Scene II

The same. A room in the palace

Enter, from one side, Aaron, Demetrius, and Chiron; from the other side, Young Lucius, and an Attendant, with a bundle of weapons, and verses writ upon them

Chiron

Demetrius, here's the son of Lucius;
He hath some message to deliver us.

Aaron

Ay, some mad message from his mad grandfather.

Young Lucius

My lords, with all the humbleness I may,
I greet your honours from Andronicus.

Aside

And pray the Roman gods confound you both!

Demetrius

Gramercy, lovely Lucius: what's the news?

Young Lucius

 [Aside]   That you are both decipher'd, that's the news,
For villains mark'd with rape.—May it please you,
My grandsire, well advised, hath sent by me
The goodliest weapons of his armoury
To gratify your honourable youth,
The hope of Rome; for so he bade me say;
And so I do, and with his gifts present
Your lordships, that, whenever you have need,
You may be armed and appointed well:
And so I leave you both:

Aside

like bloody villains.

Exeunt Young Lucius, and Attendant

Demetrius

What's here? A scroll; and written round about?
Let's see;

Reads

'Integer vitae, scelerisque purus,
Non eget Mauri jaculis, nec arcu.'

Chiron

O, 'tis a verse in Horace; I know it well:
I read it in the grammar long ago.

Aaron

Ay, just; a verse in Horace; right, you have it.

Aside

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 wrapped 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 awhile.
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.

Demetrius

But me more good, to see so great a lord
Basely insinuate and send us gifts.

Aaron

Had he not reason, Lord Demetrius?
Did you not use his daughter very friendly?

Demetrius

I would we had a thousand Roman dames
At such a bay, by turn to serve our lust.

Chiron

A charitable wish and full of love.

Aaron

Here lacks but your mother for to say amen.

Chiron

And that would she for twenty thousand more.

Demetrius

Come, let us go; and pray to all the gods
For our beloved mother in her pains.

Aaron

Aside

Pray to the devils; the gods have given us over.

Trumpets sound within

Demetrius

Why do the emperor's trumpets flourish thus?

Chiron

Belike, for joy the emperor hath a son.

Demetrius

Soft! who comes here?

Enter a Nurse, with a blackamoor Child in her arms

Nurse

Good morrow, lords:
O, tell me, did you see Aaron the Moor?

Aaron

Well, more or less, or ne'er a whit at all,
Here Aaron is; and what with Aaron now?

Nurse

O gentle Aaron, we are all undone!
Now help, or woe betide thee evermore!

Aaron

Why, what a caterwauling dost thou keep!
What dost thou wrap and fumble in thine arms?

Nurse

O, that which I would hide from heaven's eye,
Our empress' shame, and stately Rome's disgrace!
She is deliver'd, lords; she is deliver'd.

Aaron

To whom?

Nurse

I mean, she is brought a-bed.

Aaron

Well, God give her good rest! What hath he sent her?

Nurse

A devil.

Aaron

Why, then she is the devil's dam; a joyful issue.

Nurse

A joyless, dismal, black, and sorrowful issue:
Here is the babe, as loathsome as a toad
Amongst the fairest breeders of our clime:
The empress sends it thee, thy stamp, thy seal,
And bids thee christen it with thy dagger's point.

Aaron

'Zounds, ye whore! is black so base a hue?
Sweet blowse, you are a beauteous blossom, sure.

Demetrius

Villain, what hast thou done?

Aaron

That which thou canst not undo.

Chiron

Thou hast undone our mother.

Aaron

Villain, I have done thy mother.

Demetrius

And therein, hellish dog, thou hast undone.
Woe to her chance, and damn'd her loathed choice!
Accursed the offspring of so foul a fiend!

Chiron

It shall not live.

Aaron

It shall not die.

Nurse

Aaron, it must; the mother wills it so.

Aaron

What, must it, nurse? then let no man but I
Do execution on my flesh and blood.

Demetrius

I'll broach the tadpole on my rapier's point:
Nurse, give it me; my sword shall soon dispatch it.

Aaron

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 threatening 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-limed 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.

Demetrius

Wilt thou betray thy noble mistress thus?

Aaron

My mistress is my mistress; this myself,
The vigour 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.

Demetrius

By this our mother is forever shamed.

Chiron

Rome will despise her for this foul escape.

Nurse

The emperor, in his rage, will doom her death.

Chiron

I blush to think upon this ignomy.

Aaron

Why, there's the privilege your beauty bears:
Fie, treacherous hue, that will betray with blushing
The close enacts and counsels of the heart!
Here's a young lad framed 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 that womb where you imprison'd 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.

Nurse

Aaron, what shall I say unto the empress?

Demetrius

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.

Aaron

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.

They sit

Demetrius

How many women saw this child of his?

Aaron

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?

Nurse

Cornelia the midwife and myself;
And no one else but the deliver'd empress.

Aaron

The empress, the midwife, and yourself:
Two may keep counsel when the third's away:
Go to the empress, tell her this I said.

He kills the nurse

Weke, weke! so cries a pig prepared to the spit.

Demetrius

What mean'st thou, Aaron? wherefore didst thou this?

Aaron

O Lord, sir, 'tis a deed of policy:
Shall she live to betray this guilt of ours,
A long-tongued babbling gossip? no, lords, no:
And now be it known to you my full intent.
Not far, one Muli lives, 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 advanced,
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; ye 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.

Chiron

Aaron, I see thou wilt not trust the air
With secrets.

Demetrius

For this care of Tamora,
Herself and hers are highly bound to thee.

Exeunt Demetrius and Chiron bearing off the Nurse's body

Aaron

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.

Exit