The Tragedy of Titus Andronicus
SCENE I. Rome. Titus's garden.
Enter young LUCIUS, and LAVINIA running after him,
and the boy flies from her, with books under his
arm. Then enter TITUS and MARCUS
Help, grandsire, help! my aunt Lavinia
Follows me every where, I know not why:
Good uncle Marcus, see how swift she comes.
Alas, sweet aunt, I know not what you mean.
Stand by me, Lucius; do not fear thine aunt.
She loves thee, boy, too well to do thee harm.
Ay, when my father was in Rome she did.
What means my niece Lavinia by these signs?
Fear her not, Lucius: somewhat doth she mean:
See, Lucius, see how much she makes of thee:
Somewhither would she have thee go with her.
Ah, boy, Cornelia never with more care
Read to her sons than she hath read to thee
Sweet poetry and Tully's Orator.
Canst thou not guess wherefore she plies thee thus?
My lord, I know not, I, nor can I guess,
Unless some fit or frenzy do possess her:
For I have heard my grandsire say full oft,
Extremity of griefs would make men mad;
And I have read that Hecuba of Troy
Ran mad through sorrow: that made me to fear;
Although, my lord, I know my noble aunt
Loves me as dear as e'er my mother did,
And would not, but in fury, fright my youth:
Which made me down to throw my books, and fly--
Causeless, perhaps. But pardon me, sweet aunt:
And, madam, if my uncle Marcus go,
I will most willingly attend your ladyship.
Lucius, I will.
LAVINIA turns over with her stumps the books which
LUCIUS has let fall
How now, Lavinia! Marcus, what means this?
Some book there is that she desires to see.
Which is it, girl, of these? Open them, boy.
But thou art deeper read, and better skill'd
Come, and take choice of all my library,
And so beguile thy sorrow, till the heavens
Reveal the damn'd contriver of this deed.
Why lifts she up her arms in sequence thus?
I think she means that there was more than one
Confederate in the fact: ay, more there was;
Or else to heaven she heaves them for revenge.
Lucius, what book is that she tosseth so?
Grandsire, 'tis Ovid's Metamorphoses;
My mother gave it me.
For love of her that's gone,
Perhaps she cull'd it from among the rest.
Soft! see how busily she turns the leaves!
What would she find? Lavinia, shall I read?
This is the tragic tale of Philomel,
And treats of Tereus' treason and his rape:
And rape, I fear, was root of thine annoy.
See, brother, see; note how she quotes the leaves.
Lavinia, wert thou thus surprised, sweet girl,
Ravish'd and wrong'd, as Philomela was,
Forced in the ruthless, vast, and gloomy woods? See, see!
Ay, such a place there is, where we did hunt--
O, had we never, never hunted there!--
Pattern'd by that the poet here describes,
By nature made for murders and for rapes.
O, why should nature build so foul a den,
Unless the gods delight in tragedies?
Give signs, sweet girl, for here are none
What Roman lord it was durst do the deed:
Or slunk not Saturnine, as Tarquin erst,
That left the camp to sin in Lucrece' bed?
Sit down, sweet niece: brother, sit down by me.
Apollo, Pallas, Jove, or Mercury,
Inspire me, that I may this treason find!
My lord, look here: look here, Lavinia:
This sandy plot is plain; guide, if thou canst
This after me, when I have writ my name
Without the help of any hand at all.
He writes his name with his staff, and guides it
with feet and mouth
Cursed be that heart that forced us to this shift!
Write thou good niece; and here display, at last,
What God will have discover'd for revenge;
Heaven guide thy pen to print thy sorrows plain,
That we may know the traitors and the truth!
She takes the staff in her mouth, and guides it
with her stumps, and writes
O, do ye read, my lord, what she hath writ?
'Stuprum. Chiron. Demetrius.'
What, what! the lustful sons of Tamora
Performers of this heinous, bloody deed?
Magni Dominator poli,
Tam lentus audis scelera? tam lentus vides?
O, calm thee, gentle lord; although I know
There is enough written upon this earth
To stir a mutiny in the mildest thoughts
And arm the minds of infants to exclaims.
My lord, kneel down with me; Lavinia, kneel;
And kneel, sweet boy, the Roman Hector's hope;
And swear with me, as, with the woful fere
And father of that chaste dishonour'd dame,
Lord Junius Brutus sware for Lucrece' rape,
That we will prosecute by good advice
Mortal revenge upon these traitorous Goths,
And see their blood, or die with this reproach.
'Tis sure enough, an you knew how.
But if you hunt these bear-whelps, then beware:
The dam will wake; and, if she wind you once,
She's with the lion deeply still in league,
And lulls him whilst she playeth on her back,
And when he sleeps will she do what she list.
You are a young huntsman, Marcus; let it alone;
And, come, I will go get a leaf of brass,
And with a gad of steel will write these words,
And lay it by: the angry northern wind
Will blow these sands, like Sibyl's leaves, abroad,
And where's your lesson, then? Boy, what say you?
I say, my lord, that if I were a man,
Their mother's bed-chamber should not be safe
For these bad bondmen to the yoke of Rome.
Ay, that's my boy! thy father hath full oft
For his ungrateful country done the like.
And, uncle, so will I, an if I live.
Come, go with me into mine armoury;
Lucius, I'll fit thee; and withal, my boy,
Shalt carry from me to the empress' sons
Presents that I intend to send them both:
Come, come; thou'lt do thy message, wilt thou not?
Ay, with my dagger in their bosoms, grandsire.
No, boy, not so; I'll teach thee another course.
Lavinia, come. Marcus, look to my house:
Lucius and I'll go brave it at the court:
Ay, marry, will we, sir; and we'll be waited on.
Exeunt TITUS, LAVINIA, and Young LUCIUS
O heavens, can you hear a good man groan,
And not relent, or not compassion him?
Marcus, attend him in his ecstasy,
That hath more scars of sorrow in his heart
Than foemen's marks upon his batter'd shield;
But yet so just that he will not revenge.
Revenge, ye heavens, for old Andronicus!
Back to scene list
Saturday 19 June 2021