SCENE I. Rome. A public place.
Enter MENENIUS with the two Tribunes of the people, SICINIUS and BRUTUS.
Why, ’tis no great matter; for a very little thief of
occasion will rob you of a great deal of patience:
give your dispositions the reins, and be angry at
your pleasures; at the least if you take it as a
pleasure to you in being so. You blame Marcius for
I know you can do very little alone; for your helps
are many, or else your actions would grow wondrous
single: your abilities are too infant-like for
doing much alone. You talk of pride: O that you
could turn your eyes toward the napes of your necks,
and make but an interior survey of your good selves!
O that you could!
I am known to be a humorous patrician, and one that
loves a cup of hot wine with not a drop of allaying
Tiber in’t; said to be something imperfect in
favouring the first complaint; hasty and tinder-like
upon too trivial motion; one that converses more
with the buttock of the night than with the forehead
of the morning: what I think I utter, and spend my
malice in my breath. Meeting two such wealsmen as
you are–I cannot call you Lycurguses–if the drink
you give me touch my palate adversely, I make a
crooked face at it. I can’t say your worships have
delivered the matter well, when I find the ass in
compound with the major part of your syllables: and
though I must be content to bear with those that say
you are reverend grave men, yet they lie deadly that
tell you you have good faces. If you see this in
the map of my microcosm, follows it that I am known
well enough too? what barm can your bisson
conspectuities glean out of this character, if I be
known well enough too?
You know neither me, yourselves nor any thing. You
are ambitious for poor knaves’ caps and legs: you
wear out a good wholesome forenoon in hearing a
cause between an orange wife and a fosset-seller;
and then rejourn the controversy of three pence to a
second day of audience. When you are hearing a
matter between party and party, if you chance to be
pinched with the colic, you make faces like
mummers; set up the bloody flag against all
patience; and, in roaring for a chamber-pot,
dismiss the controversy bleeding the more entangled
by your hearing: all the peace you make in their
cause is, calling both the parties knaves. You are
a pair of strange ones.
Our very priests must become mockers, if they shall
encounter such ridiculous subjects as you are. When
you speak best unto the purpose, it is not worth the
wagging of your beards; and your beards deserve not
so honourable a grave as to stuff a botcher’s
cushion, or to be entombed in an ass’s pack-
saddle. Yet you must be saying, Marcius is proud;
who in a cheap estimation, is worth predecessors
since Deucalion, though peradventure some of the
best of ’em were hereditary hangmen. God-den to
your worships: more of your conversation would
infect my brain, being the herdsmen of the beastly
plebeians: I will be bold to take my leave of you.
BRUTUS and SICINIUS go aside
Enter VOLUMNIA, VIRGILIA, and VALERIA
A letter for me! it gives me an estate of seven
years’ health; in which time I will make a lip at
the physician: the most sovereign prescription in
Galen is but empiricutic, and, to this preservative,
of no better report than a horse-drench. Is he
not wounded? he was wont to come home wounded.
And ’twas time for him too, I’ll warrant him that:
an he had stayed by him, I would not have been so
fidiused for all the chests in Corioli, and the gold
that’s in them. Is the senate possessed of this?
These are the ushers of Marcius: before him he
carries noise, and behind him he leaves tears:
Death, that dark spirit, in ‘s nervy arm doth lie;
Which, being advanced, declines, and then men die.
A sennet. Trumpets sound. Enter COMINIUS the general, and TITUS LARTIUS; between them, CORIOLANUS, crowned with an oaken garland; with Captains and Soldiers, and a Herald
Know, Rome, that all alone Marcius did fight
Within Corioli gates: where he hath won,
With fame, a name to Caius Marcius; these
In honour follows Coriolanus.
Welcome to Rome, renowned Coriolanus!
A hundred thousand welcomes. I could weep
And I could laugh, I am light and heavy. Welcome.
A curse begin at very root on’s heart,
That is not glad to see thee! You are three
That Rome should dote on: yet, by the faith of men,
We have some old crab-trees here
at home that will not
Be grafted to your relish. Yet welcome, warriors:
We call a nettle but a nettle and
The faults of fools but folly.
[To VOLUMNIA and VIRGILIA] Your hand, and yours:
Ere in our own house I do shade my head,
The good patricians must be visited;
From whom I have received not only greetings,
But with them change of honours.
All tongues speak of him, and the bleared sights
Are spectacled to see him: your prattling nurse
Into a rapture lets her baby cry
While she chats him: the kitchen malkin pins
Her richest lockram ’bout her reechy neck,
Clambering the walls to eye him: stalls, bulks, windows,
Are smother’d up, leads fill’d, and ridges horsed
With variable complexions, all agreeing
In earnestness to see him: seld-shown flamens
Do press among the popular throngs and puff
To win a vulgar station: or veil’d dames
Commit the war of white and damask in
Their nicely-gawded cheeks to the wanton spoil
Of Phoebus’ burning kisses: such a pother
As if that whatsoever god who leads him
Were slily crept into his human powers
And gave him graceful posture.
The commoners, for whom we stand, but they
Upon their ancient malice will forget
With the least cause these his new honours, which
That he will give them make I as little question
As he is proud to do’t.
I heard him swear,
Were he to stand for consul, never would he
Appear i’ the market-place nor on him put
The napless vesture of humility;
Nor showing, as the manner is, his wounds
To the people, beg their stinking breaths.
So it must fall out
To him or our authorities. For an end,
We must suggest the people in what hatred
He still hath held them; that to’s power he would
Have made them mules, silenced their pleaders and
Dispropertied their freedoms, holding them,
In human action and capacity,
Of no more soul nor fitness for the world
Than camels in the war, who have their provand
Only for bearing burdens, and sore blows
For sinking under them.
This, as you say, suggested
At some time when his soaring insolence
Shall touch the people–which time shall not want,
If he be put upon ‘t; and that’s as easy
As to set dogs on sheep–will be his fire
To kindle their dry stubble; and their blaze
Shall darken him for ever.
Enter a Messenger
You are sent for to the Capitol. ‘Tis thought
That Marcius shall be consul:
I have seen the dumb men throng to see him and
The blind to bear him speak: matrons flung gloves,
Ladies and maids their scarfs and handkerchers,
Upon him as he pass’d: the nobles bended,
As to Jove’s statue, and the commons made
A shower and thunder with their caps and shouts:
I never saw the like.
SCENE II. The same. The Capitol.
Enter two Officers, to lay cushions
Faith, there had been many great men that have
flattered the people, who ne’er loved them; and there
be many that they have loved, they know not
wherefore: so that, if they love they know not why,
they hate upon no better a ground: therefore, for
Coriolanus neither to care whether they love or hate
him manifests the true knowledge he has in their
disposition; and out of his noble carelessness lets
them plainly see’t.
If he did not care whether he had their love or no,
he waved indifferently ‘twixt doing them neither
good nor harm: but he seeks their hate with greater
devotion than can render it him; and leaves
nothing undone that may fully discover him their
opposite. Now, to seem to affect the malice and
displeasure of the people is as bad as that which he
dislikes, to flatter them for their love.
He hath deserved worthily of his country: and his
ascent is not by such easy degrees as those who,
having been supple and courteous to the people,
bonneted, without any further deed to have them at
an into their estimation and report: but he hath so
planted his honours in their eyes, and his actions
in their hearts, that for their tongues to be
silent, and not confess so much, were a kind of
ingrateful injury; to report otherwise, were a
malice, that, giving itself the lie, would pluck
reproof and rebuke from every ear that heard it.
No more of him; he is a worthy man: make way, they
A sennet. Enter, with actors before them, COMINIUS the consul, MENENIUS, CORIOLANUS, Senators, SICINIUS and BRUTUS. The Senators take their places; the Tribunes take their Places by themselves. CORIOLANUS stands
Having determined of the Volsces and
To send for Titus Lartius, it remains,
As the main point of this our after-meeting,
To gratify his noble service that
Hath thus stood for his country: therefore,
Most reverend and grave elders, to desire
The present consul, and last general
In our well-found successes, to report
A little of that worthy work perform’d
By Caius Marcius Coriolanus, whom
We met here both to thank and to remember
With honours like himself.
Masters of the people,
Your multiplying spawn how can he flatter–
That’s thousand to one good one–when you now see
He had rather venture all his limbs for honour
Than one on’s ears to hear it? Proceed, Cominius.
I shall lack voice: the deeds of Coriolanus
Should not be utter’d feebly. It is held
That valour is the chiefest virtue, and
Most dignifies the haver: if it be,
The man I speak of cannot in the world
Be singly counterpoised. At sixteen years,
When Tarquin made a head for Rome, he fought
Beyond the mark of others: our then dictator,
Whom with all praise I point at, saw him fight,
When with his Amazonian chin he drove
The bristled lips before him: be bestrid
An o’er-press’d Roman and i’ the consul’s view
Slew three opposers: Tarquin’s self he met,
And struck him on his knee: in that day’s feats,
When he might act the woman in the scene,
He proved best man i’ the field, and for his meed
Was brow-bound with the oak. His pupil age
Man-enter’d thus, he waxed like a sea,
And in the brunt of seventeen battles since
He lurch’d all swords of the garland. For this last,
Before and in Corioli, let me say,
I cannot speak him home: he stopp’d the fliers;
And by his rare example made the coward
Turn terror into sport: as weeds before
A vessel under sail, so men obey’d
And fell below his stem: his sword, death’s stamp,
Where it did mark, it took; from face to foot
He was a thing of blood, whose every motion
Was timed with dying cries: alone he enter’d
The mortal gate of the city, which he painted
With shunless destiny; aidless came off,
And with a sudden reinforcement struck
Corioli like a planet: now all’s his:
When, by and by, the din of war gan pierce
His ready sense; then straight his doubled spirit
Re-quicken’d what in flesh was fatigate,
And to the battle came he; where he did
Run reeking o’er the lives of men, as if
‘Twere a perpetual spoil: and till we call’d
Both field and city ours, he never stood
To ease his breast with panting.
Our spoils he kick’d at,
And look’d upon things precious as they were
The common muck of the world: he covets less
Than misery itself would give; rewards
His deeds with doing them, and is content
To spend the time to end it.
SCENE III. The same. The Forum.
Enter seven or eight Citizens
We have power in ourselves to do it, but it is a
power that we have no power to do; for if he show us
his wounds and tell us his deeds, we are to put our
tongues into those wounds and speak for them; so, if
he tell us his noble deeds, we must also tell him
our noble acceptance of them. Ingratitude is
monstrous, and for the multitude to be ingrateful,
were to make a monster of the multitude: of the
which we being members, should bring ourselves to be
We have been called so of many; not that our heads
are some brown, some black, some auburn, some bald,
but that our wits are so diversely coloured: and
truly I think if all our wits were to issue out of
one skull, they would fly east, west, north, south,
and their consent of one direct way should be at
once to all the points o’ the compass.
Are you all resolved to give your voices? But
that’s no matter, the greater part carries it. I
say, if he would incline to the people, there was
never a worthier man.
Enter CORIOLANUS in a gown of humility, with MENENIUS
Here he comes, and in the gown of humility: mark his
behavior. We are not to stay all together, but to
come by him where he stands, by ones, by twos, and
by threes. He’s to make his requests by
particulars; wherein every one of us has a single
honour, in giving him our own voices with our own
tongues: therefore follow me, and I direct you how
you shall go by him.
What must I say?
‘I Pray, sir’–Plague upon’t! I cannot bring
My tongue to such a pace:–‘Look, sir, my wounds!
I got them in my country’s service, when
Some certain of your brethren roar’d and ran
From the noise of our own drums.’
Re-enter two other Citizens
You should account me the more virtuous that I have
not been common in my love. I will, sir, flatter my
sworn brother, the people, to earn a dearer
estimation of them; ’tis a condition they account
gentle: and since the wisdom of their choice is
rather to have my hat than my heart, I will practise
the insinuating nod and be off to them most
counterfeitly; that is, sir, I will counterfeit the
bewitchment of some popular man and give it
bountiful to the desirers. Therefore, beseech you,
I may be consul.
Most sweet voices!
Better it is to die, better to starve,
Than crave the hire which first we do deserve.
Why in this woolvish toge should I stand here,
To beg of Hob and Dick, that do appear,
Their needless vouches? Custom calls me to’t:
What custom wills, in all things should we do’t,
The dust on antique time would lie unswept,
And mountainous error be too highly heapt
For truth to o’er-peer. Rather than fool it so,
Let the high office and the honour go
To one that would do thus. I am half through;
The one part suffer’d, the other will I do.
Re-enter three Citizens more
Here come more voices.
Your voices: for your voices I have fought;
Watch’d for your voices; for Your voices bear
Of wounds two dozen odd; battles thrice six
I have seen and heard of; for your voices have
Done many things, some less, some more your voices:
Indeed I would be consul.
He said he had wounds, which he could show
And with his hat, thus waving it in scorn,
‘I would be consul,’ says he: ‘aged custom,
But by your voices, will not so permit me;
Your voices therefore.’ When we granted that,
Here was ‘I thank you for your voices: thank you:
Your most sweet voices: now you have left
I have no further with you.’ Was not this mockery?
Could you not have told him
As you were lesson’d, when he had no power,
But was a petty servant to the state,
He was your enemy, ever spake against
Your liberties and the charters that you bear
I’ the body of the weal; and now, arriving
A place of potency and sway o’ the state,
If he should still malignantly remain
Fast foe to the plebeii, your voices might
Be curses to yourselves? You should have said
That as his worthy deeds did claim no less
Than what he stood for, so his gracious nature
Would think upon you for your voices and
Translate his malice towards you into love,
Standing your friendly lord.
Thus to have said,
As you were fore-advised, had touch’d his spirit
And tried his inclination; from him pluck’d
Either his gracious promise, which you might,
As cause had call’d you up, have held him to
Or else it would have gall’d his surly nature,
Which easily endures not article
Tying him to aught; so putting him to rage,
You should have ta’en the advantage of his choler
And pass’d him unelected.
Did you perceive
He did solicit you in free contempt
When he did need your loves, and do you think
That his contempt shall not be bruising to you,
When he hath power to crush? Why, had your bodies
No heart among you? or had you tongues to cry
Against the rectorship of judgment?
Get you hence instantly, and tell those friends,
They have chose a consul that will from them take
Their liberties; make them of no more voice
Than dogs that are as often beat for barking
As therefore kept to do so.
Let them assemble,
And on a safer judgment all revoke
Your ignorant election; enforce his pride,
And his old hate unto you; besides, forget not
With what contempt he wore the humble weed,
How in his suit he scorn’d you; but your loves,
Thinking upon his services, took from you
The apprehension of his present portance,
Which most gibingly, ungravely, he did fashion
After the inveterate hate he bears you.
Say, you chose him
More after our commandment than as guided
By your own true affections, and that your minds,
Preoccupied with what you rather must do
Than what you should, made you against the grain
To voice him consul: lay the fault on us.
Ay, spare us not. Say we read lectures to you.
How youngly he began to serve his country,
How long continued, and what stock he springs of,
The noble house o’ the Marcians, from whence came
That Ancus Marcius, Numa’s daughter’s son,
Who, after great Hostilius, here was king;
Of the same house Publius and Quintus were,
That our beat water brought by conduits hither;
And [Censorinus,] nobly named so,
Twice being [by the people chosen] censor,
Was his great ancestor.
One thus descended,
That hath beside well in his person wrought
To be set high in place, we did commend
To your remembrances: but you have found,
Scaling his present bearing with his past,
That he’s your fixed enemy, and revoke
Your sudden approbation.