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Act III, Scene 2

A room in CORIOLANUS’S house.


[Enter CORIOLANUS with Patricians]

  • Coriolanus. Let them puff all about mine ears, present me
    Death on the wheel or at wild horses' heels,
    Or pile ten hills on the Tarpeian rock, 2165
    That the precipitation might down stretch
    Below the beam of sight, yet will I still
    Be thus to them.
  • Coriolanus. I muse my mother 2170
    Does not approve me further, who was wont
    To call them woollen vassals, things created
    To buy and sell with groats, to show bare heads
    In congregations, to yawn, be still and wonder,
    When one but of my ordinance stood up 2175
    To speak of peace or war.
    [Enter VOLUMNIA]
    I talk of you:
    Why did you wish me milder? would you have me
    False to my nature? Rather say I play 2180
    The man I am.
  • Volumnia. O, sir, sir, sir,
    I would have had you put your power well on,
    Before you had worn it out.
  • Volumnia. You might have been enough the man you are,
    With striving less to be so; lesser had been
    The thwartings of your dispositions, if
    You had not show'd them how ye were disposed
    Ere they lack'd power to cross you. 2190

[Enter MENENIUS and Senators]

  • Menenius Agrippa. Come, come, you have been too rough, something
    too rough; 2195
    You must return and mend it.
  • First Senator. There's no remedy;
    Unless, by not so doing, our good city
    Cleave in the midst, and perish.
  • Volumnia. Pray, be counsell'd: 2200
    I have a heart as little apt as yours,
    But yet a brain that leads my use of anger
    To better vantage.
  • Menenius Agrippa. Well said, noble woman?
    Before he should thus stoop to the herd, but that 2205
    The violent fit o' the time craves it as physic
    For the whole state, I would put mine armour on,
    Which I can scarcely bear.
  • Coriolanus. For them! I cannot do it to the gods;
    Must I then do't to them?
  • Volumnia. You are too absolute; 2215
    Though therein you can never be too noble,
    But when extremities speak. I have heard you say,
    Honour and policy, like unsever'd friends,
    I' the war do grow together: grant that, and tell me,
    In peace what each of them by the other lose, 2220
    That they combine not there.
  • Volumnia. If it be honour in your wars to seem
    The same you are not, which, for your best ends, 2225
    You adopt your policy, how is it less or worse,
    That it shall hold companionship in peace
    With honour, as in war, since that to both
    It stands in like request?
  • Volumnia. Because that now it lies you on to speak
    To the people; not by your own instruction,
    Nor by the matter which your heart prompts you,
    But with such words that are but rooted in
    Your tongue, though but bastards and syllables 2235
    Of no allowance to your bosom's truth.
    Now, this no more dishonours you at all
    Than to take in a town with gentle words,
    Which else would put you to your fortune and
    The hazard of much blood. 2240
    I would dissemble with my nature where
    My fortunes and my friends at stake required
    I should do so in honour: I am in this,
    Your wife, your son, these senators, the nobles;
    And you will rather show our general louts 2245
    How you can frown than spend a fawn upon 'em,
    For the inheritance of their loves and safeguard
    Of what that want might ruin.
  • Menenius Agrippa. Noble lady!
    Come, go with us; speak fair: you may salve so, 2250
    Not what is dangerous present, but the loss
    Of what is past.
  • Volumnia. I prithee now, my son,
    Go to them, with this bonnet in thy hand;
    And thus far having stretch'd it—here be with them— 2255
    Thy knee bussing the stones—for in such business
    Action is eloquence, and the eyes of the ignorant
    More learned than the ears—waving thy head,
    Which often, thus, correcting thy stout heart,
    Now humble as the ripest mulberry 2260
    That will not hold the handling: or say to them,
    Thou art their soldier, and being bred in broils
    Hast not the soft way which, thou dost confess,
    Were fit for thee to use as they to claim,
    In asking their good loves, but thou wilt frame 2265
    Thyself, forsooth, hereafter theirs, so far
    As thou hast power and person.
  • Menenius Agrippa. This but done,
    Even as she speaks, why, their hearts were yours;
    For they have pardons, being ask'd, as free 2270
    As words to little purpose.
  • Volumnia. Prithee now,
    Go, and be ruled: although I know thou hadst rather
    Follow thine enemy in a fiery gulf
    Than flatter him in a bower. Here is Cominius. 2275


  • Cominius. I have been i' the market-place; and, sir,'tis fit
    You make strong party, or defend yourself
    By calmness or by absence: all's in anger.
  • Cominius. I think 'twill serve, if he
    Can thereto frame his spirit.
  • Volumnia. He must, and will
    Prithee now, say you will, and go about it.
  • Coriolanus. Must I go show them my unbarbed sconce? 2285
    Must I with base tongue give my noble heart
    A lie that it must bear? Well, I will do't:
    Yet, were there but this single plot to lose,
    This mould of CORIOLANUS, they to dust should grind it
    And throw't against the wind. To the market-place! 2290
    You have put me now to such a part which never
    I shall discharge to the life.
  • Cominius. Come, come, we'll prompt you.
  • Volumnia. I prithee now, sweet son, as thou hast said
    My praises made thee first a soldier, so, 2295
    To have my praise for this, perform a part
    Thou hast not done before.
  • Coriolanus. Well, I must do't:
    Away, my disposition, and possess me
    Some harlot's spirit! my throat of war be turn'd, 2300
    Which quired with my drum, into a pipe
    Small as an eunuch, or the virgin voice
    That babies lulls asleep! the smiles of knaves
    Tent in my cheeks, and schoolboys' tears take up
    The glasses of my sight! a beggar's tongue 2305
    Make motion through my lips, and my arm'd knees,
    Who bow'd but in my stirrup, bend like his
    That hath received an alms! I will not do't,
    Lest I surcease to honour mine own truth
    And by my body's action teach my mind 2310
    A most inherent baseness.
  • Volumnia. At thy choice, then:
    To beg of thee, it is my more dishonour
    Than thou of them. Come all to ruin; let
    Thy mother rather feel thy pride than fear 2315
    Thy dangerous stoutness, for I mock at death
    With as big heart as thou. Do as thou list
    Thy valiantness was mine, thou suck'dst it from me,
    But owe thy pride thyself.
  • Coriolanus. Pray, be content: 2320
    Mother, I am going to the market-place;
    Chide me no more. I'll mountebank their loves,
    Cog their hearts from them, and come home beloved
    Of all the trades in Rome. Look, I am going:
    Commend me to my wife. I'll return consul; 2325
    Or never trust to what my tongue can do
    I' the way of flattery further.


  • Cominius. Away! the tribunes do attend you: arm yourself 2330
    To answer mildly; for they are prepared
    With accusations, as I hear, more strong
    Than are upon you yet.
  • Coriolanus. The word is 'mildly.' Pray you, let us go:
    Let them accuse me by invention, I 2335
    Will answer in mine honour.