Immagini della pagina

daring work of the young Shakespeare.

Though perilously full of matter, the plot is clear and compact; the immense tragic forces which are let loose contend for dominance in interest as well as for the triumph of their cause; but their encounters are adequately motived, and with all their energy of wrath they do not lose themselves in the annihilating frenzy which blurs the outlines of Marlowe's Barabas. The three great contrivers of the harms, Titus, Tamora, and Aaron, are shaped with a rude and. somewhat uncertain hand; but a trait here and there suggests the future author of Richard III., of Lear, and Othello in this resolute emulator of Marlowe and Kyd.1 Titus and Tamora bear the stamp of the Kydian tragedy of Revenge. Their tragic career is provoked by a deadly, unpardonable wrong. Aaron, on the other hand, is related rather to the Marlowesque tragedy of dæmonic energy,-virtù-which dooms its victims out of pure malignancy.2 But Titus has touches of a Shakespearean magnanimity which remove him far from the blind pursuer of vengeance. His generous disclaimer of the imperial crown in the opening scene fitly preludes the nobly-imagined scene in which he hews off his hand to save his sons. The scene (iii. 2.) where the two brothers so passionately moralise the death of a fly, already heralds those apparently trivial moments of pause which the mature Shakespeare is wont to make pregnant of

1 These faint affinities have been worked out with much ingenuity by Prof. A. Schröer in his interesting study of the play Über Titus Andronicus (Marburg, 1891).

2 There are curious analogies in detail between Aaron and Richard III. He also derives a

motive for crime from his unpromising exterior :

Let fools do good, and fair men call for grace,

Aaron will have his soul black like his face.

Cf. also his monologue in ii. 1. with Richard's opening soliloquy. (Schröer, N.S., p. 115.)

tragic suggestion. And the tenderness for his child which so suddenly and strangely intrudes upon the fiendish malignity of Aaron, is a trait which might well escape from the pen of the future delineator of Shylock and his daughter. Most critics have recognised Shakespearean touches in the style. Certainly, the bookish allusions which are so abundantly woven into its texture are tempered with many touches caught from the open-air life of nature such as nowhere fail in the young Shakespeare. A woodland brake-a 'pleasant chase '—is the scene of the most tragic deed in the whole play, and we are not allowed to forget over the sufferings of Lavinia the morning dew upon the leaves or their chequered shadow upon the ground as they quiver in the breeze.

The data for a conclusive case on the authorship of Titus Andronicus are wholly wanting. English criticism has too peremptorily decided against Shakespeare's claim on the ground of the palpable defects of the plot, and the difficulty of bringing this grim tragedy into relation with the bright and joyous comedy which apparently occupied Shakespeare's early manhood. But we know far too little of that early manhood to be entitled to exclude from it whatever will not fall in with a particular scheme of development; and, in view of the strong external evidence, the more critical course appears to be a qualified acceptance.

1 It has been pointed out by Dr. Cunliffe in his valuable study of the Influence of Seneca on Elizabethan Tragedy, that some of the most striking of the Senecan parallels with which this play abounds occur in the more

Shakespearean passages. Cf. e.g. with this passage (ii. 3.) the lines:

hic aves querulæ fremunt ramique ventis lene percussi tremunt Hippolytus, 516.




SCENE I. Rome. Before the Capitol.

The Tomb of the ANDRONICI appearing; the Tribunes and Senators aloft.

Enter, below,

from one side, SATURNINUS and his Followers;
and, from the other side, BASSIANUS and his
Followers; with drum and colours.

Sat. Noble patricians, patrons of my right,
Defend the justice of my cause with arms,
And, countrymen, my loving followers,
Plead my successive title with your swords:
I am his first-born son, that was the last
That wore the imperial diadem of Rome;
Then let my father's honours live in me,
Nor wrong mine age with this indignity.

Bas. Romans, friends, followers, favourers of my right,

If ever Bassianus, Cæsar's son,

Were gracious in the eyes of royal Rome,

Keep then this passage to the Capitol

Sc. 1. aloft, i.e. in the capitol.

[blocks in formation]


8. age, seniority.


And suffer not dishonour to approach
The imperial seat, to virtue consecrate,
To justice, continence and nobility;
But let desert in pure election shine,

And, Romans, fight for freedom in your choice.

Enter MARCUS ANDRONICUS, aloft, with the


Marc. Princes, that strive by factions and by friends

Ambitiously for rule and empery,

Know that the people of Rome, for whom we stand

A special party, have, by common voice,
In election for the Roman empery,
Chosen Andronicus, surnamed Pius

For many good and great deserts to Rome:
A nobler man, a braver warrior,

Lives not this day within the city walls:
He by the senate is accited home

From weary wars against the barbarous Goths;
That, with his sons, a terror to our foes,
Hath yoked a nation strong, train'd up in arms.
Ten years are spent since first he undertook
This cause of Rome and chastised with arms
Our enemies' pride: five times he hath return'd
Bleeding to Rome, bearing his valiant sons
In coffins from the field;

And now at last, laden with honour's spoils,
Returns the good Andronicus to Rome,
Renowned Titus, flourishing in arms.
Let us entreat, by honour of his name,
Whom worthily you would have now succeed,
And in the Capitol and Senate's right,

Whom you pretend to honour and adore,
That you withdraw you and abate your strength;

27. accited, summoned.

42. pretend, claim.




Dismiss your followers and, as suitors should,
Plead your deserts in peace and humbleness.

Sat. How fair the tribune speaks to calm my thoughts!

Bas. Marcus Andronicus, so I do affy

In thy uprightness and integrity,

And so I love and honour thee and thine,

Thy noble brother Titus and his sons,

And her to whom my thoughts are humbled all,
Gracious Lavinia, Rome's rich ornament,
That I will here dismiss my loving friends,
And to my fortunes and the people's favour
Commit my cause in balance to be weigh'd.
[Exeunt the Followers of Bassianus.
Sat. Friends, that have been thus forward in
my right,

I thank you all and here dismiss you all,
And to the love and favour of my country
Commit myself, my person and the cause.

[Exeunt the Followers of Saturninus.

Rome, be as just and gracious unto me
As I am confident and kind to thee.

Open the gates, and let me in.

Bas. Tribunes, and me, a poor competitor.
[Flourish. Saturninus and Bassianus go
up into the Capitol.

Enter a Captain.

Cap. Romans, make way: the good Andronicus, Patron of virtue, Rome's best champion, Successful in the battles that he fights,

With honour and with fortune is return'd

From where he circumscribed with his sword,

And brought to yoke, the enemies of Rome.

47. affy, confide.

65. Patron, advocate, appointed defender (Lat. 'patronus').



« IndietroContinua »