Titus Andronicus is the earliest tragedy and the earliest Roman play attributed to Shakespeare. Titus, a model Roman, has led twenty-one of his twenty-five sons to death in Rome’s wars; he stabs another son to death for what he views as disloyalty to Rome. Yet Rome has become “a wilderness of tigers.” After a death sentence is imposed on two of his three remaining sons, and his daughter is raped and mutilated, Titus turns his loyalty toward his family.
Aaron the Moor, a magnificent villain and the empress’s secret lover, makes a similar transition. After the empress bears him a child, Aaron devotes himself to preserving the baby. Retaining his thirst for evil, he shows great tenderness to his little family—a tenderness that also characterizes Titus before the terrifying conclusion.
The authoritative edition of Titus Andronicus from The Folger Shakespeare Library, the trusted and widely used Shakespeare series for students and general readers, includes:
-Freshly edited text based on the best early printed version of the play -Full explanatory notes conveniently placed on pages facing the text of the play -Scene-by-scene plot summaries -A key to the play’s famous lines and phrases -An introduction to reading Shakespeare’s language -An essay by a leading Shakespeare scholar providing a modern perspective on the play -Fresh images from the Folger Shakespeare Library’s vast holdings of rare books -An annotated guide to further reading
Essay by Alexander Leggatt
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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! She kneels.
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 her espouse.
Tell me, Andronicus, doth this motion please thee?
It doth, my worthy lord, and in this match
I hold me highly honored of your Grace;
And here in sight of Rome to Saturnine,
King 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 imperious lord.
Receive them, then, the tribute that I owe,
Mine honor's ensigns humbled at thy feet.
Thanks, noble Titus, father of my life.
How proud I am of thee and of thy gifts
Rome shall record. -- And when I do forget
The least of these unspeakable deserts,
Romans, forget your fealty to me.
Now, madam, are you prisoner to an emperor,
To him that for your honor and your state
Will use you nobly, and your followers.
A goodly lady, trust me, of the hue
That I would choose, were I to choose anew. --
Clear up, fair queen, that cloudy countenance.
Though chance of war hath wrought this change of cheer,
Thou com'st not to be made a scorn in Rome.
Princely shall be thy usage every way.
Rest on my word, and let not discontent
Daunt all your hopes. Madam, he comforts you
Can make you greater than the Queen of Goths. --
Lavinia, you are not displeased with this?
Not I, my lord, sith true nobility
Warrants these words in princely courtesy.
Thanks, sweet Lavinia. -- Romans, let us go.
Ransomless here we set our prisoners free.
Proclaim our honors, lords, with trump and drum.
Flourish. Saturninus and his Guards exit, with Drums and Trumpets. Tribunes and Senators exit aloft.
Lord Titus, by your leave, this maid is mine.
How, sir? Are you in earnest then, my lord?
Ay, noble Titus, and resolved withal
To do myself this reason and this right.
Bassianus takes Lavinia by the arm.
Suum cuique is our Roman justice.
This prince in justice seizeth but his own.
And that he will and shall, if Lucius live!
Traitors, avaunt! Where is the Emperor's guard?
Enter Saturninus and his Guards.
Treason, my lord. Lavinia is surprised.
Surprised? By whom?
By him that justly may
Bear his betrothed from all the world away.
Brothers, help to convey her hence away,
And with my sword I'll keep this door safe.
Bassianus, Lavinia, Marcus, Lucius,
Quintus, and Martius exit.
Follow, my lord, and I'll soon bring her back.
Saturninus, Tamora, Demetrius, Chiron,
Aaron, and Guards exit.
Mutius My lord, you pass not here.
Titus What, villain boy,
Barr'st me my way in Rome?
He stabs Mutius.
Mutius Help, Lucius, help!
My lord, you are unjust, and more than so!
In wrongful quarrel you have slain your son.
Nor thou nor he are any sons of mine.
My sons would never so dishonor me.
Traitor, restore Lavinia to the Emperor.
Enter aloft the Emperor Saturninus with Tamora
and her two sons and Aaron the Moor.
Dead if you will, but not to be his wife
That is another's lawful promised love. He exits.
No, Titus, no, the Emperor needs her not,
Nor her, nor thee, nor any of thy stock.
I'll trust by leisure him that mocks me once,
Thee never, nor thy traitorous haughty sons,
Confederates all thus to dishonor me.
Was none in Rome to make a stale
But Saturnine? Full well, Andronicus,
Agree these deeds with that proud brag of thine
That said'st I begged the empire at thy hands.
O monstrous! What reproachful words are these?
But go thy ways. Go give that changing piece
To him that flourished for her with his sword.
A valiant son-in-law thou shalt enjoy,
One fit to bandy with thy lawless sons,
To ruffle in the commonwealth of Rome.
These words are razors to my wounded heart.
And therefore, lovely Tamora, Queen of Goths,
That like the stately Phoebe 'mongst her nymphs
Dost overshine 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 Emperess of Rome.
Speak, Queen of Goths, dost thou applaud my choice?
And here I swear by all the Roman gods,
Sith priest and holy water are so near,
And tapers burn so bright, and everything
In readiness for Hymenaeus stand,
I will not resalute the streets of Rome
Or climb my palace till from forth this place
I lead espoused my bride along with me.
And here in sight of heaven to Rome I swear,
If Saturnine advance the Queen of Goths,
She will a handmaid be to his desires,
A loving nurse, a mother to his youth.
Ascend, fair queen, -- Lords, accompany
Your noble emperor and his lovely bride,
Sent by the heavens for Prince Saturnine,
Whose wisdom hath her fortune conquerèd.
There shall we consummate our spousal rites.
All but Titus exit.
I am not bid to wait upon this bride.
Titus, when wert thou wont to walk alone,
Dishonored thus and challengèd of wrongs?
Enter Marcus and Titus' sons Lucius, Martius, and Quintus.
O Titus, see! O, see what thou hast done!
In a bad quarrel slain a virtuous son.
No, foolish tribune, no; no son of mine,
Nor thou, nor these confederates in the deed
That hath dishonored all our family.
Unworthy brother and unworthy sons!
But let us give him burial as becomes,
Give Mutius burial with our brethren.
Traitors, away! He rests not in this tomb.
This monument five hundred years hath stood,
Which I have sumptuously reedified.
Here none but soldiers and Rome's servitors
Repose in fame, none basely slain in brawls.
Bury him where you can. He comes not here.
My lord, this is impiety in you.
My nephew Mutius' deeds do plead for him.
He must be buried with his brethren.
And shall, or him we will accompany.
"And shall"? What villain was it spake that word?
He that would vouch it in any place but here.
What, would you bury him in my despite?
No, noble Titus, but entreat of thee
To pardon Mutius and to bury him.
Marcus, even thou hast struck upon my crest,
And with these boys mine honor thou hast wounded.
My foes I do repute you every one.
So trouble me no more, but get you gone.
He is not with himself; let us withdraw.
Not I, till Mutius' bones be buried.
The brother (Marcus) and the sons
(Lucius, Martius, and Quintus) kneel.
Brother, for in that name doth nature plead --
Father, and in that name doth nature speak --
Speak thou no more, if all the rest will speed.
Renownèd Titus, more than half my soul --
Dear father, soul and substance of us all --
Suffer thy brother Marcus to inter
His noble nephew here in virtue's nest,
That died in honor and Lavinia's cause.
Thou art a Roman; be not barbarous.
The Greeks upon advice did bury Ajax,
That slew himself, and wise Laertes' son
Did graciously plead for his funerals.
Let not young Mutius, then, that was thy joy,
Be barred his entrance here.
Titus Rise, Marcus, rise.
The dismall'st day is this that e'er I saw,
To be dishonored by my sons in Rome.
Well, bury him, and bury me the next.
They put Mutius in the tomb.
There lie thy bones, sweet Mutius, with thy friends',
Till we with trophies do adorn thy tomb.
They all except Titus kneel and say:
No man shed tears for noble Mutius.
He lives in fame, that died in virtue's cause.
All but Marcus and Titus exit.
My lord, to step out of these dreary dumps,
How comes it that the subtle Queen of Goths
Is of a sudden thus advanced in Rome?
I know not, Marcus, but I know it is.
Whether by device or no, the heavens can tell.
Is she not then beholding to the man
That brought her for this high good turn so far?
Yes, and will nobly him remunerate.
Flourish. Enter the Emperor Saturninus, Tamora and her two sons, with Aaron the Moor, Drums and Trumpets, at one door. Enter at the other door Bassianus and Lavinia, with Lucius, Martius, and Quintus, and others.
So, Bassianus, you have played your prize.
God give you joy, sir, of your gallant bride.
And you of yours, my lord. I say no more,
Nor wish no less, and so I take my leave.
Traitor, if Rome have law or we have power,
Thou and thy faction shall repent this rape.
"Rape" call you it, my lord, to seize my own,
My true betrothèd love and now my wife?
But let the laws of Rome determine all.
Meanwhile am I possessed of that is mine.
'Tis good, sir, you are very short with us.
But if we live, we'll be as sharp with you.
My lord, what I have done, as best I may,
Answer I must, and shall do with my life.
Only thus much I give your Grace to know:
By all the duties that I owe to Rome,
This noble gentleman, Lord Titus here,
Is in opinion and in honor wronged,
That in the rescue of Lavinia
With his own hand did slay his youngest son,
In zeal to you, and highly moved to wrath
To be controlled in that he frankly gave.
Receive him then to favor, Saturnine,
That hath expressed himself in all his deeds
A father and a friend to thee and Rome.
Prince Bassianus, leave to plead my deeds.
'Tis thou, and those, that have dishonored me.
Rome and the righteous heavens be my judge
How I have loved and honored Saturnine. He kneels.
My worthy lord, if ever Tamora
Were gracious in those princely eyes of thine,
Then hear me speak indifferently for all,
And at my suit, sweet, pardon what is past.
What, madam, be dishonored openly,
And basely put it up without revenge?
Not so, my lord; the gods of Rome forfend
I should be author to dishonor you.
But on mine honor dare I undertake
For good Lord Titus' innocence in all,
Whose fury not dissembled speaks his griefs.
Then at my suit look graciously on him.
Lose not so noble a friend on vain suppose,
Nor with sour looks afflict his gentle heart.
Aside to Saturninus. My lord, be ruled by me; be
won at last. rDissemble all your griefs and discontents.
You are but newly planted in your throne.
Lest, then, the people, and patricians too,
Upon a just survey take Titus' part
And so supplant you for ingratitude,
Which Rome reputes to be a heinous sin.
Yield at entreats, and then let me alone.
I'll find a day to massacre them all
And raze their faction and their family,
The cruel father and his traitorous sons,
To whom I sued for my dear son's life,
And make them know what 'tis to let a queen
Kneel in the streets and beg for grace in vain.
Aloud. Come, come, sweet emperor. -- Come,
Take up this good old man, and cheer the heart
That dies in tempest of thy angry frown.
Rise, Titus, rise. My empress hath prevailed.
I thank your Majesty and her, my lord.
These words, these looks, infuse new life in me.
Titus, I am incorporate in Rome,
A Roman now adopted happily,
And must advise the Emperor for his good.
This day all quarrels die, Andronicus. --
And let it be mine honor, good my lord,
That I have reconciled your friends and you. --
For you, Prince Bassianus, I have passed
My word and promise to the Emperor
That you will be more mild and tractable. --
And fear not, lords -- and you, Lavinia.
By my advice, all humbled on your knees,
You shall ask pardon of his Majesty.
Marcus, Lavinia, Lucius, Martius, and Quintus kneel.
We do, and vow to heaven and to his Highness
That what we did was mildly as we might,
Tend'ring our sister's honor and our own.
That on mine honor here do I protest.
Away, and talk not; trouble us no more.
Nay, nay, sweet emperor, we must all be friends.
The tribune and his nephews kneel for grace.
I will not be denied. Sweetheart, look back.
Marcus, for thy sake, and thy brother's here,
And at my lovely Tamora's entreats,
I do remit these young men's heinous faults.
Stand up. They rise.
Lavinia, though you left me like a churl,
I found a friend, and sure as death I swore
I would not part a bachelor from the priest.
Come, if the Emperor's court can feast two brides,
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—an older daughter Susanna and twins, Judith and Hamnet. Hamnet, Shakespeare’s only son, died in childhood. The bulk of Shakespeare’s working life was spent in the theater world of London, where he established himself professionally by the early 1590s. He enjoyed success not only as a playwright and poet, but also as an actor and shareholder in an acting company. Although some think that sometime between 1610 and 1613 Shakespeare retired from the theater and returned home to Stratford, where he died in 1616, others believe that he may have continued to work in London until close to his death.