The tent of Coriolanus.
(Coriolanus; Aufidius; Virgilia; Volumnia; Valeria; Young Martius; Attendants)
Volumnia, Virgilia and Valeria, Rome’s last hope, enter with Coriolanus’s young son Martius to beg for his mercy. He is troubled, but insists he will remain adamant in his purpose of destroying Rome. Volumnia’s long plea finally moves him, however, and he realizes he will yield to her, even though he knows it means the end of him. (228 lines)
Enter Coriolanus and Aufidius with others.
We will before the walls of Rome tomorrow
Set down our host. My partner in this action,
You must report to th’ Volscian lords, how plainly
I have borne this business.
Only their ends
You have respected; stopp’d your ears against
The general suit of Rome; never admitted
A private whisper, no, not with such friends
That thought them sure of you.
This last old man,
Whom with a crack’d heart I have sent to Rome,
Lov’d me above the measure of a father,
Nay, godded me indeed. Their latest refuge
Was to send him; for whose old love I have
(Though I show’d sourly to him) once more offer’d
The first conditions, which they did refuse
And cannot now accept, to grace him only
That thought he could do more: a very little
I have yielded to. Fresh embassies and suits,
Nor from the state nor private friends, hereafter
Will I lend ear to.
Ha? What shout is this?
Shall I be tempted to infringe my vow
In the same time ’tis made? I will not.
Enter in mourning habits Virgilia, Volumnia, Valeria, young Martius, with Attendants.
My wife comes foremost; then the honor’d mould
Wherein this trunk was fram’d, and in her hand
The grandchild to her blood. But out, affection,
All bond and privilege of nature, break!
Let it be virtuous to be obstinate.
What is that curtsy worth? Or those doves’ eyes,
Which can make gods forsworn? I melt, and am not
Of stronger earth than others. My mother bows,
As if Olympus to a molehill should
In supplication nod; and my young boy
Hath an aspect of intercession, which
Great Nature cries, “Deny not.” Let the Volsces
Plough Rome and harrow Italy, I’ll never
Be such a gosling to obey instinct, but stand
As if a man were author of himself,
And knew no other kin.
My lord and husband!
These eyes are not the same I wore in Rome.
The sorrow that delivers us thus chang’d
Makes you think so.
Like a dull actor now
I have forgot my part, and I am out,
Even to a full disgrace. Best of my flesh,
Forgive my tyranny; but do not say
For that, “Forgive our Romans.” O, a kiss
Long as my exile, sweet as my revenge!
Now, by the jealous queen of heaven, that kiss
I carried from thee, dear; and my true lip
Hath virgin’d it e’er since. You gods, I prate,
And the most noble mother of the world
Leave unsaluted. Sink, my knee, i’ th’ earth;
Of thy deep duty more impression show
Than that of common sons.
O, stand up blest!
Whilst with no softer cushion than the flint
I kneel before thee, and unproperly
Show duty as mistaken all this while
Between the child and parent.
Your knees to me? To your corrected son?
Then let the pebbles on the hungry beach
Fillip the stars; then let the mutinous winds
Strike the proud cedars ’gainst the fiery sun,
Murd’ring impossibility, to make
What cannot be, slight work.
Thou art my warrior,
I holp to frame thee. Do you know this lady?
The noble sister of Publicola,
The moon of Rome, chaste as the icicle
That’s curdied by the frost from purest snow
And hangs on Dian’s temple—dear Valeria!
This is a poor epitome of yours,
Which by th’ interpretation of full time
May show like all yourself.
The god of soldiers,
With the consent of supreme Jove, inform
Thy thoughts with nobleness, that thou mayst prove
To shame unvulnerable, and stick i’ th’ wars
Like a great sea-mark, standing every flaw,
And saving those that eye thee!
Your knee, sirrah.
That’s my brave boy!
Even he, your wife, this lady, and myself
Are suitors to you.
I beseech you peace;
Or, if you’ld ask, remember this before:
The thing I have forsworn to grant may never
Be held by you denials. Do not bid me
Dismiss my soldiers, or capitulate
Again with Rome’s mechanics. Tell me not
Wherein I seem unnatural; desire not
T’ allay my rages and revenges with
Your colder reasons.
O, no more, no more!
You have said you will not grant us any thing;
For we have nothing else to ask but that
Which you deny already. Yet we will ask,
That, if you fail in our request, the blame
May hang upon your hardness, therefore hear us.
Aufidius, and you Volsces, mark, for we’ll
Hear nought from Rome in private.
Should we be silent and not speak, our raiment
And state of bodies would bewray what life
We have led since thy exile. Think with thyself
How more unfortunate than all living women
Are we come hither; since that thy sight, which should
Make our eyes flow with joy, hearts dance with comforts,
Constrains them weep and shake with fear and sorrow,
Making the mother, wife, and child to see
The son, the husband, and the father tearing
His country’s bowels out. And to poor we
Thine enmity’s most capital; thou barr’st us
Our prayers to the gods, which is a comfort
That all but we enjoy. For how can we,
Alas! How can we, for our country pray,
Whereto we are bound, together with thy victory,
Whereto we are bound? Alack, or we must lose
The country, our dear nurse, or else thy person,
Our comfort in the country. We must find
An evident calamity, though we had
Our wish, which side should win; for either thou
Must as a foreign recreant be led
With manacles through our streets, or else
Triumphantly tread on thy country’s ruin,
And bear the palm for having bravely shed
Thy wife and children’s blood. For myself, son,
I purpose not to wait on fortune till
These wars determine. If I cannot persuade thee
Rather to show a noble grace to both parts
Than seek the end of one, thou shalt no sooner
March to assault thy country than to tread
(Trust to’t, thou shalt not) on thy mother’s womb
That brought thee to this world.
Ay, and mine,
That brought you forth this boy, to keep your name
Living to time.
’A shall not tread on me;
I’ll run away till I am bigger, but then I’ll fight.
Not of a woman’s tenderness to be,
Requires nor child nor woman’s face to see.
I have sate too long.
Nay, go not from us thus.
If it were so that our request did tend
To save the Romans, thereby to destroy
The Volsces whom you serve, you might condemn us,
As poisonous of your honor. No, our suit
Is that you reconcile them: while the Volsces
May say, “This mercy we have show’d,” the Romans,
“This we receiv’d”; and each in either side
Give the all-hail to thee, and cry, “Be blest
For making up this peace!” Thou know’st, great son,
The end of war’s uncertain; but this certain,
That, if thou conquer Rome, the benefit
Which thou shalt thereby reap is such a name
Whose repetition will be dogg’d with curses;
Whose chronicle thus writ: “The man was noble,
But with his last attempt he wip’d it out,
Destroy’d his country, and his name remains
To th’ ensuing age abhorr’d.” Speak to me, son.
Thou hast affected the fine strains of honor,
To imitate the graces of the gods:
To tear with thunder the wide cheeks a’ th’ air,
And yet to charge thy sulphur with a bolt
That should but rive an oak. Why dost not speak?
Think’st thou it honorable for a noble man
Still to remember wrongs? Daughter, speak you;
He cares not for your weeping. Speak thou, boy;
Perhaps thy childishness will move him more
Than can our reasons. There’s no man in the world
More bound to ’s mother, yet here he lets me prate
Like one i’ th’ stocks.—Thou hast never in thy life
Show’d thy dear mother any courtesy,
When she, poor hen, fond of no second brood,
Has cluck’d thee to the wars, and safely home
Loaden with honor. Say my request’s unjust,
And spurn me back; but if it be not so,
Thou art not honest, and the gods will plague thee
That thou restrain’st from me the duty which
To a mother’s part belongs.—He turns away.
Down, ladies; let us shame him with our knees.
To his surname Coriolanus ’longs more pride
Than pity to our prayers. Down! An end,
This is the last. So, we will home to Rome,
And die among our neighbors.—Nay, behold ’s!
This boy, that cannot tell what he would have,
But kneels and holds up hands for fellowship,
Does reason our petition with more strength
Than thou hast to deny’t.—Come, let us go.
This fellow had a Volscian to his mother;
His wife is in Corioles, and his child
Like him by chance.—Yet give us our dispatch.
I am hush’d until our city be afire,
And then I’ll speak a little.
Coriolanus holds her by the hand, silent.
O mother, mother!
What have you done? Behold, the heavens do ope,
The gods look down, and this unnatural scene
They laugh at. O my mother, mother! O!
You have won a happy victory to Rome;
But, for your son, believe it—O, believe it—
Most dangerously you have with him prevail’d,
If not most mortal to him. But let it come.
Aufidius, though I cannot make true wars,
I’ll frame convenient peace. Now, good Aufidius,
Were you in my stead, would you have heard
A mother less? Or granted less, Aufidius?
I was mov’d withal.
I dare be sworn you were;
And, sir, it is no little thing to make
Mine eyes to sweat compassion. But, good sir,
What peace you’ll make, advise me. For my part,
I’ll not to Rome, I’ll back with you, and pray you
Stand to me in this cause.—O mother! Wife!
I am glad thou hast set thy mercy and thy honor
At difference in thee. Out of that I’ll work
Myself a former fortune.
To Volumnia, Virgilia, etc.
Ay, by and by;
But we will drink together; and you shall bear
A better witness back than words, which we,
On like conditions, will have counter-seal’d.
Come enter with us. Ladies, you deserve
To have a temple built you. All the swords
In Italy, and her confederate arms,
Could not have made this peace.