by William Shakespeare

SCENE II. Rome. The Capitol

Enter two Officers, to lay cushions, as it were in the Capitol.

Come, come. They are almost here. How many stand for consulships?

Three, they say; but ’tis thought of everyone Coriolanus will carry it.

That’s a brave fellow, but he’s vengeance proud and loves not the common people.

’Faith, there have been many great men that have flattered the people who ne’er loved them; and there be many that they have loved they know not wherefore; so that, if they love they know not why, they hate upon no better a ground. Therefore, for Coriolanus neither to care whether they love or hate him manifests the true knowledge he has in their disposition and, out of his noble carelessness, lets them plainly see’t.

If he did not care whether he had their love or no, he waved indifferently ’twixt doing them neither good nor harm; but he seeks their hate with greater devotion than they can render it him and leaves nothing undone that may fully discover him their opposite. Now, to seem to affect the malice and displeasure of the people is as bad as that which he dislikes, to flatter them for their love.

He hath deserved worthily of his country, and his ascent is not by such easy degrees as those who, having been supple and courteous to the people, bonnetted, without any further deed to have them at all into their estimation and report; but he hath so planted his honours in their eyes and his actions in their hearts that for their tongues to be silent and not confess so much were a kind of ingrateful injury. To report otherwise were a malice that, giving itself the lie, would pluck reproof and rebuke from every ear that heard it.

No more of him; he’s a worthy man. Make way. They are coming.

A sennet. Enter the Patricians and the Tribunes of the people, Lictors before them; Coriolanus, Menenius, Cominius the consul. The Patricians sit. Sicinius and Brutus take their places by themselves. Coriolanus stands.

Having determined of the Volsces and
To send for Titus Lartius, it remains,
As the main point of this our after-meeting,
To gratify his noble service that
Hath thus stood for his country. Therefore please you,
Most reverend and grave elders, to desire
The present consul and last general
In our well-found successes to report
A little of that worthy work performed
By Martius Caius Coriolanus, whom
We met here both to thank and to remember
With honours like himself.

[Coriolanus sits.]

Speak, good Cominius.
Leave nothing out for length, and make us think
Rather our state’s defective for requital,
Than we to stretch it out. Masters o’ th’ people,
We do request your kindest ears and, after,
Your loving motion toward the common body
To yield what passes here.

We are convented
Upon a pleasing treaty and have hearts
Inclinable to honour and advance
The theme of our assembly.

Which the rather
We shall be blest to do if he remember
A kinder value of the people than
He hath hereto prized them at.

That’s off, that’s off!
I would you rather had been silent. Please you
To hear Cominius speak?

Most willingly.
But yet my caution was more pertinent
Than the rebuke you give it.

He loves your people,
But tie him not to be their bedfellow.—
Worthy Cominius, speak.

[Coriolanus rises, and offers to go away.]

Nay, keep your place.

Sit, Coriolanus. Never shame to hear
What you have nobly done.

Your Honours, pardon.
I had rather have my wounds to heal again
Than hear say how I got them.

Sir, I hope
My words disbenched you not?

No, sir. Yet oft,
When blows have made me stay, I fled from words.
You soothed not, therefore hurt not; but your people,
I love them as they weigh.

Pray now, sit down.

I had rather have one scratch my head i’ th’ sun
When the alarum were struck than idly sit
To hear my nothings monstered.


Masters of the people,
Your multiplying spawn how can he flatter—
That’s thousand to one good one—when you now see
He had rather venture all his limbs for honour
Than one on’s ears to hear it?—Proceed, Cominius.

I shall lack voice. The deeds of Coriolanus
Should not be uttered feebly. It is held
That valour is the chiefest virtue and
Most dignifies the haver; if it be,
The man I speak of cannot in the world
Be singly counterpoised. At sixteen years,
When Tarquin made a head for Rome, he fought
Beyond the mark of others. Our then dictator,
Whom with all praise I point at, saw him fight
When with his Amazonian chin he drove
The bristled lips before him. He bestrid
An o’erpressed Roman and i’ th’ Consul’s view
Slew three opposers. Tarquin’s self he met
And struck him on his knee. In that day’s feats,
When he might act the woman in the scene,
He proved best man i’ th’ field and for his meed
Was brow-bound with the oak. His pupil age
Man-entered thus, he waxed like a sea,
And in the brunt of seventeen battles since
He lurched all swords of the garland. For this last,
Before and in Corioles, let me say,
I cannot speak him home. He stopped the flyers
And by his rare example made the coward
Turn terror into sport. As weeds before
A vessel under sail, so men obeyed
And fell below his stem. His sword, Death’s stamp,
Where it did mark, it took; from face to foot
He was a thing of blood, whose every motion
Was timed with dying cries. Alone he entered
The mortal gate o’ th’ city, which he painted
With shunless destiny; aidless came off
And with a sudden reinforcement struck
Corioles like a planet. Now all’s his,
When by and by the din of war gan pierce
His ready sense; then straight his doubled spirit
Requickened what in flesh was fatigate,
And to the battle came he, where he did
Run reeking o’er the lives of men as if
’Twere a perpetual spoil; and till we called
Both field and city ours, he never stood
To ease his breast with panting.

Worthy man!

He cannot but with measure fit the honours
Which we devise him.

Our spoils he kicked at;
And looked upon things precious as they were
The common muck of the world. He covets less
Than misery itself would give, rewards
His deeds with doing them, and is content
To spend the time to end it.

He’s right noble.
Let him be called for.

Call Coriolanus.

He doth appear.

Enter Coriolanus.

The Senate, Coriolanus, are well pleased
To make thee consul.

I do owe them still
My life and services.

It then remains
That you do speak to the people.

I do beseech you
Let me o’erleap that custom, for I cannot
Put on the gown, stand naked, and entreat them
For my wounds’ sake to give their suffrage. Please you
That I may pass this doing.

Sir, the people
Must have their voices; neither will they bate
One jot of ceremony.

Put them not to’t.
Pray you, go fit you to the custom, and
Take to you, as your predecessors have,
Your honour with your form.

It is a part
That I shall blush in acting, and might well
Be taken from the people.

Mark you that?

To brag unto them, “thus I did, and thus!”
Show them th’ unaching scars which I should hide,
As if I had received them for the hire
Of their breath only!

Do not stand upon’t.—
We recommend to you, tribunes of the people,
Our purpose to them, and to our noble consul
Wish we all joy and honour.

To Coriolanus come all joy and honour!

[Flourish cornets. Exeunt all but Sicinius and Brutus.]

You see how he intends to use the people.

May they perceive’s intent! He will require them
As if he did contemn what he requested
Should be in them to give.

Come, we’ll inform them
Of our proceedings here. On th’ marketplace
I know they do attend us.


THE TRAGEDY OF CORIOLANUS by William Shakespeare

Status: Completed

Author: William Shakespeare

Native Language: English

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