by William Shakespeare

SCENE III. The tent of Coriolanus

Enter Coriolanus and Aufidius.

We will before the walls of Rome tomorrow
Set down our host. My partner in this action,
You must report to th’ Volscian lords how plainly
I have borne this business.

Only their ends
You have respected, stopped your ears against
The general suit of Rome; never admitted
A private whisper, no, not with such friends
That thought them sure of you.

This last old man,
Whom with cracked heart I have sent to Rome,
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 showed sourly to him—once more offered
The first conditions, which they did refuse
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.

[Shout within.]

Ha? What shout is this?
Shall I be tempted to infringe my vow
In the same time ’tis made? I will not.

Enter Virgilia, Volumnia, Valeria, young Martius with attendants.

My wife comes foremost, then the honoured mold
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.
What is that curtsy 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
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,
And knew no other kin.

My lord and husband.

These eyes are not the same I wore in Rome.

The sorrow that delivers us thus changed
Makes you think so.

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.”

[They kiss.]

O, a kiss
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 virgined it e’er since. You gods! I prate
And the most noble mother of the world
Leave unsaluted. Sink, my knee, i’ th’ earth;


Of thy deep duty more impression show
Than that of common sons.

O, stand up blest,

[He rises.]

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.

[She kneels.]

What is this?
Your knees to me? To your corrected son?

[He raises her up.]

Then let the pebbles on the hungry beach
Fillip the stars! Then let the mutinous winds
Strike the proud cedars ’gainst the fiery sun,
Murdering impossibility to make
What cannot be slight work.

Thou art my warrior;
I holp to frame thee. Do you know this lady?

The noble sister of Publicola,
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.

This is a poor epitome of yours,
Which by th’ interpretation of full time
May show like all yourself.

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’ th’ wars
Like a great seamark standing every flaw
And saving those that eye thee.

[To young Martius.] Your knee, sirrah.

[He kneels.]

That’s my brave boy!

Even he, your wife, this lady, and myself
Are suitors to you.

[Young Martius rises.]

I beseech you, peace;
Or, if you’d ask, remember this before:
The thing I have forsworn to grant may never
Be held by you denials. Do not bid me
Dismiss my soldiers or capitulate
Again with Rome’s mechanics. Tell me not
Wherein I seem unnatural; desire not
T’ allay my rages and revenges with
Your colder reasons.

O, no more, no more!
You have said you will not grant us anything;
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
May hang upon your hardness. Therefore hear us.

Aufidius, and you Volsces, mark, for we’ll
Hear naught from Rome in private. Your request?

Should we be silent and not speak, our raiment
And state of bodies would bewray what life
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 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
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,
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
Must as a foreign recreant be led
With manacles through 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,
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—
Trust to’t, thou shalt not—on thy mother’s womb
That brought thee to this world.

Ay, and mine,
That brought you forth this boy to keep your name
Living to time.

He shall not tread on me.
I’ll run away till I am bigger, but then I’ll fight.

Not of a woman’s tenderness to be
Requires nor child nor woman’s face to see.—
I have sat too long.

[He rises.]

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
As poisonous of your honour. No, our suit
Is that you reconcile them, while the Volsces
May say “This mercy we have showed,” the Romans
“This we received,” and each in either side
Give the all-hail to thee and cry, “Be blessed
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 dogged with curses,
Whose chronicle thus writ: “The man was noble,
But with his last attempt he wiped it out;
Destroyed his country, and his name remains
To th’ ensuing age abhorred.” Speak to me, son.
Thou hast affected the fine strains of honour
To imitate the graces of the gods,
To tear with thunder the wide cheeks o’ th’ 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
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
Like one i’ th’ stocks. Thou hast never in thy life
Showed thy dear mother any courtesy
When she, poor hen, fond of no second brood,
Has clucked thee to the wars and safely home,
Loaden with honour. Say my request’s unjust
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.
To his surname Coriolanus ’longs more pride
Than pity to our prayers. Down! An end.

[They kneel.]

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,
But kneels and holds up hands for fellowship,
Does reason our petition with more strength
Than thou hast to deny’t.—Come, let us go.

[They rise.]

This fellow had a Volscian to his mother,
His wife is in Corioles, and his child
Like him by chance.—Yet give us our dispatch.
I am hushed until our city be afire,
And then I’ll speak a little.

[He holds her by the hand, silent.]

O mother, mother!
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!—
Most dangerously you have with him prevailed,
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
A mother less? Or granted less, Aufidius?

I was moved withal.

I dare be sworn you were.
And, sir, it is no little thing to make
Mine eyes to sweat compassion. But, good sir,
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!

[He speaks with them aside.]

[Aside.] I am glad thou hast set thy mercy and thy honour
At difference in thee. Out of that I’ll work
Myself a former fortune.

[To the Women.] Ay, by and by;
But we’ll drink together, and you shall bear
A better witness back than words, which we,
On like conditions, will have countersealed.
Come, enter with us. Ladies, you deserve
To have a temple built you. All the swords
In Italy, and her confederate arms,
Could not have made this peace.


THE TRAGEDY OF CORIOLANUS by William Shakespeare

Status: Completed

Author: William Shakespeare

Native Language: English

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