THE TRAGEDY OF CORIOLANUS
by William Shakespeare
SCENE I. Rome. A street
Cornets. Enter Coriolanus, Menenius, all the Gentry, Cominius, Titus Lartius and other Senators.
Tullus Aufidius then had made new head?
He had, my lord, and that it was which caused
Our swifter composition.
So then the Volsces stand but as at first,
Ready, when time shall prompt them, to make road
They are worn, lord consul, so
That we shall hardly in our ages see
Their banners wave again.
Saw you Aufidius?
On safeguard he came to me, and did curse
Against the Volsces, for they had so vilely
Yielded the town. He is retired to Antium.
Spoke he of me?
He did, my lord.
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
Be called your vanquisher.
At Antium lives he?
I wish I had a cause to seek him there,
To oppose his hatred fully. Welcome home.
Enter Sicinius and Brutus.
Behold, these are the tribunes of the people,
The tongues o’ th’ common mouth. I do despise them,
For they do prank them in authority
Against all noble sufferance.
Pass no further.
Ha? What is that?
It will be dangerous to go on. No further.
What makes this change?
Hath he not passed the noble and the common?
Have I had children’s voices?
Tribunes, give way. He shall to the marketplace.
The people are incensed against him.
Or all will fall in broil.
Are these your herd?
Must these have voices, that can yield them now
And straight disclaim their tongues? What are your offices?
You being their mouths, why rule you not their teeth?
Have you not set them on?
Be calm, be calm.
It is a purposed thing, and grows by plot,
To curb the will of the nobility.
Suffer’t, and live with such as cannot rule
Nor ever will be ruled.
Call’t not a plot.
The people cry you mocked them; and, of late,
When corn was given them gratis, you repined,
Scandaled the suppliants for the people, called them
Timepleasers, flatterers, foes to nobleness.
Why, this was known before.
Not to them all.
Have you informed them sithence?
How? I inform them?
You are like to do such business.
Not unlike, each way, to better yours.
Why then should I be consul? By yond clouds,
Let me deserve so ill as you, and make me
Your fellow tribune.
You show too much of that
For which the people stir. If you will pass
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.
Let’s be calm.
The people are abused, set on. This palt’ring
Becomes not Rome, nor has Coriolanus
Deserved this so dishonoured rub, laid falsely
I’ th’ plain way of his merit.
Tell me of corn?
This was my speech, and I will speak’t again.
Not now, not now.
Not in this heat, sir, now.
Now, as I live, I will.
My nobler friends, I crave their pardons. 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,
Which we ourselves have ploughed for, sowed, and scattered
By mingling them with us, the honoured number,
Who lack not virtue, no, nor power, but that
Which they have given to beggars.
Well, no more.
No more words, we beseech you.
How? No more?
As for my country I have shed my blood,
Not fearing outward force, so shall my lungs
Coin words till their decay against those measles
Which we disdain should tetter us, yet sought
The very way to catch them.
You speak o’ th’ people
As if you were a god to punish, not
A man of their infirmity.
We let the people know’t.
What, what? His choler?
Were I as patient as the midnight sleep,
By Jove, ’twould be my mind.
It is a mind
That shall remain a poison where it is,
Not poison any further.
Hear you this Triton of the minnows? Mark you
His absolute “shall”?
’Twas from the canon.
O good but most unwise patricians, why,
You grave but reckless senators, have you thus
Given Hydra leave to choose an officer,
That with his peremptory “shall,” being but
The horn and noise o’ th’ monster’s, wants not spirit
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 learned,
Be not as common fools; if you are not,
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,”
His popular “shall,” against a graver bench
Than ever frowned 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
May enter ’twixt the gap of both and take
The one by th’ other.
Well, on to th’ marketplace.
Whoever gave that counsel to give forth
The corn o’ th’ storehouse gratis, as ’twas used
Sometime in Greece—
Well, well, no more of that.
Though there the people had more absolute power,
I say they nourished disobedience, fed
The ruin of the state.
Why shall the people give
One that speaks thus their voice?
I’ll give my reasons,
More worthier than their voices. They know the corn
Was not our recompense, resting well assured
They ne’er did service for’t. Being pressed to th’ war,
Even when the navel of the state was touched,
They would not thread the gates. This kind of service
Did not deserve corn gratis. Being i’ th’ war,
Their mutinies and revolts, wherein they showed
Most valour, spoke not for them. Th’ accusation
Which they have often made against the Senate,
All cause unborn, could never be the native
Of our so frank donation. Well, what then?
How shall this bosom multitude digest
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
Call our cares fears, which will in time
Break ope the locks o’ th’ Senate and bring in
The crows to peck the eagles.
Enough, with over-measure.
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
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 barred, it follows
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
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
Of that integrity which should become’t,
Not having the power to do the good it would
For th’ ill which doth control’t.
’Has said enough.
’Has spoken like a traitor, and shall answer
As traitors do.
Thou wretch, despite o’erwhelm thee!
What should the people do with these bald tribunes,
On whom depending, their obedience fails
To th’ greater bench. In a rebellion,
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’ th’ dust.
This a consul? No.
The aediles, ho! Let him be apprehended.
Enter an Aedile.
Go call the people;
in whose name myself
Attach thee as a traitorous innovator,
A foe to th’ public weal. Obey, I charge thee,
And follow to thine answer.
Hence, old goat.
We’ll surety him.
[to Sicinius.] Aged sir, hands off.
[to Sicinius.] Hence, rotten thing, or I shall shake thy bones
Out of thy garments.
Help, ye citizens!
Enter a rabble of Plebeians with the Aediles.
On both sides more respect!
Here’s he that would take from you all your power.
Seize him, aediles.
Down with him, down with him!
Weapons, weapons, weapons!
[They all bustle about Coriolanus.]
Tribunes, patricians, citizens, what, ho!
Sicinius, Brutus, Coriolanus, citizens!
Peace, peace, peace! Stay, hold, peace!
What is about to be? I am out of breath.
Confusion’s near. I cannot speak. You tribunes
To th’ people!—Coriolanus, patience!—
Speak, good Sicinius.
Hear me, people! Peace!
Let’s hear our tribune. Peace! Speak, speak, speak.
You are at point to lose your liberties.
Martius would have all from you, Martius,
Whom late you have named for consul.
Fie, fie, fie!
This is the way to kindle, not to quench.
To unbuild the city and to lay all flat.
What is the city but the people?
The people are the city.
By the consent of all, we were established
The people’s magistrates.
You so remain.
And so are like to do.
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.
This deserves death.
Or let us stand to our authority
Or let us lose it. We do here pronounce,
Upon the part o’ th’ people, in whose power
We were elected theirs, Martius is worthy
Of present death.
Therefore lay hold of him,
Bear him to th’ rock Tarpeian, and from thence
Into destruction cast him.
Aediles, seize him!
Yield, Martius, yield!
Hear me one word.
Beseech you, tribunes, hear me but a word.
Be that you seem, truly your country’s friend,
And temp’rately proceed to what you would
Thus violently redress.
Sir, those cold ways,
That seem like prudent helps, are very poisonous
Where the disease is violent.—Lay hands upon him,
And bear him to the rock.
[Coriolanus draws his sword.]
No; I’ll die here.
There’s some among you have beheld me fighting.
Come, try upon yourselves what you have seen me.
Down with that sword!—Tribunes, withdraw awhile.
Lay hands upon him!
Help Martius, help!
You that be noble, help him, young and old!
Down with him, down with him!
[In this mutiny the Tribunes, the Aediles and the People are beat in.]
Go, get you to your house. Begone, away.
All will be naught else.
Get you gone.
We have as many friends as enemies.
Shall it be put to that?
The gods forbid!
I prithee, noble friend, home to thy house;
Leave us to cure this cause.
For ’tis a sore upon us
You cannot tent yourself. Begone, beseech you.
Come, sir, along with us.
I would they were barbarians, as they are,
Though in Rome littered, not Romans, as they are not,
Though calved i’ th’ porch o’ th’ Capitol.
Put not your worthy rage into your tongue.
One time will owe another.
On fair ground
I could beat forty of them.
I could myself
Take up a brace o’ th’ best of them, yea, the two tribunes.
But now ’tis odds beyond arithmetic,
And manhood is called foolery when it stands
Against a falling fabric. Will you hence,
Before the tag return, whose rage doth rend
Like interrupted waters, and o’erbear
What they are used to bear?
Pray you, begone.
I’ll try whether my old wit be in request
With those that have but little. This must be patched
With cloth of any colour.
Nay, come away.
[Exeunt Coriolanus and Cominius.]
This man has marred his fortune.
His nature is too noble for the world.
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.
[A noise within.]
Here’s goodly work.
I would they were abed!
I would they were in Tiber! What the vengeance,
Could he not speak ’em fair?
Enter Brutus and Sicinius with the rabble again.
Where is this viper
That would depopulate the city and
Be every man himself?
You worthy tribunes—
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 naught.
He shall well know
The noble tribunes are the people’s mouths,
And we their hands.
He shall, sure on’t.
Do not cry havoc where you should but hunt
With modest warrant.
Sir, how comes’t that you
Have holp to make this rescue?
Hear me speak.
As I do know the Consul’s worthiness,
So can I name his faults.
Consul? What consul?
The consul Coriolanus.
No, no, no, no, no!
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
Than so much loss of time.
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
Our certain death. Therefore it is decreed
He dies tonight.
Now the good gods forbid
That our renowned Rome, whose gratitude
Towards her deserved children is enrolled
In Jove’s own book, like an unnatural dam
Should now eat up her own.
He’s a disease that must be cut away.
O, he’s a limb that has but a disease—
Mortal to cut it off; to cure it easy.
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 dropt it for his country;
And what is left, to lose it by his country
Were to us all, that do’t and suffer it
A brand to th’ end o’ th’ world.
This is clean cam.
Merely awry. When he did love his country,
It honoured him.
The service of the foot,
Being once gangrened, is not then respected
For what before it was.
We’ll hear no more.
Pursue him to his house, and pluck him thence,
Lest his infection, being of catching nature,
One word more, one word!
This tiger-footed rage, when it shall find
The harm of unscanned swiftness, will too late,
Tie leaden pounds to’s heels. Proceed by process,
Lest parties—as he is beloved—break out
And sack great Rome with Romans.
If it were so—
What do ye talk?
Have we not had a taste of his obedience?
Our aediles smote! Ourselves resisted? Come.
Consider this: he has been bred i’ th’ wars
Since he could draw a sword, and is ill schooled
In bolted language; meal and bran together
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.
It is the humane way: the other course
Will prove too bloody, and the end of it
Unknown to the beginning.
Be you then as the people’s officer.—
Masters, lay down your weapons.
Go not home.
Meet on the marketplace. We’ll attend you there,
Where if you bring not Martius, we’ll proceed
In our first way.
I’ll bring him to you.
[To Senators.] Let me desire your company. He must come,
Or what is worst will follow.
Pray you, let’s to him.
THE TRAGEDY OF CORIOLANUS by William Shakespeare
Author: William Shakespeare
Native Language: English