Entrance of the Volscian camp before Rome.
(Menenius; First Watchman; Second Watchman; Guards; Coriolanus; Aufidius)
Menenius desperately tries to gain admission to Coriolanus’s presence. The general refuses to listen to him. (65 lines)
Enter Menenius to the Watch or Guard.
Stay! Whence are you?
Stand, and go back.
You guard like men, ’tis well. But, by your leave,
I am an officer of state, and come
To speak with Coriolanus.
You may not pass, you must return; our general
Will no more hear from thence.
You’ll see your Rome embrac’d with fire before
You’ll speak with Coriolanus.
Good my friends,
If you have heard your general talk of Rome
And of his friends there, it is lots to blanks
My name hath touch’d your ears: it is Menenius.
Be it so, go back. The virtue of your name
Is not here passable.
I tell thee, fellow,
Thy general is my lover. I have been
The book of his good acts, whence men have read
His fame unparallel’d, happily amplified;
For I have ever verified my friends
(Of whom he’s chief) with all the size that verity
Would without lapsing suffer. Nay, sometimes,
Like to a bowl upon a subtle ground,
I have tumbled past the throw; and in his praise
Have (almost) stamp’d the leasing. Therefore, fellow,
I must have leave to pass.
Faith, sir, if you had told as many lies in his behalf as you have utter’d words in your own, you should not pass here; no, though it were as virtuous to lie as to live chastely. Therefore go back.
Prithee, fellow, remember my name is Menenius, always factionary on the party of your general.
Howsoever you have been his liar, as you say you have, I am one that, telling true under him, must say you cannot pass. Therefore go back.
Has he din’d, canst thou tell? For I would not speak with him till after dinner.
You are a Roman, are you?
I am, as thy general is.
Then you should hate Rome, as he does. Can you, when you have push’d out your gates the very defender of them, and, in a violent popular ignorance, given your enemy your shield, think to front his revenges with the easy groans of old women, the virginal palms of your daughters, or with the palsied intercession of such a decay’d dotant as you seem to be? Can you think to blow out the intended fire your city is ready to flame in, with such weak breath as this? No, you are deceiv’d; therefore back to Rome, and prepare for your execution. You are condemn’d; our general has sworn you out of reprieve and pardon.
Sirrah, if thy captain knew I were here, he would use me with estimation.
Come, my captain knows you not.
I mean, thy general.
My general cares not for you. Back, I say, go; lest I let forth your half-pint of blood. Back, that’s the utmost of your having, back!
Nay, but, fellow, fellow—
Enter Coriolanus with Aufidius.
What’s the matter?
Now, you companion! I’ll say an arrant for you. You shall know now that I am in estimation; you shall perceive that a Jack guardant cannot office me from my son Coriolanus. Guess but by my entertainment with him if thou stand’st not i’ th’ state of hanging, or of some death more long in spectatorship and crueller in suffering; behold now presently, and swound for what’s to come upon thee.
The glorious gods sit in hourly synod about thy particular prosperity, and love thee no worse than thy old father Menenius does! O my son, my son! Thou art preparing fire for us; look thee, here’s water to quench it. I was hardly mov’d to come to thee; but being assur’d none but myself could move thee, I have been blown out of your gates with sighs, and conjure thee to pardon Rome and thy petitionary countrymen. The good gods assuage thy wrath, and turn the dregs of it upon this varlet here—this, who like a block hath denied my access to thee.
Wife, mother, child I know not. My affairs
Are servanted to others; though I owe
My revenge properly, my remission lies
In Volscian breasts. That we have been familiar,
Ingrate forgetfulness shall poison rather
Than pity note how much. Therefore be gone.
Mine ears against your suits are stronger than
Your gates against my force. Yet, for I loved thee,
Take this along, I writ it for thy sake,
Gives a letter.
And would have sent it. Another word, Menenius,
I will not hear thee speak. This man, Aufidius,
Was my belov’d in Rome; yet thou behold’st!
You keep a constant temper.
Exeunt. Manent the Guard and Menenius.
Now, sir, is your name Menenius?
’Tis a spell, you see, of much power. You know the way home again.
Do you hear how we are shent for keeping your greatness back?
What cause do you think I have to swound?
I neither care for th’ world nor your general; for such things as you, I can scarce think there’s any, y’ are so slight. He that hath a will to die by himself fears it not from another. Let your general do his worst. For you, be that you are, long; and your misery increase with your age! I say to you, as I was said to, “Away!”
A noble fellow, I warrant him.
The worthy fellow is our general. He’s the rock, the oak not to be wind-shaken.