Open Source Shakespeare

Titus Andronicus

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Act II, Scene 3

A lonely part of the forest.


[Enter AARON, with a bag of gold]

  • Aaron. He that had wit would think that I had none,
    To bury so much gold under a tree,
    And never after to inherit it.
    Let him that thinks of me so abjectly 735
    Know that this gold must coin a stratagem,
    Which, cunningly effected, will beget
    A very excellent piece of villany:
    And so repose, sweet gold, for their unrest
    [Hides the gold] 740
    That have their alms out of the empress' chest.

[Enter TAMORA]

  • Tamora. My lovely Aaron, wherefore look'st thou sad,
    When every thing doth make a gleeful boast?
    The birds chant melody on every bush, 745
    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, 750
    Replying shrilly to the well-tuned 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 supposed
    The wandering prince and Dido once enjoy'd, 755
    When with a happy storm they were surprised
    And curtain'd with a counsel-keeping cave,
    We may, each wreathed in the other's arms,
    Our pastimes done, possess a golden slumber;
    Whiles hounds and horns and sweet melodious birds 760
    Be unto us as is a nurse's song
    Of lullaby to bring her babe asleep.
  • Aaron. Madam, though Venus govern your desires,
    Saturn is dominator over mine:
    What signifies my deadly-standing eye, 765
    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: 770
    Vengeance is in my heart, death in my hand,
    Blood and revenge are hammering in my head.
    Hark Tamora, the empress of my soul,
    Which never hopes more heaven than rests in thee,
    This is the day of doom for Bassianus: 775
    His Philomel must lose her tongue to-day,
    Thy sons make pillage of her chastity
    And wash their hands in Bassianus' blood.
    Seest thou this letter? take it up, I pray thee,
    And give the king this fatal plotted scroll. 780
    Now question me no more; we are espied;
    Here comes a parcel of our hopeful booty,
    Which dreads not yet their lives' destruction.
  • Tamora. Ah, my sweet Moor, sweeter to me than life!
  • Aaron. No more, great empress; Bassianus comes: 785
    Be cross with him; and I'll go fetch thy sons
    To back thy quarrels, whatsoe'er they be.



  • Bassianus. Who have we here? Rome's royal empress, 790
    Unfurnish'd of her well-beseeming troop?
    Or is it Dian, habited like her,
    Who hath abandoned her holy groves
    To see the general hunting in this forest?
  • Tamora. Saucy controller of our private steps! 795
    Had I the power that some say Dian had,
    Thy temples should be planted presently
    With horns, as was Actaeon's; and the hounds
    Should drive upon thy new-transformed limbs,
    Unmannerly intruder as thou art! 800
  • Lavinia. Under your patience, gentle empress,
    'Tis thought you have a goodly gift in horning;
    And to be doubted that your Moor and you
    Are singled forth to try experiments:
    Jove shield your husband from his hounds to-day! 805
    'Tis pity they should take him for a stag.
  • Bassianus. Believe me, queen, your swarth Cimmerian
    Doth make your honour of his body's hue,
    Spotted, detested, and abominable.
    Why are you sequester'd from all your train, 810
    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 sport, 815
    Great reason that my noble lord be rated
    For sauciness. I pray you, let us hence,
    And let her joy her raven-colour'd love;
    This valley fits the purpose passing well.
  • Bassianus. The king my brother shall have note of this. 820
  • Lavinia. Ay, for these slips have made him noted long:
    Good king, to be so mightily abused!
  • Tamora. Why have I patience to endure all this?


  • Demetrius. How now, dear sovereign, and our gracious mother! 825
    Why doth your highness look so pale and wan?
  • Tamora. Have I not reason, think you, to look pale?
    These two have 'ticed me hither to this place:
    A barren detested vale, you see it is;
    The trees, though summer, yet forlorn and lean, 830
    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, 835
    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. 840
    No sooner had they told this hellish tale,
    But straight they told me they would bind me here
    Unto the body of a dismal yew,
    And leave me to this miserable death:
    And then they call'd me foul adulteress, 845
    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, 850
    Or be ye not henceforth call'd my children.
  • Demetrius. This is a witness that I am thy son.


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

[Also stabs BASSIANUS, who dies]

  • Lavinia. Ay, come, Semiramis, nay, barbarous Tamora,
    For no name fits thy nature but thy own!
  • Tamora. Give me thy poniard; you shall know, my boys
    Your mother's hand shall right your mother's wrong.
  • Demetrius. Stay, madam; here is more belongs to her; 860
    First thrash the corn, then after burn the straw:
    This minion stood upon her chastity,
    Upon her nuptial vow, her loyalty,
    And with that painted hope braves your mightiness:
    And shall she carry this unto her grave? 865
  • Chiron. An if she do, I would I were an eunuch.
    Drag hence her husband to some secret hole,
    And make his dead trunk pillow to our lust.
  • Tamora. But when ye have the honey ye desire,
    Let not this wasp outlive, us both to sting. 870
  • Chiron. I warrant you, madam, we will make that sure.
    Come, mistress, now perforce we will enjoy
    That nice-preserved honesty of yours.
  • Lavinia. O Tamora! thou bear'st a woman's face,—
  • Tamora. I will not hear her speak; away with her! 875
  • Lavinia. Sweet lords, entreat her hear me but a word.
  • Demetrius. Listen, fair madam: let it be your glory
    To see her tears; but be your heart to them
    As unrelenting flint to drops of rain.
  • Lavinia. When did the tiger's young ones teach the dam? 880
    O, do not learn her wrath; she taught it thee;
    The milk thou suck'dst from her did turn to marble;
    Even at thy teat thou hadst thy tyranny.
    Yet every mother breeds not sons alike:
    [To CHIRON] 885
    Do thou entreat her show a woman pity.
  • Chiron. What, wouldst thou have me prove myself a bastard?
  • Lavinia. 'Tis true; the raven doth not hatch a lark:
    Yet have I heard,—O, could I find it now!—
    The lion moved with pity did endure 890
    To have his princely paws pared all away:
    Some say that ravens foster forlorn children,
    The whilst their own birds famish in their nests:
    O, be to me, though thy hard heart say no,
    Nothing so kind, but something pitiful! 895
  • Tamora. I know not what it means; away with her!
  • Lavinia. O, let me teach thee! for my father's sake,
    That gave thee life, when well he might have
    slain thee,
    Be not obdurate, open thy deaf ears. 900
  • Tamora. Hadst thou in person ne'er offended me,
    Even for his sake am I pitiless.
    Remember, boys, I pour'd forth tears in vain,
    To save your brother from the sacrifice;
    But fierce Andronicus would not relent; 905
    Therefore, away with her, and use her as you will,
    The worse to her, the better loved of me.
  • Lavinia. O Tamora, be call'd a gentle queen,
    And with thine own hands kill me in this place!
    For 'tis not life that I have begg'd so long; 910
    Poor I was slain when Bassianus died.
  • Tamora. What begg'st thou, then? fond woman, let me go.
  • Lavinia. 'Tis present death I beg; and one thing more
    That womanhood denies my tongue to tell:
    O, keep me from their worse than killing lust, 915
    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 fee:
    No, let them satisfy their lust on thee. 920
  • Demetrius. Away! for thou hast stay'd us here too long.
  • Lavinia. No grace? no womanhood? Ah, beastly creature!
    The blot and enemy to our general name!
    Confusion fall—
  • Chiron. Nay, then I'll stop your mouth. Bring thou her husband: 925
    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 sure. 930
    Ne'er let my heart know merry cheer indeed,
    Till all the Andronici be made away.
    Now will I hence to seek my lovely Moor,
    And let my spleenful sons this trull deflow'r.


[Re-enter AARON, with QUINTUS and MARTIUS]

  • Aaron. Come on, my lords, the better foot before:
    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 bodes. 940
  • Martius. And mine, I promise you; were't not for shame,
    Well could I leave our sport to sleep awhile.

[Falls into the pit]

  • Quintus. What art thou fall'n? What subtle hole is this,
    Whose mouth is cover'd with rude-growing briers, 945
    Upon whose leaves are drops of new-shed blood
    As fresh as morning dew distill'd on flowers?
    A very fatal place it seems to me.
    Speak, brother, hast thou hurt thee with the fall?
  • Martius. O brother, with the dismall'st object hurt 950
    That ever eye with sight made heart lament!
  • Aaron. [Aside] 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 out
    From this unhallowed and blood-stained hole?
  • Quintus. I am surprised with an uncouth fear;
    A chilling sweat o'er-runs my trembling joints:
    My heart suspects more than mine eye can see. 960
  • Martius. To prove thou hast a true-divining heart,
    Aaron and thou look down into this den,
    And see a fearful sight of blood and death.
  • Quintus. Aaron is gone; and my compassionate heart
    Will not permit mine eyes once to behold 965
    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 here,
    All on a heap, like to a slaughter'd lamb, 970
    In this detested, dark, blood-drinking pit.
  • Quintus. If it be dark, how dost thou know 'tis he?
  • Martius. Upon his bloody finger he doth wear
    A precious ring, that lightens all the hole,
    Which, like a taper in some monument, 975
    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 bathed in maiden blood.
    O brother, help me with thy fainting hand— 980
    If fear hath made thee faint, as me it hath—
    Out of this fell devouring receptacle,
    As hateful as Cocytus' misty mouth.
  • Quintus. Reach me thy hand, that I may help thee out;
    Or, wanting strength to do thee so much good, 985
    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 help.
  • Quintus. Thy hand once more; I will not loose again, 990
    Till thou art here aloft, or I below:
    Thou canst not come to me: I come to thee.

[Falls in]


  • Saturninus. Along with me: I'll see what hole is here, 995
    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 Andronicus:
    Brought hither in a most unlucky hour, 1000
    To find thy brother Bassianus dead.
  • Saturninus. My brother dead! I know thou dost but jest:
    He and his lady both are at the lodge
    Upon the north side of this pleasant chase;
    'Tis not an hour since I left him there. 1005
  • Martius. We know not where you left him all alive;
    But, out, alas! here have we found him dead.
    [Re-enter TAMORA, with Attendants; TITUS]
    ANDRONICUS, and Lucius]
  • Tamora. Where is my lord the king? 1010
  • Saturninus. Here, Tamora, though grieved with killing grief.
  • Tamora. Where is thy brother Bassianus?
  • Saturninus. Now to the bottom dost thou search my wound:
    Poor Bassianus here lies murdered.
  • Tamora. Then all too late I bring this fatal writ, 1015
    The complot of this timeless tragedy;
    And wonder greatly that man's face can fold
    In pleasing smiles such murderous tyranny.

[She giveth SATURNINUS a letter]

  • Saturninus. [Reads] 'An if we miss to meet him handsomely— 1020
    Sweet huntsman, Bassianus 'tis we mean—
    Do thou so much as dig the grave for him:
    Thou know'st our meaning. Look for thy reward
    Among the nettles at the elder-tree
    Which overshades the mouth of that same pit 1025
    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 1030
    That should have murdered Bassianus here.
  • Aaron. My gracious lord, here is the bag of gold.
  • Saturninus. [To TITUS] Two of thy whelps, fell curs of
    bloody kind,
    Have here bereft my brother of his life. 1035
    Sirs, drag them from the pit unto the prison:
    There let them bide until we have devised
    Some never-heard-of torturing pain for them.
  • Tamora. What, are they in this pit? O wondrous thing!
    How easily murder is discovered! 1040
  • Titus Andronicus. 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 proved in them,—
  • Saturninus. If it be proved! you see it is apparent. 1045
    Who found this letter? Tamora, was it you?
  • Tamora. Andronicus himself did take it up.
  • Titus Andronicus. I did, my lord: yet let me be their bail;
    For, by my father's reverend tomb, I vow
    They shall be ready at your highness' will 1050
    To answer their suspicion with their lives.
  • Saturninus. Thou shalt not bail them: see thou follow me.
    Some bring the murder'd body, some the murderers:
    Let them not speak a word; the guilt is plain;
    For, by my soul, were there worse end than death, 1055
    That end upon them should be executed.
  • Tamora. Andronicus, I will entreat the king;
    Fear not thy sons; they shall do well enough.
  • Titus Andronicus. Come, Lucius, come; stay not to talk with them.