Rome. A room in the palace.
(Aaron; Chiron; Demetrius; Young Lucius; Attendant; Nurse; Black Child)
Young Lucius brings Chiron and Demetrius the gift of weapons from Titus, unable to keep from muttering against them to himself. There is also a letter with a verse from Horace. The rather dense lads do not understand the meaning, but Aaron realizes that the gift is a threat. Trumpets ring out: Tamora has given birth. But a nurse runs in, carrying the newborn child: it is black, clearly Aaron’s. Tamora has sent it to him so that he will kill it, but Aaron is quite taken with the baby and refuses to have it killed. Quite shameless about having slept with their mother, he does not let the brothers get anywhere near the child. Having made sure that few people have seen the baby, he then kills the nurse to keep her from talking, and suggests that they sneak a new-born white baby into the palace to take his child’s place. Having sent Chiron and Demetrius to arrange this, Aaron take his baby and prepares to leave to raise it among the Goths, so as to toughen it up and bring it up as a warrior. (184 lines)
Enter Aaron, Chiron, and Demetrius at one door; and at the other door Young Lucius and another with a bundle of weapons, and verses writ upon them.
Demetrius, here’s the son of Lucius,
He hath some message to deliver us.
Ay, some mad message from his mad grandfather.
My lords, with all the humbleness I may,
I greet your honors from Andronicus—
And pray the Roman gods confound you both!
Gramercy, lovely Lucius. What’s the news?
That you are both decipher’d, that’s the news,
For villains mark’d with rape.—May it please you,
My grandsire, well advis’d, hath sent by me
The goodliest weapons of his armory
To gratify your honorable youth,
The hope of Rome, for so he bid me say;
And so I do, and with his gifts present
Your lordships, that, when ever you have need,
You may be armed and appointed well:
And so I leave you both—
like bloody villains.
Exit with Attendant.
What’s here? A scroll, and written round about.
“Integer vitae, scelerisque purus,
Non eget Mauri jaculis, nec arcu.”
O, ’tis a verse in Horace, I know it well,
I read it in the grammar long ago.
Ay, just—a verse in Horace, right, you have it.
Now, what a thing it is to be an ass!
Here’s no sound jest! The old man hath found their guilt,
And sends them weapons wrapp’d about with lines
That wound beyond their feeling to the quick.
But were our witty Empress well afoot,
She would applaud Andronicus’ conceit,
But let her rest in her unrest a while.—
And now, young lords, was’t not a happy star
Led us to Rome, strangers, and more than so,
Captives, to be advanced to this height?
It did me good, before the palace gate
To brave the tribune in his brother’s hearing.
But me more good to see so great a lord
Basely insinuate and send us gifts.
Had he not reason, Lord Demetrius?
Did you not use his daughter very friendly?
I would we had a thousand Roman dames
At such a bay, by turn to serve our lust.
A charitable wish, and full of love.
Here lacks but your mother for to say amen.
And that would she for twenty thousand more.
Come let us go and pray to all the gods
For our beloved mother in her pains.
Pray to the devils, the gods have given us over.
Trumpets sound within.
Why do the Emperor’s trumpets flourish thus?
Belike for joy the Emperor hath a son.
Soft, who comes here?
Enter Nurse with a blackamoor child.
Good morrow, lords.
O, tell me, did you see Aaron the Moor?
Well, more or less, or ne’er a whit at all,
Here Aaron is, and what with Aaron now?
O gentle Aaron, we are all undone!
Now help, or woe betide thee evermore!
Why, what a caterwauling dost thou keep!
What dost thou wrap and fumble in thy arms?
O, that which I would hide from heaven’s eye,
Our Empress’ shame, and stately Rome’s disgrace!
She is delivered, lords, she is delivered.
I mean she is brought a-bed.
Well, God give her good rest! What hath he sent her?
Why, then she is the devil’s dam: a joyful issue.
A joyless, dismal, black, and sorrowful issue!
Here is the babe, as loathsome as a toad
Amongst the fair-fac’d breeders of our clime.
The Empress sends it thee, thy stamp, thy seal,
And bids thee christen it with thy dagger’s point.
’Zounds, ye whore, is black so base a hue?
Sweet blowse, you are a beauteous blossom sure.
Villain, what hast thou done?
That which thou canst not undo.
Thou hast undone our mother.
Villain, I have done thy mother.
And therein, hellish dog, thou hast undone her.
Woe to her chance, and damn’d her loathed choice!
Accurs’d the offspring of so foul a fiend!
It shall not live.
It shall not die.
Aaron, it must, the mother wills it so.
What, must it, nurse? Then let no man but I
Do execution on my flesh and blood.
I’ll broach the tadpole on my rapier’s point.
Nurse, give it me, my sword shall soon dispatch it.
Sooner this sword shall plough thy bowels up.
Takes the child from the Nurse, and draws.
Stay, murderous villains, will you kill your brother?
Now, by the burning tapers of the sky,
That shone so brightly when this boy was got,
He dies upon my scimitar’s sharp point,
That touches this my first-born son and heir!
I tell you, younglings, not Enceladus,
With all his threat’ning band of Typhon’s brood,
Nor great Alcides, nor the god of war,
Shall seize this prey out of his father’s hands.
What, what, ye sanguine, shallow-hearted boys!
Ye white-lim’d walls! Ye alehouse painted signs!
Coal-black is better than another hue,
In that it scorns to bear another hue;
For all the water in the ocean
Can never turn the swan’s black legs to white,
Although she lave them hourly in the flood.
Tell the Empress from me, I am of age
To keep mine own, excuse it how she can.
Wilt thou betray thy noble mistress thus?
My mistress is my mistress, this myself,
The vigor and the picture of my youth:
This before all the world do I prefer,
This maugre all the world will I keep safe,
Or some of you shall smoke for it in Rome.
By this our mother is forever sham’d.
Rome will despise her for this foul escape.
The Emperor in his rage will doom her death.
I blush to think upon this ignomy.
Why, there’s the privilege your beauty bears.
Fie, treacherous hue, that will betray with blushing
The close enacts and counsels of thy heart!
Here’s a young lad fram’d of another leer:
Look how the black slave smiles upon the father,
As who should say, “Old lad, I am thine own.”
He is your brother, lords, sensibly fed
Of that self blood that first gave life to you,
And from your womb where you imprisoned were
He is enfranchised and come to light.
Nay, he is your brother by the surer side,
Although my seal be stamped in his face.
Aaron, what shall I say unto the Empress?
Advise thee, Aaron, what is to be done,
And we will all subscribe to thy advice:
Save thou the child, so we may all be safe.
Then sit we down and let us all consult.
My son and I will have the wind of you;
Keep there. Now talk at pleasure of your safety.
How many women saw this child of his?
Why, so, brave lords, when we join in league
I am a lamb, but if you brave the Moor,
The chafed boar, the mountain lioness,
The ocean swells not so as Aaron storms.
But say again, how many saw the child?
Cornelia the midwife, and myself,
And no one else but the delivered Empress.
The Emperess, the midwife, and yourself.
Two may keep counsel when the third’s away.
Go to the Empress, tell her this I said.
He kills her.
Weeke, weeke!—so cries a pig prepared to the spit.
What mean’st thou, Aaron? Wherefore didst thou this?
O Lord, sir, ’tis a deed of policy.
Shall she live to betray this guilt of ours,
A long-tongu’d babbling gossip? No, lords, no.
And now be it known to you my full intent.
Not far, one Muliteus my countryman
His wife but yesternight was brought to bed;
His child is like to her, fair as you are.
Go pack with him, and give the mother gold,
And tell them both the circumstance of all,
And how by this their child shall be advanc’d,
And be received for the Emperor’s heir,
And substituted in the place of mine,
To calm this tempest whirling in the court;
And let the Emperor dandle him for his own.
Hark ye, lords, you see I have given her physic,
Pointing to the Nurse.
And you must needs bestow her funeral;
The fields are near, and you are gallant grooms.
This done, see that you take no longer days,
But send the midwife presently to me.
The midwife and the nurse well made away,
Then let the ladies tattle what they please.
Aaron, I see thou wilt not trust the air
For this care of Tamora,
Herself and hers are highly bound to thee.
Exeunt Demetrius and Chiron, bearing off the Nurse’s body.
Now to the Goths, as swift as swallow flies,
There to dispose this treasure in mine arms,
And secretly to greet the Empress’ friends.
Come on, you thick-lipp’d slave, I’ll bear you hence,
For it is you that puts us to our shifts.
I’ll make you feed on berries and on roots,
And feed on curds and whey, and suck the goat,
And cabin in a cave, and bring you up
To be a warrior and command a camp.