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I have dogs, my lord,
Will rouse the proudest panther in the chase,
Makes way, and run like swallows o'er the plain.
SCENE III-A lonely part of the Forest.
Enter AARON, with a bag of gold.
Aar. He that had wit would think that I had none,
And never after to inherit it.
Let him that thinks of me so abjectly
Know that this gold must coin a stratagem,
And so repose, sweet gold, for their unrest
ing of panthers in the neighbourhood of Rome seems somewhat on a par with the seaport in Bohemia. Such a mixture as panthers and deer is certainly not possible, still less probable, in Europe at all. I strongly suspect the whole story of an originally Oriental origin; the lavish bloodshed and rapine being more Oriental than Roman. But the myth has evidently been modified in transit through European hands. Chiron and Demetrius are not Europeans, they are Bashibazouks.
20. I have dogs, my lord] I think here again we have symbolism and irony. The "proudest panther" refers
That have their alms out of the empress' chest.
Tam. My lovely Aaron, wherefore look'st thou sad
The snake lies rolled in the cheerful sun,
The green leaves quiver with the cooling wind,
As if a double hunt were heard at once,
Let us sit down and mark their yelping noise;
9. That have their alms] Is rather obscure, and seems to me to mean that the Empress will give the Andronici gifts, i.e. punishment, out of her chest, i.e. her "sacred wit," which contains evil for them.
12. The birds chant melody, etc.] This fine passage is surely, if one may use the expression, doubly Shakespearian, firstly in its extreme and rare poetic and rhythmic beauty, and secondly in that love of contrast or irony by which he makes it a prelude to one of the most horrible scenes in this horrible drama. See Shelley's Adonais, stanzas, 18 and 19.
15. chequer'd shadow] "Dancing in
the chequered shade," Milton's L'Allegro.
20. yelping] The Quartos have "yellowing," possibly a variant of "yelling.” But we have no other example of the word.
23. with] by, a very common use of the word by Shakespeare and earlier writers. See Abbott, pars. 193-195; Franz, § 383, etc.
23. happy] fortunate.
24. counsel-keeping] that tells no tales; not elsewhere in Shakespeare.
26. golden slumber] excellent delicious sleep. Cf. Romeo, II. iii. 38; Henry IV. 11. 344; Colley Cibber's Apology (1756), ii. 35, "golden actor."
Whiles hounds and horns and sweet melodious birds
Be unto us as is a nurse's song
Of lullaby to bring her babe asleep.
Aar. Madam, though Venus govern your desires,
What signifies my deadly-standing eye,
Vengeance is in my heart, death in my hand,
No, madam, these are no venereal signs:
Blood and revenge are hammering in my head.
Hark, Tamora, the empress of my soul,
Which never hopes more heaven than rests in thee,
29. bring... asleep] put to sleep; originally on sleep,' see Acts xiii. 36; Barth de P., VI. iv. (1495) 191, Nouryces bring the children softly on slepe," New. Eng. Dict.
31. Saturn is dominator, etc.] In astrology, palmistry, etc., Saturn was a malign influence both on the person into whose horoscope he comes and those connected with him, and involved disaster and misfortune, if not crime. Chaucer, who was an adept in astrology, describes particularly the malign influence of Saturn in The Knight's Tale. Collins quotes from Beaumont and Fletcher, "sullen Saturn," etc. For "dominator," ruler, see "Dominator of Navarre," Love's Labour's Lost, I. i. 222.
32. deadly-standing] fixed and staring like that of the dead. This and the rest of the passage savour no doubt of what to modern taste is balderdash; but this is no argument that it was not written by Shakespeare, at least in his
youth. It is just the sublime balderdash that only a man of genius like Marlowe or Shakespeare can write, without being absolutely absurd. It is redeemed by accurate realistic touches. Aaron had really planned out the whole horrible scheme, and, hardened as he was, he was intensely excited as its consummation approached.
37. venereal] erotic; does not occur again in Shakespeare, used by Nash, Anatomie of Absurditie (M'Kerrow, 1904), i. 19. Chaucer uses venerien," Wife of Bath's Prologue, 609, in the
39. Blood and revenge are hammering in my head] is a precise description of the "drumming" of the blood in one's head under intense excitement. How true too is the psychology of the scene! With the woman, her passion drowns her desire for revenge; with the man, the desire for the success of his infamous schem❤keeps his passion in abeyance.
Thy sons make pillage of her chastity,
And wash their hands in Bassianus' blood.
Seest thou this letter? take it up, I pray thee,
And give the king this fatal-plotted scroll.
Be cross with him; and I'll go fetch thy sons
Enter BASSIANUS and LAVINIA.
Bass. Whom have we here?
Unfurnish'd of her well-beseeming troop?
Or is it Dian, habited like her,
Who hath abandoned her holy groves,
To see the general hunting in this forest?
Had I the power that some say Dian had,
Cf. Two Gentlemen, 1. iii. 18; 2 Henry
47. fatal-plotted] contrived to a fatal end; the only instance in Shakespeare. 48. question] discuss. Sonnets, lxvii. 9; Henry VIII. 1. i. 130.
49. parcel] part, portion, party. See Love's Labour's Lost, v. ii. 160, "A holy parcel of the fairest dames!"
53. Be cross with him] perverse or rude, so as to pick a quarrel with him.
54. To back thy quarrels] support you in your quarrels.
56. Unfurnish'd] unaccompanied by, or deprived of. Winter's Tale, V. i. 123.
56. well-beseeming troop] the guard or following suitable to her as Empress. 1 Henry IV. I. i. 14.
57. Dian] intensely sarcastic, of
63. With horns] Shakespeare seems never to tire of the subject of horns, as implying cuckoldry. In The Merry Wives, in Much Ado, Love's Labour's Lost, As You Like It, and many other plays, he returns again and again to this theme, which to us is alike indecorous and banal. It evidently found favour with Elizabethan and Jacobean audi
Should drive upon thy new-transformed limbs,
Lav. Under your patience, gentle empress,
'Tis thought you have a goodly gift in horning;
And to be doubted that your Moor and you
Are singled forth to try experiments.
Jove shield your husband from his hounds to-day! 70
Bass. Believe me, queen, your swarth Cimmerian
Why are you sequester'd from all your train,
Great reason that my noble lord be rated
64. drive] let drive, attack. See Hamlet, II. ii. 494.
66. Under your patience, etc.] Exception has been taken by some critics, especially by Arthur Symons in his able introduction to the Facsimile of the First Quarto of this play, to Lavinia's language here. See Introduction, p. xlvii et seq.
69. singled] See previous note. 72. swarth] swart, swarthy. QI gives "swarty." Cf. Sonnets, xxviii. II; and Beaumont and Fletcher, Island Princess, vi., "Foul swarth ingratitude has taken off thy sweetness."
72. Cimmerian] one of a people from whom, according to Plutarch, Homer took his conceptions of the dark infernal regions, in which he was followed by Virgil and Ovid. There were two peoples or nations of this
name, one located in Asia Minor and South Russia (where they left the name Crimea), and another dwelling on the coast of Campania, a robber race who lived in caves, where they concealed their booty, and from them the idea of Cimmerian darkness seems to have
74. Spotted] that is tainted or infected as with a plague; frequent in Shakespeare, as Lucrece, 196, 721, 1172; Othello, V. i. 36; Midsummer-Night's Dream, 1. i. 110, etc. etc. Surely Mr. Symons was thinking of this speech of Bassianus when he characterises Lavinia's language so strongly! The dramatist obviously wishes from the first to divert a portion of our sympathy to Tamora, and make her revenges, if horrible, still natural in one whose feelings have been cruelly outraged from the first.