Titus Andronicus, Act 5 Scene 1
ACT V. SCENE I. Plains near Rome Enter LUCIUS with an army of GOTHS with drums and colours
LUCIUS Approved warriors and my faithful friends, I have received letters from great Rome Which signifies what hate they bear their Emperor And how desirous of our sight they are. Therefore, great lords, be, as your titles witness, Imperious and impatient of your wrongs; And wherein Rome hath done you any scath, Let him make treble satisfaction.
FIRST GOTH Brave slip, sprung from the great Andronicus, 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 flow'red fields, And be aveng'd on cursed Tamora.
ALL THE GOTHS And as he saith, so say we all with him.
LUCIUS I humbly thank him, and I thank you all. 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 stray'd 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 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 babe- '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 devil That robb'd Andronicus of his good hand; This is the pearl that pleas'd your Empress' eye; And here's the base fruit of her burning lust. Say, wall-ey'd 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 blood.
LUCIUS Too like the sire for ever being good. 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 climb
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; an if it please me which thou speak'st, Thy child shall live, and I will see it nourish'd.
AARON An if it please thee! Why, assure thee, Lucius, 'Twill vex thy soul to hear what I shall speak; For I must talk of murders, rapes, and massacres, Acts of black night, abominable deeds, Complots of mischief, treason, villainies, Ruthful to hear, yet piteously perform'd; And this shall all be buried in my death, Unless thou swear to me my child shall live.
LUCIUS Tell on thy mind; I say thy child shall live.
AARON Swear that he shall, and then I will begin.
LUCIUS Who should I swear by? Thou believest no god; That granted, how canst thou believe an oath?
popish (offensive) Of or relating to the popes or the Roman Catholic Church. (AHD)
AARON What if I do not? as indeed I do not; 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 adorest 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 will.
AARON First know thou, I begot him on the Empress.
LUCIUS O most insatiate and luxurious woman!
AARON Tut, Lucius, this was but a deed of charity To that which thou shalt hear of me anon. 'Twas her two sons that murdered Bassianus; They cut thy sister's tongue, and ravish'd her, And cut her hands, and trimm'd her as thou sawest.
LUCIUS O detestable villain! Call'st thou that trimming?
AARON Why, she was wash'd, and cut, and trimm'd, and 'twas Trim sport for them which had the doing of it.
LUCIUS O barbarous beastly villains like thyself!
AARON Indeed, I was their tutor to instruct them. That codding 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 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 that 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 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 swooned almost at my pleasing tale, And for my tidings gave me twenty kisses.
GOTH What, canst thou say all this and never blush?
AARON Ay, like a black dog, as the saying is.
LUCIUS Art thou not sorry for these heinous deeds?
AARON Ay, that I had not done a thousand more. 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; 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' door Even when their sorrows almost was 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 die So sweet a death as hanging presently.
AARON If there be devils, would I were a devil, 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 more.
GOTH My lord, there is a messenger from Rome 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 Goths, 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 pledges Unto my father and my uncle Marcus. And we will come. March away.