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Coriolanus :: Scenes :: Coriolanus: Act III, Scene 1

Scene 1

Rome. A street.

(Coriolanus; Menenius; Gentry; Cominius; Titus Lartius; Roman Senators; Sicinius; Brutus; Aediles; Plebeians; Junius Brutus; Sicinius Velutus; Plebeians)

The tribunes stop Coriolanus to tell him the people have changed their minds. The angry patrician bursts forth in contemptuous abuse of the people and their representatives, the tribunes, to such an extent that the tribunes have an excuse to call for his arrest for treason. They rouse up the mob and convince them to try to kill Coriolanus. The rabble and the patricians battle. Menenius tries to pacify the people and insists that Coriolnaus be granted a full, public trial. ( line)

Cornets. Enter Coriolanus, Menenius, all the Gentry, Cominius, Titus Lartius, and other Senators.

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 safeguard he came to me, and did curse

Against the Volsces for they had so vildly

Yielded the town. He is retired 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.

Enter Sicinius and Brutus.

Behold, these are the tribunes of the people,

The tongues o’ th’ common mouth. I do despise them!

For they do prank them in authority,

Against all noble sufferance.

SIC.

Pass no further.

COR.

Hah? 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?

1. ROM. SEN.

Tribunes, give way, he shall to th’ market-place.

BRU.

The people are incens’d against him.

SIC.

Stop,

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 ruled.

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?

COM.

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 palt’ring

Becomes not Rome; nor has Coriolanus

Deserv’d this so dishonor’d rub, laid falsely

I’ th’ 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.

1. ROM. 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 meiny, 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 honor’d number,

Who lack not virtue, no, nor power, but that

Which they have given to beggars.

MEN.

Well, no more.

1. ROM. 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 their decay against those measles

Which we disdain should tetter us, yet sought

The very way to catch them.

BRU.

You speak a’ th’ 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?

COR.

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.

COR.

“Shall”?

O good but most unwise patricians! Why,

You grave but reakless senators, have you thus

Given Hydra here to choose an officer,

That with his peremptory “shall,” being but

The horn and noise o’ th’ 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 learn’d,

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 th’ other.

COM.

Well, on to th’ market-place.

COR.

Whoever gave that counsel, to give forth

The corn a’ th’ store-house gratis, as ’twas us’d

Sometime in Greece—

MEN.

Well, well, no more of that.

COR.

Though there the people had more absolute pow’r,

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 th’ 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’ th’ war,

Their mutinies and revolts, wherein they show’d

Most valor, spoke not for them. Th’ accusation

Which they have often made against the Senate,

All cause unborn, could never be the native

Of our so frank donation. Well, what then?

How shall this bosom multiplied 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 a’ th’ 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 dishonor

Mangles true judgment, and bereaves the state

Of that integrity which should become’t;

Not having the power to do the good it would,

For th’ ill which doth control’t.

BRU.

H’as said enough.

SIC.

H’as 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 th’ 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’ th’ dust.

BRU.

Manifest treason!

SIC.

This a consul? No!

BRU.

The aediles ho!

Enter Aediles.

Let him be apprehended.

SIC.

Go call the people

Exit Aediles.

in whose name myself

Attach thee as a traitorous innovator,

A foe to th’ public weal. Obey, I charge thee,

And follow to thine answer.

COR.

Hence, old goat!

PATRICIANS

We’ll surety him.

COM.

Ag’d sir, hands off.

COR.

Hence, rotten thing! Or I shall shake thy bones

Out of thy garments.

SIC.

Help, ye citizens!

Enter a rabble of Plebeians with the Aediles.

MEN.

On both sides more respect.

SIC.

Here’s he that would take from you all your power.

BRU.

Seize him, aediles!

ALL PLEBEIANS.

Down with him, down with him!

2. ROM. SEN.

Weapons, weapons, weapons!

They all bustle about Coriolanus.

ALL PLEBEIANS.

Tribunes!—Patricians!—Citizens!—What ho!—

Sicinius!—Brutus!—Coriolanus!—Citizens!—

Peace, peace, peace!—Stay, hold, peace!

MEN.

What is about to be? I am out of breath,

Confusion’s near, I cannot speak. You, tribunes

To th’ people! Coriolanus, patience!

Speak, good Sicinius.

SIC.

Hear me, people, peace!

ALL PLEBEIANS.

Let’s hear our tribune; peace! Speak, speak, speak!

SIC.

You are at point to lose your liberties.

Martius would have all from you; Martius,

Whom late you have nam’d for consul.

MEN.

Fie, fie, fie!

This is the way to kindle, not to quench.

1. ROM. SEN.

To unbuild the city, and to lay all flat.

SIC.

What is the city but the people?

ALL PLEBEIANS.

True,

The people are the city.

BRU.

By the consent of all, we were establish’d

The people’s magistrates.

ALL PLEBEIANS.

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’ th’ people, in whose power

We were elected theirs, Martius is worthy

Of present death.

SIC.

Therefore lay hold of him;

Bear him to th’ rock Tarpeian, and from thence

Into destruction cast him.

BRU.

Aediles, seize him!

ALL PLEBEIANS.

Yield, Martius, yield!

MEN.

Hear me one word,

Beseech you, tribunes, hear me but a word.

BOTH. AEDILES.

Peace, peace!

MEN.

To Brutus.

Be that you seem, truly your country’s friend,

And temp’rately 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.

Coriolanus draws his sword.

COR.

No, I’ll die here.

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 a while.

BRU.

Lay hands upon him.

MEN.

Help Martius, help!

You that be noble, help him, young and old!

ALL PLEBEIANS.

Down with him, down with him!

In this mutiny the Tribunes, the Aediles, and the People are beat in and exeunt.

MEN.

To Coriolanus.

Go, get you to your house; be gone, away!

All will be naught else.

2. ROM. SEN.

Get you gone.

COR.

Stand fast,

We have as many friends as enemies.

MEN.

Shall it be put to that?

1. ROM. 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 calved i’ th’ porch o’ th’ 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’ th’ 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 color.

COM.

Nay, come away.

Exeunt Coriolanus and Cominius with others.

PATRICIAN.

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!

PATRICIAN.

I would they were a-bed!

MEN.

I would they were in Tiber! What the vengeance,

Could he not speak ’em fair?

Enter Brutus and Sicinius with the rabble again.

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.

1. ROM. CIT.

He shall well know

The noble tribunes are the people’s mouths,

And we their hands.

ALL PLEBEIANS.

He shall, sure on’t.

MEN.

Sir, sir—

SIC.

Peace!

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!

ALL PLEBEIANS.

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 tonight.

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 a’ th’ world.

SIC.

This is clean kam.

BRU.

Merely awry. When he did love his country,

It honor’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 it were so—

SIC.

What do ye talk?

Have we not had a taste of his obedience—

Our aediles smote, ourselves resisted? Come.

MEN.

Consider this: he has been bred i’ th’ wars

Since ’a 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.

1. ROM. 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 Martius, 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.

1. ROM. SEN.

Pray you let’s to him.

Exeunt omnes.

 
 
 
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