William Shakespeare: Titus Andronicus, Act II, Scene III
Enter Aaron, with a bag of gold
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 villany: And so repose, sweet gold, for their unrest
Hides the gold
That have their alms out of the empress' chest.
My lovely Aaron, wherefore look'st thou sad, When every thing doth make a gleeful boast? The birds chant melody on every bush, The snake lies 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, whilst the babbling echo mocks the hounds, Replying shrilly to the well-tuned 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 supposed The wandering prince and Dido once enjoy'd, When with a happy storm they were surprised 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.
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.
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.
Enter Bassianus and Lavinia
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?
Saucy controller of our private steps! Had I the power 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, 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 experiments: Jove shield your husband from his hounds to-day! 'Tis pity they should take him for a stag.
Believe me, queen, your swarth Cimmerian Doth make your honour of his body's hue, Spotted, detested, and abominable. Why are you sequester'd from all your train, Dismounted from your snow-white goodly steed. And wander'd hither to an obscure plot, Accompanied but with a barbarous Moor, If foul desire had not conducted you?
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-colour'd love; This valley fits the purpose passing well.
Enter Demetrius and Chiron
How now, dear sovereign, and our gracious mother! Why doth your highness look so pale and wan?
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, O'ercome 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.
Also stabs Bassianus, who dies
Give me thy poniard; you shall know, my boys Your mother's hand shall right your mother's wrong.
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?
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.
I warrant you, madam, we will make that sure. Come, mistress, now perforce we will enjoy That nice-preserved honesty of yours.
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.
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:
Do thou entreat her show a woman pity.
'Tis true; the raven doth not hatch a lark: Yet have I heard,—O, could I find it now!— The lion moved with pity did endure To have his princely paws pared 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!
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.
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 loved of me.
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.
'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.
No grace? no womanhood? Ah, beastly creature! The blot and enemy to our general name! Confusion fall—
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
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 deflow'r.
Re-enter Aaron, with Quintus and Martius
Come on, my lords, the better foot before: Straight will I bring you to the loathsome pit Where I espied the panther fast asleep.
Falls into the pit
What art thou fall'n? What subtle hole is this, Whose mouth is cover'd 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?
Now will I fetch the king to find them here, That he thereby may give a likely guess How these were they that made away his brother.
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.
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.
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 how it is; for ne'er till now Was I a child to fear I know not what.
Lord Bassianus lies embrewed here, All on a heap, like to a slaughter'd lamb, In this detested, dark, blood-drinking pit.
Upon his bloody finger he doth wear A precious ring, that lightens all the hole, Which, like a taper in some monument, Doth shine upon the dead man's earthy cheeks, And shows the ragged entrails of the pit: So pale did shine the moon on Pyramus When he by night lay bathed 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.
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.
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 Saturninus with Aaron
Along with me: I'll see what hole is here, And what he is that now is leap'd into it. Say who art thou that lately didst descend Into this gaping hollow of the earth?
The unhappy son of old Andronicus: Brought hither in a most unlucky hour, To find thy brother Bassianus dead.
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 him there.
Re-enter Tamora, with Attendants; Titus Andronicus, and Lucius
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 Saturninus a letter
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.
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 devised Some never-heard-of torturing pain for them.
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 proved in them,—
I did, my lord: yet let me be their bail; For, by my father's reverend tomb, I vow They shall be ready at your highness' will To answer their suspicion with their lives.
Thou shalt not bail them: see thou follow me. Some bring the murder'd 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.