David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s TITUS ANDRONICUS: A Retelling in Prose — Act 4, Scenes 3-4

— 4.3 —

Titus Andronicus had prepared several arrows by attaching letters to them. With him were Marcus Andronicus, young Lucius, Publius (Marcus’ son), and two kinsmen of the Andronici: Sempronius and Caius. They were carrying bows. Other gentlemen were also present. Some people were carrying nets and tools.

“Come, Marcus; come, kinsmen,” Titus said. “This is the way.Sir boy, now let me see your archery. Make sure that you draw the bow fully, and the arrow will arrive at its destination immediately.”

He then said, “Terras Astraea reliquit.”

Terras Astraea reliquitis Latin for “Astraea, the goddess of justice, has left the Earth.”

Titus said, “Remember, Marcus, the goddess of justice is gone — she’s fled.”

He then ordered, “Sirs, take you to your tools. You, kinsmen, shall go and search the ocean, and cast your nets. Perhaps, and happily, you may catch her in the sea. Yet there’s as little justice in the sea as on land.

“Publius and Sempronius, you must dig with mattock and with spade, and pierce the inmost center of the earth. Then, when you come to Pluto’s region — the Land of the Dead — then please give him this petition. Tell him that the petition asks for justice and for aid and that it comes from old Titus Andronicus, who is shaken with sorrows in ungrateful Rome.

“Ah, Rome! Well, well; I made you miserable that time I threw the people’s votes to him — Saturninus — who thus tyrannizes over me.”

He said to some other gentlemen, “Go, get you gone; and please be careful, all of you, and leave not a man-of-war ship unsearched. This wicked Emperor may have shipped the goddess of justice away from here; and, kinsmen, if that is true then we may go and whistle for justice — we won’t find the goddess.”

Believing that Titus’ words showed that he was insane, Marcus said to his son, “Publius, isn’t this so sad — to see your noble uncle thus mentally disturbed?”

Publius replied, “Therefore, my lord, we must by day and night take care to always be near him and to indulge his mood as kindly as we can until time produces some healing remedy.”

Marcus said, “Kinsmen, Titus’ sorrows are past remedy. But let us live in hope that Lucius will join with the Goths and with war take revenge for this ingratitude and wreak vengeance on the traitor Saturninus.”

Titus said, “Publius, how are you now! How are you now, my masters! Have you met with the goddess of justice?”

“No, my good lord,” Publius replied, “but Pluto sends you word that if you want to have the goddess Revenge come from Hell, you shall get what you want. But as for Justice, she is so employed, he thinks, with Jove in Heaven, or somewhere else, that you must necessarily wait a while longer.”

“Pluto does me wrong to feed me with delays,” Titus said. “I’ll dive into the burning lake below in Hell, and pull the goddess of justice out of Acheron by the heels.

“Marcus, we are only shrubs — no cedars are we.”

Titus was alluding to this proverb: “High cedars fall when low shrubs remain.”

He continued: “We are not big-boned men framed with the size of the one-eyed giants called the Cyclopes, but we are metal, Marcus. We are steel to our backs. Yet we are wrung with more wrongs than our backs can bear. And, since there’s no justice on Earth or in Hell, we will solicit Heaven and move the gods to send down Justice so she can avenge our wrongs.

“Come, let’s attend to this business. You are a good archer, Marcus.”

Titus handed the others the arrows he had prepared, and he said these things:

 “The arrow with the letter to Jove, that’s for you.

“Here you are, the arrow with the letter to Apollo.

“The arrow with the letter to Mars, that’s for myself.

“Here, boy, the arrow with the letter to Pallas Athena.

“Here, the arrow with the letter to Mercury.

“This is the arrow with the letter to Saturn, Caius — the letter is not to Saturninus. You might as well shoot against the wind as ask Saturninus for justice.

“Way to go, boy!

“Marcus, let loose your arrow when I tell you to.

“On my word, I have written to good effect. There’s not a god that I have left unsolicited.”

Marcus ordered quietly, “Kinsmen, shoot all your arrows into the courtyard of Saturninus’ palace. We will afflict the Emperor in his pride.”

Titus’ own words showed that his plan was to have everyone shoot the arrows to the constellations so that the gods could read the letters attached to the arrows.

Titus ordered, “Now, masters, draw your bows.”

They all shot their arrows.

“Oh, well done, young Lucius!” Titus said. “Good boy, you shot your arrow into Virgo’s lap; you gave it to Pallas Athena.”

Virgo is the constellation of the Virgin in the Zodiac. Astraea, the goddess of justice, was the last god to leave Humankind. She lived on Earth during the Golden Age, but when Humankind became wicked, she fled to the sky and became the constellation Virgo. Like Pallas Athena, she was a virgin goddess.

Marcus said, “My lord, I aimed a mile beyond the Moon; your letter is with Jupiter by this time.”

Titus laughed and said, “Publius, Publius, what have you done? See, see, you have shot off one of Taurus’ horns.”

Taurus is the constellation of the Bull. Aries is the constellation of the Ram.

“This is entertaining, my lord,” Marcus said. “When Publius shot the arrow, the Bull, being scratched, gave Aries such a knock that both the Ram’s horns fell down into the courtyard. And who should find them but the Empress’ villain: Aaron? The Empress laughed, and told the Moor he should give the horns to his master — Saturninus — for a present.”

In other words, Aaron had cuckolded Saturninus and given him metaphorical horns.

“Why, there the horns go,” Titus said. “May God give his lordship — Saturninus — joy with his present!”

A rustic man, aka yokel, who carried two pigeons in a basket, walked over to them.

Titus said, “News, news from Heaven! Marcus, the postman has come.”

He said to the yokel, “Sirrah, what are the tidings? What is the news? Have you any letters for me? Shall I have justice? What does Jupiter say?”

“Oh, the gibbet-maker!” the yokel said, mistaking “Jupiter” for “gibbiter.” A gibbet is a gallows.

The yokel continued, “He says that he has taken the gallows down again, for the man must not be hanged until next week.”

Titus asked, “But I am asking you what does Jupiter say?”

“Alas, sir, I know not Jubiter; I never drank with him in all my life,” the yokel replied.

“Why, villain, aren’t you the letter-carrier?” Titus asked.

“I am a carrier, sir, but of pigeons, not of letters,” the yokel replied. “I carry nothing but pigeons.”

“Why, didn’t you come from Heaven?”

“From Heaven! Alas, sir, I never came there. God forbid that I should be so bold as to press my way to Heaven in my young days. When I am older, I hope to go to Heaven. Why, right now I am going with my pigeons to the tribunal plebs, to take up a matter of a brawl between my uncle and one of the emperial’s men.”

The yokel misused words. By tribunal plebs, he meant tribunus plebis, which is Latin for “Tribune of the Common People.” He was carrying the pigeons as a gift, aka bribe, to the Tribune so that he would help his uncle resolve the case. By “emperial’s,” he meant “Emperor’s.”

Marcus said to Titus, “Why, sir, this man is as suitable as can be to deliver your petition; let him deliver the pigeons to the Emperor from you.”

Titus asked the yokel, “Tell me, can you with grace deliver a petition to right a wrong to the Emperor?”

By “with grace,” Titus meant “gracefully,” but the yokel understood it to mean “with a prayer before a meal.”

The yokel replied, “No, truly, sir, I could never say grace in all my life.”

“Sirrah, come here,” Titus said to the yokel. “Make no more trouble, but give your pigeons to the Emperor. By me you shall have justice at his hands. Wait, wait; meanwhile, here’s money for your expenses.”

Titus gave him some money and then said, “Get me a pen and some ink.”

He then said to the yokel, “Sirrah, can you with grace deliver a petition?”

With money in his hand, the yokel replied, “Yes, sir.”

“Then here is a petition for you to deliver. And when you come to the Emperor, at the first approach you must kneel, then kiss his foot, then deliver up your pigeons, and then look for your reward. I’ll be at hand, sir; see you do it with a fine flourish.”

“I promise you that I will, sir. Leave it to me.”

Titus asked, “Sirrah, have you a knife?”

The yokel indicated that he had a knife, and Titus said, “Come, let me see it.”

Titus took the knife and then said, “Here, Marcus, fold the petition around it.”

After Marcus was done, Titus handed the petition and the knife to the yokel and said, “You must hold it like a humble suppliant. After you have given it to the Emperor, come and knock at my door, and tell me what he says.”

“May God be with you, sir; I will.”

Titus said, “Come, Marcus, let us go. Publius, follow me.”

— 4.4 —

In a room of the palace were Saturninus, Tamora, Demetrius, Chiron, and some lords and attendants.

Holding in his hand the arrows that Titus Andronicus and his kinsmen had shot, Saturninus said, “Why, lords, what insults are these! Was there ever seen an Emperor in Rome thus put down, troubled, and confronted like this, and, because he has dispensed justice fairly and evenly, treated with such contempt?

“My lords, you know, as do the mighty gods — no matter how much these disturbers of our peace buzz lies in the people’s ears — that nothing has occurred except what is in accordance with the law against the headstrong sons of old Titus Andronicus. And so what if his sorrows have so overwhelmed his wits and sanity? Shall we be thus afflicted and suffer because of his vengeance, his fits, his frenzy, and his bitterness?

“And now Titus writes to Heaven to redress the wrongs he claims were done to him. See, here’s a letter to Jove, and this letter is to Mercury. This letter is to Apollo; this letter is to the god of war. These are sweet scrolls to fly about the streets of Rome!

“What’s this but libel against the Senate, and proclaiming everywhere what Titus considers to be our injustice? A goodly sentiment, is it not, my lords? He would say that no justice is in Rome.

“But if I live, his feigned madness shall be no shelter to allow him to commit these outrages without being punished. He and his kinsmen shall know that justice lives in Saturninus’ health. If justice sleeps, he will so awake her that she in fury shall cut down the proudest conspirator who lives.”

Tamora said, “My gracious lord, my lovely Saturninus, lord of my life, commander of my thoughts, be calm, and bear the faults of Titus’ age, the effects of sorrow for his valiant sons, whose loss has pierced him deep and scarred his heart. Instead, comfort his distressed plight rather than prosecute the lowest- or the highest-ranking for these acts of contempt toward you.”

She thought, Why, it shall be best if quick-witted Tamora speaks fair — but false — words about everyone. But, Titus, I have touched you to the quick. Your life-blood is pouring out. If Aaron will now be wise and kill his and my child, then all is safe — the anchor’s in the port.

The yokel entered the room and Tamora said to him, “How are you now, good fellow! Do you want to speak with us?”

“Yes, indeed, if your mistress-ship is emperial.”

“I am the Empress, but yonder sits the Emperor.”

“It is he,” the yokel said.

He said to Saturninus, “May God and Saint Stephen give you a good day. I have brought you a letter and a couple of pigeons here.”

Saturninus took the letter and read it, and then he ordered, “Go and take this rustic fellow away, and hang him immediately.”

Mishearing “hung” as “hand,” the yokel asked, “How much money will I be handed?”

Tamora said, “Come, sirrah, you must be hanged.”

“Hanged!” the yokel said. “By our lady, then I have brought up a neck to a fair end. My neck and my legal case both come to an end.”

Guards took away the yokel.

Saturninus complained, “Despiteful and intolerable wrongs! Shall I endure this monstrous villainy? I know from whence this plot proceeds. Must I endure this? Titus believes that his traitorous sons, who died lawfully for the murder of our brother, have by my means been butchered wrongfully!

“Go and drag the villain Titus here by his hair. Neither old age nor honor shall confer immunity on him. Because of this proud insult of his, I’ll be his butcher. He is a sly frantic wretch who helped to make me great, in hopes that he would rule both Rome and me.”

Aemilius, a noble Roman, entered the room.

Saturninus asked, “What news have you brought, Aemilius?”

“Prepare for war, my lord — Rome never had more reason to do so. The Goths have gathered soldiers, and with an army of highly determined men who are resolved to plunder Rome, they are quickly marching here under the leadership of Lucius, son to old Andronicus. Lucius threatens, in the course of this revenge, to do as much as ever Coriolanus did.”

Coriolanus had been a heroic warrior and general for Rome, but he ended up leading an enemy army against Rome.

Saturninus asked, “Is warlike Lucius the general of the Goths? These tidings nip me the way that a gardener pinches off the buds of a plant, and I hang my head as flowers do with frost or grass that is beaten down with storms.

“Yes, now our sorrows begin to approach. Lucius is the man the common people love so much. I myself have often overheard them say, when I have walked in their midst while disguised like a private man, that Lucius was wrongfully banished. I have heard them say that they wished that Lucius were their Emperor.”

Tamora said, “Why should you fear the invading army? Is not your city strong?”

“Yes, but the citizens favor Lucius, and they will revolt from me and aid him.”

Tamora said, “King, let your thoughts be imperious, like your name. The name ‘Saturninus’ comes from the name of the god Saturn. Is the Sun dimmed when gnats fly in its beams? The eagle allows little birds to sing and does not care what they mean when they sing because the eagle knows that with the shadow of his wings he can, whenever he wishes, stop their melody. Like the eagle, you can stop the frivolous and irresponsible men of Rome. So cheer up your spirit.

“Know, Emperor, that I will enchant old Titus Andronicus with words that are more sweet, and yet more dangerous, than bait is to fish, or honey-stalks to sheep. The fish are wounded with the bait, and the sheep are rotted with excessive consumption of the delicious honey-stalks.”

This society believed that sheep became bloated and died from liver rot when they overfed on honey-stalks.

“But Titus will not ask his son not to attack us,” Saturninus said.

“If I, Tamora, ask Titus to do that, then he will. For I can sooth and flatter and fill his aged ear with golden promises, with the result that, even if his heart were almost impregnable and his old ears were deaf, his ears and his heart would still obey my tongue. Titus will do whatever I ask him to do — I can be very persuasive.”

She said to Aemilius, “Go to Lucius now and be our ambassador to him. Say that the Emperor requests a parley with warlike Lucius, and set up the meeting at the house of his father, old Titus Andronicus.”

Saturninus said, “Aemilius, honorably deliver this message. And if he insists on hostages to ensure his safety, ask him to identify which hostages will please him best.”

“I shall earnestly do as you wish,” Aemilius said, and he exited.

Tamora said, “Now I will go to old Titus Andronicus, and manipulate him with all the art I have so that we can pluck proud Lucius from the warlike Goths.

“And now, sweet Emperor, be blithe and happy again, and bury all your fear and have faith in my plan.”

Emperor Saturninus replied, “Go immediately to Titus, and plead with him.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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