Titus Andronicusby William Shakespeare
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Titus Andronicus is the earliest tragedy and the earliest Roman play attributed to Shakespeare. Titus, a model Roman, has led 21 of his 25 sons to death in Rome's wars; he stabs another son to death for what he views as disloyalty to Rome. Yet Rome has become "a wilderness of tigers." After a death sentence is imposed on two of his three remaining sons, and his daughter is raped and mutilated, Titus turns his loyalty toward his family.
Aaron the Moor, a magnificent villain and the empress's secret lover, makes a similar transition. After the empress bears him a child, Aaron devotes himself to preserving the baby. Retaining his thirst for evil, he shows great tenderness to his little family—a tenderness that also characterizes Titus before the terrifying conclusion.
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Read an Excerpt
By WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, Alison Daurio
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 2014 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ACT I. Scene I. Rome. Before the Capitol—The Tomb of the Andronici Appearing.
Flourish, Enter the Tribunes and Senators aloft. And then enter below, Saturninus and his Followers from one side, and Bassianus and his Followers from the other side, with drum and colours
Saturninus. Noble patricians, patrons of my right,
Defend the justice of my cause with arms;
And, countrymen, my loving followers,
Plead my successive title with your swords:
I am his first-born son, that was the last
That ware the imperial diadem of Rome;
Then let my father's honours live in me,
Nor wrong mine age with this indignity.
Bas. Romans, friends, followers, favourers of my right,
If ever Bassianus, Cesar's son,
Were gracious in the eyes of royal Rome,
Keep then this passage to the Capitol;
And suffer not dishonour to approach
The imperial seat, to virtue consecrate,
To justice, continence and nobility:
But let desert in pure election shine;
And, Romans, fight for freedom in your choice.
Enter Marcus Andronicus, aloft, with the crown
Marc. Princes, that strive by factions and by friends
Ambitiously for rule and empery,
Know that the people of Rome, for whom we stand
A special party, have by common voice,
In election for the Roman empery,
Chosen Andronicus, surnamed Pius
For many good and great deserts to Rome:
A nobler man, a braver warrior,
Lives not this day within the city walls:
He by the senate is accited home
From weary wars against the barbarous Goths;
That, with his sons, a terror to our foes,
Hath yoked a nation strong, train'd up in arms.
Ten years are spent since first he undertook
This cause of Rome, and chastised with arms
Our enemies' pride: five times he hath return'd
Bleeding to Rome, bearing his valiant sons
In coffins from the field.
And now at last, laden with honour's spoils,
Returns the good Andronicus to Rome,
Renowned Titus, flourishing in arms.
Let us entreat, by honour of his name,
Whom worthily you would have now succeed,
And in the Capitol and senate's right,
Whom you pretend to honour and adore,
That you withdraw you and abate your strength,
Dismiss your followers and, as suitors should,
Plead your deserts in peace and humbleness.
Sat. How fair the tribune speaks to calm my thoughts!
Bas. Marcus Andronicus, so I do affy
In thy uprightness and integrity,
And so I love and honour thee and thine,
Thy noble brother Titus and his sons,
And her to whom my thoughts are humbled all,
Gracious Lavinia, Rome's rich ornament,
That I will here dismiss my loving friends,
And to my fortunes and the people's favour
Commit my cause in balance to be weigh'd.
[Exeunt the Followers of Bassianus.
Sat. Friends, that have been thus forward in my right,
I thank you all, and here dismiss you all,
And to the love and favour of my country
Commit myself, my person and the cause.
[Exeunt the Followers of Saturninus.
Rome, be as just and gracious unto me,
As I am confident and kind to thee.
Open the gates, and let me in.
Bas. Tribunes, and me, a poor competitor.
[Flourish. Saturninus and Bassianus go up into
Enter a Captain
Cap. Romans, make way: the good Andronicus,
Patron of virtue, Rome's best champion,
Successful in the battles that he fights,
With honour and with fortune is return'd
From where he circumscribed with his sword,
And brought to yoke, the enemies of Rome.
Drums and trumpets sounded. Enter Martius and Mutius; after them, two Men bearing a coffin covered with black; then Lucius and Quintus. After them, Titus Andronicus; and then Tamora Queen of Goths, with Alarbus, Demetrius, Chiron, Aaron, and other Goths, prisoners; Soldiers and People following. The Bearers set down the coffin, and Titus speaks
Tit. Hail, Rome, victorious in thy mourning weeds!
Lo, as the bark that hath discharged her fraught
Returns with precious lading to the bay
From whence at first she weigh'd her anchorage,
Cometh Andronicus, bound with laurel boughs,
To re-salute his country with his tears,
Tears of true joy for his return to Rome.
Thou great defender of this Capitol,
Stand gracious to the rites that we intend!
Romans, of five and twenty valiant sons,
Half of the number that King Priam had,
Behold the poor remains, alive and dead!
These that survive let Rome reward with love;
These that I bring unto their latest home,
With burial amongst their ancestors:
Here Goths have given me leave to sheathe my sword.
Titus, unkind, and careless of thine own,
Why suffer'st thou thy sons, unburied yet,
To hover on the dreadful shore of Styx?
Make way to lay them by their brethren.
[They open the tomb.
There greet in silence, as the dead are wont,
And sleep in peace, slain in your country's wars!
O sacred receptacle of my joys,
Sweet cell of virtue and nobility,
How many sons hast thou of mine in store,
That thou wilt never render to me more!
Luc. Give us the proudest prisoner of the Goths,
That we may hew his limbs and on a pile
"Ad manes fratrum" sacrifice his flesh,
Before this earthy prison of their bones,
That so the shadows be not unappeased,
Nor we disturb'd with prodigies on earth.
Tit. I give him you, the noblest that survives,
The eldest son of this distressed queen.
Tam. Stay, Roman brethren! Gracious conqueror,
Victorious Titus, rue the tears I shed,
A mother's tears in passion for her son:
And if thy sons were ever dear to thee,
O, think my son to be as dear to me!
Sufficeth not, that we are brought to Rome,
To beautify thy triumphs and return,
Captive to thee and to thy Roman yoke;
But must my sons be slaughter'd in the streets,
For valiant doings in their country's cause?
O, if to fight for king and commonweal
Were piety in thine, it is in these.
Andronicus, stain not thy tomb with blood.
Wilt thou draw near the nature of the gods?
Draw near them then in being merciful:
Sweet mercy is nobility's true badge:
Thrice-noble Titus, spare my first-born son.
Tit. Patient yourself, madam, and pardon me.
These are their brethren, whom you Goths beheld
Alive and dead; and for their brethren slain
Religiously they ask a sacrifice:
To this your son is mark'd, and die he must,
To appease their groaning shadows that are gone.
Luc. Away with him! and make a fire straight;
And with our swords, upon a pile of wood,
Let's hew his limbs till they be clean consumed.
[Exeunt the sons of Andronicus with Alarbus.
Tam. O cruel, irreligious piety!
Chi. Was ever Scythia half so barbarous?
Dem. Oppose not Scythia to ambitious Rome.
Alarbus goes to rest, and we survive
To tremble under Titus' threatening look.
Then, madam, stand resolved; but hope withal,
The self-same gods that arm'd the Queen of Troy
With opportunity of sharp revenge
Upon the Thracian tyrant in his tent,
May favour Tamora, the queen of Goths,
When Goths were Goths and Tamora was queen,
To quit the bloody wrongs upon her foes.
Re-enter the sons of Andronicus, with their swords bloody
Luc. See, lord and father, how we have perform'd
Our Roman rites: Alarbus' limbs are lopp'd,
And entrails feed the sacrificing fire,
Whose smoke, like incense, doth perfume the sky.
Remaineth nought but to inter our brethren,
And with loud 'larums welcome them to Rome.
Tit. Let it be so; and let Andronicus
Make this his latest farewell to their souls.
[Trumpets sounded, and the coffin laid in the tomb.
In peace and honour rest you here, my sons;
Rome's readiest champions, repose you here in rest,
Secure from worldly chances and mishaps!
Here lurks no treason, here no envy swells,
Here grow no damned drugs; here are no storms,
No noise, but silence and eternal sleep:
In peace and honour rest you here, my sons!
Lav. In peace and honour live Lord Titus long;
My noble lord and father, live in fame!
Lo, at this tomb my tributary tears
I render, for my brethren's obsequies;
And at thy feet I kneel, with tears of joy
Shed on the earth, for thy return to Rome:
O, bless me here with thy victorious hand,
Whose fortunes Rome's best citizens applaud!
Tit. Kind Rome, that hast thus lovingly reserved
The cordial of mine age to glad my heart!
Lavinia, live; outlive thy father's days,
And fame's eternal date, for virtue's praise!
Enter, below, Marcus Andronicus and Tribunes; re-enter Saturninus
and Bassianus, Attended
Marc. Long live Lord Titus, my beloved brother,
Gracious triumpher in the eyes of Rome!
Tit. Thanks, gentle tribune, noble brother Marcus.
Marc. And welcome, nephews, from successful wars,
You that survive, and you that sleep in fame!
Fair lords, your fortunes are alike in all,
That in your country's service drew your swords:
But safer triumph is this funeral pomp,
That hath aspired to Solon's happiness,
And triumphs over chance in honour's bed.
Titus Andronicus, the people of Rome,
Whose friend in justice thou hast ever been,
Send thee by me, their tribune and their trust,
This palliament of white and spotless hue;
And name thee in election for the empire,
With these our late-deceased emperor's sons:
Be candidatus then, and put it on,
And help to set a head on headless Rome.
Tit. A better head her glorious body fits
Than his that shakes for age and feebleness:
What should I don this robe, and trouble you?
Be chosen with proclamations to-day,
To-morrow yield up rule, resign my life,
And set abroad new business for you all?
Rome, I have been thy soldier forty years,
And led my country's strength successfully,
And buried one and twenty valiant sons,
Knighted in field, slain manfully in arms,
In right and service of their noble country:
Give me a staff of honour for mine age,
But not a sceptre to control the world:
Upright he held it, lords, that held it last.
Marc. Titus, thou shalt obtain and ask the empery.
Sat. Proud and ambitious tribune, canst thou tell?
Tit. Patience, Prince Saturninus.
Sat. Romans, do me right;
Patricians, draw your swords, and sheathe them not
Till Saturninus be Rome's emperor.
Andronicus, would thou wert shipp'd to hell,
Rather than rob me of the people's hearts!
Luc. Proud Saturnine, interrupter of the good
That noble-minded Titus means to thee!
Tit. Content thee, prince; I will restore to thee
The people's hearts, and wean them from themselves.
Bas. Andronicus, I do not flatter thee,
But honour thee, and will do till I die:
My faction if thou strengthen with thy friends,
I will most thankful be; and thanks to men
Of noble minds is honourable meed.
Tit. People of Rome, and people's tribunes here,
I ask your voices and your suffrages:
Will you bestow them friendly on Andronicus?
Tribunes. TO gratify the good Andronicus,
And gratulate his safe return to Rome,
The people will accept whom he admits.
Tit. Tribunes, I thank you: and this suit I make,
That you create your emperor's eldest son,
Lord Saturnine; whose virtues will, I hope,
Reflect on Rome as Titan's rays on earth,
And ripen justice in this commonweal:
Then, if you will elect by my advice,
Crown him, and say "Long live our emperor!"
Marc. With voices and applause of every sort,
Patricians and plebeians, we create
Lord Saturninus Rome's great emperor,
And say "Long live our Emperor Saturnine!"
[A long flourish till they come down.
Sat. Titus Andronicus, for thy favours done
To us in our election this day,
I give thee thanks in part of thy deserts,
And will with deeds requite thy gentleness:
And, for an onset, Titus, to advance
Thy name and honourable family,
Lavinia will I make my empress,
Rome's royal mistress, mistress of my heart,
And in the sacred Pantheon her espouse:
Tell me, Andronicus, doth this motion please thee?
Tit. It doth, my worthy lord; and in this match
I hold me highly honour'd of your grace:
And here, in sight of Rome, to Saturnine,
King and commander of our commonweal,
The wide world's emperor, do I consecrate
My sword, my chariot and my prisoners;
Presents well worthy Rome's imperious lord:
Receive them then, the tribute that I owe,
Mine honour's ensigns humbled at thy feet.
Sat. Thanks, noble Titus, father of my life!
How proud I am of thee and of thy gifts,
Rome shall record; and when I do forget
The least of these unspeakable deserts,
Romans, forget your fealty to me.
Tit. [To Tamora] Now, madam, are you prisoner to an emperor;
To him that, for your honour and your state,
Will use you nobly and your followers.
Sat. A goodly lady, trust me; of the hue
That I would choose, were I to choose anew.
Clear up, fair queen, that cloudy countenance;
Though chance of war hath wrought this change of cheer,
Thou comest not to be made a scorn in Rome:
Princely shall be thy usage every way.
Rest on my word, and let not discontent
Daunt all your hopes: madam, he comforts you
Can make you greater than the Queen of Goths.
Lavinia, you are not displeased with this?
Lav. Not I, my lord; sith true nobility
Warrants these words in princely courtesy.
Sat. Thanks, sweet Lavinia. Romans, let us go:
Ransomless here we set our prisoners free:
Proclaim our honours, lords, with trump and drum.
[Flourish. Saturninus courts Tamora in dumb show.
Bas. [Seizing Lavinia] Lord Titus, by your leave, this maid is
Tit. How, sir! are you in earnest then, my lord?
Bas. Ay, noble Titus, and resolved withal
To do myself this reason and this right.
Marc. "Suum cuique" is our Roman justice:
This prince in justice seizeth but his own.
Luc. And that he will, and shall, if Lucius live.
Tit. Traitors, avaunt! Where is the emperor's guard?
Treason, my lord! Lavinia is surprised!
Sat. Surprised! by whom?
Bas.By him that justly may
Bear his betroth'd from all the world away.
[Exeunt Bassianus and Marcus with Lavinia.
Mut. Brothers, help to convey her hence away,
And with my sword I'll keep this door safe.
[Exeunt Lucius, Quintus, and Martius.
Tit. Follow, my lord, and I'll soon bring her back.
Mut. My lord, you pass not here.
Tit.What, villain boy!
Barr'st me my way in Rome? [Stabbing Mutius.
Mut. Help, Lucius, help! [Dies.
[During the fray, Saturninus, Tamora, Demetrius,
Chiron and Aaron go out, and re-enter above.
Luc. My lord, you are unjust; and, more than so,
In wrongful quarrel you have slain your son.
Tit. Nor thou, nor he, are any sons of mine;
My sons would never so dishonour me:
Traitor, restore Lavinia to the emperor.
Luc. Dead, if you will; but not to be his wife,
That is another's lawful promised love. [Exit.
Sat. No, Titus, no; the emperor needs her not,
Nor her, nor thee, nor any of thy stock:
I'll trust by leisure him that mocks me once;
Thee never, nor thy traitorous haughty sons,
Confederates all thus to dishonour me.
Was none in Rome to make a stale
But Saturnine? Full well, Andronicus,
Agree these deeds with that proud brag of thine,
That saidst, I begg'd the empire at thy hands.
Tit. O monstrous! what reproachful words are these?
Sat. But go thy ways; go give that changing piece
To him that flourish'd for her with his sword:
A valiant son-in-law thou shalt enjoy;
One fit to bandy with thy lawless sons,
To ruffle in the commonwealth of Rome.
Tit. These words are razors to my wounded heart.
Sat. And therefore, lovely Tamora, Queen of Goths,
That, like the stately Phrebe 'mongst her nymphs,
Dost overshine the gallant'st dames of Rome,
If thou be pleased with this my sudden choice,
Behold, I choose thee, Tamora, for my bride,
And will create thee empress of Rome.
Speak, Queen of Goths, dost thou applaud my choice?
And here I swear by all the Roman gods,
Sith priest and holy water are so near,
And tapers burn so bright, and every thing
In readiness for Hymenæus stand,
I will not re-salute the streets of Rome,
Or climb my palace, till from forth this place
I lead espoused my bride along with me.
Tam. And here, in sight of heaven, to Rome I swear,
If Saturnine advance the Queen of Goths,
She will a handmaid be to his desires,
A loving nurse, a mother to his youth.
Excerpted from Titus Andronicus by WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, Alison Daurio. Copyright © 2014 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
"He was not of an age, but for all time," declared Ben Jonson of his contemporary William Shakespeare (1564–1616). Jonson's praise is especially prescient, since at the turn of the 17th century Shakespeare was but one of many popular London playwrights and none of his dramas were printed in his lifetime. The reason so many of his works survive is because two of his actor friends, with the assistance of Jonson, assembled and published the First Folio edition of 1623.
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