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William Shakespeare (1564–1616). The Oxford Shakespeare. 1914.

Act II. Scene I.

Titus Andronicus

Rome.Before the Palace.

Enter AARON.

Aar.Now climbeth Tamora Olympus’ top,

Safe out of Fortune’s shot; and sits aloft,

Secure of thunder’s crack or lightning flash,

Advanc’d above pale envy’s threat’ning reach.

As when the golden sun salutes the morn,

And, having gilt the ocean with his beams,

Gallops the zodiac in his glistering coach;

And overlooks the highest-peering hills;

So Tamora.

Upon her wit doth earthly honour wait

And virtue stoops and trembles at her frown.

Then, Aaron, arm thy heart, and fit thy thoughts

To mount aloft with thy imperial mistress,

And mount her pitch, whom thou in triumph long

Hast prisoner held, fetter’d in amorous chains,

And faster bound to Aaron’s charming eyes

Than is Prometheus tied to Caucasus.

Away with slavish weeds and servile thoughts!

I will be bright, and shine in pearl and gold,

To wait upon this new-made empress.

To wait, said I? to wanton with this queen,

This goddess, this Semiramis, this nymph,

This siren, that will charm Rome’s Saturnine,

And see his ship wrack and his commonweal’s.

Holla! what storm is this?

Enter DEMETRIUS and CHIRON, braving.

Dem.Chiron, thy years want wit, thy wit wants edge

And manners, to intrude where I am grac’d,

And may, for aught thou know’st, affected be.

Chi.Demetrius, thou dost over-ween in all

And so in this, to bear me down with braves.

’Tis not the difference of a year or two

Makes me less gracious or thee more fortunate:

I am as able and as fit as thou

To serve, and to deserve my mistress’ grace;

And that my sword upon thee shall approve,

And plead my passions for Lavinia’s love.

Aar.Clubs, clubs! these lovers will not keep the peace.

Dem.Why, boy, although our mother, unadvis’d,

Gave you a dancing-rapier by your side,

Are you so desperate grown, to threat your friends?

Go to; have your lath glu’d within your sheath

Till you know better how to handle it.

Chi.Meanwhile, sir, with the little skill I have,

Full well shalt thou perceive how much I dare.

Dem.Ay, boy, grow ye so brave?[They draw.

Aar.Why, how now, lords!

So near the emperor’s palace dare you draw,

And maintain such a quarrel openly?

Full well I wot the ground of all this grudge:

I would not for a million of gold

The cause were known to them it most concerns;

Nor would your noble mother for much more

Be so dishonour’d in the court of Rome.

For shame, put up.

Dem.Not I, till I have sheath’d

My rapier in his bosom, and withal

Thrust those reproachful speeches down his throat

That he hath breath’d in my dishonour here.

Chi.For that I am prepar’d and full resolv’d,

Foul-spoken coward, that thunder’st with thy tongue,

And with thy weapon nothing dar’st perform!

Aar.Away, I say!

Now, by the gods that war-like Goths adore,

This petty brabble will undo us all.

Why, lords, and think you not how dangerous

It is to jet upon a prince’s right?

What! is Lavinia then become so loose,

Or Bassianus so degenerate,

That for her love such quarrels may be broach’d

Without controlment, justice, or revenge?

Young lords, beware! an should the empress know

This discord’s ground, the music would not please.

Chi.I care not, I, knew she and all the world:

I love Lavinia more than all the world.

Dem.Youngling, learn thou to make some meaner choice:

Lavinia is thine elder brother’s hope.

Aar.Why, are ye mad? or know ye not in Rome

How furious and impatient they be,

And cannot brook competitors in love?

I tell you, lords, you do but plot your deaths

By this device.

Chi.Aaron, a thousand deaths

Would I propose, to achieve her whom I love.

Aar.To achieve her! how?

Dem.Why mak’st thou it so strange?

She is a woman, therefore may be woo’d;

She is a woman, therefore may be won;

She is Lavinia, therefore must be lov’d.

What, man! more water glideth by the mill

Than wots the miller of; and easy it is

Of a cut loaf to steal a shive, we know:

Though Bassianus be the emperor’s brother,

Better than he have worn Vulcan’s badge.

Aar.[Aside.]Ay, and as good as Saturninus may.

Dem.Then why should he despair that knows to court it

With words, fair looks, and liberality?

What! hast thou not full often struck a doe,

And borne her cleanly by the keeper’s nose?

Aar.Why, then, it seems, some certain snatch or so

Would serve your turns.

Chi.Ay, so the turn were serv’d.

Dem.Aaron, thou hast hit it.

Aar.Would you had hit it too!

Then should not we be tir’d with this ado.

Why, hark ye, hark ye! and are you such fools

To square for this? Would it offend you then

That both should speed?

Chi.Faith, not me.

Dem.Nor me, so I were one.

Aar.For shame, be friends, and join for that you jar:

’Tis policy and stratagem must do

That you affect; and so must you resolve,

That what you cannot as you would achieve,

You must perforce accomplish as you may.

Take this of me: Lucrece was not more chaste

Than this Lavinia, Bassianus’ love.

A speedier course than lingering languishment

Must we pursue, and I have found the path.

My lords, a solemn hunting is in hand;

There will the lovely Roman ladies troop:

The forest walks are wide and spacious,

And many unfrequented plots there are

Fitted by kind for rape and villany:

Single you thither then this dainty doe,

And strike her home by force, if not by words:

This way, or not at all, stand you in hope.

Come, come, our empress, with her sacred wit

To villany and vengeance consecrate,

Will we acquaint with all that we intend;

And she shall file our engines with advice,

That will not suffer you to square yourselves,

But to your wishes’ height advance you both.

The emperor’s court is like the house of Fame,

The palace full of tongues, of eyes, and ears:

The woods are ruthless, dreadful, deaf, and dull;

There speak, and strike, brave boys, and take your turns;

There serve your lusts, shadow’d from heaven’s eye,

And revel in Lavinia’s treasury.

Chi.Thy counsel, lad, smells of no cowardice.

Dem.Sit fas aut nefas, till I find the stream

To cool this heat, a charm to calm these fits,

Per Styga, per manes vehor.[Exeunt.