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

Act III. Scene II.


The Same.A Room in CORIOLANUS’S House.

Enter CORIOLANUS and Patricians.

Cor.Let them pull all about mine ears; present me

Death on the wheel, or at wild horses’ heels;

Or pile ten hills on the Tarpeian rock,

That the precipitation might down stretch

Below the beam of sight; yet will I still

Be thus to them.

First Pat.You do the nobler.

Cor.I muse my mother

Does not approve me further, who was wont

To call them woollen vassals, things created

To buy and sell with groats, to show bare heads

In congregations, to yawn, be still, and wonder,

When one but of my ordinance stood up

To speak of peace or war.


I talk of you:

Why did you wish me milder? Would you have me

False to my nature? Rather say I play

The man I am.

Vol.O! sir, sir, sir,

I would have had you put your power well on

Before you had worn it out.

Cor.Let go.

Vol.You might have been enough the man you are

With striving less to be so: lesser had been

The thwarting of your dispositions if

You had not show’d them how you were dispos’d,

Ere they lack’d power to cross you.

Cor.Let them hang.

Vol.Ay, and burn too.

Enter MENENIUS and Senators.

Men.Come, come; you have been too rough, something too rough;

You must return and mend it.

First Sen.There’s no remedy;

Unless, by not so doing, our good city

Cleave in the midst, and perish.

Vol.Pray be counsell’d.

I have a heart of mettle apt as yours,

But yet a brain that leads my use of anger

To better vantage.

Men.Well said, noble woman!

Before he should thus stoop to the herd, but that

The violent fit o’ the time craves it as physic

For the whole state, I would put mine armour on,

Which I can scarcely bear.

Cor.What must I do?

Men.Return to the tribunes.

Cor.Well, what then? what then?

Men.Repent what you have spoke.

Cor.For them! I cannot do it to the gods;

Must I then do ’t to them?

Vol.You are too absolute;

Though therein you can never be too noble,

But when extremities speak. I have heard you say,

Honour and policy, like unsever’d friends,

I’ the war do grow together: grant that, and tell me,

In peace what each of them by th’ other lose,

That they combine not there.

Cor.Tush, tush!

Men.A good demand.

Vol.If it be honour in your wars to seem

The same you are not,—which, for your best ends,

You adopt your policy,—how is it less or worse,

That it shall hold companionship in peace

With honour, as in war, since that to both

It stands in like request?

Cor.Why force you this?

Vol.Because that now it lies you on to speak

To the people; not by your own instruction,

Nor by the matter which your heart prompts you,

But with such words that are but rooted in

Your tongue, though but bastards and syllables

Of no allowance to your bosom’s truth.

Now, this no more dishonours you at all

Than to take in a town with gentle words,

Which else would put you to your fortune and

The hazard of much blood.

I would dissemble with my nature where

My fortunes and my friends at stake requir’d

I should do so in honour: I am in this,

Your wife, your son, these senators, the nobles;

And you will rather show our general louts

How you can frown than spend a fawn upon ’em,

For the inheritance of their loves and safeguard

Of what that want might ruin.

Men.Noble lady!

Come, go with us; speak fair; you may salve so,

Not what is dangerous present, but the loss

Of what is past.

Vol.I prithee now, my son,

Go to them, with this bonnet in thy hand;

And thus far having stretch’d it,—here be with them,

Thy knee bussing the stones,—for in such business

Action is eloquence, and the eyes of the ignorant

More learned than the ears,—waving thy head,

Which often, thus, correcting thy stout heart,

Now humble as the ripest mulberry

That will not hold the handling: or say to them,

Thou art their soldier, and being bred in broils

Hast not the soft way which, thou dost confess,

Were fit for thee to use as they to claim,

In asking their good loves; but thou wilt frame

Thyself, forsooth, hereafter theirs, so far

As thou hast power and person.

Men.This but done,

Even as she speaks, why, their hearts were yours;

For they have pardons, being ask’d, as free

As words to little purpose.

Vol.Prithee now,

Go, and be rul’d; although I know thou hadst rather

Follow thine enemy in a fiery gulf

Than flatter him in a bower. Here is Cominius.


Com.I have been i’ the market-place; and, sir, ’tis fit

You make strong party, or defend yourself

By calmness or by absence: all’s in anger.

Men.Only fair speech.

Com.I think ’twill serve if he

Can thereto frame his spirit.

Vol.He must, and will.

Prithee now, say you will, and go about it.

Cor.Must I go show them my unbarbed sconce?

Must I with my base tongue give to my noble heart

A lie that it must bear? Well, I will do ’t:

Yet, were there but this single plot to lose,

This mould of Marcius, they to dust should grind it,

And throw ’t against the wind. To the market-place!

You have put me now to such a part which never

I shall discharge to the life.

Com.Come, come, we’ll prompt you.

Vol.I prithee now, sweet son, as thou hast said

My praises made thee first a soldier, so,

To have my praise for this, perform a part

Thou hast not done before.

Cor.Well, I must do ’t:

Away, my disposition, and possess me

Some harlot’s spirit! My throat of war be turn’d,

Which quired with my drum, into a pipe

Small as a eunuch, or the virgin voice

That babies lulls asleep! The smiles of knaves

Tent in my cheeks, and school-boys’ tears take up

The glasses of my sight! A beggar’s tongue

Make motion through my lips, and my arm’d knees,

Who bow’d but in my stirrup, bend like his

That hath receiv’d an alms! I will not do ’t,

Lest I surcease to honour mine own truth,

And by my body’s action teach my mind

A most inherent baseness.

Vol.At thy choice then:

To beg of thee it is my more dishonour

Than thou of them. Come all to ruin; let

Thy mother rather feel thy pride than fear

Thy dangerous stoutness, for I mock at death

With as big heart as thou. Do as thou list,

Thy valiantness was mine, thou suck’dst it from me,

But owe thy pride thyself.

Cor.Pray, be content:

Mother, I am going to the market-place;

Chide me no more. I’ll mountebank their loves,

Cog their hearts from them, and come home belov’d

Of all the trades in Rome. Look, I am going:

Commend me to my wife. I’ll return consul,

Or never trust to what my tongue can do

I’ the way of flattery further.

Vol.Do your will.[Exit.

Com.Away! the tribunes do attend you: arm yourself

To answer mildly; for they are prepar’d

With accusations, as I hear, more strong

Than are upon you yet.

Men.The word is ‘mildly.’

Cor.Pray you, let us go:

Let them accuse me by invention, I

Will answer in mine honour.

Men.Ay, but mildly.

Cor.Well, mildly be it then. Mildly![Exeunt.