Rome. A public place.
(Sicinius; Brutus; Menenius; Roman Citizens; First Aedile; First Messenger; Second Messenger; Cominius)
The tribunes have grown self-satisfied now that Coriolanus has gone. They prove to be rather bad leaders, however, refusing to believe reports that the Volscians are attacking. They are only shaken from their complacency when they hear that Coriolanus has taken command of the enemy army. Cominius and Menenius berate the tribunes for their actions and discuss whether there’s any chance that Coriolanus will spare the city. The terrified citizens all insist that they didn’t mean it when they agreed to banish Coriolanus. (191 lines)
Enter Sicinius and Brutus.
We hear not of him, neither need we fear him;
His remedies are tame—the present peace
And quietness of the people, which before
Were in wild hurry. Here do we make his friends
Blush that the world goes well, who rather had,
Though they themselves did suffer by’t, behold
Dissentious numbers pest’ring streets, than see
Our tradesmen singing in their shops, and going
About their functions friendly.
We stood to’t in good time. Is this Menenius?
’Tis he, ’tis he. O, he is grown most kind of late.
Hail to you both!
Is not much miss’d but with his friends;
The commonwealth doth stand, and so would do,
Were he more angry at it.
All’s well; and might have been much better, if
He could have temporiz’d.
Where is he, hear you?
Nay, I hear nothing; his mother and his wife
Hear nothing from him.
Enter three or four Roman Citizens.
The gods preserve you both!
Good-en, our neighbors.
Good-en to you all, good-en to you all.
Ourselves, our wives, and children, on our knees,
Are bound to pray for you both.
Live, and thrive!
Farewell, kind neighbors! We wish’d Coriolanus
Had lov’d you as we did.
Now the gods keep you!
Exeunt Roman Citizens.
This is a happier and more comely time
Than when these fellows ran about the streets,
Caius Martius was
A worthy officer i’ th’ war, but insolent,
O’ercome with pride, ambitious past all thinking,
And affecting one sole throne,
I think not so.
We should by this, to all our lamentation,
If he had gone forth consul, found it so.
The gods have well prevented it, and Rome
Sits safe and still without him.
Enter an Aedile.
There is a slave, whom we have put in prison,
Reports the Volsces with two several powers
Are ent’red in the Roman territories,
And with the deepest malice of the war
Destroy what lies before ’em.
Who, hearing of our Martius’ banishment,
Thrusts forth his horns again into the world,
Which were inshell’d when Martius stood for Rome,
And durst not once peep out.
Come, what talk you
Go see this rumorer whipt. It cannot be
The Volsces dare break with us.
We have record that very well it can,
And three examples of the like hath been
Within my age. But reason with the fellow,
Before you punish him, where he heard this,
Lest you shall chance to whip your information,
And beat the messenger who bids beware
Of what is to be dreaded.
Tell not me!
I know this cannot be.
Enter First Messenger.
The nobles in great earnestness are going
All to the Senate-house; some news is coming
That turns their countenances.
’Tis this slave—
Go whip him ’fore the people’s eyes—his raising,
Nothing but his report.
Yes, worthy sir,
The slave’s report is seconded, and more,
More fearful, is deliver’d.
What more fearful?
It is spoke freely out of many mouths—
How probable I do not know—that Martius,
Join’d with Aufidius, leads a power ’gainst Rome,
And vows revenge as spacious as between
The young’st and oldest thing.
This is most likely!
Rais’d only that the weaker sort may wish
Good Martius home again.
The very trick on’t.
This is unlikely: he and Aufidius can
No more atone than violent’st contrariety.
Enter a Second Messenger.
You are sent for to the Senate.
A fearful army, led by Caius Martius
Associated with Aufidius, rages
Upon our territories, and have already
O’erborne their way, consum’d with fire, and took
What lay before them.
O, you have made good work!
What news? What news?
You have holp to ravish your own daughters, and
To melt the city leads upon your pates,
To see your wives dishonor’d to your noses—
What’s the news? What’s the news?
Your temples burned in their cement, and
Your franchises, whereon you stood, confin’d
Into an auger’s bore.
Pray now, your news?—
You have made fair work, I fear me.—Pray, your news?
If Martius should be join’d wi’ th’ Volscians—
He is their god; he leads them like a thing
Made by some other deity than Nature,
That shapes man better; and they follow him
Against us brats with no less confidence
Than boys pursuing summer butterflies,
Or butchers killing flies.
You have made good work,
You and your apron-men; you that stood so much
Upon the voice of occupation and
The breath of garlic-eaters!
Your Rome about your ears.
Did shake down mellow fruit. You have made fair work!
But is this true, sir?
Ay, and you’ll look pale
Before you find it other. All the regions
Do smilingly revolt, and who resists
Are mock’d for valiant ignorance,
And perish constant fools. Who is’t can blame him?
Your enemies and his find something in him.
We are all undone, unless
The noble man have mercy.
Who shall ask it?
The tribunes cannot do’t for shame; the people
Deserve such pity of him as the wolf
Does of the shepherds. For his best friends, if they
Should say, “Be good to Rome,” they charg’d him even
As those should do that had deserv’d his hate,
And therein show’d like enemies.
If he were putting to my house the brand
That should consume it, I have not the face
To say, “Beseech you cease.” You have made fair hands,
You and your crafts! You have crafted fair!
You have brought
A trembling upon Rome, such as was never
S’ incapable of help.
Say not we brought it.
How? Was’t we? We lov’d him, but like beasts
And cowardly nobles gave way unto your clusters,
Who did hoot him out o’ th’ city.
But I fear
They’ll roar him in again. Tullus Aufidius,
The second name of men, obeys his points
As if he were his officer. Desperation
Is all the policy, strength, and defense
That Rome can make against them.
Enter a troop of Roman Citizens.
Here come the clusters.
And is Aufidius with him? You are they
That made the air unwholesome, when you cast
Your stinking greasy caps in hooting at
Coriolanus’ exile. Now he’s coming,
And not a hair upon a soldier’s head
Which will not prove a whip. As many coxcombs
As you threw caps up will he tumble down,
And pay you for your voices. ’Tis no matter;
If he could burn us all into one coal,
We have deserv’d it.
Faith, we hear fearful news.
For mine own part,
When I said banish him, I said ’twas pity.
And so did I.
And so did I; and, to say the truth, so did very many of us. That we did, we did for the best, and though we willingly consented to his banishment, yet it was against our will.
Y’ are goodly things, you voices!
You have made
Good work, you and your cry! Shall ’s to the Capitol?
O ay, what else?
Exeunt both Cominius and Menenius.
Go, masters, get you home, be not dismay’d.
These are a side that would be glad to have
This true which they so seem to fear. Go home,
And show no sign of fear.
The gods be good to us! Come, masters, let’s home. I ever said we were i’ th’ wrong when we banish’d him.
So did we all. But come, let’s home.
Exeunt Roman Citizens.
I do not like this news.
Let’s to the Capitol. Would half my wealth
Would buy this for a lie!
Pray let’s go.