Gary Taylor, John Jowett, Terri Bourus, and Gabriel Egan (eds), The New Oxford Shakespeare: Modern Critical Edition

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2.3Sc. 3

Enter Aaron alone [with gold]

aaron the moor He that had wit would think that I had none,

Editor’s Note2To bury so much gold under a tree

Editor’s Note3And never after to inherit it.

4Let him that thinks of me so àbjectly

5Know that this gold must coin a stratagem

6Which (cunningly effected) will beget

7A very excellent piece of villainy.

8And so repose sweet gold for their unrest

Editor’s Note9That have their alms out of the Empress' chest.

Enter Tamora alone to the Moor
pg 205 10

tamora My lovely Aaron, wherefore look'st thou sad

Editor’s Note11When everything doth make a gleeful boast?

12The birds chant melody on every bush,

13The snakes lies rollèd in the cheerful sun,

14The green leaves quiver with the cooling wind

15And make a chequered shadow on the ground.

16Under their sweet shade, Aaron, let us sit,

17And whilst the babbling echo mocks the hounds,

18Replying shrilly to the well-tuned horns,

19As if a double hunt were heard at once,

20Let us sit down and mark their yelping noise;

Editor’s Note21And after conflict such as was supposed

Editor’s Note22The wand'ring prince and Dido once enjoyed

Editor’s Note23When with a happy storm they were surprised,

Editor’s Note24And curtained with a counsel-keeping cave,

25We may—each wreathèd in the other's arms,

26Our pastimes done—possess a golden slumber

27Whiles hounds and horns and sweet melodious birds

28Be unto us as is a nurse's song

29Of lullaby, to bring her babe asleep.

Editor’s Note Link 30

aaron the moor Madam, though Venus govern your desires,

31Saturn is dominator over mine.

Editor’s Note32What signifies my deadly-standing eye,

33My silence, and my cloudy melancholy,

34My fleece of woolly hair that now uncurls

35Even as an adder when she doth unroll

36To do some fatal executïon?

Editor’s Note37No, madam, these are no venereal signs.

38Vengeance is in my heart, death in my hand,

39Blood and revenge are hammering in my head.

40Hark, Tamora, the empress of my soul,

41Which never hopes more heaven than rests in thee:

42This is the day of doom for Bassianus.

Editor’s Note43His Philomel must lose her tongue today,

44Thy sons make pillage of her chastity

45And wash their hands in Bassianus' blood.

46Seest thou this letter? Take it up, I pray thee,

Editor’s Note47And give the King this fatal-plotted scroll.

[She takes the letter]

Editor’s Note48Now question me no more. We are espied.

Editor’s Note49Here comes a parcel of our hopeful booty,

50Which dreads not yet their lives' destructïon.

Enter Bassianus and Lavinia
pg 206 51

tamora [aside to Aaron] Ah, my sweet Moor, sweeter to me than life!


aaron the moor [aside to Tamora] No more, great Empress; Bassianus comes.

Editor’s Note53Be cross with him, and I'll go fetch thy sons

54To back thy quarrels, whatso'er they be.


bassianus Who have we here? Rome's royal emperess

Editor’s Note56Unfurnished of her well-beseeming troop?

Editor’s Note57Or is it Dian habited like her

58Who hath abandonèd her holy groves

59To see the general hunting in this forest?

Editor’s Note60

tamora Saucy controller of my private steps,

61Had I the power that some say Dian had,

62Thy temples should be planted presently

Editor’s Note Link 63With horns, as was Actaeon's, and thy hounds

64Should dine upon thy new-transformèd limbs,

65Unmannerly intruder as thou art.


lavinia Under your patience, gentle Empëress,

Editor’s Note67'Tis thought you have a goodly gift in horning,

Editor’s Note68And to be doubted that your Moor and you

Editor’s Note69Are singled forth to try experiments.

70Jove shield your husband from his hounds today—

Editor’s Note71'Tis pity they should take him for a stag.

Editor’s Note72

bassianus Believe me, Queen, your swart Cimmerian

73Doth make your honour of his body's hue,

Editor’s Note74Spotted, detested, and abominable.

75Why are you sequesterèd from all your train,

76Dismounted from your snow-white goodly steed,

77And wandered hither to an obscure plot,

78Accompanied but with a barbarous Moor,

79If foul desire had not conducted you?


lavinia And being intercepted in your sport,

Editor’s Note81Great reason that my noble lord be rated

82For sauciness. [To Bassianus] I pray you, let us hence,

Editor’s Note83And let her joy her raven-coloured love.

Editor’s Note84This valley fits the purpose passing well.


bassianus The King my brother shall have note of this.

Editor’s Note86

lavinia Ay, for these slips have made him noted long.

Editor’s Note87Good King, to be so mightily abused!


tamora Why have I patience to endure all this?

Enter Chiron and Demetrius

demetrius How now, dear sovereign and our gracious mother,

90Why doth your highness look so pale and wan?

pg 207 91

tamora Have I not reason, think you, to look pale?

Editor’s Note92These two have 'ticed me hither to this place.

93A barren detested vale, you see it is;

94The trees, though summer, yet forlorn and lean,

Editor’s Note95O'ercome with moss and baleful mistletoe.

96Here never shines the sun, here nothing breeds

Editor’s Note Link 97Unless the nightly owl or fatal raven.

Editor’s Note98And when they showed me this abhorrèd pit

99They told me here at dead time of the night

100A thousand fiends, a thousand hissing snakes,

Editor’s Note101Ten thousand swelling toads, as many urchins

102Would make such fearful and confusèd cries

103As any mortal body hearing it

104Should straight fall mad or else die suddenly.

105No sooner had they told this hellish tale

106But straight they told me they would bind me here

Editor’s Note107Unto the body of a dismal yew

108And leave me to this miserable death.

109And then they called me foul adulteress,

Editor’s Note110Lascivious Goth, and all the bitterest terms

111That ever ear did hear to such effect.

112And had you not by wondrous fortune come,

113This vengeance on me had they executed.

114Revenge it as you love your mother's life,

115Or be ye not henceforward called my children.


demetrius This is a witness that I am thy son.

He stabs Bassianus

chiron And this for me, struck home to show my strength.

[He also stabs Bassianus, who dies]
Editor’s Note118

lavinia Ay, come Semiramis—nay, barbarous Tamora,

119For no name fits thy nature but thy own.

Editor’s Note120

tamora [to Chiron] Give me the poniard. You shall know, my boys,

121Your mother's hand shall right your mother's wrong.

Editor’s Note122

demetrius Stay, madam, here is more belongs to her.

123First thresh the corn, then after burn the straw.

Editor’s Note124This minion stood upon her chastity,

125Upon her nuptial vow, her loyalty,

Editor’s Note126And with that quaint hope braves your mightiness.

127And shall she carry this unto her grave?


chiron An if she do, I would I were an eunuch.

129Drag hence her husband to some secret hole,

130And make his dead trunk pillow to our lust.


tamora But when ye have the honey ye desire,

Editor’s Note Link 132Let not this wasp outlive us both to sting.

pg 208 Editor’s Note133

chiron I warrant you, madam, we will make that sure.

134Come, mistress, now perforce we will enjoy

Editor’s Note135That nice-preservèd honesty of yours.


lavinia O Tamora, thou bear'st a woman's face—


tamora I will not hear her speak. Away with her!


lavinia Sweet lords, entreat her hear me but a word.


demetrius [to Tamora] Listen, fair madam! Let it be your glory

140To see her tears, but be your heart to them

141As unrelenting flint to drops of rain.


lavinia When did the tiger's young ones teach the dam?

Editor’s Note143O, do not learn her wrath! She taught it thee.

Editor’s Note144The milk thou suck'st from her did turn to marble;

Editor’s Note145Even at thy teat thou hadst thy tyranny.

146Yet every mother breeds not sons alike.

[To Chiron]

147Do thou entreat her show a woman's pity.


chiron What, wouldst thou have me prove myself a bastard?


lavinia 'Tis true, the raven doth not hatch a lark.

Editor’s Note150Yet have I heard—O, could I find it now!—

151The lion, moved with pity, did endure

152To have his princely paws pared all away.

Editor’s Note153Some say that ravens foster fòrlorn children

154The whilst their own birds famish in their nests.

155O, be to me, though thy hard heart say no,

Editor’s Note156Nothing so kind, but something pitiful.


tamora I know not what it means. Away with her!


lavinia O, let me teach thee for my father's sake,

159That gave thee life when well he might have slain thee.

160Be not obdùrate, open thy deaf ears.


tamora Hadst thou in person ne'er offended me,

162Even for his sake am I pitiless.

163Remember, boys, I poured forth tears in vain

164To save your brother from the sacrifice,

165But fierce Andronicus would not relent.

166Therefore away with her, and use her as you will—

Link 167The worse to her, the better loved of me.

Editor’s Note168

lavinia O Tamora, be called a gentle queen,

169And with thine own hands kill me in this place,

170For 'tis not life that I have begged so long;

171Poor I was slain when Bassianus died.

Editor’s Note172

tamora What, begg'st thou then, fond woman? Let me go.

Editor’s Note173

lavinia 'Tis present death I beg, and one thing more

174That womanhood denies my tongue to tell.

175O keep me from their worse-than-killing lust,

176And tumble me into some loathsome pit

177Where never man's eye may behold my body,

178Do this, and be a charitable murderer.

Editor’s Note179

tamora So should I rob my sweet sons of their fee?

180No, let them satisfy their lust on thee.

pg 209 181

demetrius [to Lavinia] Away, for thou hast stayed us here too long.


lavinia No grace, no womanhood—ah, beastly creature,

Editor’s Note183The blot and enemy to our general name,

Editor’s Note184Confusion fall—

Editor’s Note185

chiron Nay then, I'll stop your mouth.

[To Demetrius]

Bring thou her husband.

186This is the hole where Aaron bid us hide him.

Editor’s Note[Demetrius throws the body of Bassianus into the pit]
Editor’s Note187

tamora Farewell, my sons. See that you make her sure.

Editor’s Note[Chiron and Demetrius exeunt, forcing Lavinia along with them]

188Ne'er let my heart know merry cheer indeed

Editor’s Note189Till all the Andronici be made away.

190Now will I hence to seek my lovely Moor,

Editor’s Note191And let my spleenful sons this trull deflower.

Exit Enter Aaron, with [Quintus and Martius,] two of Titus' sons

aaron the moor Come on, my lords, the better foot before.

193Straight will I bring you to the loathsome pit

194Where I espied the panther fast asleep.

Editor’s Note195

quintus My sight is very dull, whate'er it bodes.


martius And mine, I promise you. Were it not for shame,

197Well could I leave our sport to sleep awhile.

[He falls into the pit]
Editor’s Note198

quintus What, art thou fallen? What subtle hole is this,

199Whose mouth is covered with rude-growing briers

Link 200Upon whose leaves are drops of new-shed blood

201As fresh as morning dew distilled on flowers?

Editor’s Note202A very fatal place it seems to me.

203Speak, brother. Hast thou hurt thee with the fall?


martius [from below] O, brother, with the dismall'st object hurt

205That ever eye with sight made heart lament.


aaron the moor [aside] Now will I fetch the King to find them here,

207That he thereby may have a likely guess

208How these were they that made away his brother.


martius [from below] Why dost not comfort me and help me out

210From this unhallowed and bloodstainèd hole?

Editor’s Note211

quintus I am surprisèd with an uncouth fear.

212A chilling sweat o'eruns my trembling joints.

213My heart suspects more than mine eye can see.


martius [from below] To prove thou hast a true-divining heart,

215Aaron and thou look down into this den

216And see a fearful sight of blood and death.


quintus Aaron is gone, and my compassionate heart

218Will not permit mine eyes once to behold

Editor’s Note219The thing whereat it trembles by surmise.

220O, tell me who it is, for ne'er till now

221Was I a child to fear I know not what.

pg 210 Editor’s Note222

martius [from below] Lord Bassianus lies berayed in blood

Editor’s Note223All on a heap, like to a slaughtered lamb,

224In this detested dark, blood-drinking pit.


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


martius [from below] Upon his bloody finger he doth wear

Editor’s Note227A precious ring that lightens all this hole,

Editor’s Note228Which like a taper in some monument

229Doth shine upon the dead man's earthy cheeks,

Editor’s Note230And shows the ragged entrails of this pit.

Editor’s Note231So pale did shine the moon on Pyramus

Editor’s Note232When he by night lay bathed in maiden blood.

233O brother, help me with thy fainting hand—

234If fear hath made thee faint, as me it hath—

Editor’s Note Link 235Out of this fell devouring rèceptacle,

Editor’s Note236As hateful as Cocytus' misty mouth.


quintus [reaching into the pit] Reach me thy hand, that I may help thee out,

238Or, wanting strength to do thee so much good,

239I may be plucked into the swallowing womb

240Of this deep pit, poor Bassianus' grave.

241I have no strength to pluck thee to the brink.


martius [from below] Nor I no strength to climb without thy help.


quintus Thy hand once more, I will not loose again

244Till thou art here aloft or I below.

245Thou canst not come to me; I come to thee.

[He falls into the pit] Editor’s NoteEnter the Emperor Saturninus [with attendants] and Aaron the Moor

saturninus Along with me! I'll see what hole is here,

247And what he is that now is leapt into it.

[He speaks into the pit]

248Say, who art thou that lately didst descend

249Into this gaping hollow of the earth?


martius The unhappy sons of old Andronicus,

251Brought hither in a most unlucky hour

252To find thy brother Bassianus dead.


saturninus My brother dead! I know thou dost but jest.

254He and his lady both are at the lodge

Editor’s Note255Upon the north side of this pleasant chase.

256'Tis not an hour since I left them there.


martius [from below] We know not where you left them all alive,

Editor’s Note258But, out alas, here have we found him dead!

Enter Tamora, Titus Andronicus, and Lucius

tamora Where is my lord the King?

pg 211 260

saturninus Here, Tamora, though pierced with killing grief.


tamora Where is thy brother Bassianus?

Editor’s Note262

saturninus Now to the bottom dost thou search my wound.

Link 263Poor Bassianus here lies murderèd.

Editor’s Note264

tamora Then all too late I bring this fatal writ,

Editor’s Note265The complot of this timeless tragedy,

266And wonder greatly that man's face can fold

267In pleasing smiles such murderous tyranny.

She giveth Saturnine a letter
Editor’s Note268

Saturninus [reads the letter] 'An if we miss to meet him handsomely,

269Sweet huntsman—Bassianus 'tis we mean—

270Do thou so much as dig the grave for him.

271Thou know'st our meaning. Look for thy reward

272Among the nettles at the elder tree

273Which overshades the mouth of that same pit

274Where we decreed to bury Bassianus.

275Do this and purchase us thy lasting friends.'

276O Tamora, was ever heard the like?

277This is the pit, and this the elder tree.

278Look, sirs, if you can find the huntsman out

Editor’s Note279That should have murdered Bassianus here.


aaron the moor My gracious lord, here is the bag of gold.

Editor’s Note281

saturninus [to Titus] Two of thy whelps, fell curs of bloody kind,

282Have here bereft my brother of his life.

Editor’s Note283Sirs, drag them from the pit unto the prison.

284There let them bide until we have devised

285Some never-heard-of torturing pain for them.


tamora What, are they in this pit? O wondrous thing!

Editor’s Note287How easily murder is discoverèd!


titus [kneeling] High Emperor, upon my feeble knee

289I beg this boon, with tears not lightly shed:

290That this fell fault of my accursèd sons—

291Accursèd, if the fault be proved in them—


saturninus If it be proved? You see it is apparent.

Link 293Who found this letter? Tamora, was it you?


tamora Andronicus himself did take it up.


titus I did, my lord, yet let me be their bail,

Editor’s Note296For by my father's reverend tomb I vow

297They shall be ready at your highness' will

Editor’s Note298To answer their suspicion with their lives.


saturninus Thou shalt not bail them. See thou follow me.

300Some bring the murdered body, some the murderers.

301Let them not speak a word—the guilt is plain;

302For by my soul, were there worse end than death

Editor’s Note303That end upon them should be executed.

pg 212 304

tamora Andronicus, I will entreat the King.

Editor’s Note305Fear not thy sons, they shall do well enough.

Editor’s Note306

titus [rising] Come, Lucius, come. Stay not to talk with them.

Editor’s Note[Exeunt]

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
3.2 a tree Property trees were used in Elizabethan theatres, so one may be visible in this and the following scene; if so, it would have been put in place before Aaron's entrance. Aaron hides the gold in some way near the tree.
Editor’s Note
3.3 inherit enjoy the possession of
Editor’s Note
3.9 That … chest i.e. who get this gold (which comes from Tamora's treasury)
Editor’s Note
3.11 boast display
Editor’s Note
3.21 conflict i.e. the strife of love-making
Editor’s Note
3.22 prince Aeneas, who made love with Dido in a cave while sheltering from a storm
Editor’s Note
3.23 happy lucky
Editor’s Note
3.24 with by
Editor’s Note
3.30–1 Venus … Saturn Those born while the planet Venus was in the ascendant were thought to be amorous; Saturn produced a colder and more gloomy temperament.
Editor’s Note
3.32 deadly-standing fixed in a death-dealing stare
Editor’s Note
3.37 venereal amorous (appertaining to Venus)
Editor’s Note
3.43 Philomel an Athenian princess raped by her brother-in-law Tereus, who cut out her tongue to protect himself (alluding to Lavinia)
Editor’s Note
3.47 fatal-plotted plotted to a fatal end
Editor’s Note
3.48 we are espied He may look offstage and see Bassianus and Lavinia approaching, or they may enter here.
Editor’s Note
3.49 parcel of our hopeful part of our hoped-for
Editor’s Note
3.53 Be cross pick a quarrel
Editor’s Note
3.56 Unfurnished of unaccompanied by
Editor’s Note
3.56 troop (of attendants or guards)
Editor’s Note
3.57 Dian Diana, chaste goddess of the hunt (ironically)
Editor’s Note
3.57 habited dressed
Editor’s Note
3.60 Saucy controller insolent director
Editor’s Note
3.63 Actaeon a legendary hunter transformed into a stag and killed and eaten by his own hounds in punishment for seeing Diana bathing
Editor’s Note
3.67 horning cuckolding your husband
Editor’s Note
3.68 doubted suspected
Editor’s Note
3.69 singled forth singled out, chosen; or "drawn apart"
Editor’s Note
3.69 experiments in sexual behaviour (or its results, e.g. cross-breeding)
Editor’s Note
3.71 stag horned deer, so 'cuckold'
Editor’s Note
3.72 swart swarthy, black
Editor’s Note
3.72 Cimmerian legendary people on whom, according to Homer, the sun never shone
Editor’s Note
3.74 Spotted morally stained
Editor’s Note
3.81 rated berated
Editor’s Note
3.83 joy enjoy
Editor’s Note
3.84 passing surpassingly
Editor’s Note
3.86 noted notorious
Editor’s Note
3.87 abused deceived
Editor’s Note
3.92 'ticed enticed
Editor’s Note
3.95 baleful harmful (perhaps because mistletoe is parasitic)
Editor’s Note
3.97 fatal ominous
Editor’s Note
3.98 this abhorrèd pit referring to the stage trapdoor, which may or may not have been open and visible from the beginning of the scene; suggestive of the hell-mouth of medieval liturgical drama
Editor’s Note
3.101 urchins hedgehogs (or, perhaps, 'goblins')
Editor’s Note
3.107 yew a dark-leaved tree especially associated with churchyards and sadness
Editor’s Note
3.110 Lascivious Goth probably punning on the proverbially lustful 'goat'
Editor’s Note
3.118 Semiramis see note on 1.519
Editor’s Note
3.118 Ay, come Tamora may have been assisting in Bassianus' murder, and now turns on or toward Lavinia ('yes, come'); or Lavinia may herself step forward instead ('I come').
Editor’s Note
3.120 Give me the poniard She may speak this to either of her sons, and they may or may not comply.
Editor’s Note
3.122 belongs relates
Editor’s Note
3.124 minion stood upon minx prided herself on
Editor’s Note
3.126 quaint fine, fastidious (derisorily); with wordplay on an early form of 'cunt' ('quaint hope' being her hope of sexual purity)
Editor’s Note
3.126 braves defies
Editor’s Note
3.132 outlive survive
Editor’s Note
3.133 make that sure make sure of that (and 'make that safe')
Editor’s Note
3.135 nice-preservèd honesty fastidiously guarded chastity
Editor’s Note
3.143 learn teach
Editor’s Note
3.144 suck'st = sucked'st (the past tense elided here)
Editor’s Note
3.145 hadst i.e. took in, imbibed
Editor’s Note
3.150 find it find it so
Editor’s Note
3.153 children baby birds
Editor’s Note
3.156 Nothing so … something nothing like so … at least a little
Editor’s Note
3.168 O Tamora probably begging physically, by kneeling, but also clinging to Tamora or her clothes (as implied by 'Let me go' below)
Editor’s Note
3.172 fond foolish
Editor’s Note
3.173 present immediate
Editor’s Note
3.179 So should … fee? This could be a statement instead of a question.
Editor’s Note
3.183 our general name the reputation of women
Editor’s Note
3.184 Confusion destruction
Editor’s Note
3.185 stop your mouth Chiron may cover her mouth, or stuff something into it; she never speaks again, and from here on the actor must convey all her thoughts and emotions physically.
Editor’s Note
3.186.1 into the pit They presumably cover, with brush or a cloth, the mouth of the pit (trapdoor) in order to camouflage it, so that Martius and Quintus can more plausibly fall into it later.
Editor’s Note
3.187 make her sure 'fix' her, make her incapable of revenge
Editor’s Note
3.187.1 taking Lavinia Ravenscroft's 1678 adaptation has them drag her, but she could also be forcibly and obscenely carried. The sound of the rape may be heard from off stage.
Editor’s Note
3.189 made away killed
Editor’s Note
3.191 spleenful lustful
Editor’s Note
3.191 trull whore
Editor’s Note
3.195 My sight … bodes Sleepiness was regarded as a bad omen.
Editor’s Note
3.198 subtle treacherous, crafty
Editor’s Note
3.202 fatal ill-omened
Editor’s Note
3.211 surprisèd with overcome by
Editor’s Note
3.211 uncouth unfamiliar, uncanny
Editor’s Note
3.219 by surmise merely by imagining it
Editor’s Note
3.222 berayed in defiled with
Editor’s Note
3.223 on in
Editor’s Note
3.227 precious ring ring set with a precious stone (such as a carbuncle, believed to emit its own light)
Editor’s Note
3.228 monument sepulchre, vault
Editor’s Note
3.230 ragged entrails rough interior
Editor’s Note
3.231 Pyramus legendary lover of Thisbe who stabbed himself on finding her dead. Shakespeare dramatizes the story in the mechanicals' play in A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Editor’s Note
3.232 maiden innocent
Editor’s Note
3.235 fell dreadful
Editor’s Note
3.236 Cocytus a river of Hades; so, hell-mouth (pronounced to rhyme with 'light us')
Editor’s Note
3.245.2 attendants needed later in the scene; additionally, or alternatively, they might enter with Tamora at 3.258.
Editor’s Note
3.245.2 attendants They may enter here, as part of the entourage that establishes royalty; or the intimacy of Saturninus and Aaron may be established by their entering alone together, and the attendants may instead enter with Tamora thirteen lines later, establishing her dominance.
Editor’s Note
3.255 chase hunting ground
Editor’s Note
3.258 out (emphatically)
Editor’s Note
3.262 search probe
Editor’s Note
3.264 writ document
Editor’s Note
3.265 complot plot-summary
Editor’s Note
3.265 timeless untimely
Editor’s Note
3.268 handsomely conveniently
Editor’s Note
3.279 should have was to have
Editor’s Note
3.281 kind nature
Editor’s Note
3.283 drag them from the pit This may take a while: Martius, Quintus, and the body of Bassianus may be brought up during the following lines.
Editor’s Note
3.287 discoverèd revealed
Editor’s Note
3.296 my father's tomb (aurally indistinguishable from the plural possessive fathers' tomb, meaning 'tomb of my forefathers')
Editor’s Note
3.298 their suspicion the suspicion in which they are held
Editor’s Note
3.303 executed Saturninus may exit at the end of his speech, or be on the other side of the stage from Tamora and Titus during their exchange.
Editor’s Note
3.305 Fear not have no fear for
Editor’s Note
3.306 them Quintus and Martius
Editor’s Note
3.306 Exeunt Titus has been instructed to follow Saturninus, so probably Lucius and he should leave before Tamora and the rest.
Editor’s Note
3.306.1 Exeunt Titus has been instructed to follow Saturninus, so he and Lucius may leave before the prisoners and attendants carrying the body of Bassianus.
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