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Essay by Alexander Leggatt
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"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
William Shakespeare was born in April 1564 in the town of Stratford-upon-Avon, on England’s Avon River. When he was eighteen, he married Anne Hathaway. The couple had three children—their older daughter Susanna and the twins, Judith and Hamnet. Hamnet, Shakespeare’s only son, died in childhood. The bulk of Shakespeare’s working life was spent, not in Stratford, but in the theater world of London, where he established himself professionally by the early 1590s. He enjoyed success not only as a playwright, but as an actor and shareholder in an acting company. Sometime between 1610 and 1613, Shakespeare is thought to have retired from the stage and returned home to Stratford, where he died in 1616.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
TITUS ANDRONICUS: ACT 1
Flourish. l Enter the Tribunes (including Marcus Andronicus) and Senators aloft. And then enter, Saturninus and his followers at one door, and Bassianus and his followers with Drums, and Trumpets.
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 firstborn son that was the last
That wore the imperial diadem of Rome.
Then let my father's honors live in me,
Nor wrong mine age with this indignity.
Romans, friends, followers, favorers of my right,
If ever Bassianus, Caesar's son,
Were gracious in the eyes of royal Rome,
Keep, then, this passage to the Capitol,
And suffer not dishonor 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.
Marcus, (stepping forward and holding up the crown)
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, surnamèd 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, trained up in arms.
Ten years are spent since first he undertook
This cause of Rome, and chastisèd 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 honor's spoils,
Returns the good Andronicus to Rome,
Renownèd Titus flourishing in arms.
Let us entreat, by honor of his name
Whom worthily you would have now succeed,
And in the Capitol and Senate's right,
Whom you pretend to honor and adore,
That you withdraw you and abate your strength,
Dismiss your followers and, as suitors should,
Plead your deserts in peace and humbleness.
How fair the tribune speaks to calm my thoughts!
Marcus Andronicus, so I do affy
In thy uprightness and integrity,
And so I love and honor 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 favor
Commit my cause in balance to be weighed.
Bassianus' Soldiers exit.
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.
Saturninus' Soldiers exit.
Rome, be as just and gracious unto me
As I am confident and kind to thee.
Open the gates and let me in.
Tribunes, and me, a poor competitor.
Flourish.l They go up into the Senate House. The Tribunes and Senators exit from the upper stage.
Enter a Captain.
Romans, make way! The good Andronicus,
Patron of virtue, Rome's best champion,
Successful in the battles that he fights,
With honor and with fortune ièd with his sword
And brought to yoke the enemies of Rome.
Sound drums and trumpets, and then enter two of Titus' sons ( ) and then two men bearing a coffin covered with black, then two other sons ( ), then Titus Andronicus, and then Tamora the Queen of Goths and her sons Chiron and Demetrius, with Aaron the Moor, and others as many as can be, then set down the coffin, and Titus speaks.
Hail Rome, victorious in thy mourning weeds!
Lo, as the bark that hath discharged his fraught
Returns with precious lading to the bay
From whence at first she weighed her anchorage,
Cometh Andronicus, bound with laurel boughs,
To resalute 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?
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 disturbed with prodigies on earth.
I give him you, the noblest that survives,
The eldest son of this distressèd queen.
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 slaughtered 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.
Patient yourself, madam, and pardon me.
These are their brethren whom your Goths beheld
Alive and dead, and for their brethren slain
Religiously they ask a sacrifice.
To this your son is marked, and die he must,
T' appease their groaning shadows that are gone.
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.
Exit Titus' sons with Alarbus.
Tamora, rising and speaking aside to her sons
O cruel, irreligious piety!
Chiron, aside to Tamora and Demetrius<BR>
Was never Scythia half so barbarous!
Demetrius, aside to Tamora and Chiron
Oppose not Scythia to ambitious Rome!
Alarbus goes to rest and we survive
To tremble under Titus' threat'ning look.
Then, madam, stand resolved, but hope withal
The selfsame gods that armed the Queen of Troy
With opportunity of sharp revenge
Upon the Thracian tyrant in his tent
May favor Tamora the Queen of Goths
(When Goths were Goths, and Tamora was queen)
To quit the bloody wrongs upon her foes.
Enter the sons of Andronicus again
See, lord and father, how we have performed
Our Roman rites. Alarbus' limbs are lopped,
And entrails feed the sacrificing fire,
Whose smoke like incense doth perfume the sky.
Remaineth naught but to inter our brethren,
And with loud larums welcome them to Rome.
Let it be so. And let Andronicus
Make this his latest farewell to their souls.
Sound trumpets, and lay the coffin in the tomb.
In peace and honor 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 damnèd drugs; here are no storms,
No noise, but silence and eternal sleep.
In peace and honor rest you here, my sons.
In peace and honor 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 this earth for thy return to Rome.
O bless me here with thy victorious hand,
Whose fortunes Rome's best citizens applaud.
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 Marcus Andronicus, carrying a white robe.
Enter aloft Saturninus, Bassianus, Tribunes, Senators, and Guards.
Long live Lord Titus, my belovèd brother,
Gracious triumpher in the eyes of Rome.
Thanks, gentle tribune, noble brother Marcus.
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 honor'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 deceasèd emperor's sons.
Be candidatus, then, and put it on
And help to set a head on headless Rome.
A better head her glorious body fits
Than his that shakes for age and feebleness.
To Tribunes and Senators aloft. What, should I don this robe and trouble you?
Be chosen with proclamations today,
Tomorrow 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 honor for mine age,
But not a scepter to control the world.
Upright he held it, lords, that held it last.
Titus, thou shalt obtain and ask the empery.
Proud and ambitious tribune, canst thou tell?
Patience, Prince Saturninus.
Romans, do me right.
Patricians, draw your swords and sheathe them not
Till Saturninus be Rome's emperor. --
Andronicus, would thou were shipped to hell
Rather than rob me of the people's hearts.
Proud Saturnine, interrupter of the good
That noble-minded Titus means to thee.
Content thee, prince. I will restore to thee
The people's hearts and wean them from themselves.
Andronicus, I do not flatter thee,
But honor 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 honorable meed.
People of Rome, and people's tribunes here,
I ask your voices and your suffrages.
Will you bestow them friendly on Andronicus?
To gratify the good Andronicus
And gratulate his safe return to Rome,
The people will accept whom he admits.
Tribunes, I thank you, and this suit I make:
That you create our emperor's eldest son,
Lord Saturnine, whose virtues will, I hope,
Reflect on Rome as 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."
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
and Guards> come down.
Titus Andronicus, for thy favors 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 honorable family,
Lavinia will I make my empress,
Rome's royal mistress, mistress of my heart,
And in the sacred
Tell me, Andronicus, doth this motion please the...
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