Titus Andronicus "The Eagle Suffers Little Birds To Sing"
by William Shakespeare

Titus Andronicus book cover
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"The Eagle Suffers Little Birds To Sing"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Saturninus, Roman Emperor, has been under the influence of Tamora, Queen of the Goths, who is leagued with her paramour Aaron and her sons, Alarbus, Demetrius and Chiron, to wreck Titus and his family. Already Demetrius and Chiron, aided and abetted by Tamora, have raped Lavinia, Titus' daughter, and cut off her hands and tongue. Through Saturninus and the law, they have caused the death of two of Titus' sons. Now Lucius, another of Titus' sons, is approaching Rome at the head of an army intending revenge. Tamora, for her own purposes, tells Saturninus that he is an all-powerful Emperor. The Emperor, however, replies that the Roman citizens will revolt and join Lucius. Tamora continues to egg Saturninus on:

King, be thy thoughts imperious like thy name.
Is the sun dimmed, that gnats do fly in it?
The eagle suffers little birds to sing,
And is not careful what they mean thereby,
Knowing that with the shadow of his wings
He can at pleasure sting their melody,
Even so mayst thou the giddy men of Rome.
. . .