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Act V, Scene 3

The tent of Coriolanus.


[Enter CORIOLANUS, AUFIDIUS, and others]

  • Coriolanus. We will before the walls of Rome tomorrow 3490
    Set down our host. My partner in this action,
    You must report to the Volscian lords, how plainly
    I have borne this business.
  • Tullus Aufidius. Only their ends
    You have respected; stopp'd your ears against 3495
    The general suit of Rome; never admitted
    A private whisper, no, not with such friends
    That thought them sure of you.
  • Coriolanus. This last old man,
    Whom with a crack'd heart I have sent to Rome, 3500
    Loved me above the measure of a father;
    Nay, godded me, indeed. Their latest refuge
    Was to send him; for whose old love I have,
    Though I show'd sourly to him, once more offer'd
    The first conditions, which they did refuse 3505
    And cannot now accept; to grace him only
    That thought he could do more, a very little
    I have yielded to: fresh embassies and suits,
    Nor from the state nor private friends, hereafter
    Will I lend ear to. Ha! what shout is this? 3510
    [Shout within]
    Shall I be tempted to infringe my vow
    In the same time 'tis made? I will not.
    [Enter in mourning habits, VIRGILIA, VOLUMNIA,]
    leading young CORIOLANUS, VALERIA, and Attendants] 3515
    My wife comes foremost; then the honour'd mould
    Wherein this trunk was framed, and in her hand
    The grandchild to her blood. But, out, affection!
    All bond and privilege of nature, break!
    Let it be virtuous to be obstinate. 3520
    What is that curt'sy worth? or those doves' eyes,
    Which can make gods forsworn? I melt, and am not
    Of stronger earth than others. My mother bows;
    As if Olympus to a molehill should
    In supplication nod: and my young boy 3525
    Hath an aspect of intercession, which
    Great nature cries 'Deny not.' let the Volsces
    Plough Rome and harrow Italy: I'll never
    Be such a gosling to obey instinct, but stand,
    As if a man were author of himself 3530
    And knew no other kin.
  • Coriolanus. These eyes are not the same I wore in Rome.
  • Virgilia. The sorrow that delivers us thus changed
    Makes you think so. 3535
  • Coriolanus. Like a dull actor now,
    I have forgot my part, and I am out,
    Even to a full disgrace. Best of my flesh,
    Forgive my tyranny; but do not say
    For that 'Forgive our Romans.' O, a kiss 3540
    Long as my exile, sweet as my revenge!
    Now, by the jealous queen of heaven, that kiss
    I carried from thee, dear; and my true lip
    Hath virgin'd it e'er since. You gods! I prate,
    And the most noble mother of the world 3545
    Leave unsaluted: sink, my knee, i' the earth;
    Of thy deep duty more impression show
    Than that of common sons.
  • Volumnia. O, stand up blest! 3550
    Whilst, with no softer cushion than the flint,
    I kneel before thee; and unproperly
    Show duty, as mistaken all this while
    Between the child and parent.


  • Coriolanus. What is this?
    Your knees to me? to your corrected son?
    Then let the pebbles on the hungry beach
    Fillip the stars; then let the mutinous winds
    Strike the proud cedars 'gainst the fiery sun; 3560
    Murdering impossibility, to make
    What cannot be, slight work.
  • Volumnia. Thou art my warrior;
    I holp to frame thee. Do you know this lady?
  • Coriolanus. The noble sister of Publicola, 3565
    The moon of Rome, chaste as the icicle
    That's curdied by the frost from purest snow
    And hangs on Dian's temple: dear Valeria!
  • Volumnia. This is a poor epitome of yours,
    Which by the interpretation of full time 3570
    May show like all yourself.
  • Coriolanus. The god of soldiers,
    With the consent of supreme Jove, inform
    Thy thoughts with nobleness; that thou mayst prove
    To shame unvulnerable, and stick i' the wars 3575
    Like a great sea-mark, standing every flaw,
    And saving those that eye thee!
  • Volumnia. Even he, your wife, this lady, and myself, 3580
    Are suitors to you.
  • Coriolanus. I beseech you, peace:
    Or, if you'ld ask, remember this before:
    The thing I have forsworn to grant may never
    Be held by you denials. Do not bid me 3585
    Dismiss my soldiers, or capitulate
    Again with Rome's mechanics: tell me not
    Wherein I seem unnatural: desire not
    To ally my rages and revenges with
    Your colder reasons. 3590
  • Volumnia. O, no more, no more!
    You have said you will not grant us any thing;
    For we have nothing else to ask, but that
    Which you deny already: yet we will ask;
    That, if you fail in our request, the blame 3595
    May hang upon your hardness: therefore hear us.
  • Coriolanus. Aufidius, and you Volsces, mark; for we'll
    Hear nought from Rome in private. Your request?
  • Volumnia. Should we be silent and not speak, our raiment
    And state of bodies would bewray what life 3600
    We have led since thy exile. Think with thyself
    How more unfortunate than all living women
    Are we come hither: since that thy sight,
    which should
    Make our eyes flow with joy, hearts dance 3605
    with comforts,
    Constrains them weep and shake with fear and sorrow;
    Making the mother, wife and child to see
    The son, the husband and the father tearing
    His country's bowels out. And to poor we 3610
    Thine enmity's most capital: thou barr'st us
    Our prayers to the gods, which is a comfort
    That all but we enjoy; for how can we,
    Alas, how can we for our country pray.
    Whereto we are bound, together with thy victory, 3615
    Whereto we are bound? alack, or we must lose
    The country, our dear nurse, or else thy person,
    Our comfort in the country. We must find
    An evident calamity, though we had
    Our wish, which side should win: for either thou 3620
    Must, as a foreign recreant, be led
    With manacles thorough our streets, or else
    triumphantly tread on thy country's ruin,
    And bear the palm for having bravely shed
    Thy wife and children's blood. For myself, son, 3625
    I purpose not to wait on fortune till
    These wars determine: if I cannot persuade thee
    Rather to show a noble grace to both parts
    Than seek the end of one, thou shalt no sooner
    March to assault thy country than to tread— 3630
    Trust to't, thou shalt not—on thy mother's womb,
    That brought thee to this world.
  • Virgilia. Ay, and mine,
    That brought you forth this boy, to keep your name
    Living to time. 3635
  • Young Coriolanus. A' shall not tread on me;
    I'll run away till I am bigger, but then I'll fight.
  • Coriolanus. Not of a woman's tenderness to be,
    Requires nor child nor woman's face to see.
    I have sat too long. 3640


  • Volumnia. Nay, go not from us thus.
    If it were so that our request did tend
    To save the Romans, thereby to destroy
    The Volsces whom you serve, you might condemn us, 3645
    As poisonous of your honour: no; our suit
    Is that you reconcile them: while the Volsces
    May say 'This mercy we have show'd;' the Romans,
    'This we received;' and each in either side
    Give the all-hail to thee and cry 'Be blest 3650
    For making up this peace!' Thou know'st, great son,
    The end of war's uncertain, but this certain,
    That, if thou conquer Rome, the benefit
    Which thou shalt thereby reap is such a name,
    Whose repetition will be dogg'd with curses; 3655
    Whose chronicle thus writ: 'The man was noble,
    But with his last attempt he wiped it out;
    Destroy'd his country, and his name remains
    To the ensuing age abhorr'd.' Speak to me, son:
    Thou hast affected the fine strains of honour, 3660
    To imitate the graces of the gods;
    To tear with thunder the wide cheeks o' the air,
    And yet to charge thy sulphur with a bolt
    That should but rive an oak. Why dost not speak?
    Think'st thou it honourable for a noble man 3665
    Still to remember wrongs? Daughter, speak you:
    He cares not for your weeping. Speak thou, boy:
    Perhaps thy childishness will move him more
    Than can our reasons. There's no man in the world
    More bound to 's mother; yet here he lets me prate 3670
    Like one i' the stocks. Thou hast never in thy life
    Show'd thy dear mother any courtesy,
    When she, poor hen, fond of no second brood,
    Has cluck'd thee to the wars and safely home,
    Loaden with honour. Say my request's unjust, 3675
    And spurn me back: but if it be not so,
    Thou art not honest; and the gods will plague thee,
    That thou restrain'st from me the duty which
    To a mother's part belongs. He turns away:
    Down, ladies; let us shame him with our knees. 3680
    To his surname Coriolanus 'longs more pride
    Than pity to our prayers. Down: an end;
    This is the last: so we will home to Rome,
    And die among our neighbours. Nay, behold 's:
    This boy, that cannot tell what he would have 3685
    But kneels and holds up bands for fellowship,
    Does reason our petition with more strength
    Than thou hast to deny 't. Come, let us go:
    This fellow had a Volscian to his mother;
    His wife is in Corioli and his child 3690
    Like him by chance. Yet give us our dispatch:
    I am hush'd until our city be a-fire,
    And then I'll speak a little.

[He holds her by the hand, silent]

  • Coriolanus. O mother, mother! 3695
    What have you done? Behold, the heavens do ope,
    The gods look down, and this unnatural scene
    They laugh at. O my mother, mother! O!
    You have won a happy victory to Rome;
    But, for your son,—believe it, O, believe it, 3700
    Most dangerously you have with him prevail'd,
    If not most mortal to him. But, let it come.
    Aufidius, though I cannot make true wars,
    I'll frame convenient peace. Now, good Aufidius,
    Were you in my stead, would you have heard 3705
    A mother less? or granted less, Aufidius?
  • Coriolanus. I dare be sworn you were:
    And, sir, it is no little thing to make
    Mine eyes to sweat compassion. But, good sir, 3710
    What peace you'll make, advise me: for my part,
    I'll not to Rome, I'll back with you; and pray you,
    Stand to me in this cause. O mother! wife!
  • Tullus Aufidius. [Aside] I am glad thou hast set thy mercy and
    thy honour 3715
    At difference in thee: out of that I'll work
    Myself a former fortune.

[The Ladies make signs to CORIOLANUS]

  • Coriolanus. Ay, by and by;
    [To VOLUMNIA, VIRGILIA, &c] 3720
    But we will drink together; and you shall bear
    A better witness back than words, which we,
    On like conditions, will have counter-seal'd.
    Come, enter with us. Ladies, you deserve
    To have a temple built you: all the swords 3725
    In Italy, and her confederate arms,
    Could not have made this peace.