Rome. The forum.
(Roman Citizens; Coriolanus; Menenius; Brutus; Sicinius; Plebeians)
Citizens discuss whether they should vote for Coriolanus. He comes forth in the wonted garb of humility, and makes a very poor attempt at ingratiating himself with the people as he asks for their votes. He cannot control the extent to which he despises the rabble for long, and is all too clearly uncomfortable in his role. Though he is voted in as consul, the tribunes find it easy to stir up popular indignation against Coriolanus and drive them to riot against the man they just voted for. (224 lines)
Enter seven or eight Roman Citizens.
Once if he do require our voices, we ought not to deny him.
We may, sir, if we will.
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.
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.
We have been call’d so of many, not that our heads are some brown, some black, some abram, some bald, but that our wits are so diversely color’d; 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 a’ th’ compass.
Think you so? Which way do you judge my wit would fly?
Nay, your wit will not so soon out as another man’s will; ’tis strongly wadg’d up in a block-head; but if it were at liberty, ’twould sure southward.
Why that way?
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.
You are never without your tricks; you may, you may.
Are you all resolv’d 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.
Enter Coriolanus in a gown of humility, with Menenius.
Here he comes, and in the gown of humility, mark his behavior. 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 honor, in giving him our own voices with our own tongues; therefore follow me, and I’ll direct you how you shall go by him.
Exeunt Roman Citizens.
O sir, you are not right. Have you not known
The worthiest men have done’t?
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 th’ noise of our own drums.”
O me, the gods!
You must not speak of that. You must desire them
To think upon you.
Think upon me? Hang ’em,
I would they would forget me, like the virtues
Which our divines lose by ’em.
You’ll mar all.
I’ll leave you. Pray you speak to ’em, I pray you,
In wholesome manner.
Enter three of the Citizens.
Bid them wash their faces,
And keep their teeth clean. So, here comes a brace.—
You know the cause, sir, of my standing here.
We do, sir, tell us what hath brought you to’t.
Mine own desert.
Your own desert!
Ay, not mine own desire.
How, not your own desire?
No, sir, ’twas never my desire yet to trouble the poor with begging.
You must think, if we give you any thing, we hope to gain by you.
Well then, I pray, your price a’ th’ consulship?
The price is, to ask it kindly.
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?
You shall ha’t, worthy sir.
A match, sir. There’s in all two worthy voices begg’d. I have your alms, adieu.
But this is something odd.
And ’twere to give again—but ’tis no matter.
Enter Fourth and Fifth Citizens.
Pray you now, if it may stand with the tune of your voices that I may be consul, I have here the customary gown.
You have deserv’d nobly of your country, and you have not deserv’d nobly.
You have been a scourge to her enemies, you have been a rod to her friends; you have not indeed lov’d the common people.
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 practice 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 bountiful to the desirers. Therefore beseech you I may be consul.
We hope to find you our friend; and therefore give you our voices heartily.
You have receiv’d many wounds for your country.
I will not seal your knowledge with showing them. I will make much of your voices, and so trouble you no farther.
The gods give you joy, sir, heartily!
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 does 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’erpeer. Rather than fool it so,
Let the high office and the honor go
To one that would do thus. I am half through:
The one part suffered, the other will I do.
Enter three Citizens more.
Here come more voices.—
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.
He has done nobly, and cannot go without any honest man’s voice.
Therefore let him be consul. The gods give him joy, and make him good friend to the people!
Amen, amen. God save thee, noble consul!
Enter Menenius with Brutus and Sicinius.
You have stood your limitation, and the tribunes
Endue you with the people’s voice. Remains
That, in th’ official marks invested, you
Anon do meet the Senate.
Is this done?
The custom of request you have discharg’d.
The people do admit you and are summon’d
To meet anon, upon your approbation.
Where? At the Senate-house?
May I change these garments?
You may, sir.
That I’ll straight do; and, knowing myself again,
Repair to th’ Senate-house.
I’ll keep you company. Will you along?
We stay here for the people.
Fare you well.
Exeunt Coriolanus and Menenius.
He has it now; and by his looks, methinks,
’Tis warm at ’s heart.
With a proud heart he wore his humble weeds.
Will you dismiss the people?
Enter the Plebeians.
How now, my masters, have you chose this man?
He has our voices, sir.
We pray the gods he may deserve your loves.
Amen, sir. To my poor unworthy notice,
He mock’d us when he begg’d our voices.
He flouted us downright.
No, ’tis his kind of speech, he did not mock us.
Not one amongst us, save yourself, but says
He us’d us scornfully. He should have show’d us
His marks of merit, wounds receiv’d for ’s country.
Why, so he did, I am sure.
No, no; no man saw ’em.
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?
Why either were you ignorant to see’t,
Or, seeing it, of such childish friendliness
To yield your voices?
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’ th’ body of the weal; and now, arriving
A place of potency and sway o’ th’ state,
If he should still malignantly remain
Fast foe to th’ 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.
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 th’ advantage of his choler,
And pass’d him unelected.
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 judgement?
Ere now denied the asker; and now again,
Of him that did not ask but mock, bestow
Your su’d-for tongues?
He’s not confirm’d, we may deny him yet.
And will deny him.
I’ll have five hundred voices of that sound.
I twice five hundred, and their friends to piece ’em.
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.
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
Th’ 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 labor’d
(No impediment between) but that you must
Cast your election on him.
Say you chose him
More after our commandment than as guided
By your own true affections, and that your minds,
Preoccupied with what you rather must do
Than what you should, made you against the grain
To voice him consul. Lay the fault on us.
Ay, spare us not. Say we read lectures to you,
How youngly he began to serve his country,
How long continued, and what stock he springs of—
The noble house o’ th’ Martians; from whence came
That Ancus Martius, 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 named so, twice being censor,
Was his great ancestor.
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.
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 th’ Capitol.
We will so. Almost all
Repent in their election.
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.
To th’ Capitol, come.
We will be there before the stream o’ th’ people;
And this shall seem, as partly ’tis, their own,
Which we have goaded onward.