Rome. The capitol.
(First Officer; Second Officer; Senators; Sicinius; Brutus; Lictors; Coriolanus; Menenius; Cominius; Junius Brutus; Sicinius Velutus)
Coriolanus’s friends have him stand for consul, but he refuses to flatter the despised rabble. The senate chooses him consul, but he is very reluctant to speak to the people and show them his wounds, a traditional part of campaigning. (157 lines)
Enter two Officers to lay cushions, as it were in the Capitol.
Come, come, they are almost here. How many stand for consulships?
Three, they say; but ’tis thought of every one Coriolanus will carry it.
That’s a brave fellow; but he’s vengeance proud, and loves not the common people.
Faith, there hath been many great men that have flatter’d the people, who ne’er lov’d them; and there be many that they have lov’d, they know not wherefore; so that, if they love they know not why, they hate upon no better a ground. Therefore, for Coriolanus neither to care whether they love or hate him manifests the true knowledge he has in their disposition, and out of his noble carelessness lets them plainly see’t.
If he did not care whether he had their love or no, he wav’d indifferently ’twixt doing them neither good nor harm; but he seeks their hate with greater devotion than they can render it him, and leaves nothing undone that may fully discover him their opposite. Now, to seem to affect the malice and displeasure of the people is as bad as that which he dislikes, to flatter them for their love.
He hath deserv’d worthily of his country, and his ascent is not by such easy degrees as those who, having been supple and courteous to the people, bonneted, without any further deed to have them at all into their estimation and report. But he hath so planted his honors in their eyes and his actions in their hearts that for their tongues to be silent and not confess so much were a kind of ingrateful injury; to report otherwise were a malice that, giving itself the lie, would pluck reproof and rebuke from every ear that heard it.
No more of him, he’s a worthy man. Make way, they are coming.
A sennet. Enter the Patricians and the Tribunes of the people (Sicinius and Brutus), Lictors before them; Coriolanus, Menenius, Cominius the Consul.
Sicinius and Brutus take their places by themselves. Coriolanus stands.
Having determin’d of the Volsces and
To send for Titus Lartius, it remains,
As the main point of this our after-meeting,
To gratify his noble service that
Hath thus stood for his country; therefore please you,
Most reverend and grave elders, to desire
The present consul and last general
In our well-found successes, to report
A little of that worthy work perform’d
By Martius Caius Coriolanus, whom
We met here both to thank and to remember
With honors like himself.
Speak, good Cominius:
Leave nothing out for length, and make us think
Rather our state’s defective for requital
Than we to stretch it out.
To the Tribunes.
Masters a’ th’ people,
We do request your kindest ears, and after,
Your loving motion toward the common body
To yield what passes here.
We are convented
Upon a pleasing treaty, and have hearts
Inclinable to honor and advance
The theme of our assembly.
Which the rather
We shall be blest to do, if he remember
A kinder value of the people than
He hath hereto priz’d them at.
That’s off, that’s off;
I would you rather had been silent. Please you
To hear Cominius speak?
But yet my caution was more pertinent
Than the rebuke you give it.
He loves your people,
But tie him not to be their bedfellow.
Worthy Cominius, speak.
Coriolanus rises and offers to go away.
Nay, keep your place.
Sit, Coriolanus; never shame to hear
What you have nobly done.
Your honors’ pardon;
I had rather have my wounds to heal again
Than hear say how I got them.
Sir, I hope
My words disbench’d you not?
No, sir; yet oft,
When blows have made me stay, I fled from words.
You sooth’d not, therefore hurt not; but your people,
I love them as they weigh—
Pray now, sit down.
I had rather have one scratch my head i’ th’ sun
When the alarum were struck than idly sit
To hear my nothings monster’d.
Masters of the people,
Your multiplying spawn how can he flatter—
That’s thousand to one good one—when you now see
He had rather venture all his limbs for honor
Than one on ’s ears to hear it? Proceed, Cominius.
I shall lack voice: the deeds of Coriolanus
Should not be utter’d feebly. It is held
That valor is the chiefest virtue, and
Most dignifies the haver; if it be,
The man I speak of cannot in the world
Be singly counterpois’d. At sixteen years,
When Tarquin made a head for Rome, he fought
Beyond the mark of others. Our then dictator,
Whom with all praise I point at, saw him fight,
When with his Amazonian chin he drove
The bristled lips before him. He bestrid
An o’erpress’d Roman, and i’ th’ consul’s view
Slew three opposers. Tarquin’s self he met,
And struck him on his knee. In that day’s feats,
When he might act the woman in the scene,
He prov’d best man i’ th’ field, and for his meed
Was brow-bound with the oak. His pupil age
Man-ent’red thus, he waxed like a sea,
And in the brunt of seventeen battles since
He lurch’d all swords of the garland. For this last,
Before and in Corioles, let me say,
I cannot speak him home. He stopp’d the fliers,
And by his rare example made the coward
Turn terror into sport; as weeds before
A vessel under sail, so men obey’d
And fell below his stem. His sword, death’s stamp,
Where it did mark, it took; from face to foot
He was a thing of blood, whose every motion
Was tim’d with dying cries. Alone he ent’red
The mortal gate of th’ city, which he painted
With shunless destiny; aidless came off,
And with a sudden reinforcement struck
Corioles like a planet. Now all’s his,
When by and by the din of war ’gan pierce
His ready sense; then straight his doubled spirit
Requick’ned what in flesh was fatigate,
And to the battle came he, where he did
Run reeking o’er the lives of men, as if
’Twere a perpetual spoil; and till we call’d
Both field and city ours, he never stood
To ease his breast with panting.
He cannot but with measure fit the honors
Which we devise him.
Our spoils he kick’d at,
And look’d upon things precious as they were
The common muck of the world. He covets less
Than misery itself would give, rewards
His deeds with doing them, and is content
To spend the time to end it.
He’s right noble.
Let him be call’d for.
He doth appear.
The Senate, Coriolanus, are well pleas’d
To make thee consul.
I do owe them still
My life and services.
It then remains
That you do speak to the people.
I do beseech you,
Let me o’erleap that custom; for I cannot
Put on the gown, stand naked, and entreat them
For my wounds’ sake to give their suffrage. Please you
That I may pass this doing.
Sir, the people
Must have their voices; neither will they bate
One jot of ceremony.
Put them not to’t.
Pray you go fit you to the custom, and
Take to you, as your predecessors have,
Your honor with your form.
It is a part
That I shall blush in acting, and might well
Be taken from the people.
Mark you that.
To brag unto them, “Thus I did, and thus!”
Show them th’ unaching scars which I should hide,
As if I had receiv’d them for the hire
Of their breath only!
Do not stand upon’t.
We recommend to you, tribunes of the people,
Our purpose to them, and to our noble consul
Wish we all joy and honor.
To Coriolanus come all joy and honor!
Flourish cornets. Then exeunt. Manent Sicinius and Brutus.
You see how he intends to use the people.
May they perceive ’s intent! He will require them
As if he did contemn what he requested
Should be in them to give.
Come, we’ll inform them
Of our proceedings here on th’ market-place;
I know they do attend us.