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Coriolanus Scenes

Scene 6

Near Cominius’ camp.

(Cominius; Roman Soldiers; Second Messenger; Martius)

Cominius, proud of his soldiers’ performance, is disturbed to hear that Martius and Lartius have been driven back from Corioli, but a more accurate assessment of the situation arrives in the shape of Martius himself, who hopes he is not too late to join the battle. He asks to be sent against Aufidius, and delivers a rousing speech that reinvigorates the soldiers, who follow him to the fight. (104 lines)

Enter Cominius, as it were in retire, with Roman Soldiers.


Breathe you, my friends. Well fought; we are come off

Like Romans, neither foolish in our stands

Nor cowardly in retire. Believe me, sirs,

We shall be charg’d again. Whiles we have struck,

By interims and conveying gusts we have heard

The charges of our friends. The Roman gods,

Lead their successes as we wish our own,

That both our powers, with smiling fronts encount’ring,

May give you thankful sacrifice.

Enter Second Messenger.

Thy news?

2. MESS.

The citizens of Corioles have issued,

And given to Lartius and to Martius battle.

I saw our party to their trenches driven,

And then I came away.


Though thou speakest truth,

Methinks thou speak’st not well. How long is’t since?

2. MESS.

Above an hour, my lord.


’Tis not a mile; briefly we heard their drums.

How couldst thou in a mile confound an hour,

And bring thy news so late?

2. MESS.

Spies of the Volsces

Held me in chase, that I was forc’d to wheel

Three or four miles about, else had I, sir,

Half an hour since brought my report.

Enter Martius.


Who’s yonder,

That does appear as he were flea’d? O gods,

He has the stamp of Martius, and I have

Before-time seen him thus.


Come I too late?


The shepherd knows not thunder from a tabor

More than I know the sound of Martius’ tongue

From every meaner man.


Come I too late?


Ay, if you come not in the blood of others,

But mantled in your own.


O! Let me clip ye

In arms as sound as when I woo’d, in heart

As merry as when our nuptial day was done

And tapers burnt to bedward!


Flower of warriors,

How is’t with Titus Lartius?


As with a man busied about decrees:

Condemning some to death, and some to exile;

Ransoming him, or pitying, threat’ning th’ other;

Holding Corioles in the name of Rome,

Even like a fawning greyhound in the leash,

To let him slip at will.


Where is that slave

Which told me they had beat you to your trenches?

Where is he? Call him hither.


Let him alone,

He did inform the truth. But for our gentlemen,

The common file (a plague—tribunes for them!),

The mouse ne’er shunn’d the cat as they did budge

From rascals worse than they.


But how prevail’d you?


Will the time serve to tell? I do not think.

Where is the enemy? Are you lords a’ th’ field?

If not, why cease you till you are so?



We have at disadvantage fought, and did

Retire to win our purpose.


How lies their battle? Know you on which side

They have plac’d their men of trust?


As I guess, Martius,

Their bands i’ th’ vaward are the Antiates,

Of their best trust; o’er them Aufidius,

Their very heart of hope.


I do beseech you,

By all the battles wherein we have fought,

By th’ blood we have shed together, by th’ vows

We have made to endure friends, that you directly

Set me against Aufidius and his Antiates,

And that you not delay the present, but,

Filling the air with swords advanc’d and darts,

We prove this very hour.


Though I could wish

You were conducted to a gentle bath

And balms applied to you, yet dare I never

Deny your asking. Take your choice of those

That best can aid your action.


Those are they

That most are willing. If any such be here

(As it were sin to doubt) that love this painting

Wherein you see me smear’d; if any fear

Lesser his person than an ill report;

If any think brave death outweighs bad life,

And that his country’s dearer than himself;

Let him alone, or so many so minded,

Wave thus to express his disposition,

And follow Martius.

They all shout and wave their swords, take him up in their arms, and cast up their caps.

O, me alone! Make you a sword of me?

If these shows be not outward, which of you

But is four Volsces? None of you but is

Able to bear against the great Aufidius

A shield as hard as his. A certain number

(Though thanks to all) must I select from all; the rest

Shall bear the business in some other fight

(As cause will be obey’d). Please you to march,

And four shall quickly draw out my command,

Which men are best inclin’d.


March on, my fellows!

Make good this ostentation, and you shall

Divide in all with us.



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