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Titus Andronicus

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Act III, Scene 1

Rome. A street.


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

  • Titus Andronicus. Hear me, grave fathers! noble tribunes, stay!
    For pity of mine age, whose youth was spent
    In dangerous wars, whilst you securely slept;
    For all my blood in Rome's great quarrel shed;
    For all the frosty nights that I have watch'd; 1130
    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, 1135
    Because they died in honour's lofty bed.
    [Lieth down; the Judges, &c., pass by him, and Exeunt]
    For these, these, tribunes, in the dust I write
    My heart's deep languor and my soul's sad tears:
    Let my tears stanch the earth's dry appetite; 1140
    My sons' sweet blood will make it shame and blush.
    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; 1145
    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! 1150
    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 vain:
    The tribunes hear you not; no man is by; 1155
    And you recount your sorrows to a stone.
  • Titus Andronicus. Ah, Lucius, for thy brothers let me plead.
    Grave tribunes, once more I entreat of you,—
  • Lucius. My gracious lord, no tribune hears you speak.
  • Titus Andronicus. Why, tis no matter, man; if they did hear, 1160
    They would not mark me, or if they did mark,
    They would not pity me, yet plead I must;
    And bootless unto them [—]
    Therefore I tell my sorrows to the stones;
    Who, though they cannot answer my distress, 1165
    Yet in some sort they are better than the tribunes,
    For that they will not intercept my tale:
    When I do weep, they humbly at my feet
    Receive my tears and seem to weep with me;
    And, were they but attired in grave weeds, 1170
    Rome could afford no tribune like to these.
    A stone is soft as wax,—tribunes more hard than stones;
    A stone is silent, and offendeth not,
    And tribunes with their tongues doom men to death.
    [Rises] 1175
    But wherefore stand'st thou with thy weapon drawn?
  • Lucius. To rescue my two brothers from their death:
    For which attempt the judges have pronounced
    My everlasting doom of banishment.
  • Titus Andronicus. O happy man! they have befriended thee. 1180
    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! 1185
    But who comes with our brother Marcus here?


  • Marcus Andronicus. Titus, prepare thy aged eyes to weep;
    Or, if not so, thy noble heart to break:
    I bring consuming sorrow to thine age. 1190
  • Lucius. Ay me, this object kills me!
  • Titus Andronicus. Faint-hearted boy, arise, and look upon her. 1195
    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?
    My grief was at the height before thou camest, 1200
    And now like Nilus, it disdaineth bounds.
    Give me a sword, I'll chop off my hands too;
    For they have fought for Rome, and all in vain;
    And they have nursed this woe, in feeding life;
    In bootless prayer have they been held up, 1205
    And they have served 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. 1210
  • Lucius. Speak, gentle sister, who hath martyr'd thee?
  • Marcus Andronicus. O, that delightful engine of her thoughts
    That blabb'd them with such pleasing eloquence,
    Is torn from forth that pretty hollow cage,
    Where, like a sweet melodious bird, it sung 1215
    Sweet varied notes, enchanting every ear!
  • Lucius. O, say thou for her, who hath done this deed?
  • Marcus Andronicus. O, thus I found her, straying in the park,
    Seeking to hide herself, as doth the deer
    That hath received some unrecuring wound. 1220
  • Titus Andronicus. It was my deer; and he that wounded her
    Hath hurt me more than had he killed me dead:
    For now I stand as one upon a rock
    Environed with a wilderness of sea,
    Who marks the waxing tide grow wave by wave, 1225
    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 banished man,
    And here my brother, weeping at my woes. 1230
    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? 1235
    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! 1240
    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 Andronicus. Perchance she weeps because they kill'd her husband;
    Perchance because she knows them innocent. 1245
  • Titus Andronicus. If they did kill thy husband, then be joyful
    Because the law hath ta'en revenge on them.
    No, no, they would not do so foul a deed;
    Witness the sorrow that their sister makes.
    Gentle Lavinia, let me kiss thy lips. 1250
    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, as meadows, yet not dry, 1255
    With miry slime left on them by a flood?
    And in the fountain shall we gaze so long
    Till the fresh taste be taken from that clearness,
    And made a brine-pit with our bitter tears?
    Or shall we cut away our hands, like thine? 1260
    Or shall we bite our tongues, and in dumb shows
    Pass the remainder of our hateful days?
    What shall we do? let us, that have our tongues,
    Plot some deuce of further misery,
    To make us wonder'd at in time to come. 1265
  • Lucius. Sweet father, cease your tears; for, at your grief,
    See how my wretched sister sobs and weeps.
  • Titus Andronicus. Ah, Marcus, Marcus! brother, well I wot
    Thy napkin cannot drink a tear of mine, 1270
    For thou, poor man, hast drown'd it with thine own.
  • Lucius. Ah, my Lavinia, I will wipe thy cheeks.
  • Titus Andronicus. Mark, Marcus, mark! I understand her signs:
    Had she a tongue to speak, now would she say
    That to her brother which I said to thee: 1275
    His napkin, with his true tears all bewet,
    Can do no service on her sorrowful cheeks.
    O, what a sympathy of woe is this,
    As far from help as Limbo is from bliss!

[Enter AARON]

  • Aaron. Titus Andronicus, my lord the emperor
    Sends thee this word,—that, if thou love thy sons,
    Let Marcus, Lucius, or thyself, old Titus,
    Or any one of you, chop off your hand,
    And send it to the king: he for the same 1285
    Will send thee hither both thy sons alive;
    And that shall be the ransom for their fault.
  • Titus Andronicus. O gracious emperor! O gentle Aaron!
    Did ever raven sing so like a lark,
    That gives sweet tidings of the sun's uprise? 1290
    With all my heart, I'll send the emperor My hand:
    Good Aaron, wilt thou help to chop it off?
  • Lucius. Stay, father! for that noble hand of thine,
    That hath thrown down so many enemies,
    Shall not be sent: my hand will serve the turn: 1295
    My youth can better spare my blood than you;
    And therefore mine shall save my brothers' lives.
  • Marcus Andronicus. Which of your hands hath not defended Rome,
    And rear'd aloft the bloody battle-axe,
    Writing destruction on the enemy's castle? 1300
    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 along, 1305
    For fear they die before their pardon come.
  • Lucius. By heaven, it shall not go!
  • Titus Andronicus. Sirs, strive no more: such wither'd herbs as these
    Are meet for plucking up, and therefore mine. 1310
  • Lucius. Sweet father, if I shall be thought thy son,
    Let me redeem my brothers both from death.
  • Marcus Andronicus. And, for our father's sake and mother's care,
    Now let me show a brother's love to thee.
  • Lucius. Then I'll go fetch an axe.

[Exeunt LUCIUS and MARCUS]

  • Titus Andronicus. Come hither, Aaron; I'll deceive them both:
    Lend me thy hand, and I will give thee mine. 1320
  • Aaron. [Aside] If that be call'd deceit, I will be honest,
    And never, whilst I live, deceive men so:
    But I'll deceive you in another sort,
    And that you'll say, ere half an hour pass.

[Cuts off TITUS's hand]

[Re-enter LUCIUS and MARCUS]

  • Titus Andronicus. Now stay your strife: what shall be is dispatch'd.
    Good Aaron, give his majesty my hand:
    Tell him it was a hand that warded him
    From thousand dangers; bid him bury it 1330
    More hath it merited; that let it have.
    As for my sons, say I account of them
    As jewels purchased at an easy price;
    And yet dear too, because I bought mine own.
  • Aaron. I go, Andronicus: and for thy hand 1335
    Look by and by to have thy sons with thee.
    Their heads, I mean. O, how this villany
    Doth fat me with the very thoughts of it!
    Let fools do good, and fair men call for grace. 1340
    Aaron will have his soul black like his face.


  • Titus Andronicus. O, here I lift this one hand up to heaven,
    And bow this feeble ruin to the earth:
    If any power pities wretched tears, 1345
    To that I call!
    [To LAVINIA]
    What, wilt thou kneel with me?
    Do, then, dear heart; for heaven shall hear our prayers;
    Or with our sighs we'll breathe the welkin dim, 1350
    And stain the sun with fog, as sometime clouds
    When they do hug him in their melting bosoms.
  • Marcus Andronicus. O brother, speak with possibilities,
    And do not break into these deep extremes.
  • Titus Andronicus. Is not my sorrow deep, having no bottom? 1355
    Then be my passions bottomless with them.
  • Marcus Andronicus. But yet let reason govern thy lament.TITUS ANDRONICUS. If there were reason for these miseries,
    Then into limits could I bind my woes:
    When heaven doth weep, doth not the earth o'erflow?
    If the winds rage, doth not the sea wax mad, 1360
    Threatening the welkin with his big-swoln face?
    And wilt thou have a reason for this coil?
    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; 1365
    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 1370
    To ease their stomachs with their bitter tongues.

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

  • Messenger. Worthy Andronicus, ill art thou repaid
    For that good hand thou sent'st the emperor.
    Here are the heads of thy two noble sons; 1375
    And here's thy hand, in scorn to thee sent back;
    Thy griefs their sports, thy resolution mock'd;
    That woe is me to think upon thy woes
    More than remembrance of my father's death.


  • Marcus Andronicus. Now let hot AEtna cool in Sicily,
    And be my heart an ever-burning hell!
    These miseries are more than may be borne.
    To weep with them that weep doth ease some deal;
    But sorrow flouted at is double death. 1385
  • Lucius. Ah, that this sight should make so deep a wound,
    And yet detested life not shrink thereat!
    That ever death should let life bear his name,
    Where life hath no more interest but to breathe!


  • Marcus Andronicus. Alas, poor heart, that kiss is comfortless
    As frozen water to a starved snake.
  • Marcus Andronicus. Now, farewell, flattery: die, Andronicus;
    Thou dost not slumber: see, thy two sons' heads, 1395
    Thy warlike hand, thy mangled daughter here:
    Thy other banish'd son, with this dear sight
    Struck pale and bloodless; and thy brother, I,
    Even like a stony image, cold and numb.
    Ah, now no more will I control thy griefs: 1400
    Rend 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 Andronicus. Why, I have not another tear to shed:
    Besides, this sorrow is an enemy,
    And would usurp upon my watery eyes
    And make them blind with tributary tears: 1410
    Then which way shall I find Revenge's cave?
    For these two heads do seem to speak to me,
    And threat me I shall never come to bliss
    Till all these mischiefs be return'd again
    Even in their throats that have committed them. 1415
    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; 1420
    And in this hand the other I will bear.
    Lavinia, thou shalt be employ'd: these arms!
    Bear thou my hand, sweet wench, between thy teeth.
    As for thee, boy, go get thee from my sight;
    Thou art an exile, and thou must not stay: 1425
    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.


  • Lucius. Farewell Andronicus, my noble father, 1430
    The wofull'st man that ever lived in Rome:
    Farewell, proud Rome; till Lucius come again,
    He leaves his pledges dearer than his life:
    Farewell, Lavinia, my noble sister;
    O, would thou wert as thou tofore hast been! 1435
    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. 1440
    Now will I to the Goths, and raise a power,
    To be revenged on Rome and Saturnine.