by William Shakespeare


SCENE I. Rome. A public place

Enter Menenius with the two Tribunes of the people, Sicinius and Brutus.

The augurer tells me we shall have news tonight.

Good or bad?

Not according to the prayer of the people, for they love not Martius.

Nature teaches beasts to know their friends.

Pray you, who does the wolf love?

The lamb.

Ay, to devour him, as the hungry plebeians would the noble Martius.

He’s a lamb indeed, that baas like a bear.

He’s a bear indeed, that lives like a lamb. You two are old men; tell me one thing that I shall ask you.

Well, sir.

In what enormity is Martius poor in, that you two have not in abundance?

He’s poor in no one fault, but stored with all.

Especially in pride.

And topping all others in boasting.

This is strange now. Do you two know how you are censured here in the city, I mean of us o’ th’ right-hand file, do you?

Why, how are we censured?

Because you talk of pride now, will you not be angry?

Well, well, sir, well?

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 Martius for being proud.

We do it not alone, sir.

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 infantlike 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!

What then, sir?

Why, then you should discover a brace of unmeriting, proud, violent, testy magistrates, alias fools, as any in Rome.

Menenius, you are known well enough, too.

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 cannot 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 have good faces. If you see this in the map of my microcosm, follows it that I am known well enough too? What harm can your bisson conspectuities glean out of this character, if I be known well enough, too?

Come, sir, come; we know you well enough.

You know neither me, yourselves, nor anything. 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 faucet-seller, and then rejourn the controversy of threepence 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.

Come, come. You are well understood to be a perfecter giber for the table than a necessary bencher in the Capitol.

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 packsaddle. Yet you must be saying Martius is proud, who, in a cheap estimation, is worth all your predecessors since Deucalion, though peradventure some of the best of ’em were hereditary hangmen. Good e’en 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.

[He begins to exit. Brutus and Sicinius stand aside.]

Enter Volumnia, Virgilia and Valeria

How now, my as fair as noble ladies—and the moon, were she earthly, no nobler—whither do you follow your eyes so fast?

Honourable Menenius, my boy Martius approaches. For the love of Juno, let’s go!

Ha? Martius coming home?

Ay, worthy Menenius, and with most prosperous approbation.

Take my cap, Jupiter, and I thank thee! Hoo! Martius coming home?

Nay, ’tis true.

Look, here’s a letter from him. The state hath another, his wife another, and I think there’s one at home for you.

I will make my very house reel tonight. A letter for me?

Yes, certain, there’s a letter for you; I saw it.

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.

O, no, no, no!

O, he is wounded, I thank the gods for’t.

So do I too, if it be not too much. Brings he victory in his pocket, the wounds become him.

On’s brows, Menenius. He comes the third time home with the oaken garland.

Has he disciplined Aufidius soundly?

Titus Lartius writes they fought together, but Aufidius got off.

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 Corioles and the gold that’s in them. Is the Senate possessed of this?

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.

In troth, there’s wondrous things spoke of him.

Wondrous? Ay, I warrant you, and not without his true purchasing.

The gods grant them true.

True? Pow, waw!

True? I’ll be sworn they are true. Where is he wounded? [To the Tribunes.] God save your good Worships! Martius is coming home; he has more cause to be proud.—Where is he wounded?

I’ th’ shoulder and i’ th’ left arm. There will be large cicatrices to show the people when he shall stand for his place. He received in the repulse of Tarquin seven hurts i’ th’ body.

One i’ th’ neck and two i’ th’ thigh—there’s nine that I know.

He had, before this last expedition, twenty-five wounds upon him.

Now it’s twenty-seven. Every gash was an enemy’s grave.

[A shout and flourish.]

Hark, the trumpets!

These are the ushers of Martius: 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.]

Enter Cominius the General and Titus Lartius, between them Coriolanus crowned with an oaken garland, with Captains and Soldiers and a Herald. Trumpets sound.

Know, Rome, that all alone Martius did fight
Within Corioles’ gates, where he hath won,
With fame, a name to Caius Martius; these
In honour follows “Coriolanus.”
Welcome to Rome, renowned Coriolanus.

[Sound flourish.]

Welcome to Rome, renowned Coriolanus!

No more of this, it does offend my heart.
Pray now, no more.

Look, sir, your mother.

You have, I know, petitioned all the gods
For my prosperity.


Nay, my good soldier, up.

[He stands.]

My gentle Martius, worthy Caius, and
By deed-achieving honour newly named—
What is it? Coriolanus must I call thee?
But, O, thy wife—

My gracious silence, hail.
Wouldst thou have laughed had I come coffined home,
That weep’st to see me triumph? Ah, my dear,
Such eyes the widows in Corioles wear
And mothers that lack sons.

Now the gods crown thee!

And live you yet? [To Valeria] O my sweet lady, pardon.

I know not where to turn. O, welcome home!
And welcome, general.—And you’re welcome all.

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.

Ever right.

Menenius ever, ever.

Give way there, and go on!

[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.

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
Our Rome will cast upon thee.

Know, good mother,
I had rather be their servant in my way
Than sway with them in theirs.

On, to the Capitol.

[Flourish of cornets. Exeunt in state, as before.]

Brutus and Sicinius come forward.

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,
Clamb’ring the walls to eye him. Stalls, bulks, windows
Are smothered up, leads filled, 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. Our veiled dames
Commit the war of white and damask in
Their nicely-gauded cheeks to th’ wanton spoil
Of Phoebus’ burning kisses. Such a pother,
As if that whatsoever god who leads him
Were slyly crept into his human powers
And gave him graceful posture.

On the sudden
I warrant him consul.

Then our office may,
During his power, go sleep.

He cannot temp’rately transport his honours
From where he should begin and end, but will
Lose those he hath won.

In that there’s comfort.

Doubt not 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 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’ th’ marketplace nor on him put
The napless vesture of humility,
Nor showing, as the manner is, his wounds
To th’ people, beg their stinking breaths.

’Tis right.

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.

I wish no better
Than have him hold that purpose and to put it
In execution.

’Tis most like he will.

It shall be to him then, as our good wills,
A sure destruction.

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 their 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 it 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.

What’s the matter?

You are sent for to the Capitol. ’Tis thought
That Martius shall be consul. I have seen
The dumb men throng to see him, and the blind
to hear him speak; matrons flung gloves,
Ladies and maids their scarves and handkerchiefs,
Upon him as he passed; 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.

Let’s to the Capitol;
And carry with us ears and eyes for th’ time,
But hearts for the event.

Have with you.


THE TRAGEDY OF CORIOLANUS by William Shakespeare

Status: Completed

Author: William Shakespeare

Native Language: English

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