〈Titus Andronicus〉 Act 2 Scene 3
ACT II. SCENE III. A lonely part of the forest
Enter AARON alone, 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 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 [Hides the gold] That have their alms out of the Empress' chest.
Enter TAMORA alone, to the Moor
Dido The founder and queen of Carthage, who fell in love with Aeneas and killed herself when he abandoned her. (AHD) Dido. The prince in “prince and Dido” refers to Aeneas. Carthage is today's Tunis, located on the northen tip of Africa. Google Map
TAMORA My lovely Aaron, wherefore look'st thou sad When everything does make a gleeful boast? The birds chant melody on every bush; The snakes lie 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 while 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 wand'ring prince and Dido once enjoyed, When with a happy storm they were surpris'd, 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 Be unto us as is a nurse's song Of lullaby to bring her babe asleep.
Venus Aphrodite, goddess of sexual love. Venus
Saturn Cronus, a founding god of the heavens, who cut off his dad Uranus's penis and throw to the sea, which sprang Aphrodite. Cronus and was overthrown by his own son Zeus. Saturn
Philomel nightingale. The word came from Philomela, who is a princess in Greek mythology, who got raped and tongue cut off, and later with her sisters changed into a hoopoe, swallow, and nightingale. See Philomela
AARON Madam, though Venus govern your desires, Saturn 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. 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; 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. Now question me no more; we are espied. Here comes a parcel of our hopeful booty, Which dreads not yet their lives' destruction.
Enter BASSIANUS and LAVINIA
TAMORA Ah, my sweet Moor, sweeter to me than life!
AARON No more, great Empress: Bassianus comes. Be cross with him; and I'll go fetch thy sons To back thy quarrels, whatsoe'er they be.
beseeming (Archaic) To be appropriate for; befit. (AHD)
Dian Diana (Artemis), a Goddess of hunt. Diana.
habited to cloth, dress.
BASSIANUS Who have we here? Rome's royal Empress, 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?
controller An officer who audits accounts and supervises the financial affairs of a corporation or of a governmental body. (AHD)
Actaeon a hapless hunter, who one day run into a naked bathing Artemes (Diana) and stared, for that the goddess transformed him into a stag, and was rended by his own hounds to her satisfaction. Actaeon
TAMORA Saucy controller of my private steps! Had I the pow'r 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!
Under your patience execuse me.
horning refers to the idiom of “[a wife] giving [her husband] horns”, meaning adultery. When a wife f￼cks another man, her husband is said to have or grow horns. (this is also the origin the word “horny=sexually arosed”). See Cuckold for a colorful etymology.
Jove Jupiter (Zeus), the all-powerful ruling god. Jove. Lavinia retort Tamora by alluding Saturninus as Actaeon.
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 thy experiments. Jove shield your husband from his hounds to-day! 'Tis pity they should take him for a stag.
Cimmerian One of a mythical people described by Homer as inhabiting a land of perpetual darkness. (AHD) Cimmerian
BASSIANUS Believe me, Queen, your swarth Cimmerian Doth make your honour of his body's hue, Spotted, detested, and abominable. Why are you sequest'red from all your train, Dismounted from your snow-white goodly steed, And wand'red 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, Great reason that my noble lord be rated For sauciness. I pray you let us hence, And let her joy her raven-coloured love; This valley fits the purpose passing well.
BASSIANUS The King my brother shall have note of this.
slips moral slip. i.e. fornication.
LAVINIA Ay, for these slips have made him noted long. Good king, to be so mightily abused!
TAMORA Why, I have patience to endure all this.
Enter CHIRON and DEMETRIUS
DEMETRIUS How now, dear sovereign, and our gracious mother! Why doth your Highness look so pale and wan?
vale A tract of low ground, or of land between hills.
mistletoe a parasitic plant. See mistletoe.
yew a poisonous evergreen. See Common Yew.
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, Overcome 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 here Unto the body of a dismal yew, And leave me to this miserable death. And then they call'd 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 BASSIANUS]
CHIRON And this for me, struck home to show my strength. [Also stabs]
Semiramis a legendary Assyrian queen, c1400 BCE. Semiramis
LAVINIA Ay, come, Semiramis— nay, barbarous Tamora, For no name fits thy nature but thy own!
TAMORA Give me the poniard; you shall know, my boys, Your mother's hand shall right your mother's wrong.
minion A loved one; one highly esteemed and favored.
DEMETRIUS Stay, madam, here is more belongs to her; 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?
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 we desire, Let not this wasp outlive, us both to sting.
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 bearest a woman's face-
TAMORA I will not hear her speak; away with her!
LAVINIA Sweet lords, entreat her hear me but a word.
flint a type of hard rock. Flint
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? 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] Do thou entreat her show a woman's 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, mov'd with pity, did endure To have his princely paws par'd 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!
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.
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. Therefore away with her, and use her as you will; The worse to her the better lov'd 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; Poor I was slain when Bassianus died.
Fond Foolish; silly; simple; weak. (archaic)
TAMORA What beg'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, 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.
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. 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. 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 deflower. [Exit]
Re-enter AARON, with two of TITUS' sons, 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.
bodes fortell. (archaic)
QUINTUS My sight is very dull, whate'er it bodes.
MARTIUS And mine, I promise you; were it not for shame, Well could I leave our sport to sleep awhile. [Falls into the pit]
QUINTUS What, art thou fallen? What subtle hole is this, Whose mouth is covered with rude-growing briers, 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 dismal'st object hurt That ever eye with sight made heart lament!
AARON [Aside] Now will I fetch the King to find them here, That he thereby may have a likely guess How these were they that made away his brother. [Exit]
MARTIUS Why dost not comfort me, and help me out From this unhallow'd and blood-stained hole?
uncouth unfamiliar; unknown. (archaic)
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.
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 The thing whereat it trembles by surmise; O, tell me who it is, for ne'er till now Was I a child to fear I know not what.
beray'd could mean bereaved. In some editions, the line is “Lord Bassianus lies embrewed here”. Embrewed means imbrued (stained), esp with blood.
MARTIUS Lord Bassianus lies beray'd in blood, All on a heap, like to a slaughtered lamb, In this detested, dark, blood-drinking pit.
QUINTUS If it be dark, how dost thou know 'tis he?
taper a source of feeble light. (AHD)
Pyramus Pyramus and Thisbe are lovers but cannot unite, until a unlucky day both martyred for each other. Pyramus
Cocytus the river of wailing. Cocytus
MARTIUS Upon his bloody finger he doth wear A precious ring that lightens all this hole, Which, like a taper in some monument, Doth shine upon the dead man's earthy cheeks, And shows the ragged entrails of this pit; So pale did shine the moon on Pyramus When he by night lay bath'd in maiden blood. O brother, help me with thy fainting hand- 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, 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, Till thou art here aloft, or I below. Thou canst not come to me- I come to thee. [Falls in]
Enter the EMPEROR and AARON the Moor
SATURNINUS Along with me! I'll see what hole is here, And what he is that now is leapt into it. Say, who art thou that lately didst descend Into this gaping hollow of the earth?
MARTIUS The unhappy sons of old Andronicus, Brought hither in a most unlucky hour, 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 them there.
MARTIUS We know not where you left them 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?
SATURNINUS Here, Tamora; though griev'd 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, The complot of this timeless tragedy; And wonder greatly that man's face can fold In pleasing smiles such murderous tyranny. [She giveth SATURNINE a letter]
SATURNINUS [Reads] 'An if we miss to meet him handsomely, 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 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 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. 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 thing! 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 apparent. 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 bail; For, by my fathers' 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 me. Some bring the murdered body, some the murderers; Let them not speak a word- the guilt is plain; For, by my soul, were there worse end than death, That end upon them should be executed.
TAMORA Andronicus, I will entreat the King. Fear not thy sons; they shall do well enough.
TITUS Come, Lucius, come; stay not to talk with them.