Reference > William Shakespeare > The Oxford Shakespeare > Titus Andronicus
William Shakespeare (1564–1616).  The Oxford Shakespeare.  1914.
Titus Andronicus
Act III. Scene I.
Rome.  A Street.
Enter Senators, Tribunes, and Officers of Justice, with MARTIUS and QUINTUS, bound, passing on to the place of execution; TITUS going before, pleading.
  Tit.  Hear me, grave fathers! noble tribunes, stay!
For pity of mine age, whose youth was spent
In dangerous wars, whilst you securely slept;        5
For all my blood in Rome’s great quarrel shed;
For all the frosty nights that I have watch’d;
And for these bitter tears, which now you see
Filling the aged wrinkles in my cheeks;
Be pitiful to my condemned sons,        10
Whose souls are not corrupted as ’tis thought.
For two and twenty sons I never wept,
Because they died in honour’s lofty bed.
For these, these, tribunes, in the dust I write  [He throws himself on the ground.
My heart’s deep languor and my soul’s sad tears.        15
Let my tears stanch the earth’s dry appetite;
My sons’ sweet blood will make it shame and blush.  [Exeunt Senators, Tribunes, &c., with the Prisoners.
O earth! I will befriend thee more with rain,
That shall distil from these two ancient urns,
Than youthful April shall with all his showers:        20
In summer’s drought I’ll drop upon thee still;
In winter with warm tears I’ll melt the snow,
And keep eternal spring-time on thy face,
So thou refuse to drink my dear sons’ blood.
Enter LUCIUS, with his sword drawn.
O reverend tribunes! O gentle, aged men!
Unbind my sons, reverse the doom of death:
And let me say, that never wept before,
My tears are now prevailing orators.
  Luc.  O noble father, you lament in vain:        30
The tribunes hear you not, no man is by;
And you recount your sorrows to a stone.
  Tit.  Ah! Lucius, for thy brothers let me plead.
Grave tribunes, once more I entreat of you,—
  Luc.  My gracious lord, no tribune hears you speak.        35
  Tit.  Why, ’tis no matter, man: if they did hear,
They would not mark me, or if they did mark,
They would not pity me, yet plead I must,
All bootless unto them.
Therefore I tell my sorrows to the stones,        40
Who, though they cannot answer my distress,
Yet in some sort they are better than the tribunes,
For that they will not intercept my tale.
When I do weep, they humbly at my feet
Receive my tears, and seem to weep with me;        45
And, were they but attired in grave weeds,
Rome could afford no tribune like to these.
A stone is soft as wax, tribunes more hard than stones;
A stone is silent, and offendeth not,
And tribunes with their tongues doom men to death.  [Rises.        50
But wherefore stand’st thou with thy weapon drawn?
  Luc.  To rescue my two brothers from their death;
For which attempt the judges have pronounc’d
My everlasting doom of banishment.
  Tit.  O happy man! they have befriended thee.        55
Why, foolish Lucius, dost thou not perceive
That Rome is but a wilderness of tigers?
Tigers must prey; and Rome affords no prey
But me and mine: how happy art thou then,
From these devourers to be banished!        60
But who comes with our brother Marcus here?
  Mar.  Titus, prepare thy aged eyes to weep;
Or, if not so, thy noble heart to break:
I bring consuming sorrow to thine age.        65
  Tit.  Will it consume me? let me see it then.
  Mar.  This was thy daughter.
  Tit.  Why, Marcus, so she is.
  Luc.  Ay me! this object kills me.
  Tit.  Faint-hearted boy, arise, and look upon her.        70
Speak, Lavinia, what accursed hand
Hath made thee handless in thy father’s sight?
What fool hath added water to the sea,
Or brought a faggot to bright-burning Troy?
My grief was at the height before thou cam’st;        75
And now, like Nilus, it disdaineth bounds.
Give me a sword, I’ll chop off my hands too;
For they have fought for Rome, and all in vain;
And they have nurs’d this woe, in feeding life;
In bootless prayer have they been held up,        80
And they have serv’d me to effectless use:
Now all the service I require of them
Is that the one will help to cut the other.
’Tis well, Lavinia, that thou hast no hands,
For hands, to do Rome service, are but vain.        85
  Luc.  Speak, gentle sister, who hath martyr’d thee?
  Mar.  O! that delightful engine of her thoughts,
That blabb’d them with such pleasing eloquence,
Is torn from forth that pretty hollow cage,
Where, like a sweet melodious bird, it sung        90
Sweet varied notes, enchanting every ear.
  Luc.  O! say thou for her, who hath done this deed?
  Mar.  O! thus I found her straying in the park,
Seeking to hide herself, as doth the deer,
That hath receiv’d some unrecuring wound.        95
  Tit.  It was my dear; and he that wounded her
Hath hurt me more than had he kill’d me dead:
For now I stand as one upon a rock
Environ’d with a wilderness of sea,
Who marks the waxing tide grow wave by wave,        100
Expecting ever when some envious surge
Will in his brinish bowels swallow him.
This way to death my wretched sons are gone;
Here stands my other son, a banish’d man,
And here my brother, weeping at my woes:        105
But that which gives my soul the greatest spurn,
Is dear Lavinia, dearer than my soul.
Had I but seen thy picture in this plight
It would have madded me: what shall I do
Now I behold thy lively body so?        110
Thou hast no hands to wipe away thy tears,
Nor tongue to tell me who hath martyr’d thee:
Thy husband he is dead, and for his death
Thy brothers are condemn’d, and dead by this.
Look! Marcus; ah! son Lucius, look on her:        115
When I did name her brothers, then fresh tears
Stood on her cheeks, as doth the honey-dew
Upon a gather’d lily almost wither’d.
  Mar.  Perchance she weeps because they kill’d her husband;
Perchance because she knows them innocent.        120
  Tit.  If they did kill thy husband, then be joyful,
Because the law hath ta’en revenge on them.
No, no, they would not do so foul a deed;
Witness the sorrow that their sister makes.
Gentle Lavinia, let me kiss thy lips;        125
Or make some sign how I may do thee ease.
Shall thy good uncle, and thy brother Lucius,
And thou, and I, sit round about some fountain,
Looking all downwards, to behold our cheeks
How they are stain’d, like meadows yet not dry,        130
With miry slime left on them by a flood?
And in the fountain shall we gaze so long
Till the fresh taste be taken from that clearness,
And made a brine-pit with our bitter tears?
Or shall we cut away our hands, like thine?        135
Or shall we bite our tongues, and in dumb shows
Pass the remainder of our hateful days?
What shall we do? let us, that have our tongues,
Plot some device of further misery,
To make us wonder’d at in time to come.        140
  Luc.  Sweet father, cease your tears; for at your grief
See how my wretched sister sobs and weeps.
  Mar.  Patience, dear niece. Good Titus, dry thine eyes.
  Tit.  Ah! Marcus, Marcus, brother; well I wot
Thy napkin cannot drink a tear of mine,        145
For thou, poor man, hast drown’d it with thine own.
  Luc.  Ah! my Lavinia, I will wipe thy cheeks.
  Tit.  Mark, Marcus, mark! I understand her signs:
Had she a tongue to speak, now would she say
That to her brother which I said to thee:        150
His napkin, with his true tears all bewet,
Can do no service on her sorrowful cheeks.
O! what a sympathy of woe is this;
As far from help as limbo is from bliss.
Enter AARON.
  Aar.  Titus Andronicus, my lord the emperor
Sends thee this word: that, if thou love thy sons,
Let Marcus, Lucius, or thyself, old Titus,
Or any one of you, chop off your hand,
And send it to the king: he for the same        160
Will send thee hither both thy sons alive;
And that shall be the ransom for their fault.
  Tit.  O gracious emperor! O gentle Aaron!
Did ever raven sing so like a lark,
That gives sweet tidings of the sun’s uprise?        165
With all my heart, I’ll send the emperor my hand:
Good Aaron, wilt thou help to chop it off?
  Luc.  Stay, father! for that noble hand of thine,
That hath thrown down so many enemies,
Shall not be sent; my hand will serve the turn:        170
My youth can better spare my blood than you;
And therefore mine shall save my brothers’ lives.
  Mar.  Which of your hands hath not defended Rome,
And rear’d aloft the bloody battle-axe,
Writing destruction on the enemy’s castle?        175
O! none of both but are of high desert:
My hand hath been but idle; let it serve
To ransom my two nephews from their death;
Then have I kept it to a worthy end.
  Aar.  Nay, come, agree whose hand shall go along,        180
For fear they die before their pardon come.
  Mar.  My hand shall go.
  Luc.        By heaven, it shall not go!
  Tit.  Sirs, strive no more: such wither’d herbs as these
Are meet for plucking up, and therefore mine.        185
  Luc.  Sweet father, if I shall be thought thy son,
Let me redeem my brothers both from death.
  Mar.  And for our father’s sake, and mother’s care,
Now let me show a brother’s love to thee.
  Tilt.  Agree between you; I will spare my hand.        190
  Luc.  Then I’ll go fetch an axe.
  Mar.        But I will use the axe.  [Exeunt LUCIUS and MARCUS.
  Tit.  Come hither, Aaron; I’ll deceive them both:
Lend me thy hand, and I will give thee mine.
  Aar.  [Aside.]  If that be call’d deceit, I will be honest,        195
And never, whilst I live, deceive men so:
But I’ll deceive you in another sort,
And that you’ll say, ere half an hour pass.  [Cuts off TITUS’ hand.
Re-enter LUCIUS and MARCUS.
  Tit.  Now stay your strife: what shall be is dispatch’d.        200
Good Aaron, give his majesty my hand:
Tell him it was a hand that warded him
From thousand dangers; bid him bury it;
More hath it merited; that let it have.
As for my sons, say I account of them        205
As jewels purchas’d at an easy price;
And yet dear too, because I bought mine own.
  Aar.  I go, Andronicus; and for thy hand,
Look by and by to have thy sons with thee.
[Aside.]  Their heads, I mean. O! how this villany        210
Doth fat me with the very thoughts of it.
Let fools do good, and fair men call for grace,
Aaron will have his soul black like his face.  [Exit.
  Tit.  O! here I lift this one hand up to heaven,
And bow this feeble ruin to the earth:        215
If any power pities wretched tears,
To that I call!  [To LAVINIA.]  What! wilt thou kneel with me?
Do, then, dear heart; for heaven shall hear our prayers,
Or with our sighs we’ll breathe the welkin dim,
And stain the sun with fog, as sometime clouds        220
When they do hug him in their melting bosoms.
  Mar.  O! brother, speak with possibilities,
And do not break into these deep extremes.
  Tit.  Is not my sorrow deep, having no bottom?
Then be my passions bottomless with them.        225
  Mar.  But yet let reason govern thy lament.
  Tit.  If there were reason for these miseries,
Then into limits could I bind my woes.
When heaven doth weep, doth not the earth o’erflow?
If the winds rage, doth not the sea wax mad,        230
Threat’ning the welkin with his big-swoln face?
And wilt thou have a reason for this coil?
I am the sea; hark! how her sighs do blow;
She is the weeping welkin, I the earth:
Then must my sea be moved with her sighs;        235
Then must my earth with her continual tears
Become a deluge, overflow’d and drown’d;
For why my bowels cannot hide her woes,
But like a drunkard must I vomit them.
Then give me leave, for losers will have leave        240
To ease their stomachs with their bitter tongues.
Enter a Messenger, with two heads and a hand.
  Mess.  Worthy Andronicus, ill art thou repaid
For that good hand thou sent’st the emperor.
Here are the heads of thy two noble sons,        245
And here’s thy hand, in scorn to thee sent back:
Thy griefs their sports, thy resolution mock’d;
That woe is me to think upon thy woes,
More than remembrance of my father’s death.  [Exit.
  Mar.  Now let hot Ætna cool in Sicily,        250
And be my heart an ever burning hell!
These miseries are more than may be borne.
To weep with them that weep doth ease some deal,
But sorrow flouted at is double death.
  Luc.  Ah! that this sight should make so deep a wound,        255
And yet detested life not shrink thereat,
That ever death should let life bear his name,
Where life hath no more interest but to breathe.  [LAVINIA kisses TITUS.
  Mar.  Alas! poor heart; that kiss is comfortless
As frozen water to a starved snake.        260
  Tit.  When will this fearful slumber have an end?
  Mar.  Now, farewell, flattery: die, Andronicus;
Thou dost not slumber: see, thy two sons’ heads,
Thy war-like hand, thy mangled daughter here;
Thy other banish’d son, with this dear sight        265
Struck pale and bloodless; and thy brother, I,
Even like a stony image, cold and numb.
Ah! now no more will I control thy griefs.
Rent off thy silver hair, thy other hand
Gnawing with thy teeth; and be this dismal sight        270
The closing up of our most wretched eyes!
Now is a time to storm; why art thou still?
  Tit.  Ha, ha, ha!
  Mar.  Why dost thou laugh? it fits not with this hour.
  Tit.  Why, I have not another tear to shed:        275
Besides, this sorrow is an enemy,
And would usurp upon my watery eyes,
And make them blind with tributary tears:
Then which way shall I find Revenge’s cave?
For these two heads do seem to speak to me,        280
And threat me I shall never come to bliss
Till all these mischiefs be return’d again
Even in their throats that have committed them.
Come, let me see what task I have to do.
You heavy people, circle me about,        285
That I may turn me to each one of you,
And swear unto my soul to right your wrongs.
The vow is made. Come, brother, take a head;
And in this hand the other will I bear.
Lavinia, thou shalt be employ’d in these things:        290
Bear thou my hand, sweet wench, between thy teeth.
As for thee, boy, go get thee from my sight;
Thou art an exile, and thou must not stay:
Hie to the Goths, and raise an army there:
And if you love me, as I think you do,        295
Let’s kiss and part, for we have much to do.  [Exeunt TITUS, MARCUS, and LAVINIA.
  Luc.  Farewell, Andronicus, my noble father;
The woefull’st man that ever liv’d in Rome:
Farewell, proud Rome; till Lucius come again,
He leaves his pledges dearer than his life.        300
Farewell, Lavinia, my noble sister;
O! would thou wert as thou tofore hast been;
But now nor Lucius nor Lavinia lives
But in oblivion and hateful griefs.
If Lucius live, he will requite your wrongs,        305
And make proud Saturnine and his empress
Beg at the gates like Tarquin and his queen.
Now will I to the Goths, and raise a power,
To be reveng’d on Rome and Saturnine.  [Exeunt.

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