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Act III, Scene 1

Rome. A street.


[Cornets. Enter CORIOLANUS, MENENIUS, all the] [p]Gentry, COMINIUS, TITUS LARTIUS, and other Senators]

  • Coriolanus. Tullus Aufidius then had made new head?
  • Titus Lartius. He had, my lord; and that it was which caused
    Our swifter composition.
  • Coriolanus. So then the Volsces stand but as at first,
    Ready, when time shall prompt them, to make road. 1730
    Upon's again.
  • Cominius. They are worn, lord consul, so,
    That we shall hardly in our ages see
    Their banners wave again.
  • Titus Lartius. On safe-guard he came to me; and did curse
    Against the Volsces, for they had so vilely
    Yielded the town: he is retired to Antium.
  • Titus Lartius. How often he had met you, sword to sword;
    That of all things upon the earth he hated
    Your person most, that he would pawn his fortunes
    To hopeless restitution, so he might 1745
    Be call'd your vanquisher.
  • Coriolanus. I wish I had a cause to seek him there,
    To oppose his hatred fully. Welcome home. 1750
    [Enter SICINIUS and BRUTUS]
    Behold, these are the tribunes of the people,
    The tongues o' the common mouth: I do despise them;
    For they do prank them in authority,
    Against all noble sufferance. 1755
  • Cominius. Hath he not pass'd the noble and the common?
  • First Senator. Tribunes, give way; he shall to the market-place.
  • Coriolanus. Are these your herd?
    Must these have voices, that can yield them now
    And straight disclaim their tongues? What are 1770
    your offices?
    You being their mouths, why rule you not their teeth?
    Have you not set them on?
  • Coriolanus. It is a purposed thing, and grows by plot, 1775
    To curb the will of the nobility:
    Suffer't, and live with such as cannot rule
    Nor ever will be ruled.
  • Junius Brutus. Call't not a plot:
    The people cry you mock'd them, and of late, 1780
    When corn was given them gratis, you repined;
    Scandal'd the suppliants for the people, call'd them
    Time-pleasers, flatterers, foes to nobleness.
  • Coriolanus. Why then should I be consul? By yond clouds,
    Let me deserve so ill as you, and make me
    Your fellow tribune.
  • Sicinius Velutus. You show too much of that
    For which the people stir: if you will pass 1795
    To where you are bound, you must inquire your way,
    Which you are out of, with a gentler spirit,
    Or never be so noble as a consul,
    Nor yoke with him for tribune.
  • Cominius. The people are abused; set on. This paltering
    Becomes not Rome, nor has Coriolanus
    Deserved this so dishonour'd rub, laid falsely
    I' the plain way of his merit.
  • Coriolanus. Tell me of corn! 1805
    This was my speech, and I will speak't again—
  • Coriolanus. Now, as I live, I will. My nobler friends,
    I crave their pardons: 1810
    For the mutable, rank-scented many, let them
    Regard me as I do not flatter, and
    Therein behold themselves: I say again,
    In soothing them, we nourish 'gainst our senate
    The cockle of rebellion, insolence, sedition, 1815
    Which we ourselves have plough'd for, sow'd,
    and scatter'd,
    By mingling them with us, the honour'd number,
    Who lack not virtue, no, nor power, but that
    Which they have given to beggars. 1820
  • Coriolanus. How! no more!
    As for my country I have shed my blood,
    Not fearing outward force, so shall my lungs 1825
    Coin words till their decay against those measles,
    Which we disdain should tatter us, yet sought
    The very way to catch them.
  • Junius Brutus. You speak o' the people,
    As if you were a god to punish, not 1830
    A man of their infirmity.
  • Coriolanus. Choler! 1835
    Were I as patient as the midnight sleep,
    By Jove, 'twould be my mind!
  • Sicinius Velutus. It is a mind
    That shall remain a poison where it is,
    Not poison any further. 1840
  • Coriolanus. Shall remain!
    Hear you this Triton of the minnows? mark you
    His absolute 'shall'?
  • Coriolanus. 'Shall'! 1845
    O good but most unwise patricians! why,
    You grave but reckless senators, have you thus
    Given Hydra here to choose an officer,
    That with his peremptory 'shall,' being but
    The horn and noise o' the monster's, wants not spirit 1850
    To say he'll turn your current in a ditch,
    And make your channel his? If he have power
    Then vail your ignorance; if none, awake
    Your dangerous lenity. If you are learn'd,
    Be not as common fools; if you are not, 1855
    Let them have cushions by you. You are plebeians,
    If they be senators: and they are no less,
    When, both your voices blended, the great'st taste
    Most palates theirs. They choose their magistrate,
    And such a one as he, who puts his 'shall,' 1860
    His popular 'shall' against a graver bench
    Than ever frown in Greece. By Jove himself!
    It makes the consuls base: and my soul aches
    To know, when two authorities are up,
    Neither supreme, how soon confusion 1865
    May enter 'twixt the gap of both and take
    The one by the other.
  • Cominius. Well, on to the market-place.
  • Coriolanus. Whoever gave that counsel, to give forth
    The corn o' the storehouse gratis, as 'twas used 1870
    Sometime in Greece,—
  • Coriolanus. Though there the people had more absolute power,
    I say, they nourish'd disobedience, fed
    The ruin of the state. 1875
  • Junius Brutus. Why, shall the people give
    One that speaks thus their voice?
  • Coriolanus. I'll give my reasons,
    More worthier than their voices. They know the corn
    Was not our recompense, resting well assured 1880
    That ne'er did service for't: being press'd to the war,
    Even when the navel of the state was touch'd,
    They would not thread the gates. This kind of service
    Did not deserve corn gratis. Being i' the war
    Their mutinies and revolts, wherein they show'd 1885
    Most valour, spoke not for them: the accusation
    Which they have often made against the senate,
    All cause unborn, could never be the motive
    Of our so frank donation. Well, what then?
    How shall this bisson multitude digest 1890
    The senate's courtesy? Let deeds express
    What's like to be their words: 'we did request it;
    We are the greater poll, and in true fear
    They gave us our demands.' Thus we debase
    The nature of our seats and make the rabble 1895
    Call our cares fears; which will in time
    Break ope the locks o' the senate and bring in
    The crows to peck the eagles.
  • Coriolanus. No, take more:
    What may be sworn by, both divine and human,
    Seal what I end withal! This double worship,
    Where one part does disdain with cause, the other
    Insult without all reason, where gentry, title, wisdom, 1905
    Cannot conclude but by the yea and no
    Of general ignorance,—it must omit
    Real necessities, and give way the while
    To unstable slightness: purpose so barr'd,
    it follows, 1910
    Nothing is done to purpose. Therefore, beseech you,—
    You that will be less fearful than discreet,
    That love the fundamental part of state
    More than you doubt the change on't, that prefer
    A noble life before a long, and wish 1915
    To jump a body with a dangerous physic
    That's sure of death without it, at once pluck out
    The multitudinous tongue; let them not lick
    The sweet which is their poison: your dishonour
    Mangles true judgment and bereaves the state 1920
    Of that integrity which should become't,
    Not having the power to do the good it would,
    For the in which doth control't.
  • Sicinius Velutus. Has spoken like a traitor, and shall answer 1925
    As traitors do.
  • Coriolanus. Thou wretch, despite o'erwhelm thee!
    What should the people do with these bald tribunes?
    On whom depending, their obedience fails
    To the greater bench: in a rebellion, 1930
    When what's not meet, but what must be, was law,
    Then were they chosen: in a better hour,
    Let what is meet be said it must be meet,
    And throw their power i' the dust.
  • Junius Brutus. The aediles, ho!
    [Enter an AEdile]
    Let him be apprehended.
  • Sicinius Velutus. Go, call the people: 1940
    [Exit AEdile]
    in whose name myself
    Attach thee as a traitorous innovator,
    A foe to the public weal: obey, I charge thee,
    And follow to thine answer. 1945
  • Coriolanus. Hence, rotten thing! or I shall shake thy bones
    Out of thy garments. 1950
  • Sicinius Velutus. Help, ye citizens!
    [Enter a rabble of Citizens (Plebeians), with]
    the AEdiles]
  • Citizens. Down with him! down with him!
    [They all bustle about CORIOLANUS, crying]
    'Tribunes!' 'Patricians!' 'Citizens!' 'What, ho!'
    'Sicinius!' 'Brutus!' 'Coriolanus!' 'Citizens!' 1960
    'Peace, peace, peace!' 'Stay, hold, peace!'
  • Menenius Agrippa. What is about to be? I am out of breath;
    Confusion's near; I cannot speak. You, tribunes
    To the people! Coriolanus, patience! 1965
    Speak, good Sicinius.
  • Citizens. Let's hear our tribune: peace Speak, speak, speak.
  • Sicinius Velutus. You are at point to lose your liberties:
    CORIOLANUS would have all from you; CORIOLANUS, 1970
    Whom late you have named for consul.
  • Citizens. True,
    The people are the city.
  • Junius Brutus. By the consent of all, we were establish'd
    The people's magistrates.
  • Cominius. That is the way to lay the city flat;
    To bring the roof to the foundation,
    And bury all, which yet distinctly ranges,
    In heaps and piles of ruin. 1985
  • Junius Brutus. Or let us stand to our authority,
    Or let us lose it. We do here pronounce,
    Upon the part o' the people, in whose power
    We were elected theirs, CORIOLANUS is worthy 1990
    Of present death.
  • Sicinius Velutus. Therefore lay hold of him;
    Bear him to the rock Tarpeian, and from thence
    Into destruction cast him.
  • Menenius Agrippa. [To BRUTUS] Be that you seem, truly your 2000
    country's friend,
    And temperately proceed to what you would
    Thus violently redress.
  • Junius Brutus. Sir, those cold ways,
    That seem like prudent helps, are very poisonous 2005
    Where the disease is violent. Lay hands upon him,
    And bear him to the rock.
  • Coriolanus. No, I'll die here.
    [Drawing his sword]
    There's some among you have beheld me fighting: 2010
    Come, try upon yourselves what you have seen me.
  • Cominius. Help CORIOLANUS, help,
    You that be noble; help him, young and old! 2015
  • Citizens. Down with him, down with him!
    [In this mutiny, the Tribunes, the AEdiles, and the]
    People, are beat in]
  • Menenius Agrippa. Go, get you to your house; be gone, away!
    All will be naught else. 2020
  • Cominius. Stand fast;
    We have as many friends as enemies.
  • First Senator. The gods forbid! 2025
    I prithee, noble friend, home to thy house;
    Leave us to cure this cause.
  • Menenius Agrippa. For 'tis a sore upon us,
    You cannot tent yourself: be gone, beseech you.
  • Cominius. Come, sir, along with us. 2030
  • Coriolanus. I would they were barbarians—as they are,
    Though in Rome litter'd—not Romans—as they are not,
    Though calved i' the porch o' the Capitol—
  • Menenius Agrippa. Be gone;
    Put not your worthy rage into your tongue; 2035
    One time will owe another.
  • Coriolanus. On fair ground
    I could beat forty of them.
  • Cominius. I could myself
    Take up a brace o' the best of them; yea, the 2040
    two tribunes:
    But now 'tis odds beyond arithmetic;
    And manhood is call'd foolery, when it stands
    Against a falling fabric. Will you hence,
    Before the tag return? whose rage doth rend 2045
    Like interrupted waters and o'erbear
    What they are used to bear.
  • Menenius Agrippa. Pray you, be gone:
    I'll try whether my old wit be in request
    With those that have but little: this must be patch'd 2050
    With cloth of any colour.

[Exeunt CORIOLANUS, COMINIUS, and others]

  • Menenius Agrippa. His nature is too noble for the world: 2055
    He would not flatter Neptune for his trident,
    Or Jove for's power to thunder. His heart's his mouth:
    What his breast forges, that his tongue must vent;
    And, being angry, does forget that ever
    He heard the name of death. 2060
    [A noise within]
    Here's goodly work!
  • Menenius Agrippa. I would they were in Tiber! What the vengeance!
    Could he not speak 'em fair? 2065

[Re-enter BRUTUS and SICINIUS, with the rabble]

  • Sicinius Velutus. Where is this viper
    That would depopulate the city and
    Be every man himself?
  • Sicinius Velutus. He shall be thrown down the Tarpeian rock
    With rigorous hands: he hath resisted law,
    And therefore law shall scorn him further trial
    Than the severity of the public power
    Which he so sets at nought. 2075
  • First Citizen. He shall well know
    The noble tribunes are the people's mouths,
    And we their hands.
  • Menenius Agrippa. Do not cry havoc, where you should but hunt
    With modest warrant.
  • Menenius Agrippa. Hear me speak:
    As I do know the consul's worthiness,
    So can I name his faults,—
  • Menenius Agrippa. If, by the tribunes' leave, and yours, good people,
    I may be heard, I would crave a word or two;
    The which shall turn you to no further harm 2095
    Than so much loss of time.
  • Sicinius Velutus. Speak briefly then;
    For we are peremptory to dispatch
    This viperous traitor: to eject him hence
    Were but one danger, and to keep him here 2100
    Our certain death: therefore it is decreed
    He dies to-night.
  • Menenius Agrippa. Now the good gods forbid
    That our renowned Rome, whose gratitude
    Towards her deserved children is enroll'd 2105
    In Jove's own book, like an unnatural dam
    Should now eat up her own!
  • Menenius Agrippa. O, he's a limb that has but a disease;
    Mortal, to cut it off; to cure it, easy. 2110
    What has he done to Rome that's worthy death?
    Killing our enemies, the blood he hath lost—
    Which, I dare vouch, is more than that he hath,
    By many an ounce—he dropp'd it for his country;
    And what is left, to lose it by his country, 2115
    Were to us all, that do't and suffer it,
    A brand to the end o' the world.
  • Junius Brutus. Merely awry: when he did love his country,
    It honour'd him. 2120
  • Menenius Agrippa. The service of the foot
    Being once gangrened, is not then respected
    For what before it was.
  • Junius Brutus. We'll hear no more.
    Pursue him to his house, and pluck him thence: 2125
    Lest his infection, being of catching nature,
    Spread further.
  • Menenius Agrippa. One word more, one word.
    This tiger-footed rage, when it shall find
    The harm of unscann'd swiftness, will too late 2130
    Tie leaden pounds to's heels. Proceed by process;
    Lest parties, as he is beloved, break out,
    And sack great Rome with Romans.
  • Sicinius Velutus. What do ye talk? 2135
    Have we not had a taste of his obedience?
    Our aediles smote? ourselves resisted? Come.
  • Menenius Agrippa. Consider this: he has been bred i' the wars
    Since he could draw a sword, and is ill school'd
    In bolted language; meal and bran together 2140
    He throws without distinction. Give me leave,
    I'll go to him, and undertake to bring him
    Where he shall answer, by a lawful form,
    In peace, to his utmost peril.
  • First Senator. Noble tribunes, 2145
    It is the humane way: the other course
    Will prove too bloody, and the end of it
    Unknown to the beginning.
  • Sicinius Velutus. Noble Menenius,
    Be you then as the people's officer. 2150
    Masters, lay down your weapons.
  • Sicinius Velutus. Meet on the market-place. We'll attend you there:
    Where, if you bring not CORIOLANUS, we'll proceed
    In our first way. 2155
  • Menenius Agrippa. I'll bring him to you.
    [To the Senators]
    Let me desire your company: he must come,
    Or what is worst will follow.