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Titus Andronicus

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Act II, Scene 1

Rome. Before the Palace.


[Enter AARON]

  • Aaron. Now climbeth Tamora Olympus' top,
    Safe out of fortune's shot; and sits aloft,
    Secure of thunder's crack or lightning flash; 550
    Advanced above pale envy's threatening reach.
    As when the golden sun salutes the morn,
    And, having gilt the ocean with his beams,
    Gallops the zodiac in his glistering coach,
    And overlooks the highest-peering hills; 555
    So Tamora:
    Upon her wit doth earthly honour wait,
    And virtue stoops and trembles at her frown.
    Then, Aaron, arm thy heart, and fit thy thoughts,
    To mount aloft with thy imperial mistress, 560
    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.
    Away with slavish weeds and servile thoughts! 565
    I will be bright, and shine in pearl and gold,
    To wait upon this new-made empress.
    To wait, said I? to wanton with this queen,
    This goddess, this Semiramis, this nymph,
    This siren, that will charm Rome's Saturnine, 570
    And see his shipwreck and his commonweal's.
    Holloa! what storm is this?

[Enter DEMETRIUS and CHIRON, braving]

  • Demetrius. Chiron, thy years want wit, thy wit wants edge,
    And manners, to intrude where I am graced; 575
    And may, for aught thou know'st, affected be.
  • Chiron. Demetrius, thou dost over-ween in all;
    And so in this, to bear me down with braves.
    'Tis not the difference of a year or two
    Makes me less gracious or thee more fortunate: 580
    I am as able and as fit as thou
    To serve, and to deserve my mistress' grace;
    And that my sword upon thee shall approve,
    And plead my passions for Lavinia's love.
  • Aaron. [Aside] Clubs, clubs! these lovers will not keep 585
    the peace.
  • Demetrius. Why, boy, although our mother, unadvised,
    Gave you a dancing-rapier by your side,
    Are you so desperate grown, to threat your friends?
    Go to; have your lath glued within your sheath 590
    Till you know better how to handle it.
  • Chiron. Meanwhile, sir, with the little skill I have,
    Full well shalt thou perceive how much I dare.

[They draw]

  • Aaron. [Coming forward] Why, how now, lords!
    So near the emperor's palace dare you draw,
    And maintain such a quarrel openly?
    Full well I wot the ground of all this grudge:
    I would not for a million of gold 600
    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 sheathed 605
    My rapier in his bosom and withal
    Thrust these reproachful speeches down his throat
    That he hath breathed in my dishonour here.
  • Chiron. For that I am prepared and full resolved.
    Foul-spoken coward, that thunder'st with thy tongue, 610
    And with thy weapon nothing darest perform!
  • Aaron. Away, I say!
    Now, by the gods that warlike Goths adore,
    This petty brabble will undo us all.
    Why, lords, and think you not how dangerous 615
    It is to jet upon a prince's right?
    What, is Lavinia then become so loose,
    Or Bassianus so degenerate,
    That for her love such quarrels may be broach'd
    Without controlment, justice, or revenge? 620
    Young lords, beware! and should the empress know
    This discord's ground, the music would not please.
  • Chiron. I care not, I, knew she and all the world:
    I love Lavinia more than all the world.
  • Demetrius. Youngling, learn thou to make some meaner choice: 625
    Lavinia is thine elder brother's hope.
  • Aaron. Why, are ye mad? or know ye not, in Rome
    How furious and impatient they be,
    And cannot brook competitors in love?
    I tell you, lords, you do but plot your deaths 630
    By this device.
  • Chiron. Aaron, a thousand deaths
    Would I propose to achieve her whom I love.
  • Aaron. To achieve her! how?
  • Demetrius. Why makest thou it so strange? 635
    She is a woman, therefore may be woo'd;
    She is a woman, therefore may be won;
    She is Lavinia, therefore must be loved.
    What, man! more water glideth by the mill
    Than wots the miller of; and easy it is 640
    Of a cut loaf to steal a shive, we know:
    Though Bassianus be the emperor's brother.
    Better than he have worn Vulcan's badge.
  • Aaron. [Aside] Ay, and as good as Saturninus may.
  • Demetrius. Then why should he despair that knows to court it 645
    With words, fair looks and liberality?
    What, hast not thou full often struck a doe,
    And borne her cleanly by the keeper's nose?
  • Aaron. Why, then, it seems, some certain snatch or so
    Would serve your turns. 650
  • Chiron. Ay, so the turn were served.
  • Aaron. Would you had hit it too!
    Then should not we be tired with this ado.
    Why, hark ye, hark ye! and are you such fools 655
    To square for this? would it offend you, then
    That both should speed?
  • Aaron. For shame, be friends, and join for that you jar: 660
    '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 665
    Than this Lavinia, Bassianus' love.
    A speedier course than lingering languishment
    Must we pursue, and I have found the path.
    My lords, a solemn hunting is in hand;
    There will the lovely Roman ladies troop: 670
    The forest walks are wide and spacious;
    And many unfrequented plots there are
    Fitted by kind for rape and villany:
    Single you thither then this dainty doe,
    And strike her home by force, if not by words: 675
    This way, or not at all, stand you in hope.
    Come, come, our empress, with her sacred wit
    To villany and vengeance consecrate,
    Will we acquaint with all that we intend;
    And she shall file our engines with advice, 680
    That will not suffer you to square yourselves,
    But to your wishes' height advance you both.
    The emperor's court is like the house of Fame,
    The palace full of tongues, of eyes, and ears:
    The woods are ruthless, dreadful, deaf, and dull; 685
    There speak, and strike, brave boys, and take
    your turns;
    There serve your lusts, shadow'd from heaven's eye,
    And revel in Lavinia's treasury.
  • Chiron. Thy counsel, lad, smells of no cowardice, 690
  • Demetrius. Sit fas aut nefas, till I find the stream
    To cool this heat, a charm to calm these fits.
    Per Styga, per manes vehor.