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Navigate this workTitus Andronicus
Act 2, scene 3
Aaron sets a trap to destroy Bassianus and put the blame on Titus’s sons Quintus and Martius. He has Tamora quarrel with Lavinia and Bassianus, a quarrel that ends in Bassianus’s death at the hands of Chiron and Demetrius, who carry off Lavinia. Aaron then brings Quintus and Martius to the pit where Bassianus’s body lies and, using a forged letter and hidden gold, makes them appear guilty of the murder.Enter Aaron, alone, ⌜carrying a bag of gold.⌝
0678 He that had wit would think that I had none,
0679 To bury so much gold under a tree
0680 And never after to inherit it.
0681 Let him that thinks of me so abjectly
0682 5 Know that this gold must coin a stratagem
0683 Which, cunningly effected, will beget
0684 A very excellent piece of villainy.⌜He hides the bag.⌝
0685 And so repose, sweet gold, for their unrest
0686 That have their alms out of the Empress’ chest.
Enter Tamora alone to ⌜Aaron⌝ the Moor.
0687 10 My lovely Aaron, wherefore look’st thou sad,
0688 When everything doth make a gleeful boast?
0689 The birds chant melody on every bush,
0690 The snakes lies rollèd in the cheerful sun,
0691 The green leaves quiver with the cooling wind
0692 15 And make a checkered shadow on the ground.
0693 Under their sweet shade, Aaron, let us sit,
0694 And whilst the babbling echo mocks the hounds,
p. 630695 Replying shrilly to the well-tuned horns,
0696 As if a double hunt were heard at once,
0697 20 Let us sit down and mark their yellowing noise.
0698 And after conflict such as was supposed
0699 The wand’ring prince and Dido once enjoyed
0700 When with a happy storm they were surprised,
0701 And curtained with a counsel-keeping cave,
0702 25 We may, each wreathèd in the other’s arms,
0703 Our pastimes done, possess a golden slumber,
0704 Whiles hounds and horns and sweet melodious birds
0705 Be unto us as is a nurse’s song
0706 Of lullaby to bring her babe asleep.
0707 30 Madam, though Venus govern your desires,
0708 Saturn is dominator over mine.
0709 What signifies my deadly standing eye,
0710 My silence, and my cloudy melancholy,
0711 My fleece of woolly hair that now uncurls
0712 35 Even as an adder when she doth unroll
0713 To do some fatal execution?
0714 No, madam, these are no venereal signs.
0715 Vengeance is in my heart, death in my hand,
0716 Blood and revenge are hammering in my head.
0717 40 Hark, Tamora, the empress of my soul,
0718 Which never hopes more heaven than rests in thee,
0719 This is the day of doom for Bassianus.
0720 His Philomel must lose her tongue today,
0721 Thy sons make pillage of her chastity
0722 45 And wash their hands in Bassianus’ blood.
⌜He takes out a paper.⌝
0723 Seest thou this letter? Take it up, I pray thee,
0724 And give the King this fatal-plotted scroll.
⌜He hands her the paper.⌝
0725 Now, question me no more. We are espied.
0726 Here comes a parcel of our hopeful booty,
0727 50 Which dreads not yet their lives’ destruction.
p. 65Enter Bassianus and Lavinia.
0728 Ah, my sweet Moor, sweeter to me than life!
0729 No more, great empress. Bassianus comes.
0730 Be cross with him, and I’ll go fetch thy sons
0731 To back thy quarrels, whatsoe’er they be.
0732 55 Who have we here? Rome’s royal empress,
0733 Unfurnished of her well-beseeming troop?
0734 Or is it Dian, habited like her,
0735 Who hath abandonèd her holy groves
0736 To see the general hunting in this forest?
0737 60 Saucy controller of my private steps,
0738 Had I the power that some say Dian had,
0739 Thy temples should be planted presently
0740 With horns, as was Acteon’s, and the hounds
0741 Should drive upon thy new-transformèd limbs,
0742 65 Unmannerly intruder as thou art.
0743 Under your patience, gentle empress,
0744 ’Tis thought you have a goodly gift in horning,
0745 And to be doubted that your Moor and you
0746 Are singled forth to try experiments.
0747 70 Jove shield your husband from his hounds today!
0748 ’Tis pity they should take him for a stag.
0749 Believe me, queen, your swarthy Cimmerian
0750 Doth make your honor of his body’s hue,
0751 Spotted, detested, and abominable.
0752 75 Why are you sequestered from all your train,
0753 Dismounted from your snow-white goodly steed,
0754 And wandered hither to an obscure plot,
p. 670755 Accompanied but with a barbarous Moor,
0756 If foul desire had not conducted you?
0757 80 And being intercepted in your sport,
0758 Great reason that my noble lord be rated
0759 For sauciness.—I pray you, let us hence,
0760 And let her joy her raven-colored love.
0761 This valley fits the purpose passing well.
0762 85 The King my brother shall have notice of this.
0763 Ay, for these slips have made him noted long.
0764 Good king to be so mightily abused!
0765 Why, I have patience to endure all this.
Enter Chiron and Demetrius.
0766 How now, dear sovereign and our gracious mother,
0767 90 Why doth your Highness look so pale and wan?
0768 Have I not reason, think you, to look pale?
0769 These two have ticed me hither to this place,
0770 A barren, detested vale you see it is;
0771 The trees, though summer, yet forlorn and lean,
0772 95 Overcome with moss and baleful mistletoe.
0773 Here never shines the sun, here nothing breeds,
0774 Unless the nightly owl or fatal raven.
0775 And when they showed me this abhorrèd pit,
0776 They told me, here at dead time of the night
0777 100 A thousand fiends, a thousand hissing snakes,
0778 Ten thousand swelling toads, as many urchins,
0779 Would make such fearful and confusèd cries
0780 As any mortal body hearing it
0781 Should straight fall mad, or else die suddenly.
0782 105 No sooner had they told this hellish tale
p. 690783 But straight they told me they would bind me here
0784 Unto the body of a dismal yew
0785 And leave me to this miserable death.
0786 And then they called me foul adulteress,
0787 110 Lascivious Goth, and all the bitterest terms
0788 That ever ear did hear to such effect.
0789 And had you not by wondrous fortune come,
0790 This vengeance on me had they executed.
0791 Revenge it as you love your mother’s life,
0792 115 Or be you not henceforth called my children.
DEMETRIUS, ⌜drawing his dagger⌝
0793 This is a witness that I am thy son.
CHIRON, ⌜drawing his dagger⌝
0794 And this for me, struck home to show my strength.
⌜They⌝ stab ⌜Bassianus.⌝
0795 Ay, come, Semiramis, nay, barbarous Tamora,
0796 For no name fits thy nature but thy own!
0797 120 Give me the poniard! You shall know, my boys,
0798 Your mother’s hand shall right your mother’s wrong.
0799 Stay, madam, here is more belongs to her.
0800 First thrash the corn, then after burn the straw.
0801 This minion stood upon her chastity,
0802 125 Upon her nuptial vow, her loyalty,
0803 And with that painted hope braves your mightiness;
0804 And shall she carry this unto her grave?
0805 And if she do, I would I were an eunuch!
0806 Drag hence her husband to some secret hole,
0807 130 And make his dead trunk pillow to our lust.
0808 But when you have the honey ⌜you⌝ desire,
0809 Let not this wasp outlive, us both to sting.
0810 I warrant you, madam, we will make that sure.—
p. 710811 Come, mistress, now perforce we will enjoy
0812 135 That nice-preservèd honesty of yours.
0813 O Tamora, thou bearest a woman’s face—
0814 I will not hear her speak. Away with her.
0815 Sweet lords, entreat her hear me but a word.
DEMETRIUS, ⌜to Tamora⌝
0816 Listen, fair madam. Let it be your glory
0817 140 To see her tears, but be your heart to them
0818 As unrelenting flint to drops of rain.
0819 When did the tiger’s young ones teach the dam?
0820 O, do not learn her wrath; she taught it thee.
0821 The milk thou suck’st from her did turn to marble.
0822 145 Even at thy teat thou hadst thy tyranny.
0823 Yet every mother breeds not sons alike.
0824 ⌜To Chiron.⌝ Do thou entreat her show a woman’s pity.
0825 What, wouldst thou have me prove myself a bastard?
0826 ’Tis true; the raven doth not hatch a lark.
0827 150 Yet have I heard—O, could I find it now!—
0828 The lion, moved with pity, did endure
0829 To have his princely paws pared all away.
0830 Some say that ravens foster forlorn children,
0831 The whilst their own birds famish in their nests.
0832 155 O, be to me, though thy hard heart say no,
0833 Nothing so kind, but something pitiful.
0834 I know not what it means.—Away with her.
0835 O, let me teach thee! For my father’s sake,
0836 That gave thee life when well he might have slain thee,
0837 160 Be not obdurate; open thy deaf ⌜ears.⌝
0838 Hadst thou in person ne’er offended me,
0839 Even for his sake am I pitiless.—
0840 Remember, boys, I poured forth tears in vain
0841 To save your brother from the sacrifice,
0842 165 But fierce Andronicus would not relent.
0843 Therefore away with her, and use her as you will;
0844 The worse to her, the better loved of me.
0845 O Tamora, be called a gentle queen,
0846 And with thine own hands kill me in this place!
0847 170 For ’tis not life that I have begged so long;
0848 Poor I was slain when Bassianus died.
0849 What begg’st thou, then? Fond woman, let me go!
0850 ’Tis present death I beg, and one thing more
0851 That womanhood denies my tongue to tell.
0852 175 O, keep me from their worse-than-killing lust,
0853 And tumble me into some loathsome pit
0854 Where never man’s eye may behold my body.
0855 Do this, and be a charitable murderer.
0856 So should I rob my sweet sons of their fee.
0857 180 No, let them satisfy their lust on thee.
DEMETRIUS, ⌜to Lavinia⌝
0858 Away, for thou hast stayed us here too long!
LAVINIA, ⌜to Tamora⌝
0859 No grace, no womanhood? Ah, beastly creature,
0860 The blot and enemy to our general name,
0861 Confusion fall—
0862 185 Nay, then, I’ll stop your mouth.—Bring thou her
0864 This is the hole where Aaron bid us hide him.
⌜They put Bassianus’ body in the pit and
exit, carrying off Lavinia.⌝
0865 Farewell, my sons. See that you make her sure.
0866 Ne’er let my heart know merry cheer indeed
0867 190 Till all the Andronici be made away.
0868 Now will I hence to seek my lovely Moor,
0869 And let my spleenful sons this trull deflower.
Enter Aaron with two of Titus’ sons,
⌜Quintus and Martius.⌝
0870 Come on, my lords, the better foot before.
0871 Straight will I bring you to the loathsome pit
0872 195 Where I espied the panther fast asleep.
0873 My sight is very dull, whate’er it bodes.
0874 And mine, I promise you. Were it not for shame,
0875 Well could I leave our sport to sleep awhile.
⌜He falls into the pit.⌝
0876 What, art thou fallen? What subtle hole is this,
0877 200 Whose mouth is covered with rude-growing briers
0878 Upon whose leaves are drops of new-shed blood
0879 As fresh as morning dew distilled on flowers?
0880 A very fatal place it seems to me.
0881 Speak, brother! Hast thou hurt thee with the fall?
0882 205 O, brother, with the dismal’st object hurt
0883 That ever eye with sight made heart lament!
0884 Now will I fetch the King to find them here,
0885 That he thereby may have a likely guess
0886 How these were they that made away his brother.
0887 210 Why dost not comfort me and help me out
0888 From this ⌜unhallowed⌝ and bloodstainèd hole?
0889 I am surprisèd with an uncouth fear.
0890 A chilling sweat o’erruns my trembling joints.
0891 My heart suspects more than mine eye can see.
0892 215 To prove thou hast a true-divining heart,
0893 Aaron and thou look down into this den
0894 And see a fearful sight of blood and death.
0895 Aaron is gone, and my compassionate heart
0896 Will not permit mine eyes once to behold
0897 220 The thing whereat it trembles by surmise.
0898 O, tell me who it is, for ne’er till now
0899 Was I a child to fear I know not what.
0900 Lord Bassianus lies ⌜berayed⌝ in blood,
0901 All on a heap, like to a slaughtered lamb,
0902 225 In this detested, dark, blood-drinking pit.
0903 If it be dark, how dost thou know ’tis he?
0904 Upon his bloody finger he doth wear
0905 A precious ring that lightens all this hole,
0906 Which like a taper in some monument
0907 230 Doth shine upon the dead man’s earthy cheeks
0908 And shows the ragged entrails of this pit.
0909 So pale did shine the moon on Pyramus
0910 When he by night lay bathed in maiden blood.
0911 O, brother, help me with thy fainting hand—
0912 235 If fear hath made thee faint as me it hath—
0913 Out of this fell devouring receptacle,
0914 As hateful as ⌜Cocytus’⌝ misty mouth.
p. 79QUINTUS, ⌜reaching into the pit⌝
0915 Reach me thy hand, that I may help thee out,
0916 Or, wanting strength to do thee so much good,
0917 240 I may be plucked into the swallowing womb
0918 Of this deep pit, poor Bassianus’ grave.
⌜He pulls Martius’ hand.⌝
0919 I have no strength to pluck thee to the brink.
0920 Nor I no strength to climb without thy help.
0921 Thy hand once more. I will not loose again
0922 245 Till thou art here aloft or I below.
0923 Thou canst not come to me. I come to thee.
⌜He falls in.⌝
Enter the Emperor ⌜Saturninus, with Attendants,⌝
and Aaron the Moor.
0924 Along with me! I’ll see what hole is here
0925 And what he is that now is leapt into it.—
0926 Say, who art thou that lately didst descend
0927 250 Into this gaping hollow of the earth?
0928 The unhappy sons of old Andronicus,
0929 Brought hither in a most unlucky hour
0930 To find thy brother Bassianus dead.
0931 My brother dead! I know thou dost but jest.
0932 255 He and his lady both are at the lodge
0933 Upon the north side of this pleasant chase.
0934 ’Tis not an hour since I left them there.
0935 We know not where you left them all alive,
0936 But, out alas, here have we found him dead.
Enter Tamora, ⌜Titus⌝ Andronicus, and Lucius.
p. 81TAMORA 0937 260Where is my lord the King?
0938 Here, Tamora, though grieved with killing grief.
0939 Where is thy brother Bassianus?
0940 Now to the bottom dost thou search my wound.
0941 Poor Bassianus here lies murderèd.
0942 265 Then all too late I bring this fatal writ,
0943 The complot of this timeless tragedy,
0944 And wonder greatly that man’s face can fold
0945 In pleasing smiles such murderous tyranny.
She giveth Saturnine a letter.
SATURNINUS (reads the letter):
0946 An if we miss to meet him handsomely,
0947 270 Sweet huntsman—Bassianus ’tis we mean—
0948 Do thou so much as dig the grave for him;
0949 Thou know’st our meaning. Look for thy reward
0950 Among the nettles at the elder tree
0951 Which overshades the mouth of that same pit
0952 275 Where we decreed to bury Bassianus.
0953 Do this, and purchase us thy lasting friends.
0954 O Tamora, was ever heard the like?
0955 This is the pit, and this the elder tree.—
0956 Look, sirs, if you can find the huntsman out
0957 280 That should have murdered Bassianus here.
0958 My gracious lord, here is the bag of gold.
SATURNINUS, ⌜to Titus⌝
0959 Two of thy whelps, fell curs of bloody kind,
0960 Have here bereft my brother of his life.—
0961 Sirs, drag them from the pit unto the prison.
0962 285 There let them bide until we have devised
0963 Some never-heard-of torturing pain for them.
0964 What, are they in this pit? O wondrous thing!
0965 How easily murder is discoverèd.
⌜Attendants pull Quintus, Martius, and
the body of Bassianus from the pit.⌝
0966 High Emperor, upon my feeble knee
0967 290 I beg this boon with tears not lightly shed,
0968 That this fell fault of my accursèd sons—
0969 Accursèd if the faults be proved in them—
0970 If it be proved! You see it is apparent.
0971 Who found this letter? Tamora, was it you?
0972 295 Andronicus himself did take it up.
0973 I did, my lord, yet let me be their bail,
0974 For by my father’s reverend tomb I vow
0975 They shall be ready at your Highness’ will
0976 To answer their suspicion with their lives.
0977 300 Thou shalt not bail them. See thou follow me.—
0978 Some bring the murdered body, some the murderers.
0979 Let them not speak a word. The guilt is plain.
0980 For, by my soul, were there worse end than death,
0981 That end upon them should be executed.
0982 305 Andronicus, I will entreat the King.
0983 Fear not thy sons; they shall do well enough.
0984 Come, Lucius, come. Stay not to talk with them.
⟨They exit,⟩ ⌜with Attendants leading Martius and
Quintus and bearing the body of Bassianus.⌝