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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Jane Austen's Ode to Pity Covertly Alludes to Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus: The Textual Data

In my immediately preceding post.....

....I concluded by giving a giant clue to the particular scene in Titus Andronicus which I believe the 16 year old Jane Austen was veiledly alluding to when she wrote her Ode to Pity:

"shed pale groves philomel melancholy sweet lovely moon heap pitiful pity"

These are eleven key words from Jane Austen's Ode to Pity, including the dedication and title.

I suggest you submit it to my friend Mr. Google, and _he_ will tell you which scene from Titus Andronicus _also_ contains _all_ of those words. It will be easy to spot, trust me. Read that scene carefully, and I shall return within the next day to sketch out the significance of Jane Austen's _shocking_ allusion to Shakespeare's most disturbing play, as that allusion is further illuminated by a close reading of that scene in relation to her Ode to Pity."

Now, for those who did not already follow these bread crumbs yourselves, here is, first, the entire text of Jane Austen's Ode to Pity, immediately followed by the passages in Act 2, Scene 3 of Titus Andronicus, which I claim Jane Austen was winking at. The capitalized words are (obviously) the words which Jane Austen tagged from Shakespeare, and I give some additional context in brackets for the quoted excerpts.

I will return at the end of the quotations with a brief additional comment as to their thematic relevance:

To Miss Austen, the following Ode to PITY is dedicated, from a thorough knowledge of her PITIFUL Nature, by her obedt humle Servt, The Author

Ever musing I delight to tread
The Paths of HONOUR and the Myrtle GROVE
On disappointed Love.
While PHILOMEL on airy hawthorn BUSH
SINGS SWEET and MELANCHOLY, And the thrush
Converses with the Dove.

Gently brawling down the turnpike road,
SWEETLY NOISY falls the SILENT Stream–
The MOON emerges from behind a CLOUD
And darts upon the Myrtle GROVE her beam.
Ah! then what LOVELY Scenes appear,
The hut, the Cot, the Grot, and Chapel queer,
And eke the Abbey too a mouldering HEAP,
Conceal’d by aged pines her head doth rear
And quite invisible doth take a peep.

Titus Andronicus, Act 2, Scene 3, highlights:

[Tamor and her lover Aaron lounging amorously in the forest]

Tamora. My LOVELY Aaron, wherefore look'st thou sad,
When every thing doth make a gleeful boast?
The snake lies rolled in the cheerful sun,
The green leaves quiver with the cooling wind
And make a chequer'd shadow on the ground:
Under their SWEET shade, Aaron, let us sit,
And, whilst the babbling echo mocks the hounds, 750
Replying shrilly to the well-tuned horns,
As if a double hunt were heard at once,
Let us sit down and mark their yelping NOISE;
And, after conflict such as was supposed
The wandering prince and Dido once enjoy'd, 755
When with a happy storm they were surprised
And curtain'd with a counsel-keeping cave,
We may, each wreathed in the other's arms,
Our pastimes done, possess a golden slumber;
Whiles hounds and horns and SWEET MELODIOUS BIRDS 760
Be unto us as is a nurse's SONG
Of lullaby to bring her babe asleep.

Aaron. Madam, though Venus govern your desires,
Saturn is dominator over mine:
What signifies my deadly-standing eye, 765
My fleece of woolly hair that now uncurls
Even as an adder when she doth unroll
To do some fatal execution?
No, madam, these are no venereal signs: 770
Vengeance is in my heart, death in my hand,
Blood and revenge are hammering in my head.
Hark Tamora, the empress of my soul,
Which never hopes more heaven than rests in thee,
This is the day of doom for Bassianus: 775
His PHILOMEL must lose her tongue to-day,
Thy sons make pillage of her chastity
And wash their hands in Bassianus' blood.
Seest thou this letter? take it up, I pray thee,
And give the king this fatal plotted scroll. 780
Now question me no more; we are espied;
Here comes a parcel of our hopeful booty,
Which dreads not yet their lives' destruction.


[The nasty Bassianus falls into Aaron's trap, as he, accompanied by the sweet Lavinia, happens upon Tamora immediately after Aaron slips away]

Bassianus. Who have we here? Rome's royal empress, 790
Unfurnish'd of her well-beseeming troop?
Or is it DIAN, habited like her,
Who hath abandoned her holy GROVES
To see the general hunting in this forest?

Tamora. Saucy controller of our private steps! 795
Had I the power that some say DIAN had,
Thy temples should be planted presently
With horns, as was Actaeon's; and the hounds
Should drive upon thy new-transformed limbs,
Unmannerly intruder as thou art!


Bassianus. Believe me, queen, your swarth Cimmerian
DOTH make your HONOUR of his body's hue,
Spotted, detested, and abominable.
Why are you sequester'd from all your train, 810
Dismounted from your snow-white goodly steed.
And wander'd hither to an obscure plot,
Accompanied but with a barbarous Moor,
If foul desire had not conducted you?


[Enter DEMETRIUS and CHIRON] [who happen upon Tamora as she is engaged in her war of words with Bassianus]

Demetrius. How now, dear sovereign, and our gracious mother! 825
Why doth your highness look so PALE and wan?

Tamora. Have I not reason, think you, to look PALE?
These two have 'ticed me hither to this place:
A barren detested vale, you see it is;
The TREES, though summer, yet forlorn and lean, 830
O'ercome with moss and baleful mistletoe:
Here never shines the sun; here nothing breeds,
Unless the nightly owl or fatal raven:


[Lavinia unsuccessfully pleads for mercy from Demetrius, Chiron & Tamora]

Lavinia. When did the tiger's young ones teach the dam? 880
O, do not learn her wrath; she taught it thee;
The milk thou suck'dst from her did turn to marble;
Even at thy teat thou hadst thy tyranny.
Yet every mother breeds not sons alike:
[To CHIRON] 885
Do thou entreat her show a woman PITY.

Chiron. What, wouldst thou have me prove myself a bastard?

Lavinia. 'Tis true; the raven doth not hatch a lark:
Yet have I heard,—O, could I find it now!—
The lion moved with PITY did endure 890
To have his princely paws pared 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,
Nothing so kind, but something PITIFUL!


[Titus's son Martius finds Bassianus's corpse]

Martius. Lord Bassianus lies embrewed here,
All on a HEAP, like to a slaughter'd lamb, 970
In this detested, dark, blood-drinking pit.

Quintus. If it be dark, how dost thou know 'tis he?

Martius. Upon his bloody finger he doth wear
A precious ring, that lightens all the hole,
Which, like a taper in some monument, 975
Doth shine upon the dead man's earthy cheeks,
And shows the ragged entrails of the pit:
So PALE did SHINE the MOON on Pyramus
When he by night lay bathed in maiden blood.
O brother, help me with thy fainting hand— 980
If fear hath made thee faint, as me it hath—
Out of this fell devouring receptacle,
As hateful as Cocytus' misty mouth.


[Titus falls for Aaron's framing of Martius & Quintus for the murder of Bassianus]

Titus Andronicus. High emperor, upon my feeble knee
I beg this boon, with tears not lightly SHED,
That this fell fault of my accursed sons,
Accursed if the fault be proved in them,—


Here I am, back again, for my conclusion. For me, the emotional epicenter of Act 2, Scene 3 occurs when Lavinia eloquently pleads for mercy--or, more accurately, for PITY--from the ruthless Tamora and her sociopathic sons--and receives none--and it is exactly that emotion that I have always felt lurking just beneath the surface of Jane Austen's youthful Ode To Pity, and I cannot help wondering what happened to Jane Austen that made her identify so strongly with the tragic Lavinia, the ultimate Shakespearean guiltless victim?

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