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I pray you, let us hence,
And let her joy her raven-colour'd love;
This valley fits the purpose passing well.
Bass. The king my brother shall have note of this.
Tam. Why have I patience to endure all this?
Enter DEMETRIUS and CHIRON.
Dem. How now, dear sovereign, and our gracious mother!
Why doth your highness look so pale and wan?
Tam. Have I not reason, think you, to look pale?
83. joy] to enjoy; several times in Shakespeare in this sense, as Richard II. v. vi. 26; Richard III. II. iv. 59,
86. slips] offences, faults, as Hamlet, II. i. 22, 66 wanton, wild, and usual slips," etc.
86. him noted long] There is, as Dr. Johnson pointed out, something very wrong about the chronology of this part of the play. This line alone makes it evident that some interval had elapsed since Tamora's marriage, and the only place where this interval can possibly come in is between the two Acts, and not, as Dr. Johnson suggests, between Scenes 1 and 2 of this Act, which are obviously closely consecutive in point of time, as Aaron says in Scene 1, My lord, a solemn hunting is at hand." The interval can thus only come, as is natural, between the two Acts. The only solution I can see is that there were two hunts in the play, one at the invitation of Titus on the day after Act I. closes, and a second later on, after an interval of at least weeks, if not months; and I think that Aaron's
opening speech implies, not only that Tamora was made Empress, but also that she had obtained complete control over Saturninus, which might be the work of some little time. Steevens conjectures "her" for "him." This is possibly right, especially as in earlier versions of the play the intrigue is even more obvious than in Shakespeare's. See Introduction, p. lxxix.
92. tied] enticed, in QI "ticed." The Quarto printer did not use the form "'d," but marked the silence of the "e" either by omission as in "showd," or by the old form "de" or "d" as "calde" and "cald" in this same speech. It is possible that "ticed" was meant for a disyllable, making "ticed me a dactyl.
93. A barren, etc.] This is undoubtedly a powerful description, and by no means unworthy of Shakespeare in his earlier days. Tamora, in order to excite her sons to fury, invents a quite imaginary narrative about the abhorred pit, and exaggerates Bassianus' and Lavinia's language. This speech has the further dramatic function of
The trees, though summer, yet forlorn and lean,
Should straight fall mad, or else die suddenly.
No sooner had they told this hellish tale,
But straight they told me they would bind me here
And leave me to this miserable death:
And then they call'd me foul adulteress,
Lascivious Goth, and all the bitterest terms
That ever ear did hear to such effect; And, had you not by wondrous fortune come, This vengeance on me had they executed. Revenge it, as you love your mother's life, Or be ye not henceforth call'd my children. describing the pit (which could not be staged, and was represented merely by a trap-door) to the audience. "Barren detested" may be scanned as a slurred or as a dactylic foot--.. The inconsistency between the two descriptions of her surroundings by Tamora has been pointed out; but I think it is meant to reflect her own change of mood, from the pleasurable anticipation of enjoyment with her lover to the state of doubt and apprehension into which the presence of Bassianus and Lavinia threw her. She also wishes to excite her sons by representing that she had
been enticed into a horrible and dangerous place.
95. O'ercome] overcome, conquered, covered by; not elsewhere in Shakespeare in this sense.
101. urchins] hedgehogs. We retain the term in "sea-urchin."
103. body] (as in Scotch) person. Two Gentlemen, I. ii. 18, etc.
104. Should straight, etc.] This, Johnson remarks, was said in fabulous physiology of those who heard the groan of the mandrake when torn up. See Romeo, IV. iii. 48.
115. Or be ye not, etc.] This line does
Dem. This is a witness that I am thy son.
Chi. And this for me, struck home to show my strength. [Also stabs Bassianus, who dies.
Lav. Ay, come, Semiramis, nay, barbarous Tamora;
For no name fits thy nature but thy own.
Tam. Give me thy poniard; you shall know, my boys, 120 Your mother's hand shall right your mother's wrong.
Dem. Stay, madam; here is more belongs to her:
First thrash the corn, then after burn the straw.
This minion stood upon her chastity,
Upon her nuptial vow, her loyalty,
And with that painted hope she braves your mightiness:
Chi. An if she do, I would I were an eunuch.
Drag hence her husband to some secret hole,
not run well as it stands, an unusual
118. Semiramis] Queen of Assyria may best be described as an ancient Catherine of Russia, famous at once for her ability as a ruler and her insatiable sexual passion.
124. minion] here in the contemptuous and opprobrious sense of the word, which originally meant darling, favourite, and is used by Shakespeare in that sense also, just as we still use the word "mistress" in an honourable or dishonourable sense. The word is the same as the French Mignon, and connected with the first part of the word
minne-singer. In Scotch it appears as "minnie," but in the favourable sense.
124. stood upon] prided herself upon, or maintained, or perhaps it involves both ideas or valuing and preserving her virtue.
126. painted hope] unreal, vain, as in "painted pomp," As You Like It, 11. i. 3; " painted peace," King John, 111. i. 105. This line must be read with a pause or rest after "hope."
130. And make] a very brutal touch, which Shakespeare, if even only editor of the play, might well have spared us. It is, moreover, inconsistent with what follows, and seems wantonly thrown in to pile up the horror; or perhaps it is a survival from a cruder form of the play.
Chi. I warrant you, madam, we will make that sure.
Come, mistress, now perforce we will enjoy
Lav. O Tamora! thou bear'st a woman's face,-
To see her tears; but be your heart to them
Lav. When did the tiger's young ones teach the dam?
Yet every mother breeds not sons alike:
[To Chiron.] Do thou entreat her show a woman pity.
Chi. What! would'st thou have me prove myself a bastard?
135. nice-preserved] carefully preserved, or coyly preserved. As "nice" has also the meaning of coy, prudish, as "she is nice and coy," Two Gentlemen, III. i. 82.
137. I will not hear her speak, etc.] Tamora does not seem quite sure of herself, and appears anxious to have Lavinia dragged away before she, Tamora, relents. This seems to me a very subtle touch. Lavinia, who certainly is very maladroit, throws away her opportunity by attacking Tamora as the tiger's dam. See Introduction, p. xlvii et seq.
142. When did, etc.] This seems like a touch of Shakespeare's encyclopædic knowledge, as it is a fact that young tigers (like kittens) require to be taught to hunt and do not do it by instinct.
To have his princely claws par'd all away.
Some say that ravens foster forlorn children,
The whilst their own birds famish in their nests:
O! be to me, though thy hard heart say no,
Tam. I know not what it means; away with her!
Lav. O let me teach thee: for my father's sake,
That gave thee life when well he might have slain thee,
Be not obdurate, open thy deaf ears.
Tam. Hadst thou in person ne'er offended me,
Remember, boys, I pour'd forth tears in vain
Therefore, away with her, and use her as you will:
Lav. O Tamora! be call'd a gentle queen,
And with thine own hands kill me in this place;
152. claws] This is clearly the meaning, but it is a gloss of Collins, as both QI and FI have "paws." Apparently an allusion to the standard anecdote of Androcles and the lion, as Androcles had probably to cut away the claws before removing the thorn.
153. ravens, etc.] This was evidently a piece of popular folk-lore, whether arising from the biblical story of Elijah or no, as we have it in Winter's Tale, II. iii. 186. I doubt whether any modern instance could be cited of this voluntary foster-motherhood to human infants, but there are authenticated instances of female animals adopting and fostering animals of a different species for their own.
154. birds] nestlings. Cf. 1 Henry VI. v. i. 60, and 3 Henry VI. II. i. 91, and in North of Ireland dialect (Craig), the original meaning of the word, New Eng. Dict.
156. Nothing so kind] This line has to my ear a genuine ring of Shakespeare; it means not so much as kind but only pitiful. 2 Henry VI. v. ii. 65.
158. for my father's sake] Another instance of Lavinia's maladroitness. She was thinking no doubt of Titus' sparing Tamora and her sons in the first instance, whereas she only succeeds in reminding Tamora of his cruelty to Alarbus.
170. For 'tis not life] She has hitherto been pleading to be spared altogether,