by William Shakespeare

SCENE II. Rome. A room in Coriolanus’s house

Enter Coriolanus with Nobles.

Let them pull all about mine ears, present me
Death on the wheel or at wild horses’ heels,
Or pile ten hills on the Tarpeian rock,
That the precipitation might down stretch
Below the beam of sight, yet will I still
Be thus to them.

You do the nobler.

I muse my mother
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
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
The man I am.

O, sir, sir, sir,
I would have had you put your power well on
Before you had worn it out.

Let go.

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 showed them how ye were disposed
Ere they lacked power to cross you.

Let them hang!

Ay, and burn too.

Enter Menenius with the Senators.

Come, come, you have been too rough, something too rough.
You must return and mend it.

There’s no remedy,
Unless, by not so doing, our good city
Cleave in the midst and perish.

Pray be counselled.
I have a heart as little apt as yours,
But yet a brain that leads my use of anger
To better vantage.

Well said, noble woman.
Before he should thus stoop to th’ herd—but that
The violent fit o’ th’ time craves it as physic
For the whole state—I would put mine armour on,
Which I can scarcely bear.

What must I do?

Return to th’ Tribunes.

Well, what then? What then?

Repent what you have spoke.

For them? I cannot do it to the gods.
Must I then do’t to them?

You are too absolute,
Though therein you can never be too noble
But when extremities speak. I have heard you say
Honour and policy, like unsevered friends,
I’ th’ war do grow together. Grant that, and tell me
In peace what each of them by th’ other lose
That they combine not there.

Tush, tush!

A good demand.

If it be honour in your wars to seem
The same you are not, which for your best ends
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?

Why force you this?

Because that now it lies you on to speak
To th’ people, not by your own instruction,
Nor by th’ matter which your heart prompts you,
But with such words that are but rooted in
Your tongue, though but bastards and syllables
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.
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
How you can frown than spend a fawn upon ’em
For the inheritance of their loves and safeguard
Of what that want might ruin.

Noble lady!—
Come, go with us; speak fair. You may salve so,
Not what is dangerous present, but the loss
Of what is past.

I prithee now, my son,
Go to them with this bonnet in thy hand,
And thus far having stretched it—here be with them—
Thy knee bussing the stones—for in such busines
Action is eloquence, and the eyes of th’ ignorant
More learned than the ears—waving thy head,
Which often thus correcting thy stout heart,
Now humble as the ripest mulberry
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
Thyself, forsooth, hereafter theirs, so far
As thou hast power and person.

This but done
Even as she speaks, why, their hearts were yours;
For they have pardons, being asked, as free
As words to little purpose.

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.

Enter Cominius.

Here is Cominius.

I have been i’ th’ marketplace; and, sir, ’tis fit
You make strong party or defend yourself
By calmness or by absence. All’s in anger.

Only fair speech.

I think ’twill serve, if he
Can thereto frame his spirit.

He must, and will.—
Prithee, now, say you will, and go about it.

Must I go show them my unbarbed sconce? Must I
With my base tongue give to 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 Martius, they to dust should grind it
And throw’t against the wind. To th’ marketplace!
You have put me now to such a part which never
I shall discharge to th’ life.

Come, come, we’ll prompt you.

I prithee now, sweet son, as thou hast said
My praises made thee first a soldier, so,
To have my praise for this, perform a part
Thou hast not done before.

Well, I must do’t.
Away, my disposition, and possess me
Some harlot’s spirit! My throat of war be turned,
Which choired 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
Make motion through my lips, and my armed knees,
Who bowed 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
A most inherent baseness.

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
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.

Pray, be content.
Mother, I am going to the marketplace.
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,
Or never trust to what my tongue can do
I’ th’ way of flattery further.

Do your will.

[Exit Volumnia.]

Away! The Tribunes do attend you. Arm yourself
To answer mildly, for they are prepared
With accusations, as I hear, more strong
Than are upon you yet.

The word is “mildly.” Pray you, let us go.
Let them accuse me by invention, I
Will answer in mine honour.

Ay, but mildly.

Well, mildly be it, then. Mildly.


THE TRAGEDY OF CORIOLANUS by William Shakespeare

Status: Completed

Author: William Shakespeare

Native Language: English

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