Rome. Before the Palace.
(Aaron the Moor; Chiron; Demetrius)
Tamora’s companion Aaron the Moor reflects on how high she has been raised and how he can rise with her. Chiron and Demetrius, Tamora’s two sons, come in quarreling. Both lust for Lavinia and wish to have their way with her. Aaron stops them from fighting and points out how foolish it would be for them to try to seduce a Roman woman. He suggests it would be much more sensible for them not to fight over her but join forces and rape her. They quite agree. (142 lines)
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:
Upon her wit doth earthly honor 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, fett’red 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 emperess.
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 shipwrack and his commonweal’s.
Hollo, what storm is this?
Enter Chiron and Demetrius braving.
Chiron, thy years wants wit, thy wits wants edge,
And manners, to intrude where I am grac’d,
And may, for aught thou knowest, affected be.
Demetrius, thou dost overween 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.
Clubs, clubs! These lovers will not keep the peace.
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 glued within your sheath,
Till you know better how to handle it.
Mean while, sir, with the little skill I have,
Full well shalt thou perceive how much I dare.
Ay, boy, grow ye so brave?
Why, how now, lords?
So near the Emperor’s palace dare ye 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 dishonored in the court of Rome.
For shame, put up.
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 dishonor here.
For that I am prepar’d and full resolv’d,
Foul-spoken coward, that thund’rest with thy tongue,
And with thy weapon nothing dar’st perform!
Away, I say!
Now, by the gods that warlike 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! And should the Empress know
This discord’s ground, the music would not please.
I care not, I, knew she and all the world,
I love Lavinia more than all the world.
Youngling, learn thou to make some meaner choice,
Lavinia is thine elder brother’s hope.
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.
Aaron, a thousand deaths
Would I propose to achieve her whom I love.
To achieve her how?
Why makes 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.
Ay, and as good as Saturninus may.
Then why should he despair that knows to court it,
With words, fair looks, and liberality?
What, hast not thou full often strook a doe,
And borne her cleanly by the keeper’s nose?
Why then it seems some certain snatch or so
Would serve your turns.
Ay, so the turn were served.
Aaron, thou hast hit it.
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?
Faith, not me.
Nor me, so I were one.
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 ling’ring 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 villainy.
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 villainy and vengeance consecrate,
Will we acquaint withal what 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 lust, shadowed from heaven’s eye,
And revel in Lavinia’s treasury.
Thy counsel, lad, smells of no cowardice.
Sit fas aut nefas, till I find the stream
To cool this heat, a charm to calm these fits,
Per Stygia, per manes vehor.