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

Act II. Scene III.


The Same.The Forum.

Enter several Citizens.

First Cit.Once, if he do require our voices, we ought not to deny him.

Sec. Cit.We may, sir, if we will.

Third Cit.We have power in ourselves to do it, but it is a power that we have no power to do; for if he show us his wounds, and tell us his deeds, we are to put our tongues into those wounds and speak for them; so, if he tell us his noble deeds, we must also tell him our noble acceptance of them. Ingratitude is monstrous, and for the multitude to be ingrateful were to make a monster of the multitude; of the which, we being members, should bring ourselves to be monstrous members.

First Cit.And to make us no better thought of, a little help will serve; for once we stood up about the corn, he himself stuck not to call us the many-headed multitude.

Third Cit.We have been called so of many; not that our heads are some brown, some black, some abram, some bald, but that our wits are so diversely coloured: and truly I think, if all our wits were to issue out of one skull, they would fly east, west, north, south; and their consent of one direct way should be at once to all the points o’ the compass.

Sec. Cit.Think you so? Which way do you judge my wit would fly?

Third Cit.Nay, your wit will not so soon out as another man’s will; ’tis strongly wedged up in a block-head; but if it were at liberty, ’twould, sure, southward.

Sec. Cit.Why that way?

Third Cit.To lose itself in a fog; where being three parts melted away with rotten dews, the fourth would return for conscience’ sake, to help to get thee a wife.

Sec. Cit.You are never without your tricks: you may, you may.

Third Cit.Are you all resolved to give your voices? But that’s no matter, the greater part carries it. I say, if he would incline to the people, there was never a worthier man.

Re-enter CORIOLANUS, in a gown of humility, and MENENIUS.

Here he comes, and in a gown of humility: mark his behaviour. We are not to stay all together, but to come by him where he stands, by ones, by twos, and by threes. He’s to make his requests by particulars; wherein every one of us has a single honour, in giving him our own voices with our own tongues: therefore follow me, and I’ll direct you how you shall go by him.

All.Content, content.[Exeunt Citizens.

Men.O, sir, you are not right: have you not known

The worthiest men have done ’t?

Cor.What must I say?

‘I pray, sir,’—Plague upon ’t! I cannot bring

My tongue to such a pace. ‘Look, sir, my wounds!

I got them in my country’s service, when

Some certain of your brethren roar’d and ran

From the noise of our own drums.’

Men.O me! the gods!

You must not speak of that: you must desire them

To think upon you.

Cor.Think upon me! Hang ’em!

I would they would forget me, like the virtues

Which our divines lose by ’em.

Men.You’ll mar all:

I’ll leave you. Pray you, speak to ’em, I pray you,

In wholesome manner.

Cor.Bid them wash their faces,

And keep their teeth clean.[Exit MENENIUS.

So, here comes a brace.

Re-enter two Citizens.

You know the cause, sir, of my standing here?

First Cit.We do, sir; tell us what hath brought you to ’t.

Cor.Mine own desert.

Sec. Cit.Your own desert!

Cor.Ay, not mine own desire.

First Cit.How! not your own desire?

Cor.No, sir, ’twas never my desire yet to trouble the poor with begging.

First Cit.You must think, if we give you any thing, we hope to gain by you.

Cor.Well, then, I pray, your price o’ the consulship?

First Cit.The price is, to ask it kindly.

Cor.Kindly! sir, I pray, let me ha ’t: I have wounds to show you, which shall be yours in private. Your good voice, sir; what say you?

Sec. Cit.You shall ha ’t, worthy sir.

Cor.A match, sir. There is in all two worthy voices begged. I have your alms: adieu.

First Cit.But this is something odd.

Sec. Cit.An ’twere to give again,—but ’tis no matter.[Exeunt the two Citizens.

Re-enter two other Citizens.

Cor.Pray you now, if it may stand with the tune of your voices that I may be consul, I have here the customary gown.

Third Cit.You have deserved nobly of your country, and you have not deserved nobly.

Cor.Your enigma?

Third Cit.You have been a scourge to her enemies, you have been a rod to her friends; you have not indeed loved the common people.

Cor.You should account me the more virtuous that I have not been common in my love. I will, sir, flatter my sworn brother the people, to earn a dearer estimation of them; ’tis a condition they account gentle: and since the wisdom of their choice is rather to have my hat than my heart, I will practise the insinuating nod, and be off to them most counterfeitly; that is, sir, I will counterfeit the bewitchment of some popular man, and give it bountifully to the desirers. Therefore, beseech you, I may be consul.

Fourth Cit.We hope to find you our friend, and therefore give you our voices heartily.

Third Cit.You have received many wounds for your country.

Cor.I will not seal your knowledge with showing them. I will make much of your voices, and so trouble you no further.

Both Cit.The gods give you joy, sir, heartily![Exeunt.

Cor.Most sweet voices!

Better it is to die, better to starve,

Than crave the hire which first we do deserve.

Why in this woolvish toge should I stand here,

To beg of Hob and Dick, that do appear,

Their needless vouches? Custom calls me to ’t:

What custom wills, in all things should we do ’t,

The dust on antique time would lie unswept,

And mountainous error be too highly heap’d

For truth to o’er-peer. Rather than fool it so,

Let the high office and the honour go

To one that would do thus. I am half through;

The one part suffer’d, the other will I do.

Here come more voices.

Re-enter three other Citizens.

Your voices: for your voices I have fought;

Watch’d for your voices; for your voices bear

Of wounds two dozen odd; battles thrice six

I have seen and heard of; for your voices have

Done many things, some less, some more; your voices:

Indeed, I would be consul.

Fifth Cit.He has done nobly, and cannot go without any honest man’s voice.

Sixth Cit.Therefore let him be consul. The gods give him joy, and make him good friend to the people!

All.Amen, amen.

God save thee, noble consul![Exeunt Citizens.

Cor.Worthy voices!


Men.You have stood your limitation; and the tribunes

Endue you with the people’s voice: remains

That, in the official marks invested, you

Anon do meet the senate.

Cor.Is this done?

Sic.The custom of request you have discharg’d:

The people do admit you, and are summon’d

To meet anon, upon your approbation.

Cor.Where? at the senate-house?

Sic.There, Coriolanus.

Cor.May I change these garments?

Sic.You may, sir.

Cor.That I’ll straight do; and, knowing myself again,

Repair to the senate-house.

Men.I’ll keep you company. Will you along?

Bru.We stay here for the people.

Sic.Fare you well.[Exeunt CORIOLANUS and MENENIUS.

He has it now; and by his looks, methinks,

’Tis warm at ’s heart.

Bru.With a proud heart he wore

His humble weeds. Will you dismiss the people?

Re-enter Citizens.

Sic.How now, my masters! have you chose this man?

First Cit.He has our voices, sir.

Bru.We pray the gods he may deserve your love.

Sec. Cit.Amen, sir. To my poor unworthy notice,

He mock’d us when he begg’d our voices.

Third Cit.Certainly,

He flouted us downright.

First Cit.No, ’tis his kind of speech; he did not mock us.

Sec. Cit.Not one amongst us, save yourself, but says

He used us scornfully: he should have show’d us

His marks of merit, wounds receiv’d for ’s country.

Sic.Why, so he did, I am sure.

All.No, no; no man saw ’em.

Third Cit.He said he had wounds, which he could show in private;

And with his hat, thus waving it in scorn,

‘I would be consul,’ says he: ‘aged custom,

But by your voices, will not so permit me;

Your voices therefore:’ when we granted that,

Here was, ‘I thank you for your voices, thank you,

Your most sweet voices: now you have left your voices

I have no further with you.’ Was not this mockery?

Sic.Why, either were you ignorant to see ’t,

Or, seeing it, of such childish friendliness

To yield your voices?

Bru.Could you not have told him

As you were lesson’d, when he had no power,

But was a petty servant to the state,

He was your enemy, ever spake against

Your liberties and the charters that you bear

I’ the body of the weal; and now, arriving

A place of potency and sway o’ the state,

If he should still malignantly remain

Fast foe to the plebeii, your voices might

Be curses to yourselves? You should have said

That as his worthy deeds did claim no less

Than what he stood for, so his gracious nature

Would think upon you for your voices and

Translate his malice towards you into love,

Standing your friendly lord.

Sic.Thus to have said,

As you were fore-advis’d, had touch’d his spirit

And tried his inclination; from him pluck’d

Either his gracious promise, which you might,

As cause had call’d you up, have held him to;

Or else it would have gall’d his surly nature,

Which easily endures not article

Tying him to aught; so, putting him to rage,

You should have ta’en the advantage of his choler,

And pass’d him unelected.

Bru.Did you perceive

He did solicit you in free contempt

When he did need your loves, and do you think

That his contempt shall not be bruising to you

When he hath power to crush? Why, had your bodies

No heart among you? or had you tongues to cry

Against the rectorship of judgment?

Sic.Have you

Ere now denied the asker? and now again

Of him that did not ask, but mock, bestow

Your su’d-for tongues?

Third Cit.He’s not confirm’d; we may deny him yet.

Sec. Cit.And will deny him:

I’ll have five hundred voices of that sound.

First Cit.Ay, twice five hundred and their friends to piece ’em.

Bru.Get you hence instantly, and tell those friends,

They have chose a consul that will from them take

Their liberties; make them of no more voice

Than dogs that are as often beat for barking

As therefore kept to do so.

Sic.Let them assemble;

And, on a safer judgment, all revoke

Your ignorant election. Enforce his pride,

And his old hate unto you; besides, forget not

With what contempt he wore the humble weed;

How in his suit he scorn’d you; but your loves,

Thinking upon his services, took from you

The apprehension of his present portance,

Which most gibingly, ungravely, he did fashion

After the inveterate hate he bears you.


A fault on us, your tribunes; that we labour’d,—

No impediment between,—but that you must

Cast your election on him.

Sic.Say, you chose him

More after our commandment than as guided

By your own true affections; and that, your minds,

Pre-occupied with what you rather must do

Than what you should, made you against the grain

To voice him consul: lay the fault on us.

Bru.Ay, spare us not. Say we read lectures to you,

How youngly he began to serve his country,

How long continu’d, and what stock he springs of,

The noble house o’ the Marcians, from whence came

That Ancus Marcius, Numa’s daughter’s son,

Who, after great Hostilius, here was king;

Of the same house Publius and Quintus were,

That our best water brought by conduits hither;

And Censorinus, that was so surnam’d,—

And nobly nam’d so, twice being censor,—

Was his great ancestor.

Sic.One thus descended,

That hath, beside, well in his person wrought

To be set high in place, we did commend

To your remembrances: but you have found,

Scaling his present bearing with his past,

That he’s your fixed enemy, and revoke

Your sudden approbation.

Bru.Say you ne’er had done ’t—

Harp on that still—but by our putting on;

And presently, when you have drawn your number,

Repair to the Capitol.

All.We will so; almost all

Repent in their election.[Exeunt Citizens.

Bru.Let them go on;

This mutiny were better put in hazard

Than stay, past doubt, for greater.

If, as his nature is, he fall in rage

With their refusal, both observe and answer

The vantage of his anger.

Sic.To the Capitol, come:

We will be there before the stream o’ the people;

And this shall seem, as partly ’tis, their own,

Which we have goaded onward.[Exeunt.