Home  »  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.

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

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.

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

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.

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;

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.

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?

First Sen.Tribunes, give way; he shall to the market-place.

Bru.The people are incens’d against him.


Or all will fall in broil.

Cor.Are these your herd?

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.

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:

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.

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,

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

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.

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.

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,

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

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.

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

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

A man of their infirmity.

Sic.’Twere well

We let the people know ’t.

Men.What, what? his choler?


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.

Cor.Shall remain!

Hear you this Triton of the minnows? mark you

His absolute ‘shall?’

Com.’Twas from the canon.


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

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,

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,’

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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.

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,

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,—

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

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,

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.

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,

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.

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,

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

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.

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!—



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.

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.

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?


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.

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.

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.

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!

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

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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;

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.

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

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.

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:

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!

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

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

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.

Citizens.He shall, sure on ’t.

Men.Sir, sir,—


Men.Do not cry havoc, where you should but hunt

With modest warrant.

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.

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,

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

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

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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,—

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.

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:

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.

First Sen.Pray you, let’s to him.[Exeunt.