This week’s film (1999’s Titus by Julie Taymor) was the very first actual Shakespearean adaptation shown at Cinema 1544 (because Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead doesn’t count).  Though, I will admit that for the write-up I took a bit of a cue from the short for that film – The Fifteen-Minute Hamlet – which excerpted just the best bits of Shakespeare’s masterpiece into a 15-minute short film (though it was a bit incoherent).  What I’m going to do here, instead of a traditional write-up (and how boring are those, anyway?), is a sort of Fifteen-Minute Titus.  I didn’t actually time it out, but I suppose this can probably be read through in fifteen minutes, and it gets you pretty much the entire plot of Titus Andronicus (and many, though certainly not all of the best lines) in a more-or-less coherent fashion. There are only one or two scenes (not terribly critical) skipped entirely, and there’s been a tiny bit of rearrangement in Act I to correspond to a similar shift in the film. All the text is straight from the play, though obviously lines are cut willy-nilly to fit my purposes.

Lastly, please excuse not only the length, but the (must be a record) 20 images.  It’s a beautiful film, and I couldn’t include half of the scenes I’d have liked to.  I’d say that Titus ranks very high – with The Fall and The Tree Of Life – among my favorite visual treats in cinema.  And the movie’s awesome, too.  That’s why I chose to present it.  And now without further ado:

The Fifteen-Minute Titus


Titus Andronicus, General:
Romans, of five and twenty valiant sons,
Behold the poor remains, alive and dead!
These that survive, let Rome reward with love,
These that I bring unto their latest home,
Make way to lay them by their brethren.
Sleep in peace, slain in your country’s wars!

Lucius Andronicus, eldest son:
Give us the proudest prisoner of the Goths,
That we may hew his limbs, and … sacrifice his flesh.

I give him you, the noblest that survives,
The eldest son of this distressed Queen.

Tamora, Queen of the Goths:
Thrice-noble Titus, spare my firstborn son!
O cruel, irreligious piety!


Saturninus, eldest son of the late emperor:
Noble patricians, patrons of my right,
Plead my successive title with your swords:
I am his first-born son, that was the last
That wore the imperial diadem of Rome.

Bassianus, brother of Saturninus:
Romans, friends, followers, favorers of my right
Suffer not dishonor to approach the imperial seat
Romans, fight for freedom in your choice!

Marcus Andronicus, brother of Titus:
Know that the people of Rome…have by common voice
In election for the Roman Empery chosen Andronicus.

And so I love and honor…thy noble brother Titus and his sons,
And her to whom my thoughts are humbled all,
Gracious Lavinia…that I will here dismiss my loving friends.

Rome, I have been thy soldier forty years
And buried one and twenty valiant sons.
Give me a staff of honor for mine age,
But not a sceptre to control the world.
Tribunes, I thank you and this suit I make,
That you create your emperor’s eldest son Lord Saturnine,
Crown him and say, Long live our emperor!

Titus Andronicus, for thy favors done
To us in our election on this day,
Lavinia will I make my empress


Lord Titus, by your leave this maid is mine!

Traitors, avaunt!

Mutius Andronicus, son of Titus:
Brothers, help to convey her hence away
And with my sword I’ll keep this door safe

What, villain boy! barr’st me my way in Rome [kills Mutius]

My lord you are unjust; and, more than so,
In wrongful quarrel you have slain your son.

Nor thou, nor he, are any sons of mine;
Traitor, restore Lavinia to the emperor.


No, Titus, the emperor needs her not.
Behold, I choose thee, Tamora, for my bride,
And will create thee empress of Rome.

Tamora (aside):
I’ll find a day to massacre them all,
The cruel father and his traitorous sons,
To whom I sued for my dear son’s life;
And make them know, what ’tis to let a queen
Kneel in the streets and beg for grace in vain.


Chiron, younger son of Tamora:
I love Lavinia more than all the world!

Demetrius, elder son of Tamora:
Lavinia is thine elder brother’s hope!

Aaron the Moor, secret lover of Tamora:
My lords, a solemn hunting is in the hand;
There will the lovely roman ladies troop
The forest walks are wide and spacious;
And many unfrequented plots there are,
Fitted by kind for rape and villainy:
The woods are ruthless, dreadful, deaf and dull:
There speak, and strike, brave boys, and take your turns;
There serve your lusts, shadow’d from heaven’s eye,
And revel in Lavinia’s treasury.


Aaron: [burying a bag of gold]
Know that this gold must coin a stratagem,
Which, cunningly effected, will beget
A very excellent piece of villainy.
Hark, Tamora, the empress of my soul,
This is the day of doom for Bassianus;
His Philomel must lose her tongue today;
Thy sons make pillage of her chastity,
And wash their hands in Bassianus’ blood.

Chiron: [Bassianus having been stabbed]
Drag hence her husband to some secret hole,
And make his dead trunk pillow to our lust.

But when ye have the honey ye desire,
Let not this wasp outlive, us both to sting.

Oh, Tamora!  Thou bear’st a woman’s face!
‘Tis present death I beg; and one thing more
O, keep me from their worse than killing lust,
Do this and be a charitable murderer.

So should I rob my sweet sons of their fee:
No, let them satisfy their lust on thee.


Martius Andronicus, son of Titus: [having fallen into a pit while hunting]
Why dost not comfort me and help me out
From this unhallow’d and blood-stained hole?
Lord Bassianus lies embrued here,
All on a heap, like to a slaughter’d lamb.

Quintus Andronicus, son of Titus:
Reach me thy hand, that I may help thee out;
Or, wanting strength to do thee so much good,
I may be pluck’d into the swallowing womb
Of this deep pit, poor Bassianus’ grave. [falls in]

Say, who art thou that lately did descend
Into this gaping hollow of the earth?

The unhappy son of old Andronicus;
Brought hither in a most unlucky hour.
To find thy brother Bassianus dead.

Where is my lord the king?

Here, Tamora; though griev’d with killing grief.
Poor Bassianus here lies murdered.

Then all too late I bring this fatal writ:

Saturninus: [reads]
Sweet huntsman, Bassianus ’tis we mean,
Do thou so much as dig the grave for him;
Thou knows’t our meaning.  Look for thy reward
Among the nettles at the elder-tree.

My gracious Lord, here is the bag of gold!

What, are they in this pit?  O, wondrous thing!
How easily murder is discovered!

Let them not speak a word, the guilt is plain;
For by my soul were there worse end than death,
That end upon them should be executed.


So now go tell, an if thy tongue can speak,
Who ’twas that cut thy tongue and ravished thee.

Write down thy mind, bewray thy meaning so,
An if thy stumps will let thee play the scribe. [exit]

If I do dream, would all my wealth would wake me!
If I do wake, some planet strike me down
That I may slumber in eternal sleep!
Speak, gentle niece, what stern ungentle hands
Have lopp’d and hew’d and made thy body bare
Of her two branches…why dost not speak to me?
Alas, a crimson river of warm blood
Doth rise and fall between thy rosed lips.
Come, let us go, and make thy father blind;
For such a sight will blind a father’s eye.


O, reverend tribunes! O, gentle, aged men!
Unbind my sons, reverse the doom of death!

O, noble father, you lament in vain;
The tribunes hear you not; no man is by;
And you recount your sorrows to a stone.

A stone is soft as wax, tribunes more hard than stones;
But wherefore stand’st thou with thy weapon drawn?

To rescue my two brothers from their death:
For which attempt, the judges have pronounc’d
My everlasting doom of banishment.

O, happy man! they have befriended thee.
Why, foolish Lucius, dost thou not perceive
That Rome is but a wilderness of tigers?
But who comes with our brother Marcus here?

Titus, prepare thy aged eyes to weep;
Or if not so, thy noble heart to break:
I bring consuming sorrow to thine age.

Speak, Lavinia, what accursed hand
Hath made thee handless in thy father’s sight?
What fool hath added water to the sea?
Or brought a faggot to bright-burning Troy?
My grief was at the height before thou cam’st
And now, like Nilus, it disdaineth bounds.
This way to death my wretched sons are gone;
Here stands my other son, a banish’d man;
And here my brother, weeping at my woes:
But that which gives my soul the greatest spurn
Is dear Lavinia, dearer than my soul.


Titus Andronicus, my lord the emperor
Sends thee this word, that if thou love thy sons,
Let Marcus, Lucius, or thyself, old Titus,
Or any one of you, chop off your hand,
And send it to the king: he for the same
Will send thee hither both thy sons alive.

My youth can better spare my blood than you.

My hand hath been but idle, let it serve
To ransom my two nephews from their death,
Then have I kept it to a worthy end.

Agree between you; I will spare my hand.

Then I’ll go fetch an axe.

But I will use the axe. [exeunt]

Come hither, Aaron; I’ll deceive them both:
Lend me thy hand and I will give thee mine.

I go, Andronicus; and for thy hand,
Look by and by to have thy sons with thee:
(Aside) Their heads, I mean.  O how this villainy
Doth fat me with the very thoughts of it!
Let fools do good, and fair men call for grace,
Aaron will have his soul black like his face.


Worthy Andronicus, ill art thou repaid
For that good hand thou sent’st the emperor.
Here are the heads of thy two noble sons,
And here’s thy hand, in scorn to thee sent back.

Now farewell flattery: die Andronicus;
Thou dost not slumber: See thy two sons’ heads;
Thy warlike hand; thy mangled daughter here.
Ah, now no more will I control thy griefs:
Now is a time to storm; why art thou still?
Why dost thou laugh? it fits not with this hour.

Why, I have not another tear to shed:
Besides, this sorrow is an enemy,
And would usurp upon my watery eyes,
And make them blind with tributary tears:
Then which way shall I find Revenge’s cave?

Now will I to the Goths and raise a power,
To be reveng’d on Rome and Saturnine.


How now, Lavinia! Marcus, what means this?
Some book there is that she desires to see.
Help her: what would she find? Lavinia shall I read?
This is the tragic tale of Philomel,
And treats of Tereus’ treason and his rape.

My lord, look here; look here Lavinia.
This sandy plot is plain; guide if thou canst,
This, after me, when I have writ my name,
Without the help of any hand at all.

Oh, do ye read, my lord, what she hath writ?
Chiron, Demetrius.

There is enough written upon this earth
To stir a mutiny in the mildest thoughts.


Nurse: [with a black newborn child]
Our empress’ shame, and stately Rome’s disgrace!
She is deliver’d lords, she is deliver’d.
Here is the babe, as loathsome as a toad.
The empress sends it thee, thy stamp, thy seal,
And bids thee christen it with thy dagger’s point.

Zounds, ye whore! Is black so base a hue?

Thou hast undone our mother.

Villain, I have done thy mother.

Nurse, give it me, my sword will soon despatch it.

He dies upon my scimitar’s sharp point
That touches this my firstborn son and heir!
But say, again, how many saw the child?

Cornelia the midwife, and myself,
And no one else but the deliver’d empress.

Two may keep counsel when the third’s away
Go to the empress, tell her this I said – [stabs her]
Shall she live to betray this guilt of ours?
A long-tongued babbling gossip?
And you must needs bestow her funeral,
This done, see that you take no longer days
But send the midwife presently to me.
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-lipped slave, I’ll bear you hence;
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.


Aemilius, messenger:
Arm, my lords, Rome never had more cause!
The Goths have gather’d head…
They hither march amain, under conduct
Of Lucius, son to old Andronicus.

Is warlike Lucius general of the Goths?
Ay, now begin our sorrows to approach.
‘Tis he the common people love so much!
Myself have often heard them say
That Lucius’ banishment was wrongfully.

Is the sun dimm’d, that gnats do fly in it?
I will enchant the old Andronicus,
With words more sweet, and yet more dangerous,
Than baits to fish, or honey-stalks to sheep.
Say that the emperor requests a parley
Of warlike Lucius, and appoint the meeting
Even at his father’s house, the old Andronicus.
And now, sweet emperor, be blithe again,
And bury all thy fear in my devices.


O, worthy Goth, this is the incarnate devil
That robb’d Andronicus of his good hand;
And here’s the base fruit of his burning lust.
A halter, soldiers! hang him on this tree,
And by his side his fruit of bastardy.
First hang the child that he may see it sprawl,
A sight to vex the father’s soul withal.

Lucius, save the child,
If thou do this, I’ll show thee wond’rous things,
That highly may advantage thee to hear.

Tell on thy mind; I say thy child shall live.

Swear that he shall, and then I will begin.

Who should I swear by? thou believ’st no god.

What if I do not? as indeed, I do not:
Yet, for I know thou art religious,
And hast a thing called conscience,
Therefore I urge thy oath.

Even by my god I swear to thee I will.

First know thou, I begot him on the empress;
‘Twas her two sons that murder’d Bassianus;
They cut thy sister’s tongue and ravish’d her
And cut her hands and trimm’d her as thou saw’st.
Indeed, I was their tutor to instruct them.
I train’d thy brethren to that guileful hole,
Where the dead corpse of Bassianus lay:
I wrote the letter that thy father found,
And hid the gold within the letter mention’d,
Confederate with the Queen and her two sons:
I played the cheater for thy father’s hand;
And almost broke my heart with extreme laughter.
And when I told the empress of this sport,
She swooned almost at my pleasing tale,
And for my tidings gave me twenty kisses.

Art thou not sorry for these heinous deeds?

Ay, that I had not done a thousand more.
And nothing grieves me heartily indeed,
But that I cannot do ten thousand more.

Bring down the devil, for he must not die
So sweet a death as hanging presently.


Tamora (disguised, with Demetrius and Chiron):
Thus, in this strange and sad habiliment,
I will encounter with Andronicus,
And say I am Revenge sent from below
To join with him and right his heinous wrongs.

Who doth molest my contemplation?
I am not mad, I know thee well enough:
Witness all sorrow, that I know thee well
For our proud empress, mighty Tamora.
Is not thy coming for my other hand?

Know, thou sad man, I am not Tamora;
She is thy enemy, and I thy friend.
I am Revenge, sent from the infernal kingdom.
These are my ministers, and come with me,
Rapine and Murder; therefore called so,
‘Cause they take vengeance of such mind of men.
Now will I hence about my business,
And take my ministers along with me.


Nay, nay, let Rape and Murder stay with me.  [Tamora exits]
Come, come Lavinia; look, thy foes are bound.
Hark, wretches! how I mean to martyr you.
You know your mother means to feast with me,
And calls herself Revenge and thinks me mad:
Hark, villains! I will grind your bones to dust,
And with your blood and it I’ll make a paste;
And make two pasties of your shameful heads;
And bid that strumpet, your unhallow’d dam,
Like to the earth, swallow her own increase.


The feast is ready, which the careful Titus
Hath ordain’d to an honourable end,
For peace, for love, for league, and good to Rome.

Welcome, my gracious lord; welcome, dread queen;
Welcome ye warlike Goths; welcome Lucius;
And welcome all! Although the cheer be poor,
‘Twill fill your stomachs, please you eat of it. [they eat]
My lord the emperor, resolve me this:
Was it well done of rash Virginius
To slay his daughter with his own right hand,
Because she was enforc’d, stain’d, and deflour’d?

It was, Andronicus.

A pattern-precedent, and lively warrant.
For me, most wretched, to perform the like:
Die, die, Lavinia, and thy shame with thee. [kills Lavinia]

Why hast thou slain thy only daughter thus?

Not I; ’twas Chiron and Demetrius:
They ravish’d her and cut away her tongue;
And they, ’twas they, that did her all this wrong.

Go fetch them hither to us presently.

Why, there they are, both baked in that pie
Whereof their mother daintily hath fed,
Eating the flesh that she herself hath bred. [kills Tamora]

Die, frantic wretch, for this accursed deed! [Kills Titus]


Can the son’s eye behold his father bleed?
There’s meed for meed, death for a deadly deed!  [Kills Saturninus]

Hither hail that misbelieving moor,
To be adjudg’d some direful-slaughtering death,
As punishment for his most wicked life.

Set him breast-deep in earth, and famish him;
There let him stand, and rave, and cry for food:
If any one relieves or pities him, for the offence he dies.


If one good deed in all my life I did,
I do repent it from my very soul.


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