Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare



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Titus Andronicus
by William Shakespeare

Presented by Paul W. Collins
© Copyright 2011 by Paul W. Collins
Titus Andronicus

By William Shakespeare

Presented by Paul W. Collins
All rights reserved under the International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this work may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a databaseor retrieval system, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, audio or video recording, or other, without the prior written permission of the copyright owner.
Contact: paul@wsrightnow.com
Note: Spoken lines from Shakespeare’s drama are in the public domain, as is the Globe edition (1864) of his plays, which provided the basic text of the speeches in this new version of Titus Andronicus. But Titus Andronicus, by William Shakespeare: Presented by Paul W. Collins is a copyrighted work, and is made available for your personal use only, in readingand study.
Student, beware: This is a presentation, not a scholarly work, so you should be sure your teacher, instructor or professor considers it acceptable as a reference before quoting characters’ comments or thoughts from it in your report or term paper.
Chapter One

Dominant in Dominion
Rome, after enduring a long war with the Goths, now suffers internal turmoil: the emperor—by tradition known as “Caesar”—has died, and his sons, each with a following of armed supporters, both seek to be named his successor by the Senate.

On the city’s highest hill, the wealthy, powerful senators and the tribunes who represent commoners have met at the marble-columned Capitol entrance this afternoon. They stand at the top of the wide steps to hear the brothers’ arguments—from behind high iron gates, now closed and guarded.

Saturninus, a coarse man of forty-one, glares up at the lawmakers. He is the elder of the sons, and has come here angrily, intending to seize control of the country by threat of force. “Noble patricians, patrons of my right, I defend the justice of my cause with arms!” He turns to his companions. “And countrymen, my loving followers, plead my successive title with your swords!

I am his first-born son that was the last who wore the imperial diadem of Rome; then let my father’s honours live in me—do not wrong mine age with this indignity!



In the listening crowd, some citizens back away when the men with him, thumping their shields and pounding heavy spear-shafts on the stone pavement, voice encouragement—ominously.

By law, though, the Senate elects the republic’s ruler. Bassianus, a tall man of thirty-two, has brought his own supporters here to counter his disreputable brother’s demand.

Romans, friends, followers, favorers of my right,” he cries, “if ever Bassianus, Caesar’s son, were gracious in the eyes of royal Rome, hold thou this passage to the Capitol!—and suffer not dishonour to approach the imperial seat—consecrated to virtue!—to justice, continence and nobility!

But let deserving in pure election shine!—and, Romans, fight for freedom in your choice!”

Above, the senators make way for one of the tribunes, coming from within the building; he brings the crown. Marcus Andronicus, a stately man of fifty, holds it aloft as he addresses the emperor’s sons.

Princes, who strive by factions and by friends ambitiously for rule and empery, know that the people of Rome, for whom we stand as a special party, have, by common voice, in election for the Roman empery, chosen Andronicus!—surnamèd ‘Pious’ for many good and great services to Rome!”



The people’s candidate is Titus Andronicus, sixty-six, Rome’s general commander of the army. He is also Marcus Andronicus’s older brother.

A nobler man, a braver warrior, lives not this day within the city walls!” says Marcus. “He by the Senate is accited home from weary wars against the barbarous Goths—he that with his sons—a terror to our foes!—hath yokèd a nation strong, trained up in arms!

Ten years are spent since first he undertook this cause for Rome, and chastised with arms our enemies’ pride! Five times he hath returned, 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—renownèd Titus, flourishing in arms!



He faces the brothers. “Let us entreat, in honour of his name whom worthily you now would see succeeded in the Capitol,”—Caesar, “whom you profess to honour and adore, and in the Senate’s right, that you withdraw you, and abate your strength! Dismiss your followers,” he urges the emperor’s sons, “and, as suitors should, plead your deserving in peace and humbleness!

Saturninus’s face shows his contempt. “How fairly the tribune speaks, calming my thoughts,” he says sourly. His men laugh.

But Bassianus tells the tribune, “Marcus Andronicus, I rely on thine uprightness and integrity; and so well do 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,”—Bassianus is engaged to marry Titus’s daughter, twenty-two—“that I will here dismiss my loving friends, and to my fortunes and the people’s favor commit my cause in balance to be weighed.”

He speaks with his companions, and the young followers soon leave, heading down into the city.

Saturninus, sure that his imperious demand will prevail, turns to his supporters. “Friends that have been thus forward in my right, I thank you all, and here dismiss you all—and to the love and favor of my country commit myself, my person, and the cause.” His followers stamp away—grumbling.

Saturninus confronts the senators. “Rome, be as just and gracious unto me as I am confident—and kind to thee. Open the gates and let me in!”

Tribunes, admit me, a poor competitor,” says Bassianus calmly.



The gates swing apart, and the brothers march up into the Capitol.
In a shaded cemetery at the edge of the city, preparations have been made for a state funeral for Caesar. An elaborate wake is to follow, along with feasting in honor of the deceased sovereign.

Among the throng, which includes many senators, some have come here mainly in anticipation of the war hero’s arrival.

A flourish of trumpets is heard, and from the street a military officer comes through the gate, strides along a high stone wall, and stops near the dark opening into the massive tomb of the Andronici. “Romans, make way!” calls the captain to the many nobles, gentles and common citizens. “The good Andronicuspattern of virtue, Rome’s best champion, successful in the battles that he fights!—with honour and with fortune is returnèd from where he circumscribed with his sword!—and brought to yoke the enemies of Rome!

Accompanied by strident trumpets, then pounding drums, a procession comes slowly through the gate and into cemetery.

The proud general, riding a black stallion, leads several sullen prisoners. Walking, their hands bound, are Tamora, queen of the defeated Goths, her three sons, and her chief officer, Aaron, an Ethiopian. Soldiers guard the captives.

Martius and Mutius, the general’s younger sons, march in next; behind them are four foot-soldiers wheeling two carts, each bearing a black-draped coffin; following are Lucius and Quintus, Titus’s elder sons.

At the entrance to the crypt, Titus dismounts and steps forward to speak.

Hail, Rome!—victorious in thy mourning attire! Lo!—as does the ship that hath dischargèd her freight return with precious lading to the bay from whence at first she weighed her anchor, now cometh Andronicus, bound with laurel boughs, to re-salute his country with his tears—tears of true joy for his return to Rome!



The army’s commander can see that nearly the full Senate is gathered here. He invokes the city’s patron deity, Jupiter—supreme among the gods: “Thou, great defender of this capital, stand gracious to the rites that we intend!

Romans, of my five-and-twenty valiant sons—half the number that King Priam”—Troy’s legendary patriarch—“had, behold the poor remains, alive and dead. These who survive, let Rome reward with love; these that I bring unto their last home, with burial amongst their ancestors.” Two of his sons, killed in recent fighting, lie in the coffins.



He adds, wryly, “Here, Goths have given me leave to sheathe my sword.” The defeated queen glares at the Romans, but her head is held high, even as the citizens stare.

The general chides himself: “Titus, unkind and careless of thine own, why suffer’st thou thy sons, yet unburièd, to hover on the dreadful shore of Styx? Make way to lay them by their brethren.” Interment will free the two souls to cross the mythical river into the land of the dead. He tells his deceased sons, “There greet in silence, as the dead are wont; and sleep in peace, slain in your country’s wars.”

Titus steps back as soldiers lift the coffins, and he turns to the tomb. “O sacred receptacle of my joys, sweet cell of virtue and nobility, how many sons of mine hast thou storèd here, that thou wilt never render to me more?”

Lucius, Titus’s oldest son, calls for a ritual offering to the gods. “Give us the proudest prisoner of the Goths, that we may hew his limbs, and on a pyre ad manes fratrum”—to our brothers’ spirits—“sacrifice his flesh, before this earthy prison of their bones, so that their shades be not unappeasèd, nor we disturbed by prodigies on earth!”—haunted.

Titus Andronicus points to Alarbus, who is twenty. “I give you him, the noblest that survives, the eldest son of this distressèd queen.”

Tamora, startled, cries out, “Wait, 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, oh, think my son to be as dear to me!

Sufficeth it not that we are brought to Rome, to beautify thy triumph and return, captive to thee and to thy Roman yoke?—but must my sons be slaughtered in the streets for valiant doings in their country’s cause? Oh, if to fight for ruler and commonweal were piety in thine, it is in these!

Andronicus, stain not thy tomb with blood!

Wilt thou draw near to 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!”



Says Titus coldly, “Patient yourself, madam, and pardon me.” He regards his sons. “These are brethren, whom you Goths beheld alive and dead. And for brethren slain, these living ask, religiously, a sacrifice. For this your son is markèd—and die he must, to appease the groaning shadows of those who are gone.”

Away with him!” commands Lucius, “and make a fire straight! With our swords let’s hew his limbs!—lay them upon a pyre of wood till they be consumèd clean!” The four brothers drag Alarbus, struggling futilely, behind the tomb.



Sobs Tamora, “Oh, cruel, irreligious piety!”

Her youngest son, Chiron, had shared the common belief that Romans disdain human sacrifice. “Was ever Scythia half so barbarous?” He gasps as they hear Alarbus’s echoing screams of pain and horror.

In the silence that follows, his brother Demetrius mutters with disgust, “Compare not Scythia to ambitious Rome! Alarbus goes to rest—but we survive to tremble under Titus’ threatening looks!

Then, madam, stand resolvèd,” he tells his mother, “and hope withal the self-same gods that armed the Queen of Troy with opportunity for sharp revenge upon the Thracian tyrant in his tent may favor Tamora, Queen of the Goths—when Goths were Goths and Tamora was queen!—to repay among her foes their bloody wrongs!



Lucius, Quintus, Martius and Mutius return, their swords and hands glistening with blood.

Says Lucius, raising his wet blade, “See, lord and father!—now we have performèd our Roman rites. Alarbus’ limbs are lopped, and his entrails feed the sacrificing fire!—whose smoke, like incense, doth perfume the sky!

Nought remaineth but to inter our brethren, and with loud ’larums welcome them to Rome!”



Titus nods. “Let it be so; and let Andronicus make this, his last farewell to their souls.” Trumpets are sounded. “In peace and honour rest you here, my sons, Rome’s readiest champions. Repose you here at rest, secure from worldly chances and mishaps. Here lurks no treason; here no envy swells; here grow no damnèd grudges; here are no storms, no noise—only silence, and eternal sleep.

In peace and honour rest you here, my sons.”



Lavinia comes before him. “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! Oh, bless me here with thy victorious hand, whose fortunes Rome’s best citizens applaud!”



Titus Andronicus beams, taking her hand as she rises. “Kind Rome, that hast thus lovingly preservèd the cordial of mine age to gladden my heart! Lavinia, live!—outlive thy father’s days and Fame’s eternal date, for Virtue’s praise!”

The gentlewoman has upheld the family’s fierce dignity, and its pride in the Andronicus name, during the soldiers’ absence; she hopes that, with Prince Bassianus, she can foster a thriving civil society, through reason, rectitude, and the careful administration of justice.

With the other two tribunes, Marcus Andronicus has come to the mausoleum. “Long live Lord Titus, my belovèd brother, gracious triumpher, in the sight of Rome!

Thanks, gentle tribune, noble brother Marcus!” says the general, smiling.



Marcus greets Titus’s sons: “And welcome, nephews, from successful wars!—you that survive, and you that sleep in fame. Fair lords, your fortunes are alike: you all drew your swords in your country’s service.”

He touches a bier. “But find safer triumphs now, in this funeral pomp, you that hath aspirèd to Solon’s happiness,”—wise acceptance, “and triumph over Chance, in Honour’s bed,” he says solemnly.

At Titus’s nod, the soldiers carry the coffins into the tomb; they return, and its iron gates are closed.

Marcus now addresses his brother. “Titus Andronicus, the people of Rome, whose friend in justice thou hast ever been, send thee, by me, their tribune in their trust, this palliament of white and spotless hue,”—he offers a long coat, “and name thee in election for the empiry, with these our late-deceasèd emperor’s sons!”

Saturninus and Bassianus, each with his own attendants and cordon of guards, stand watching the Andronici—and each other. The older brother, who strongly resents this intrusion during the funeral of the man whose dignity he means to inherit, is now increasingly perturbed by a further challenge.

Marcus tells his brother, “Be candidatus then, and put it on—and help to set a head on headless Rome!”

The graying general demurs. “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?—today resign my life, and set abroad on new business for you all—then yield up rule tomorrow?

Rome, I have been thy soldier forty years, and led my country’s strength successfully—and burièd one-and-twenty valiant sons—knighted in the field, slain manfully in arms, in right and noble service of their country. Give me a staff of honour for mine age, but not a sceptre to control the world! Upright he held it, lords, who held it last!” he cries, in a loyal tribute to the dead emperor.



But Marcus urges his brother to stand for election: “Titus, thou shalt ask—and obtain the empery!”

Saturninus is irked by his assurance. Glaring at Marcus, he challenges: “Proud and ambitious tribune!—canst thou foretell?

Titus smiles at him. “Patience, Prince Saturninus,—”

Romans, do me right!” cries that prince, red-faced, to his followers. “Patricians, draw your swords!—and sheathe them not till Saturninus be Rome’s emperor!

Andronicus,” he growls, “I would thou wert shipped to hell, rather than rob me of the people’s hearts!”

Lucius is indignant: “Proud Saturnine!—interrupter of the good that noble-minded Titus means to thee!”

Content thee, prince!” pleads Titus; he is deeply respectful of rank and hereditary authority. “I will restore to thee the people’s hearts, and wean them from themselves,” he assures the blusterer.



But now Bassianus steps forward. “Andronicus, I do not flatter thee, but honour thee, and will do so till I die! If thou strengthen my faction with thy friends, I will most thankful be—and thanks, to men of noble minds, is honourable meed.”

Titus lifts his hands before the adoring crowd. “People of Rome—and people’s tribunes here—I ask your voices and your suffrages. Will you bestow them friendly for Andronicus?”

The tribunes look around at the cheering citizens, then at each other, and nod agreement. “To gratify the good Andronicus, and gratulate his safe return to Rome,” says the oldest, “the people will accept whom he admits.”

Titus nods. “Tribunes, I thank you! Then this request I make: that you create”—elect by acclamation—“the emperor’s elder son, Saturninus, your lord!—whose virtues will, I hope, reflect on Rome as Titan’s rays do on earth, and ripen justice in this commonweal!

Then, if you will elect by my advice, crown him!—and say, ‘Long live our emperor!’”



Marcus proclaims it: “With voices and applause of every sort, patricians and plebeians, we create Lord Saturninus Rome’s great emperor!—and say, ‘Long live our Emperor Saturninus!’”

As the crowd shouts its approval, the trumpeters play an elaborate flourish.

Saturninus accedes with seeming grace; but he seethes at the old general’s temerity and presumption. “Titus Andronicus, for thy favors done to us in our election this day, I give thee thanks… in accord with thy deserts—and will with deeds requite thy gentleness.” His true meaning is dire. An underling family usurped his title merely to reject it; now the rightful heir has been given his own—power that he could, should, have taken.

He will be revenged—beginning now. “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 will her espouse!

Tell me, Andronicus, doth this motion please thee?” He smirks, in bullying triumph, at Bassianus.



Says the dutiful general, “It doth, my worthy lord! And in this match I hold me highly honoured by Your Grace!” The gentleman sees it as the highest sign of favor: an ennobling alliance. “And here in sight of Rome, to Saturninus, emperor 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 imperial lord!

Receive them, then, as the tribute that I owe—mine honour’s ensigns, humbled at thy feet!”



Saturninus looks at the kneeling warrior, at Lavinia—who is clearly distressed, then at his own fuming brother, Bassianus. The emperor is calm—for now. “Thanks, noble Titus, father of my life,” he says, with deep sarcasm. “How proud I am of thee, and of thy gifts, Rome shall record,” he says—a thin smile masking his anger. He addresses the crowd: “And when I do forget the least of these… unspeakable deserts, Romans, forget your fealty to me!

Titus goes to Tamora. “Now, madam, you are prisoner to an emperor!” He pulls her forward. “To him that, for your honour and your state, will use you and your followers nobly.”

Saturninus eyes the sultry beauty; her complexion has not been sheltered from the sun, and she is exotically tan; her arms are bare, wrists bound with leather. He stares intently. “A goodly lady, trust me—of the hue that I would choose, were I to choose anew!

Clear up, fair queen, that cloudy countenance!” he says. “Though chance of war”—a deliberate diminution of Titus’s accomplishment—“hath wrought this change in cheer, thou comest not to be made a scorn in Rome. Princely shall be thy usage in every way! Rest on my word, and let not disconcert daunt all your hopes!”



Tamora, glad to be away from Titus Andronicus, looks up hopefully at the new ruler; she smiles, warmly, as their eyes meet.

Madam,” says Saturninus, taking her hand, “he who comforts you can make you greater than the Queen of Goths!”



He notes with pleasure the pale countenance of his newly betrothed. “Lavinia, you are not displeasèd with this…?”

Not I, my lord,” she claims, “sith true nobility warrants these words of princely courtesy.”



Saturninus is enjoying Tamora’s knowing look. “Thanks, sweet Lavinia,” he says, turning his back to her. “Romans, let us go!” he cries, elated. “Ransomless here, we set our prisoners free!” He, too, understands gesture; their easy release mocks Titus’s triumph.

He tells attendants, “Proclaim our honours, lords, with trumpet and drum!”

Martial music plays tribute to the new emperor, and the throng watches happily as the patrician lords congratulate each other and enjoy the celebration. The prisoners’ bonds are removed; the Goths and Ethiopian stand free.

Saturninus, dissolute and devoid of finesse, is speaking to Tamora—very closely. She smiles and nods; he slides an arm around her waist, and starts to lead her away.

Suddenly Bassianus steps forward and seizes Lavinia’s hand. “Lord Titus, by your leave,” he cries, “this maid is mine!

Titus is taken aback. “What, sir?—are you in earnest, then, my lord?”

Aye, noble Titus!—and withal resolvèd, myself to do this by reason and by right!



Marcus Andronicus nods approval. “‘Suum cuique’”—unto each his own—“is our Roman justice. This prince in justice seizeth but his own.”

Lucius, at thirty Titus’s eldest surviving son, also voices support: “And what he would do, that shall, if Lucius live!”

The affront to his new sovereign has stunned and appalled the aging, long-unchallenged general. “Traitors, avaunt!” he cries to his brother and eldest son. He looks around. “Where is the emperor’s guard? Treason, my lord!” he calls to Saturninus. “Lavinia is seizèd!

Saturninus looks back. “Seizèd? By whom?”

Bassianus is defiant: “By him that justly may bear his betrothèd from all the world away!” Taking Lavinia by the arm, he hurries out to the street, accompanied by his tribune-uncle Marcus.

Titus’s sons know of the sordid reputation Saturninus has earned—and they have just witnessed his blatant disrespect for their beloved sister. “Brothers, help to convey her hence! Away!” cries Mutius, at sixteen, the youngest, “and with my sword I’ll keep this door safe!” After Lucius, Quintus and Martius have followed Marcus, he stands blocking the path.

Titus, sword drawn, heads toward the entrance. He tells his son, “Follow, my lord, and I’ll soon bring her back!”

My lord, you pass not here!” says Mutius.

What?—villain boy!” cries Titus, instantly enraged. “Barr’st me my way in Rome?” He stabs Mutius, who stares for a moment, wide-eyed in disbelief. Then, as Titus roughly jerks the blade free, he falls.

The boy moans. “HelpLucius!” He gasps, and breathes another feeble “help….” And then he dies.

During the fray, Demetrius, Chiron and Aaron have clustered around Tamora; she stands near Saturninus, now protected by a phalanx of guards, as the crowd edges back from Titus.

Lucius, returning, halts at the entrance and looks down, aghast. He sees the bloody sword. “My lord, you are unjust!” he tells his father, “and more than so!—in wrongful quarrel you have slain your son!

Titus is furious. “Not thou nor he is any son of mine! My sons would never so dishonour me! Traitor, restore Lavinia to the emperor!”

Lucius stares at him angrily. “Dead, if you will; but not to be his wife, she who is another’s lawful promised love!” He turns, and strides away.

As the general starts after him, Saturninus laughs harshly. “No, Titus, no!

The emperor needs her not!—neither her, nor thee, nor any of thy stock! I’ll trust, at leisure, him that mocks me, once; thee, never!—nor thy traitorous, haughty sons!—confederates all, thus to dishonour me!

Was there none else in Rome to make a stale”—to insult—“but Saturninus?” he shouts angrily. “Full well, Andronicus, agree these deeds with that proud brag of thine, that said’st I begged the empire at thy hands!”

Titus Andronicus blinks, astonished; he has not said—nor ever thought—such a thing. “Oh, monstrous! What reproachful words are these?

But go thy ways,” Saturninus tells Lavinia’s father. “Go, give that exchanging-piece to him that flourishes for her with his sword! A valiant son-in-law thou shalt enjoy!—one fit to bandy with thy lawless sons!—to ruffian in the commonwealth of Rome!”



The loyal, doughty general staggers. “These words are razors to my wounded heart!

And therefore, lovely Tamora,” says Saturninus, pulling her closer to his side, “Queen of Goths—who like the stately Phoebe ’mongst her nymphs dost outshine 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!



Tamora, her cheeks still streaked by tears for Alarbus, again smiles—a slow, odd smile.

Speak, Queen of Goths!” says Saturninus. “Dost thou applaud my choice?” But her eyes are fixed on Titus; she simply nods.

And here I swear by all the Roman gods,” says the profane potentate, “sith priest and holy water are so near, and tapers burn so bright, and everything in readiness for Hymenaeus stands,”—suits a wedding, “I will not re-salute the streets of Rome, nor climb to my palace, till from forth this place I lead, espousèd, my bride along with me!”

Says Tamora, kneeling, “And here, in sight of heaven, to Rome I swear: if Saturninus advance the Queen of Goths, she will be a handmaiden to his desires, a loving nurse and mother to his youth!

Saturninus is pleased. “Ascend, fair queen!” he tells the dusky damsel.

He addresses the patricians: “Pantheon of lords, accompany your noble emperor and his lovely bride, sent by the heavens for Prince Saturninus, whose wisdom hath her fortune conquerèd!”

He points to an area before the tables set out for the funeral repast. “There shall we consummate our spousal rites!”

The voracious nobles follow their new sovereign, eager to partake of the arrogated feast, and to carouse at his nuptials.




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