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Act II, Scene 1

Rome. A public place.


[Enter MENENIUS with the two Tribunes of the people,] [p]SICINIUS and BRUTUS.

  • Menenius Agrippa. Not according to the prayer of the people, for they 920
    love not CORIOLANUS.
  • Menenius Agrippa. Ay, to devour him; as the hungry plebeians would the 925
    noble CORIOLANUS.
  • Menenius Agrippa. He's a bear indeed, that lives like a lamb. You two
    are old men: tell me one thing that I shall ask you.
  • Both. Well, sir. 930
  • Menenius Agrippa. In what enormity is CORIOLANUS poor in, that you two
    have not in abundance?
  • Menenius Agrippa. This is strange now: do you two know how you are
    censured here in the city, I mean of us o' the
    right-hand file? do you?
  • Both. Why, how are we censured?
  • Both. Well, well, sir, well.
  • Menenius Agrippa. 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 945
    pleasure to you in being so. You blame CORIOLANUS for
    being proud?
  • Menenius Agrippa. I know you can do very little alone; for your helps
    are many, or else your actions would grow wondrous 950
    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! 955
  • Menenius Agrippa. Why, then you should discover a brace of unmeriting,
    proud, violent, testy magistrates, alias fools, as
    any in Rome.
  • Menenius Agrippa. 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 965
    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 970
    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 975
    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? 980
  • Menenius Agrippa. 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; 985
    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 990
    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. 995
  • Junius Brutus. Come, come, you are well understood to be a
    perfecter giber for the table than a necessary
    bencher in the Capitol.
  • Menenius Agrippa. Our very priests must become mockers, if they shall
    encounter such ridiculous subjects as you are. When 1000
    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, CORIOLANUS is proud; 1005
    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 1010
    plebeians: I will be bold to take my leave of you.
    [BRUTUS and SICINIUS go aside]
    How now, my as fair as noble ladies,—and the moon,
    were she earthly, no nobler,—whither do you follow 1015
    your eyes so fast?
  • Volumnia. Honourable Menenius, my boy CORIOLANUS approaches; for
    the love of Juno, let's go.
  • Volumnia. Ay, worthy Menenius; and with most prosperous 1020
  • Menenius Agrippa. Take my cap, Jupiter, and I thank thee. Hoo!
    CORIOLANUS coming home!
  • Volumnia. [together with Virgilia] Nay, 'tis true.
  • Volumnia. Look, here's a letter from him: the state hath
    another, his wife another; and, I think, there's one
    at home for you.
  • Virgilia. Yes, certain, there's a letter for you; I saw't.
  • Menenius Agrippa. 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, 1035
    of no better report than a horse-drench. Is he
    not wounded? he was wont to come home wounded.
  • Volumnia. O, he is wounded; I thank the gods for't.
  • Menenius Agrippa. So do I too, if it be not too much: brings a' 1040
    victory in his pocket? the wounds become him.
  • Volumnia. On's brows: Menenius, he comes the third time home
    with the oaken garland.
  • Volumnia. Titus TITUS writes, they fought together, but 1045
    Aufidius got off.
  • Menenius Agrippa. 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? 1050
  • Volumnia. Good ladies, let's go. Yes, yes, yes; the senate
    has letters from the general, wherein he gives my
    son the whole name of the war: he hath in this
    action outdone his former deeds doubly
  • Valeria. In troth, there's wondrous things spoke of him. 1055
  • Menenius Agrippa. Wondrous! ay, I warrant you, and not without his
    true purchasing.
  • Menenius Agrippa. True! I'll be sworn they are true. 1060
    Where is he wounded?
    [To the Tribunes]
    God save your good worships! CORIOLANUS is coming
    home: he has more cause to be proud. Where is he wounded?
  • Volumnia. I' the shoulder and i' the left arm there will be 1065
    large cicatrices to show the people, when he shall
    stand for his place. He received in the repulse of
    Tarquin seven hurts i' the body.
  • Menenius Agrippa. One i' the neck, and two i' the thigh,—there's
    nine that I know. 1070
  • Volumnia. He had, before this last expedition, twenty-five
    wounds upon him.
  • Menenius Agrippa. Now it's twenty-seven: every gash was an enemy's grave.
    [A shout and flourish]
    Hark! the trumpets. 1075
  • Volumnia. These are the ushers of CORIOLANUS: 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] 1080
    general, and TITUS LARTIUS; between them, CORIOLANUS,
    crowned with an oaken garland; with Captains and
    Soldiers, and a Herald]
  • Herald. Know, Rome, that all alone CORIOLANUS did fight
    Within Corioli gates: where he hath won, 1085
    With fame, a name to Caius CORIOLANUS; these
    In honour follows Coriolanus.
    Welcome to Rome, renowned Coriolanus!


  • All. Welcome to Rome, renowned Coriolanus! 1090
  • Coriolanus. No more of this; it does offend my heart:
    Pray now, no more.
  • Coriolanus. O,
    You have, I know, petition'd all the gods 1095
    For my prosperity!


  • Volumnia. Nay, my good soldier, up;
    My gentle CORIOLANUS, worthy Caius, and
    By deed-achieving honour newly named,— 1100
    What is it?—Coriolanus must I call thee?—
    But O, thy wife!
  • Coriolanus. My gracious silence, hail!
    Wouldst thou have laugh'd had I come coffin'd home,
    That weep'st to see me triumph? Ay, my dear, 1105
    Such eyes the widows in Corioli wear,
    And mothers that lack sons.
  • Coriolanus. And live you yet?
    [To VALERIA] 1110
    O my sweet lady, pardon.
  • Volumnia. I know not where to turn: O, welcome home:
    And welcome, general: and ye're welcome all.
  • Menenius Agrippa. A hundred thousand welcomes. I could weep
    And I could laugh, I am light and heavy. Welcome. 1115
    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 1120
    Be grafted to your relish. Yet welcome, warriors:
    We call a nettle but a nettle and
    The faults of fools but folly.
  • Herald. Give way there, and go on!
  • Coriolanus. [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, 1130
    But with them change of honours.
  • Volumnia. I have lived
    To see inherited my very wishes
    And the buildings of my fancy: only
    There's one thing wanting, which I doubt not but 1135
    Our Rome will cast upon thee.
  • Coriolanus. Know, good mother,
    I had rather be their servant in my way,
    Than sway with them in theirs.
  • Cominius. On, to the Capitol! 1140
    [Flourish. Cornets. Exeunt in state, as before.]
    BRUTUS and SICINIUS come forward]
  • Junius Brutus. All tongues speak of him, and the bleared sights
    Are spectacled to see him: your prattling nurse
    Into a rapture lets her baby cry 1145
    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 1150
    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 1155
    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.
  • Sicinius Velutus. He cannot temperately transport his honours
    From where he should begin and end, but will 1165
    Lose those he hath won.
  • Sicinius Velutus. Doubt not
    The commoners, for whom we stand, but they
    Upon their ancient malice will forget 1170
    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.
  • Junius Brutus. I heard him swear,
    Were he to stand for consul, never would he 1175
    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.
  • Junius Brutus. It was his word: O, he would miss it rather
    Than carry it but by the suit of the gentry to him,
    And the desire of the nobles.
  • Sicinius Velutus. I wish no better
    Than have him hold that purpose and to put it 1185
    In execution.
  • Sicinius Velutus. It shall be to him then as our good wills,
    A sure destruction.
  • Junius Brutus. So it must fall out 1190
    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, 1195
    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. 1200
  • Sicinius Velutus. 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 1205
    To kindle their dry stubble; and their blaze
    Shall darken him for ever.

[Enter a Messenger]

  • Messenger. You are sent for to the Capitol. 'Tis thought 1210
    That CORIOLANUS 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, 1215
    As to Jove's statue, and the commons made
    A shower and thunder with their caps and shouts:
    I never saw the like.
  • Junius Brutus. Let's to the Capitol;
    And carry with us ears and eyes for the time, 1220
    But hearts for the event.