Reference > William Shakespeare > The Oxford Shakespeare > Coriolanus
William Shakespeare (1564–1616).  The Oxford Shakespeare.  1914.
Act III. Scene I.
Rome.  A Street.
Cornets.  Enter CORIOLANUS, MENENIUS, COMINIUS, TITUS LARTIUS, Senators, and Patricians.
  Cor.  Tullus Aufidius then had made new head?
  Lart.  He had, my lord; and that it was which caus’d
Our swifter composition.        5
  Cor.  So then the Volsces stand but as at first,
Ready, when time shall prompt them, to make road
Upon ’s again.
  Com.        They are worn, lord consul, so,
That we shall hardly in our ages see        10
Their banners wave again.
  Cor.        Saw you Aufidius?
  Lart.  On safe-guard he came to me; and did curse
Against the Volsces, for they had so vilely
Yielded the town: he is retir’d to Antium.        15
  Cor.  Spoke he of me?
  Lart.        He did, my lord.
  Cor.                How? what?
  Lart.  How often he had met you, sword to sword;
That of all things upon the earth he hated        20
Your person most, that he would pawn his fortunes
To hopeless restitution, so he might
Be call’d your vanquisher.
  Cor.        At Antium lives he?
  Lart.  At Antium.        25
  Cor.  I wish I had a cause to seek him there,
To oppose his hatred fully. Welcome home.
Behold! these are the tribunes of the people,
The tongues o’ the common mouth: I do despise them;        30
For they do prank them in authority
Against all noble sufferance.
  Sic.        Pass no further.
  Cor.  Ha! what is that?
  Bru.  It will be dangerous to go on: no further.        35
  Cor.  What makes this change?
  Men.        The matter?
  Com.  Hath he not pass’d the noble and the common?
  Bru.  Cominius, no.
  Cor.        Have I had children’s voices?        40
  First Sen.  Tribunes, give way; he shall to the market-place.
  Bru.  The people are incens’d against him.
  Sic.        Stop,
Or all will fall in broil.
  Cor.        Are these your herd?        45
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?
  Men.        Be calm, be calm.        50
  Cor.  It is a purpos’d 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 rul’d.
  Bru.        Call ’t not a plot:        55
The people cry you mock’d them, and of late,
When corn was given them gratis, you repin’d;
Scandall’d the suppliants for the people, call’d them
Time-pleasers, flatterers, foes to nobleness.
  Cor.  Why, this was known before.        60
  Bru.        Not to them all.
  Cor.  Have you inform’d them sithence?
  Bru.        How! I inform them!
  Cor.  You are like to do such business.
  Bru.        Not unlike,        65
Each way, to better yours.
  Cor.  Why then should I be consul? By yond clouds,
Let me deserve so ill as you, and make me
Your fellow tribune.
  Sic.        You show too much of that        70
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.        75
  Men.        Let’s be calm.
  Com.  The people are abus’d; set on. This paltering
Becomes not Rome, nor has Coriolanus
Deserv’d this so dishonour’d rub, laid falsely
I’ the plain way of his merit.        80
  Cor.        Tell me of corn!
This was my speech, and I will speak ’t again,—
  Men.  Not now, not now.
  First Sen.        Not in this heat, sir, now.
  Cor.  Now, as I live, I will. My nobler friends,        85
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        90
The cockle of rebellion, insolence, sedition,
Which we ourselves have plough’d for, sow’d and scatter’d,
By mingling them with us, the honour’d number;
Who lack’d not virtue, no, nor power, but that
Which they have given to beggars.        95
  Men.        Well, no more.
  First Sen.  No more words, we beseech you.
  Cor.        How! no more!
As for my country I have shed my blood,
Not fearing outward force, so shall my lungs        100
Coin words till they decay against those measles,
Which we disdain should tetter us, yet sought
The very way to catch them.
  Bru.        You speak o’ the people,
As if you were a god to punish, not        105
A man of their infirmity.
  Sic.        ’Twere well
We let the people know ’t.
  Men.        What, what? his choler?
  Cor.  Choler!        110
Were I as patient as the midnight sleep,
By Jove, ’twould be my mind!
  Sic.        It is a mind
That shall remain a poison where it is,
Not poison any further.        115
  Cor.        Shall remain!
Hear you this Triton of the minnows? mark you
His absolute ‘shall?’
  Com.        ’Twas from the canon.
  Cor.                ‘Shall!’        120
O good but most unwise patricians! why,
You grave but reckless senators, have you thus
Given Hydra here to choose an officer,
That with his peremptory ‘shall,’ being but
The horn and noise o’ the monster’s, wants not spirit        125
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,        130
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,’        135
His popular ‘shall,’ against a graver bench
Than ever frown’d 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        140
May enter ’twixt the gap of both and take
The one by the other.
  Com.        Well, on to the market-place.
  Cor.  Whoever gave that counsel, to give forth
The corn o’ the store-house grátis, as ’twas us’d        145
Sometime in Greece,—
  Men.        Well, well; no more of that.
  Cor.  Though there the people had more absolute power,
I say, they nourish’d disobedience, fed
The ruin of the state.        150
  Bru.        Why, shall the people give
One that speaks thus their voice?
  Cor.        I’ll give my reasons,
More worthier than their voices. They know the corn
Was not our recompense, resting well assur’d        155
They ne’er did service for ’t. Being press’d to the war,
Even when the navel of the state was touch’d,
They would not thread the gates: this kind of service
Did not deserve corn gratis. Being i’ the war,
Their mutinies and revolts, wherein they show’d        160
Most valour, spoke not for them. The accusation
Which they have often made against the senate,
All cause unborn, could never be the motive
Of our so frank donation. Well, what then?
How shall this bisson multitude digest        165
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        170
Call our cares, fears; which will in time break ope
The locks o’ the senate, and bring in the crows
To peck the eagles.
  Men.        Come, enough.
  Bru.  Enough, with over-measure.        175
  Cor.        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,        180
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 barr’d, it follows
Nothing is done to purpose. Therefore, beseech you,—        185
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        190
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 it,        195
Not having the power to do the good it would,
For the ill which doth control ’t.
  Bru.        He has said enough.
  Sic.  He has spoken like a traitor, and shall answer
As traitors do.        200
  Cor.  Thou wretch! despite o’erwhelm thee!
What should the people do with these bald tribunes?
On whom depending, their obedience fails
To the greater bench. In a rebellion,
When what’s not meet, but what must be, was law,        205
Then were they chosen: in a better hour,
Let what is meet be said it must be meet,
And throw their power i’ the dust.
  Bru.  Manifest treason!
  Sic.        This a consul? no.        210
  Bru.  The ædiles, ho! Let him be apprehended.
Enter an Ædile.
  Sic.  Go, call the people;  [Exit Ædile]  in whose name, myself
Attach thee as a traitorous innovator,
A foe to the public weal: obey, I charge thee,        215
And follow to thine answer.
  Cor.        Hence, old goat!
  Sen.  We’ll surety him.
  Com.        Aged sir, hands off.
  Cor.  Hence, rotten thing! or I shall shake thy bones        220
Out of thy garments.
  Sic.        Help, ye citizens!
Re-enter Ædiles, with Others, and a rabble of Citizens.
  Men.  On both sides more respect.
  Sic.  Here’s he that would take from you all your power.        225
  Bru.  Seize him, ædiles!
  Citizens.  Down with him!—down with him!—
  Sen.  Weapons!—weapons!—weapons!—  [They all bustle about CORIOLANUS, crying
Tribunes!—patricians!—citizens!—What ho!—
Sicinius!—Brutus!—Coriolanus!—Citizens!        230
  Men.  What is about to be?—I am out of breath;
Confusion’s near; I cannot speak. You, tribunes
To the people! Coriolanus, patience!
Speak, good Sicinius.        235
  Sic.        Hear me, people; peace!
  Citizens.  Let’s hear our tribune:—Peace!—Speak, speak, speak.
  Sic.  You are at point to lose your liberties:
Marcius would have all from you; Marcius,
Whom late you have nam’d for consul.        240
  Men.        Fie, fie, fie!
This is the way to kindle, not to quench.
  First Sen.  To unbuild the city and to lay all flat.
  Sic.  What is the city but the people?
  Citizens.        True,        245
The people are the city.
  Bru.  By the consent of all, we were establish’d
The people’s magistrates.
  Citizens.        You so remain.
  Men.  And so are like to do.        250
  Com.  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.
  Sic.        This deserves death.        255
  Bru.  Or let us stand to our authority,
Or let us lose it. We do here pronounce,
Upon the part o’ the people, in whose power
We were elected theirs, Marcius is worthy
Of present death.        260
  Sic.        Therefore lay hold of him;
Bear him to the rock Tarpeian, and from thence
Into destruction cast him.
  Bru.        Ædiles, seize him!
  Citizens.  Yield, Marcius, yield!        265
  Men.        Hear me one word;
Beseech you, tribunes, hear me but a word.
  Æd.  Peace, peace!
  Men.  Be that you seem, truly your country’s friends,
And temperately proceed to what you would        270
Thus violently redress.
  Bru.        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.        275
  Cor.        No, I’ll die here.  [Drawing his sword.
There’s some among you have beheld me fighting:
Come, try upon yourselves what you have seen me.
  Men.  Down with that sword! Tribunes, withdraw awhile.
  Bru.  Lay hands upon him.        280
  Men.        Help Marcius, help,
You that be noble; help him, young and old!
  Citizens.  Down with him!—down with him!  [In this mutiny the Tribunes, the Ædiles, and the People are beat in.
  Men.  Go, get you to your house; be gone, away!
All will be naught else.        285
  Sec. Sen.        Get you gone.
  Cor.                Stand fast;
We have as many friends as enemies.
  Men.  Shall it be put to that?
  First Sen.        The gods forbid!        290
I prithee, noble friend, home to thy house;
Leave us to cure this cause.
  Men.        For ’tis a sore upon us,
You cannot tent yourself: be gone, beseech you.
  Com.  Come, sir, along with us.        295
  Cor.  I would they were barbarians,—as they are,
Though in Rome litter’d,—not Romans,—as they are not,
Though calv’d i’ the porch o’ the Capitol,—
  Men.        Be gone;
Put not your worthy rage into your tongue;        300
One time will owe another.
  Cor.        On fair ground
I could beat forty of them.
  Men.        I could myself
Take up a brace o’ the best of them; yea, the two tribunes.        305
  Com.  But now ’tis odds beyond arithmetic;
And manhood is call’d 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        310
What they are us’d to bear.
  Men.        Pray you, be gone.
I’ll try whether my old wit be in request
With those that have but little: this must be patch’d
With cloth of any colour.        315
  Com.        Nay, come away.  [Exeunt CORIOLANUS, COMINIUS, and Others.
  First Pat.  This man has marr’d his fortune.
  Men.  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:        320
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!
  Sec. Pat.        I would they were a-bed!        325
  Men.  I would they were in Tiber! What the vengeance!
Could he not speak ’em fair?
Re-enter BRUTUS and SICINIUS, with the rabble.
  Sic.        Where is this viper
That would depopulate the city and        330
Be every man himself?
  Men.        You worthy tribunes,—
  Sic.  He shall be thrown down the Tarpeian rock
With rigorous hands: he hath resisted law,
And therefore law shall scorn him further trial        335
Than the severity of the public power,
Which he so sets at nought.
  First Cit.        He shall well know
The noble tribunes are the people’s mouths,
And we their hands.        340
  Citizens.        He shall, sure on ’t.
  Men.                Sir, sir,—
  Sic.  Peace!
  Men.  Do not cry havoc, where you should but hunt
With modest warrant.        345
  Sic.        Sir, how comes ’t that you
Have holp to make this rescue?
  Men.        Hear me speak:
As I do know the consul’s worthiness,
So can I name his faults.        350
  Sic.        Consul! what consul?
  Men.  The Consul Coriolanus.
  Bru.        He consul!
  Citizens.  No, no, no, no, no.
  Men.  If, by the tribunes’ leave, and yours, good people,        355
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.
  Sic.        Speak briefly then;
For we are peremptory to dispatch        360
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 to-night.
  Men.        Now the good gods forbid        365
That our renowned Rome, whose gratitude
Towards her deserved children is enroll’d
In Jove’s own book, like an unnatural dam
Should now eat up her own!
  Sic.  He’s a disease that must be cut away.        370
  Men.  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        375
By many an ounce,—he dropp’d 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’ the world.
  Sic.        This is clean kam.        380
  Bru.  Merely awry: when he did love his country
It honour’d him.
  Men.        The service of the foot
Being once gangren’d, is not then respected
For what before it was.        385
  Bru.        We’ll hear no more.
Pursue him to his house, and pluck him thence,
Lest his infection, being of catching nature,
Spread further.
  Men.        One word more, one word.        390
This tiger-footed rage, when it shall find
The harm of unscann’d swiftness, will, too late,
Tie leaden pounds to’s heels. Proceed by process;
Lest parties—as he is belov’d—break out,
And sack great Rome with Romans.        395
  Bru.        If ’twere so,—
  Sic.  What do ye talk?
Have we not had a taste of his obedience?
Our ædiles smote? ourselves resisted? Come!
  Men.  Consider this: he has been bred i’ the wars        400
Since he could draw a sword, and is ill school’d
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,—        405
In peace,—to his utmost peril.
  First Sen.        Noble tribunes,
It is the humane way: the other course
Will prove too bloody, and the end of it
Unknown to the beginning.        410
  Sic.        Noble Menenius,
Be you then as the people’s officer.
Masters, lay down your weapons.
  Bru.        Go not home.
  Sic.  Meet on the market-place. We’ll attend you there:        415
Where, if you bring not Marcius, we’ll proceed
In our first way.
  Men.  I’ll bring him to you.
[To the Senators.]  Let me desire your company. He must come,
Or what is worst will follow.        420
  First Sen.        Pray you, let’s to him.  [Exeunt.

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