TITUS ANDRONICUS


Dutch adaptation by Marianne van Raaij

Translated into English by Ton Hoenselaars


Dramatis personæ

Titus Andronicus, a Roman general

Tamora, Queen of the Goths

Police inspector



Scene: A clean but sombre place,
like a prison cell with table and chairs.


Scene 1


Police inspector is on stage before the arrival of Tamora. He moves chairs around, organises the files on his desk. Fetches a container of water and glasses. Tamora enters. She waits in the doorway.

 

Police inspector

Eh, well. Good afternoon. Mrs Tamora? [Puts out his hand, and briefly shakes Tamora's hand.] My name's Inspector Williams. Please sit down. Would you like something to drink? Coffee? Tea? Water?

Tamora

I'll have a glass of water, please.

Police inspector

[Pours two glasses.] Well, I sent for you to explain several, shall we say bizarre matters. There are quite some rumours that a number of very strange events took place in your family, to put it mildly. [Consults his files.] I mean murder, homicide, mutilation, rape, eh, cannibalism even. [Tamora coughs.] We would like to put an end to those rumours, you see. Of course, I should add that another party, namely General Titus, has also been invited for an interview. [Tamora coughs again.] You were saying?

Tamora

Nothing.

Police inspector

Well. Perhaps we had better start at the beginning. Over a year ago now your people were beaten and, as customary, you as their queen were conducted to Rome for the customary ceremonies following victories of that kind.

Tamora

The customary ceremonies, yes.

Police inspector

Like the triumphal march and the ritual sacrifices ...

Tamora

The customary ceremonies, the ritual sacrifices hacking my boy to pieces and burning ...

Police inspector

But prisoners are always sacrificed.

Tamora

Not my child, my eldest son. He tore him from my arms.

Police inspector

Who?

Tamora

Titus did. Titus Andronicus.

Police inspector

It is the victorious general who makes the sacrifices. Titus himself had lost two sons in the field. The law demands that the blood of the one wipe away the stain left by the other.

Tamora

So I told him. In a loud voice I told him that he had sons himself. I begged him, begged him to save my son.

Police inspector

But of course we are talking about postwar rites.

Tamora

But what did that boy have to do with the war in the first place? He was not a soldier. [Silence.]

Police inspector

I would like to continue. After some time you became the wife of the emperor.


Tamora

His widow.

Police inspector

Well, yes. But I would like to go back to the beginning. Through that marriage you became a distant relative of Titus. After all, your husband's brother married Titus's only daughter, Lavinia. Your husband had just been crowned emperor, but your brother-in-law had also been eying that position. The name of Titus was also bruited at that time. How did you cope with the situation?

Tamora

Saturninus was the eldest son. So he was entitled to the empire. All those intrigues. Bassianus ...

Police inspector

Your brother-in-law ...

Tamora

And Titus with all his triumphs. We were forced to rule with a firm hand.

Police inspector

We?

Tamora

We negotiated a great deal, Saturninus and I.

Police inspector

Still, you organised a kind of picnic. For Bassianus and Lavinia as well as for Titus and his sons. Is that not strange, given the sacrifice of your son, but also the then current political unrest?

Tamora

No. After all, it was a hunting party.

Police inspector

And at that hunting party, what precisely took place?

Tamora

We lost sight of one another. Such things happen during the hunt.

Police inspector

Witnesses would testify that you were seen with Bassianus and Lavinia.

Tamora

Maybe.

Police inspector

Later you were seen with your two sons, Demetrius and Chiron. The rest is not clear. All we know is that two sons of Titus's, with a gory knife and blood on their clothes, were discovered at the corpse of Bassianus. Lavinia was found there too, mutilated and, as we now know, raped. Where were you, and whom were you with? Were your sons with you all that time?

Tamora

I cannot remember.

Police inspector

But it is a fact, is it not, that you directly accused Titus's two sons of the murder, and the rape, and the mutilation?

Tamora

Bassianus was after power, and so was the pack of Titus.

Police inspector

But brothers to rape their own sister, cut off her tongue, chop off her hands ...

Tamora

Surely it was meant to keep her from speaking or writing. Like father like son, or sons rather.

Police inspector

After that your husband called for summary jurisdiction.

Tamora

It was a clear-cut case, was it not?

Police inspector

Titus begged your husband to save their lives. He asked for an official investigation. And instead of that to ...

Tamora

That was none of my business.

Police inspector

And from the testimony that Lavinia gave later ...

Tamora

What testimony? There was no way she could testify!

Police inspector

It would appear, though, that she mentioned the names of those who raped her.

Tamora

Without her tongue? Nonsense. It would be most extraordinary!

Police inspector

What's even more extraordinary is that, not long after, you accepted an invitation to a banquet organised by Titus. After all that had happened: your son sacrificed, the sons of Titus executed, his daughter mutilated all those victims, and you decided to have dinner together!

Tamora

That is not what happened. Even when Bassianus was dead and those two sons of Titus out of the way, the misery was not over. The sole surviving son of Titus, that Lucius, continued to stir up trouble. My husband did not feel safe.

Police inspector

You were afraid of Titus?

Tamora

No, not of Titus. He had locked himself up in his house and seemed continually to be making sacrifices to the gods. [Gestures suggesting that she thought Titus Andronicus had gone mad.]

Police inspector

So you were afraid of Lucius?

Tamora

He seemed to be gathering a gang around himself.

Police inspector

So when the invitation came from Titus?

Tamora

Well, I wanted we wanted to negotiate a compromise. Perhaps Titus could control Lucius in some way. So I went to see him.

Police inspector

With your sons?

Tamora

Yes. And it was then that he invited us to the banquet.

Police inspector

And you left behind your sons? With someone whom sorrow had ...

Tamora

Sorrow! What sorrow?

Police inspector

That was the last time you saw Demetrius and Chiron alive?

Tamora

Yes.

Police inspector

Now, the banquet. How did it go? What did you have?

Tamora

[Helps herself to a glass of water.]

Police inspector

Would you care to say any more about that, about those giant pastries?

Tamora

Never. Never. [Jumps up and in a fury wipes clean the desk with her arm.]



Scene 2

The mess has been tidied up. Police inspector organises his files. Titus enters. He is well-dressed. His hair is greying. He stands in the doorway. His back is straight; his heels are together.

Titus Andronicus

Good afternoon. You wished to see me?

Police inspector

Good afternoon. [They shake hands, but continue to observe a distance.] Please sit down. Would you like something to drink? Coffee? Tea?

Titus Andronicus

Water is fine. [Police inspector pours two glasses.] What exactly is the point of this meeting?

Police inspector

We would like an explanation of some events that have happened recently. There are a number of wild rumours about murder and homicide, about rape and, hem, cannibalism.

Titus Andronicus

And those rumours involve me?

Police inspector

You and your family, but not just them. At any rate, it seemed a good idea to talk these matters through.

Titus Andronicus

And you want my cooperation?

Police inspector

It is vital. I suggest we begin at the beginning, when you returned to Rome after a successful war.

Titus Andronicus

Excellent.

Police inspector

You were celebrated, rather.

Titus Andronicus

That's customary. It always happens when you win.

Police inspector

You were even mentioned as a possible new emperor.

Titus Andronicus

That's absolute nonsense, but such things happen in a state of euphoria. I never had the ambition. Myself, my father and my grandfather, we have always been generals, commanding armies. That is our profession, and it is in that same tradition that I raised my boys, to defend our country and our honour.

Police inspector

What did you think when Bassianus wanted to become emperor? Your son-in-law?

Titus Andronicus

Look, it is quite an honour when your daughter marries into the imperial family. And that's that. But Saturninus was the elder. He had all the rights. So I supported him.

Police inspector

And how about that marriage of his with Tamora? What did you think of that? A queen belonging to the very people that you had just beaten mercilessly in battle.

Titus Andronicus

It was not up to me to comment on that, was it? I am not at all sure that it would have been politically wise to do so.

Police inspector

I mean, you had an argument with her on your return.

Titus Andronicus

Argument?

Police inspector

You sacrificed her eldest son.

Titus Andronicus

Inspector, you know our customs. Blood must wipe out blood.

Police inspector

She told us that she begged you to save her son.

Titus Andronicus

You do not simply sacrifice anyone. It just is not done. It must be a worthy sacrifice.

Police inspector

But for it to be her child ...

Titus Andronicus

I myself lost two sons in this war. It hurts, but that's war. Women do not really seem to understand.

Police inspector

So you got along well with the imperial family.

Titus Andronicus

I thought I did, at the time. Particularly when we were invited to that hunting party.

Police inspector

Where were you during that hunting party?

Titus Andronicus

You pursue the game, and sometimes you lose sight of the others. I was with Saturninus most of the time. The women stayed behind, from the beginning.

Police inspector

And Bassianus, Demetrius, Chiron, and your own two sons? Where were they?

Titus Andronicus

Bassianus stayed with Lavinia. As far as I can tell, Demetrius and Chiron went in search of their mother. As for my own boys, well, we lost sight of them too.

Police inspector

You turned back, and then what happened?

Titus Andronicus

We heard screams.

Police inspector

What did you see? What did you find?

Titus Andronicus

[Remains silent.]

Police inspector

Witnesses say that your sons were standing by the corpse of Bassianus and the mutilated body of Lavinia who ...

Titus Andronicus

Spare me the details. I saw it all. They had a knife and their clothes were smeared with blood. But I do not want to talk about the rest.

Police inspector

Your daughter.

Titus Andronicus

No. Not a word.

Police inspector

Did you think they were guilty?

Titus Andronicus

I had no idea. Only later, after they had been taken away, could I even begin to think about what Tamora had been proclaiming at the top of her voice.

Police inspector

You thought they were innocent.

Titus Andronicus

I wanted a more thorough investigation. It was never carried out. I filed a petition. I even offered to change places with them.

Police inspector

You understand that this was a case of summary jurisdiction.

Titus Andronicus nods.

Police inspector

You then stayed behind with your only daughter and your only remaining son. He did not take it lightly.

Titus Andronicus

He went out of control. I understood, though. Especially once she had started to recover a little.

Police inspector

I do not follow you.

Titus Andronicus

She roamed around the house. She was a terrible sight those stumps that were her arms, her empty mouth, and the expression on her face. One day, as Lucius was reading a legal scroll, she stuck her arm into the scroll, time and again. Then, to be brief, she took a twig between her teeth and wrote in the sand. Demetrius and Chiron. Those very names. We immediately understood what she was trying to tell us.

Police inspector

What?

Titus Andronicus

Must I explain everything to you? Lucius was furious. He had not held Saturninus in such high esteem to begin with, certainly not after he got married to that foreigner. He went about it immediately.

Police inspector

Doing what?

Titus Andronicus

I mean he went about it, politically speaking. I would have nothing to do with it but I could not blame him either. With your brothers and your brother-in-law assassinated, and your sister ... If only we could have solved it differently.

Police inspector

How differently?

Titus Andronicus

Legally. An inquiry. A new trial. Rehabilitation for myself and my poor girl.

Police inspector

But?

Titus Andronicus

An inquiry with the sons of that foreigner as prime suspects. But the wife of an emperor who quickly ... Lust is more potent than the law, inspector. The bed is more commanding than the bar.

Police inspector

So you condoned the deeds of your son? Rumour had it that you were continually making sacrifices to the gods. You would even seem to have gone a bit far in that.

Titus Andronicus

I felt that Saturninus was no longer to be trusted, and after all he was the highest legal authority. What was I to do? I stayed at home. I saw my daughter. I made sacrifices and prayed for wisdom. I felt that my life was in danger, and the lives of my two children.

Police inspector

Rumour had it that you had gone mad.

Titus Andronicus

Mad north-north-west. I opted for the oldest law: blood wipes out blood.

Police inspector

How?

Titus Andronicus

Lucius wanted a political solution. He wanted to bring down the emperor. I wanted the law.

Police inspector

But how?

Titus Andronicus

I invited the traitress with her cute little sons. She came round, but how frightened she was of Lucius. She wanted to talk. I was friendly and she left her sons with me until later that evening. "I will be seeing you at the banquet", she said as she left. That would be the occasion to find to a political settlement. You see, Saturninus no longer counted anyway.

Police inspector

No one has seen Demetrius and Chiron since.

Titus Andronicus

Surely, at dinner.

Police inspector

But ...

Titus Andronicus

I returned her sons to her. Blood wipes out blood.

Police inspector

So it is true that in those two large pastries ...

Titus Andronicus

[Gets up.] She enjoyed them immensely, until I told her what she had been served. [Pats the Police inspector on the shoulder, and leaves.]

 

END