plots of dire revenge;
Tell him, Revenge is come to join with him,
And work confusion on his enemies. [They
Enter TITUS, above.
TITUS: Who doth molest my contemplation?
Is it your trick to make me ope the door,
That so my sad decrees may fly away,
And all my study be to no effect?
You are deceiv’d; for what I mean to do,
See here, in bloody lines I have set down;
And what is written shall be executed.
TAMORA: Titus, I am come to talk with
TITUS: No, not a word; how can I grace my
Wanting a hand to give it action?
Thou hast the odds of me; therefore no more.
TAMORA: If thou didst know me, thou wouldst talk with
TITUS: I am not mad; I know thee well
Witness this wretched stump, witness these crimson
Witness these trenches made by grief and care;
Witness the tiring day and heavy night;
Witness all sorrow, that I know thee well
For our proud empress, mighty Tamora.
Is not thy coming for my other hand?
TAMORA: Know, thou sad man, I am not
She is thy 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 of murder and of death.
There’s not a hollow cave or lurking-place,
No vast obscurity or misty vale,
Where bloody murder or detested rape
Can couch for fear, but I will find them out;
And in their ears tell them my dreadful name,
Revenge, which makes the foul offender quake.
TITUS: Art thou Revenge? and art thou sent to
To be a torment to mine enemies?
TAMORA: I am; therefore come down, and welcome
TITUS: Do me some service ere [before]
I come to thee.
Lo, by thy side where Rape and Murder stands;
Now give some surance 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 two proper palfreys [small horses
for leisurely riding], black as jet,
To hale thy vengeful waggon swift away,
And find out murderers in their guilty caves:
And when thy car 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
[Hyperion: Father of the sun god Helios.
Here, Hyperion is spoken of as the sun god.]
Until his very downfall [sunset] in
And day by day I’ll do this heavy task,
So thou destroy Rapine and Murder there.
TAMORA: These are my ministers, and come with
TITUS: Are these thy ministers? what are they
TAMORA: Rapine and Murder; therefore called
’Cause they take vengeance of such kind of men.
TITUS: Good Lord, how like the empress’ sons they
And you the empress! but we worldly men
Have miserable, mad, mistaking eyes.
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. [Exit
TAMORA: This closing with him fits his
Whate’er I forge to feed his brain-sick fits,
Do you uphold and maintain in your speeches,
For now he firmly takes me for Revenge;
And, being credulous in this mad thought,
I’ll make him send for Lucius his son;
And, whilst I at a banquet hold him sure,
I’ll find some cunning practice out of hand
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: Long have I been forlorn, and all for
Welcome, dread Fury, to my woeful house:
Rapine and Murder, you are welcome too.
How like the empress and her sons you are!
Well are you fitted had you but a Moor:
Could not all hell afford you such a devil?
For well I wot [know] the empress
But in her company there is a Moor;
And would you represent our queen aright,
It were convenient you had such a devil.
But welcome as you are. What shall we do?
TAMORA: What wouldst thou have us do,
DEMETRIUS: Show me a murderer, I’ll deal with
CHIRON: Show me a villain that hath done a
And I am sent to be reveng’d on him.
TAMORA: Show me a thousand that have done thee
And I will be revenged on them all.
TITUS: Look round about the wicked streets of
And when thou find’st a man that’s like thyself,
Good Murder, stab him; he’s a murderer.
Go thou with him; 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; and in the emperor’s court
There is a queen attended by a Moor;
Well mayst thou know her by thy 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.
TAMORA: Well hast thou lesson’d us; this shall we
But would it please thee, good Andronicus,
To send for Lucius, thy thrice-valiant son,
Who leads towards Rome a band of war-like 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 shall they stoop and kneel,
And on them shalt thou ease thy angry heart.
What says Andronicus to this device?
TITUS: Marcus, my brother! ’tis sad Titus
Go, gentle Marcus, to thy nephew Lucius;
Thou shalt inquire him out among the Goths:
Bid him repair [come] 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 aged father’s life.
MARCUS: This will I do, and soon return again.
TAMORA: Now will I hence about thy
And take my ministers along with me.
TITUS: Nay, nay, let Rape and Murder stay with
Or else I’ll call my brother back again,
And cleave to no revenge but Lucius.
to her sons.] What say you, boys? will you abide with
Whiles I go tell my lord the emperor
How I have govern’d our determin’d jest?
Yield to his humour, smooth and speak him fair,
And tarry with him till I turn again.
I know them all, though they suppose me mad;
And will o’er-reach them in their own devices;
A pair of cursed hell-hounds and their dam.
to TAMORA.] Madam, depart at pleasure; leave us
TAMORA: Farewell, Andronicus: Revenge now
To lay a complot [plan; plot] to
betray thy foes. [Exit TAMORA.
TITUS: I know thou dost; and, sweet Revenge,
CHIRON: Tell us, old man, how shall we be
TITUS: Tut! I have work enough for you to
Publius, come hither, Caius, and Valentine!
Enter PUBLIUS and Others.
PUBLIUS: What is your will?
TITUS: Know you these two?
PUBLIUS: The empress’ sons,
I take them, Chiron and Demetrius.
TITUS: Fie, Publius, fie! thou art too much
The one is Murder, Rape is the other’s name;
And therefore bind them, gentle Publius;
Caius and Valentine, lay hands on them;
Oft have you heard me wish for such an hour,
And now I find it: therefore bind them sure,
And stop their mouths, if they begin to cry. [Exit.
PUBLIUS, &c., seize CHIRON and DEMETRIUS.
CHIRON: Villains, forbear! we are the empress’
PUBLIUS: And therefore do we what we are
Stop close their mouths, let them not speak a
Is he sure bound? look that you bind them fast.
Re-enter TITUS, with LAVINIA; she bearing a basin, and he a knife.
TITUS: Come, come, Lavinia; look, thy foes are
Sirs, stop their mouths, let them not speak to
But let them hear what fearful words I utter.
O villains, Chiron and Demetrius!
Here stands the spring whom you have stain’d with
This goodly summer with your winter mix’d.
You kill’d her husband, and for that vile fault
Two of her brothers were condemn’d to death,
My hand cut off and made a merry jest:
Both her sweet hands, her tongue, and that more
Than hands or tongue, her spotless chastity,
In human traitors, you constrain’d and forc’d.
What would you say if I should let you speak?
Villains! for shame you could not beg for grace.
Hark, wretches! how I mean to martyr you.
This one hand yet is left to cut your throats,
Whilst that Lavinia’ tween her stumps doth hold
The basin that receives your guilty blood.
You know your mother means to feast with me,
And calls herself Revenge, and thinks me mad.
Hark! villains, I will grind your bones to dust,
And with your blood and it I’ll make a paste;
And of the paste a coffin [dough shaped
like a coffin] I will rear,
And make two pasties of your shameful heads;
And bid that strumpet, your unhallow’d dam,
Like to the earth swallow her own increase [eat
her own children].
This is the feast that I have bid her to,
And this the banquet she shall surfeit on [shall
eat her fill];
For worse than Philomel
you us’d my daughter,
And worse than Procne
I will be reveng’d.
And now prepare your throats. Lavinia, come. [He cuts their
Receive the blood: and when that they are dead,
Let me go grind their bones to powder small,
And with this hateful liquor temper [mix]
And in that paste let their vile heads be bak’d.
Come, come, be every one officious [busy]
To make this banquet, which I wish may prove
More stern and bloody than the Centaurs’ feast.
So, now bring them in, for I will play the cook,
And see them ready ’gainst their mother comes. [Exeunt,
bearing the dead bodies.
[Line 211: In Greek mythology is a story of
a wedding feast at which centaurs—creatures with the body of a
horse and the head, arms, and trunk of a man—became drunk and
attempted to abduct the bride and other women. A brawl ensued.]
Rome. The court of
Titus's house. A banquet set out.
Enter LUCIUS, MARCUS and Goths, with AARON prisoner.
LUCIUS: Uncle Marcus, since it is my father’s
That I repair to Rome, I am content.
First Goth. And ours with thine, befall what fortune
LUCIUS: Good uncle, take you in this barbarous
This ravenous tiger, this accursed devil;
Let him receive no sustenance, fetter him,
Till he be brought unto the empress’ face,
For testimony of her foul proceedings:
And see the ambush [hidden group] of
our friends be strong;
I fear the emperor means no good to us.
AARON: Some devil whisper curses in mine
And prompt me, that my tongue may utter forth
The venomous malice of my swelling heart!
LUCIUS: Away, inhuman dog! unhallow’d
Sirs, help our uncle to convey him in. [Exeunt
Goths, with AARON. Trumpets sound.
The trumpets show the emperor is at hand.
Enter SATURNINUS and TAMORA, with ÆMILIUS, Senators, Tribunes, and
SATURNINUS: What! hath the firmament more suns than
LUCIUS: What boots it thee [it is
useless], to call thyself a sun?
MARCUS: Rome’s emperor, and nephew, break the parle [stop arguing];
These quarrels must be quietly debated.
The feast is ready which the careful Titus
Hath ordain’d to an honourable end,
For peace, for love, for league [concord;
agreement], and good to Rome:
Please you, therefore, draw nigh, and take your
SATURNINUS: Marcus, we will. [Hautboys [oboes] sound.
Enter TITUS, dressed like a cook, LAVINIA, veiled, young LUCIUS,
and Others. TITUS places the dishes on the table.
TITUS: Welcome, my gracious lord; welcome, dread
Welcome, ye war-like Goths; welcome, Lucius;
And welcome, all. Although the cheer be poor,
’Twill fill your stomachs; please you eat of it.
SATURNINUS: Why art thou thus attir’d,
TITUS: Because I would be sure to have all
To entertain your highness, and your empress.
TAMORA: We are beholding to you, good
TITUS: An if your highness knew my heart, you
My lord the emperor, resolve [answer;
assure] me this:
Was it well done of rash Virginius
To slay his daughter with his own right hand,
Because she was enforced, stain’d, and
SATURNINUS: It was, Andronicus.
TITUS: Your reason, mighty lord?
SATURNINUS: Because the girl should not survive her
And by her presence still renew his sorrows.
TITUS: A reason mighty, strong, and
A pattern, precedent, and lively warrant,
For me most wretched, to perform the like.
Die, die, Lavinia, and thy shame with thee;
And with thy shame thy father’s sorrow die! [Kills
SATURNINUS: What hast thou done, unnatural and
TITUS: Kill’d her, for whom my tears have made me
I am as woeful as Virginius was,
And have a thousand times more cause than he
To do this outrage: and it is now done.
SATURNINUS: What! was she ravish’d? tell who did the
TITUS: Will ’t please you eat? will ’t please your highness
TAMORA: Why hast thou slain thine only daughter
TITUS: Not I; ’twas Chiron and Demetrius:
They ravish’d her, and cut away her tongue:
And they, ’twas they, that did her all this
SATURNINUS: Go fetch them hither to us
TITUS: Why, there they are both, baked in that
Whereof their mother daintily hath fed,
Eating the flesh that she herself hath bred.
’Tis true, ’tis true; witness my knife’s sharp point. [Kills
SATURNINUS: Die, frantic wretch, for this accursed
deed! [Kills TITUS.
LUCIUS: Can the son’s eye behold his father
There’s meed for meed, death for a deadly deed! [Kills
SATURNINUS. A great tumult. The people in confusion
disperse. MARCUS, LUCIUS, and their partisans, go up into
MARCUS: You sad-fac’d men, people and sons of
By uproar sever’d, like a flight of fowl
Scatter’d by winds and high tempestuous gusts,
O! let me teach you how to knit again
This scatter’d corn into one mutual sheaf,
These broken limbs again into one body;
Lest Rome herself be bane unto herself,
And she whom mighty kingdoms curtsy to,
Like a forlorn and desperate castaway,
Do shameful execution on herself.
But if my frosty signs and chaps of age,
Grave witnesses of true experience,
Cannot induce you to attend my words,
[To LUCIUS.] Speak, Rome’s dear friend, as erst [formerly] our
When with his solemn tongue he did discourse
To love-sick Dido’s
sad attending ear
The story of that baleful burning night
When subtle Greeks surpris’d King Priam’s Troy;
Tell us what Sinon hath bewitch’d our ears,
[Sinon: In the Trojan War, a Greek soldier
who told the Trojans that the giant wooden horse the Greeks left
behind was a gift. The Trojans pulled the horse inside the city.
At night, Greek soldiers in the belly of the horse dropped down
through a trap door and opened the gates of the city, allowing
other other Greek soldiers to enter the city and conquer Troy.]
Or who hath brought the fatal engine in
[fatal engine: The wooden horse that the
Greeks used to gain entry to Troy near the end of the Trojan
That gives our Troy, our Rome, the civil wound.
My heart is not compact [made] of
flint nor steel,
Nor can I utter all our bitter grief,
But floods of tears will drown my oratory,
And break my very utterance, even in the time
When it should move you to attend me most,
Lending your kind commiseration.
Here is a captain, let him tell the tale;
Your hearts will throb and weep to hear him
LUCIUS: Then, noble auditory [listeners],
be it known to you,
That cursed Chiron and Demetrius
Were they that murdered our emperor’s brother;
And they it was that ravished our sister.
For their fell faults our brothers were
Our father’s tears despis’d, and basely cozen’d [cheated]
Of that true hand that fought Rome’s quarrel
And sent her enemies unto the grave:
Lastly, myself unkindly banished,
The gates shut on me, and turn’d weeping out,
To beg relief among Rome’s enemies;
Who drown’d their enmity in my true tears,
And op’d [opened] their arms to
embrace me as a friend:
And I am the turn’d forth, be it known to you,
That have preserv’d her welfare in my blood,
And from her bosom took the enemy’s point,
Sheathing the steel in my adventurous body.
Alas! you know I am no vaunter [braggart],
My scars can witness, dumb although they are,
That my report is just and full of truth.
But, soft! methinks I do digress too much,
Citing my worthless praise: O! pardon me;
For when no friends are by, men praise
MARCUS: Now is my turn to speak. Behold this
Of this was Tamora delivered,
The issue [child] of an irreligious
Chief architect and plotter of these woes.
The villain is alive in Titus’ house,
Damn’d as he is, to witness this is true.
Now judge what cause had Titus to revenge
These wrongs, unspeakable, past patience,
Or more than any living man could bear.
Now you have heard the truth, what say you
Have we done aught [anything] amiss,
show us wherein,
And, from the place where you behold us now,
The poor remainder of Andronici
Will, hand in hand, all headlong cast us down,
And on the ragged stones beat forth our brains,
And make a mutual closure of our house.
Speak, Romans, speak! and if you say we shall,
Lo! hand in hand, Lucius and I will fall.
AEMILIUS: Come, come, thou reverend man of
And bring our emperor gently in thy hand,
Lucius, our emperor; for well I know
The common voice do cry it shall be so.
Romans. Lucius, all hail! Rome’s royal
MARCUS: [To Attendants.] Go, go into old Titus’
And hither hale that misbelieving Moor,
To be adjudg’d some direful slaughtering death,
As punishment for his most wicked life. [Exeunt
LUCIUS, MARCUS, and the Others descend.
ROMANS: Lucius, all hail! Rome’s gracious
LUCIUS: Thanks, gentle Romans: may I govern
To heal Rome’s harms, and wipe away her woe!
But, gentle people, give me aim [time]
For nature puts me to a heavy task.
Stand all aloof; but, uncle, draw you near,
To shed obsequious tears upon this trunk.
O! take this warm kiss on thy pale cold lips, [Kisses
These sorrowful drops upon thy blood-stain’d
The last true duties of thy noble son!
MARCUS: Tear for tear, and loving kiss for
Thy brother Marcus tenders on thy lips:
O! were the sum of these that I should pay
Countless and infinite, yet would I pay them.
LUCIUS: Come hither, boy; come, come, and learn of
To melt in showers: thy grandsire lov’d thee
Many a time he danc’d thee on his knee,
Sung thee asleep, his loving breast thy pillow;
Many a matter hath he told to thee,
Meet and agreeing with thine infancy;
In that respect, then, like a loving child,
Shed yet some small drops from thy tender
Because kind nature doth require it so:
Friends should associate friends in grief and
Bid him farewell; commit him to the grave;
Do him that kindness, and take leave of him.
BOY: O grandsire, grandsire! even with all my
Would I were dead, so you did live again.
O Lord! I cannot speak to him for weeping;
My tears will choke me if I ope my mouth.
FIRST ROMAN: You sad Andronici, have done with
Give sentence on this execrable wretch [Aaron],
That hath been breeder of these dire events.
LUCIUS: Set him breast-deep in earth, and famish
There let him stand, and rave, and cry for food:
If any one relieves or pities him,
For the offence he dies. This is our doom:
Some stay to see him fasten’d in the earth.
AARON: O! why should wrath be mute, and fury
I am no baby, I, 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.
LUCIUS: Some loving friends convey the emperor
And give him burial in his father’s grave.
My father and Lavinia shall forthwith
Be closed in our household’s monument.
As for that heinous tiger, Tamora,
No funeral rite, nor man in mournful weeds [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, shall have like want of pity.
See justice done on Aaron, that damn’d Moor,
By whom our heavy haps [misfortunes]
had their beginning:
Then, afterwards, to order well the state,
That like events may ne’er it ruinate. [Exeunt.
Aside: Words whispered or spoken softly
so that only the character (or characters) near the speaker can
hear them. The audience hears everything, however.
Exeunt: The specified characters—or
all the characters—leave the stage.
Flourish: Playing of
and Essay Topics
The following questions
ask for your viewpoints on the play. Your task is to present
these viewpoints and defend them. If a particular viewpoint
disagrees with scholarly interpretations of the play, that's all
right. Just make sure you support your viewpoints with
convincing evidence and other material.
- Which character in
the play is the most despicable? Explain your answer.
- Are there any
admirable characters in the play? Explain your answer.
- Write an essay that
analyzes the main character, Titus Andronicus. There is plenty
of evidence in the play to draw conclusions about him. For
example, he recommends Saturninus as the new emperor. But
after Saturninus accedes to the throne, he betrays Titus. Does
this turn of events suggest that Titus is a poor judge of
character? Also, in a fit of anger, Titus kills his own son,
Mucius. Does this action suggest that he cannot control his
- Tamora ostensibly
seeks revenge against Titus because he ordered the execution
of her son, Alarbus. Are there other motives that fire her
- Titus kills Lavinia
to put her out of her misery. Was he right to do so?
- Aaron has no
admirable qualities except his love for his child. Is his love
merely instinctual or genuine and heartfelt?
About the Author of This Study
J. Cummings, a native of Williamsport, Pa., was a
public-school teacher, journalist, freelance writer,
author, and college instructor before retiring and
devoting his time to writing. He graduated from King's
College in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and undertook additional
studies at Elmira (N.Y) College and Lycoming College
in Williamsport. He also underwent training at the
American Press Institute in New York and Reston, Va.
Mr. Cummings is the author of five print books,
fourteen e-books, and more than 2,500 newspaper and
magazine articles. Among those he interviewed over the
years were actors Peter Ustinov and Dennis Weaver,
Merrill-Lynch chairman William Schreyer, Indy race-car
champion Rick Mears, and George W. Bush (while he was
running for vice president on Ronald Reagan's ticket).
Mr. Cummings continues to reside in his hometown.