David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s TITUS ANDRONICUS: A Retelling in Prose — Act 5, Scene 2

— 5.2 —

Before Titus’ house, Tamora and her two sons, Demetrius and Chiron, stood. They were dressed in fantastic costumes.

The disguised Tamora said, “Thus, in this strange and dark-colored costume, I will meet with Titus Andronicus, and tell him that I am Revenge, sent from below — the Land of the Dead — to join with him and right the heinous wrongs done to him.

“Knock at his study, where, they say, he stays and thinks about strange plots of dire revenge. Tell him that Revenge has come to join with him and work destruction on his enemies.”

Demetrius and Chiron knocked on Titus’ door.

Holding a document, Titus appeared at an upstairs window and asked, “Who molests my contemplation? Is this a trick to make me open the door so that my sad decrees may fly away, and all my study may be to no effect? You are deceived because what I intend to do you can see is here written in bloody lines I have set down; and what is written shall be executed.”

“Titus, I have come to talk with you,” Tamora replied.

“No, not a word,” Titus replied. “How can I grace my talk when I lack a hand to gesture with? You have the advantage of me; therefore, say no more.”

“If you knew who I am, you would talk with me,” Tamora said.

“I am not mad; I know you well enough,” Titus replied. “Witness this wretched stump, witness these crimson lines I have written with my blood in this document; witness these trenches — these wrinkles — made by grief and care, witness the tiring day and dark night, witness all sorrow that I well know you are our proud Empress, mighty Tamora. Is not your purpose for coming here to take my other hand?”

Tamora said. “Know, you sad and solemn man, I am not Tamora. She is your enemy, and I am your friend. I am Revenge, and I have been sent from the infernal kingdom to ease the gnawing vulture of your mind by working retributive vengeance on your foes.

“Come down, and welcome me to this world’s light. Confer with me about murder and about death. There’s not a hollow cave or lurking-place, no vast obscurity or misty valley where bloody murder or detested rape can hide for fear, but I will find them out; and in their ears I will tell them my dreadful name — Revenge, which makes the foul offender quake.”

“Are you Revenge?” Titus asked. “And have you been sent to me to be a torment to my enemies?”

“I am; therefore, come down and welcome me.”

“Do something for me, before I come to you,” Titus said. “See by your side where Rape and Murder stand. Now give me some guarantee that you are Revenge. Stab them, or tear them on your chariot-wheels.”

In this society, wheels were sometimes used to painfully kill people. One torture using a wheel was similar to that of the rack; people’s bodies would be stretched on the wheel until the joints were dislocated or until one or more limbs were torn off. People who were to be broken on the wheel would be tied to a wheel, and their bones would be broken. They would then be left to die.

Titus continued, “Do this, and then I’ll come and be your charioteer and whirl along with you about the globe. Provide two proper palfreys, as black as jet, to pull your vengeful wagon swiftly away, and find out murderers in their guilty caves, and when your chariot is loaded with their heads, I will dismount, and by the chariot wheel I will trot, like a servile footman, all day long, even from Sun’s rising in the east until the Sun sets in the sea. And day by day I’ll do this heavy and difficult task, as long as you destroy Rapine and Murder there.”

Tamora replied, “These are my ministers, and they come with me.”

“Are these your ministers?” Titus asked. “What are they called?”

The disguised Tamora, wanting to humor Titus, whom she thought was mad, used the same names that Titus had used earlier: “They are called Rape and Murder, and they are called those names because they take vengeance on men who rape and murder.”

“Good Lord, how like the Empress’ sons they are!” Titus said. “And how similar are you to the Empress! But we mortal men have miserable, mad, mistaking eyes.

“Sweet Revenge, now I come to you, and if one arm’s embracement will content you, I will hug you with my one arm soon.”

Titus exited from the window and started to climb downstairs.

“Titus’ agreeing with what I say suits his lunacy — the madman believes me,” the disguised Tamora said. “Whatever I invent to feed his brain-sick fits and moods, you, my sons, will uphold and maintain in your speeches because now he firmly believes that I am Revenge, and since he is credulous in this mad thought and amendable to accept suggestions, I’ll make him send for Lucius, his son. Then, while I at a banquet have him securely in my control, I’ll find some impromptu scheme to scatter and disperse the irresponsible Goths, or at least make them his enemies.”

Titus began to open the door and Tamora said to her sons, “See, here he comes, and I must pursue my plot.”

Titus said, “Long have I been pitifully lonely, and all because I wanted you, Revenge. Welcome, dread Fury, you goddess who pursues revenge, to my house that is filled with sorrows. Rape and Murder, you are welcome, too. How you resemble the Empress and her sons!

“Revenge, you would be well equipped if only you had a Moor. Could not all Hell lend you such a devil? For well I know the Empress never wags but in her company there is a Moor.”

He thought, When Tamora wags her tail, you can bet that the Moor is in bed with her.

He continued, “And, if you would represent our Queen correctly, it would be fitting for you to have such a devil. But you are welcome as you are. What shall we do?”

“What would you have us do, Titus Andronicus?” the disguised Tamora asked.

“Show me a murderer, and I’ll deal with him,” Demetrius said.

“Show me a villain who has committed a rape, and I will exact revenge on him,” Chiron said.

“Show me a thousand people who have done you wrong, and I will get revenge for you on all of them,” Tamora said.

Titus said, “Look round about the wicked streets of Rome; and when you find a man who resembles yourself, good Murder, stab him — he’s a murderer.

“Go with him, Rape, and when it is your luck to find another man who resembles you, good Rape, stab him — he’s a rapist.

“Go with them, Revenge, and in the Emperor’s court there you will find a Queen, who is attended by a Moor. You will recognize her by your bodily proportions because up and down she resembles you.

“Please, give these people a violent death; they have been violent to me and my loved ones.”

“Well have you taught us,” Tamora said. “This we shall do. But would it please you, good Titus Andronicus, to send for Lucius, your thrice-valiant son, who leads towards Rome a band of warlike Goths, and tell him to come and banquet at your house? When he is here at your ceremonious feast, I will bring in the Empress and her sons, as well as the Emperor himself and all the rest of your foes, and they shall be at your mercy and stoop and kneel, and on them you shall ease your angry heart.

“What do you say to this plan?”

Titus called, “Marcus, my brother! Sad and solemn Titus is calling you.”

Marcus entered the room.

Titus said, “Go, kind and gentle Marcus, to your nephew Lucius. You will find him among the Goths. Tell him to come to me, and bring with him some of the most important Princes of the Goths. Tell him to have his soldiers camp where they are. Tell him that the Emperor and the Empress shall feast at my house, and he shall feast with them. Do this for me out of love for me, a love that I return, and so let him come here if he has any regard for his aged father’s life.”

“I will do this, and I will soon return again,” Marcus said.

He exited.

Tamora said to Titus, “Now I will leave and go about your business, and I will take my ministers along with me.”

“No, no,” Titus said. “Let Rape and Murder stay with me, or else I’ll call my brother back again, and cleave to no revenge except what Lucius shall get for me.”

Tamora whispered to her sons, “What do you say, boys? Will you stay with him, while I go and tell my lord the Emperor how I have managed the jest we planned? Yield to Titus’ moods, flatter and speak nicely to him, and stay with him until I return again.”

Titus Andronicus thought, I know them all, although they suppose me to be insane, and I will outwit them in their own plots. They are a pair of cursed Hell-hounds and their dam, aka mother!”

Demetrius said to his mother, “Madam, depart when you like; leave us here.”

“Farewell, Titus Andronicus,” the disguised Tamora said. “Revenge now goes to lay a plot with which to betray your foes.”

“I know you do,” Titus replied, “and, sweet Revenge, farewell.”

Tamora exited.

“Tell us, old man, how shall we be employed?” Chiron asked. “What do you want us to do?”

“Tut, I have work enough for you to do,” Titus said. “Publius, come here, and Caius and Valentine come, too!”

Caius and Valentine were Titus’ kinsmen; Publius was Marcus’ son.

They entered the room, and Publius asked, “What do you want?”

Indicating Demetrius and Chiron, Titus asked, “Do you know these two men?”

Publius replied, “I think that they are the Empress’ two sons: Chiron and Demetrius.”

Titus said, “Really, Publius! You are too much deceived. One is named Murder, and the other is named Rape. Therefore tie them up, gentle Publius. Caius and Valentine, lay hands on them and keep them from running away. Often have you heard me wish for such an hour, one in which these two were in my control, and now I find it; therefore, bind them tightly, and gag their mouths if they begin to cry out.”

He exited, and his kinsmen began to restrain and tie up Demetrius and Chiron.

Chiron shouted, “Villains, stop! We are the Empress’ sons.”

Publius replied, “And for that reason we do what Titus commands us to do.”

He said to Caius and Valentine, “Gag their mouths, and don’t let them speak a word. Make sure that you tie them securely.”

Titus returned with Lavinia. He was carrying a knife, and she was carrying a basin with her stumps. Although her hands had been cut off at the elbows, she was able to carry the basin with her stumps by using her teeth to bite down on an edge of the basin.

“Come, come, Lavinia,” Titus said. “Look, your foes are bound.”

“Kinsmen, stop their mouths, don’t let them speak to me. But do let them hear the words I utter — my words will cause dread and fear.

“Oh, you villains, Chiron and Demetrius! Here stands the spring — Lavinia — whom you have stained with mud. You mixed your winter with this good summer. You killed her husband, and for that vile crime two of her brothers were condemned to death and my hand was cut off and made a merry jest. You cut off both of her sweet hands as well as her tongue, and you inhuman traitors forcibly violated that which was dearer to her than her hands or tongue — her spotless chastity. What would you say if I should let you speak? Villains, for shame you could not beg for mercy and grace.

“Pay attention, wretches! Listen to how I mean to butcher you. This one hand is still left to cut your throats while Lavinia holds between her stumps the basin that will receive your guilty blood.

“You know your mother intends to feast with me, and calls herself Revenge, and thinks that I am insane. Pay attention, villains! I will grind your bones to fine powder and I will make pie dough with your blood and ground-up bones. Out of that dough I will make a piecrust that will be a coffin for the meat inside the pie — that meat will come from your shameful heads. Then I will tell that whore, your unholy dam, to swallow her own produce — her own children. She will be like the earth that first gives birth to us and then swallows us when we die and are buried in her.

“This is the feast that I have invited her to, and this is the banquet she shall glut on. You treated my daughter worse than Philomela was treated, and my revenge will be worse than that of Procne.”

After Procne’s husband, Tereus, raped her sister, Philomena, and cut out her tongue. Procne got revenge by killing the son she had had with Tereus, cooking him, and feeding him to Tereus.

Titus continued, “And now, Demetrius and Chiron, prepare for your throats to be cut. Lavinia, come and catch their blood.”

Titus cut their throats, and Lavinia began catching their blood in the basin.

Titus said, “When they are dead, I will go and grind their bones to fine powder and with this hateful liquid mix it, and in that dough I will bake their vile heads.

“Come, come, everyone, be diligent in making this banquet, which I hope may prove to be sterner and bloodier than the Centaurs’ feast.”

When Pirithous, the King of the Lapiths, married Hippodamia, he invited the half-man, half-horse Centaurs to the wedding feast. The Centaurs got drunk, and tried to rape Hippodamia and carry away the Lapith women. Pirithous and the Lapiths fought back and defeated the Centaurs.

Titus said, “So, now bring their bodies inside my house, for I’ll play the cook, and see that they are ready to be eaten when their mother comes.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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