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William Shakespeare (1564–1616). The Oxford Shakespeare. 1914.

Act II. Scene I.


Rome.A Public Place.


Men.The augurer tells me we shall have news to-night.

Bru.Good or bad?

Men.Not according to the prayer of the people, for they love not Marcius.

Sic.Nature teaches beasts to know their friends.

Men.Pray you, who does the wolf love?

Sic.The lamb.

Men.Ay, to devour him; as the hungry plebeians would the noble Marcius.

Bru.He’s a lamb indeed, that baes like a bear.

Men.He’s a bear indeed, that lives like a lamb. You two are old men; tell me one thing that I shall ask you.

Sic. & Bru.Well, sir.

Men.In what enormity is Marcius poor in, that you two have not in abundance?

Bru.He’s poor in no one fault, but stored with all.

Sic.Especially in pride.

Bru.And topping all others in boasting.

Men.This is strange now: do you two know how you are censured here in the city, I mean of us o’ the right-hand file? Do you?

Both.Why, how are we censured?

Men.Because you talk of pride now,—Will you not be angry?

Both.Well, well, sir; well.

Men.Why, ’tis no great matter; for a very little thief of occasion will rob you of a great deal of patience: give your dispositions the reins, and be angry at your pleasures; at the least, if you take it as a pleasure to you in being so. You blame Marcius for being proud?

Bru.We do it not alone, sir.

Men.I know you can do very little alone; for your helps are many, or else your actions would grow wondrous single: your abilities are too infant-like, for doing much alone. You talk of pride: O! that you could turn your eyes towards the napes of your necks, and make but an interior survey of your good selves. O! that you could.

Bru.What then, sir?

Men.Why, then you should discover a brace of unmeriting, proud, violent, testy magistrates—alias fools—as any in Rome.

Sic.Menenius, you are known well enough too.

Men.I am known to be a humorous patrician, and one that loves a cup of hot wine with not a drop of allaying Tiber in ’t; said to be something imperfect in favouring the first complaint; hasty and tinder-like upon too trivial motion; one that converses more with the buttock of the night than with the forehead of the morning. What I think I utter, and spend my malice in my breath. Meeting two such wealsmen as you are,—I cannot call you Lycurguses,—if the drink you give me touch my palate adversely, I make a crooked face at it. I cannot say your worships have delivered the matter well when I find the ass in compound with the major part of your syllables; and though I must be content to bear with those that say you are reverend grave men, yet they lie deadly that tell you have good faces. If you see this in the map of my microcosm, follows it that I am known well enough too? What harm can your bisson conspectuities glean out of this character, if I be known well enough too?

Bru.Come, sir, come, we know you well enough.

Men.You know neither me, yourselves, nor anything. You are ambitious for poor knaves’ caps and legs: you wear out a good wholesome forenoon in hearing a cause between an orange-wife and a fosset-seller, and then rejourn the controversy of three-pence to a second day of audience. When you are hearing a matter between party and party, if you chance to be pinched with the colic, you make faces like mummers, set up the bloody flag against all patience, and, in roaring for a chamber-pot, dismiss the controversy bleeding, the more entangled by your hearing: all the peace you make in their cause is, calling both the parties knaves. You are a pair of strange ones.

Bru.Come, come, you are well understood to be a perfecter giber for the table than a necessary bencher in the Capitol.

Men.Our very priests must become mockers if they shall encounter such ridiculous subjects as you are. When you speak best unto the purpose it is not worth the wagging of your beards; and your beards deserve not so honourable a grave as to stuff a botcher’s cushion, or to be entombed in an ass’s pack-saddle. Yet you must be saying Marcius is proud; who, in a cheap estimation, is worth all your predecessors since Deucalion, though peradventure some of the best of ’em were hereditary hangmen. Good den to your worships: more of your conversation would infect my brain, being the herdsmen of the beastly plebeians: I will be bold to take my leave of you.[BRUTUS and SICINIUS go aside.


How now, my as fair as noble ladies,—and the moon, were she earthly, no nobler,—whither do you follow your eyes so fast?

Vol.Honourable Menenius, my boy Marcius approaches; for the love of Juno, let’s go.

Men.Ha! Marcius coming home?

Vol.Ay, worthy Menenius; and with most prosperous approbation.

Men.Take my cap, Jupiter, and I thank thee. Hoo! Marcius coming home!

Vol. & Vir.Nay, ’tis true.

Vol.Look, here’s a letter from him: the state hath another, his wife another; and, I think, there’s one at home for you.

Men.I will make my very house reel to-night. A letter for me!

Vir.Yes, certain, there’s a letter for you; I saw it.

Men.A letter for me! It gives me an estate of seven years’ health; in which time I will make a lip at the physician: the most sovereign prescription in Galen is but empiricutic, and, to this preservative, of no better report than a horse-drench. Is he not wounded? he was wont to come home wounded.

Vir.O! no, no, no.

Vol.O! he is wounded, I thank the gods for ’t.

Men.So do I too, if it be not too much. Brings a’ victory in his pocket? The wounds become him.

Vol.On ’s brows, Menenius; he comes the third time home with the oaken garland.

Men.Has he disciplined Aufidius soundly?

Vol.Titus Lartius writes they fought together, but Aufidius got off.

Men.And ’twas time for him too, I’ll warrant him that: an he had stayed by him I would not have been so fidiused for all the chests in Corioli, and the gold that’s in them. Is the senate possessed of this?

Vol.Good ladies, let’s go. Yes, yes, yes; the senate has letters from the general, wherein he gives my son the whole name of the war. He hath in this action outdone his former deeds doubly.

Val.In troth there’s wondrous things spoke of him.

Men.Wondrous! ay, I warrant you, and not without his true purchasing.

Vir.The gods grant them true!

Vol.True! pow, wow.

Men.True! I’ll be sworn they are true. Where is he wounded?[To the Tribunes.]God save your good worships! Marcius is coming home: he has more cause to be proud.[To VOLUMNIA.]Where is he wounded?

Vol.I’ the shoulder, and i’ the left arm: there will be large cicatrices to show the people when he shall stand for his place. He received in the repulse of Tarquin seven hurts i’ the body.

Men.One i’ the neck, and two i’ the thigh, there’s nine that I know.

Vol.He had, before this last expedition, twenty-five wounds upon him.

Men.Now, it’s twenty-seven: every gash was an enemy’s grave.[A shout and flourish.]Hark! the trumpets.

Vol.These are the ushers of Marcius: before him he carries noise, and behind him he leaves tears:

Death, that dark spirit, in ’s nervy arm doth lie;

Which, being advanc’d, declines, and then men die.

A Sennet.Trumpets sound.Enter COMINIUS and TITUS LARTIUS; between them, CORIOLANUS, crowned with an oaken garland; with Captains, Soldiers, and a Herald.

Her.Know, Rome, that all alone Marcius did fight

Within Corioli gates: where he hath won,

With fame, a name to Caius Marcius; these

In honour follows Coriolanus.

Welcome to Rome, renowned Coriolanus![Flourish.

All.Welcome to Rome, renowned Coriolanus!

Cor.No more of this; it does offend my heart:

Pray now, no more.

Com.Look, sir, your mother!


You have, I know, petition’d all the gods

For my prosperity.[Kneels.

Vol.Nay, my good soldier, up;

My gentle Marcius, worthy Caius, and

By deed-achieving honour newly nam’d,—

What is it?—Coriolanus must I call thee?

But O! thy wife!—

Cor.My gracious silence, hail!

Wouldst thou have laugh’d had I come coffin’d home,

That weep’st to see me triumph? Ah! my dear,

Such eyes the widows in Corioli wear,

And mothers that lack sons.

Men.Now, the gods crown thee!

Cor.And live you yet?[To VALERIA.]O my sweet lady, pardon.

Vol.I know not where to turn: O! welcome home;

And welcome, general; and ye’re welcome all.

Men.A hundred thousand welcomes: I could weep,

And I could laugh; I am light, and heavy. Welcome.

A curse begnaw at very root on ’s heart

That is not glad to see thee! You are three

That Rome should dote on; yet, by the faith of men,

We have some old crab-trees here at home that will not

Be grafted to your relish. Yet, welcome, warriors!

We call a nettle but a nettle, and

The faults of fools but folly.

Com.Ever right.

Cor.Menenius, ever, ever.

Her.Give way there, and go on!

Cor.[To VOLUMNIA and VALERIA.]Your hand, and yours:

Ere in our own house I do shade my head,

The good patricians must be visited;

From whom I have receiv’d not only greetings,

But with them change of honours.

Vol.I have liv’d

To see inherited my very wishes,

And the buildings of my fancy: only

There’s one thing wanting, which I doubt not but

Our Rome will cast upon thee.

Cor.Know, good mother,

I had rather be their servant in my way

Than sway with them in theirs.

Com.On, to the Capitol![Flourish.Cornets.Exeunt in state, as before.The Tribunes remain.

Bru.All tongues speak of him, and the bleared sights

Are spectacled to see him: your prattling nurse

Into a rapture lets her baby cry

While she chats him: the kitchen malkin pins

Her richest lockram ’bout her reechy neck,

Clambering the walls to eye him: stalls, bulks, windows,

Are smother’d up, leads fill’d, and ridges hors’d

With variable complexions, all agreeing

In earnestness to see him: seld-shown flamens

Do press among the popular throngs, and puff

To win a vulgar station: our veil’d dames

Commit the war of white and damask in

Their nicely-gawded cheeks to the wanton spoil

Of Phœbus’ burning kisses: such a pother

As if that whatsoever god who leads him

Were slily crept into his human powers,

And gave him graceful posture.

Sic.On the sudden

I warrant him consul.

Bru.Then our office may,

During his power, go sleep.

Sic.He cannot temperately transport his honours

From where he should begin and end, but will

Lose those he hath won.

Bru.In that there’s comfort.

Sic.Doubt not, the commoners, for whom we stand,

But they upon their ancient malice will

Forget with the least cause these his new honours,

Which that he’ll give them, make I as little question

As he is proud to do ’t.

Bru.I heard him swear,

Were he to stand for consul, never would he

Appear i’ the market-place, nor on him put

The napless vesture of humility;

Nor, showing, as the manner is, his wounds

To the people, beg their stinking breaths.

Sic.’Tis right.

Bru.It was his word. O! he would miss it rather

Than carry it but by the suit o’ the gentry to him

And the desire of the nobles.

Sic.I wish no better

Than have him hold that purpose and to put it

In execution.

Bru.’Tis most like he will.

Sic.It shall be to him then, as our good wills,

A sure destruction.

Bru.So it must fall out

To him or our authorities. For an end,

We must suggest the people in what hatred

He still hath held them; that to his power he would

Have made them mules, silenc’d their pleaders, and

Dispropertied their freedoms; holding them,

In human action and capacity,

Of no more soul nor fitness for the world

Than camels in the war; who have their provand

Only for bearing burdens, and sore blows

For sinking under them.

Sic.This, as you say, suggested

At some time when his soaring insolence

Shall teach the people—which time shall not want,

If he be put upon ’t; and that’s as easy

As to set dogs on sheep—will be his fire

To kindle their dry stubble; and their blaze

Shall darken him for ever.

Enter a Messenger.

Bru.What’s the matter?

Mess.You are sent for to the Capitol. ’Tis thought

That Marcius shall be consul.

I have seen the dumb men throng to see him, and

The blind to hear him speak: matrons flung gloves,

Ladies and maids their scarfs and handkerchers

Upon him as he pass’d; the nobles bended,

As to Jove’s statue, and the commons made

A shower and thunder with their caps and shouts:

I never saw the like.

Bru.Let’s to the Capitol;

And carry with us ears and eyes for the time,

But hearts for the event.

Sic.Have with you.[Exeunt.