The Complete Works of William Shakespeare The Tragedy of Coriolanus

Part 3 out of 3

Enter, in mourning habits, VIRGILIA, VOLUMNIA, VALERIA,
YOUNG MARCIUS, with attendants

My wife comes foremost, then the honour'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.
VIRGILIA. My lord and husband!
CORIOLANUS. These eyes are not the same I wore in Rome.
VIRGILIA. The sorrow that delivers us thus chang'd
Makes you think so.
CORIOLANUS. 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; [Kneels]
Of thy deep duty more impression show
Than that of common sons.
VOLUMNIA. 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. [Kneels]
CORIOLANUS. What's this?
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.
VOLUMNIA. Thou art my warrior;
I holp to frame thee. Do you know this lady?
CORIOLANUS. 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!
VOLUMNIA. This is a poor epitome of yours,
Which by th' interpretation of full time
May show like all yourself.
CORIOLANUS. 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!
VOLUMNIA. Your knee, sirrah.
CORIOLANUS. That's my brave boy.
VOLUMNIA. Even he, your wife, this lady, and myself,
Are suitors to you.
CORIOLANUS. I beseech you, peace!
Or, if you'd 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.
VOLUMNIA. 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.
CORIOLANUS. Aufidius, and you Volsces, mark; for we'll
Hear nought from Rome in private. Your request?
VOLUMNIA. 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 bar'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 can not 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.
VIRGILIA. Ay, and mine,
That brought you forth this boy to keep your name
Living to time.
BOY. 'A shall not tread on me!
I'll run away till I am bigger, but then I'll fight.
CORIOLANUS. Not of a woman's tenderness to be
Requires nor child nor woman's face to see.
I have sat too long. [Rising]
VOLUMNIA. 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 honour. 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 honour,
To imitate the graces of the gods,
To tear with thunder the wide cheeks o' 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 honourable 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 honour. 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 neighbours. 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 Corioli, 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.
[He holds her by the hand, silent]
CORIOLANUS. 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?
AUFIDIUS. I was mov'd withal.
CORIOLANUS. 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!
AUFIDIUS. [Aside] I am glad thou hast set thy mercy and thy
At difference in thee. Out of that I'll work
Myself a former fortune.
CORIOLANUS. [To the ladies] 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. Exeunt

Rome. A public place


MENENIUS. See you yond coign o' th' Capitol, yond cornerstone?
SICINIUS. Why, what of that?
MENENIUS. If it be possible for you to displace it with your
finger, there is some hope the ladies of Rome, especially his
mother, may prevail with him. But I say there is no hope
our throats are sentenc'd, and stay upon execution.
SICINIUS. Is't possible that so short a time can alter the
condition of a man?
MENENIUS. There is differency between a grub and a butterfly;
your butterfly was a grub. This Marcius is grown from man to
dragon; he has wings, he's more than a creeping thing.
SICINIUS. He lov'd his mother dearly.
MENENIUS. So did he me; and he no more remembers his mother now
than an eight-year-old horse. The tartness of his face sours
grapes; when he walks, he moves like an engine and the ground
shrinks before his treading. He is able to pierce a corslet
his eye, talks like a knell, and his hum is a battery. He
sits in
his state as a thing made for Alexander. What he bids be done
finish'd with his bidding. He wants nothing of a god but
eternity, and a heaven to throne in.
SICINIUS. Yes- mercy, if you report him truly.
MENENIUS. I paint him in the character. Mark what mercy his
shall bring from him. There is no more mercy in him than
there is
milk in a male tiger; that shall our poor city find. And all
is 'long of you.
SICINIUS. The gods be good unto us!
MENENIUS. No, in such a case the gods will not be good unto us.
When we banish'd him we respected not them; and, he returning
break our necks, they respect not us.


MESSENGER. Sir, if you'd save your life, fly to your house.
The plebeians have got your fellow tribune
And hale him up and down; all swearing if
The Roman ladies bring not comfort home
They'll give him death by inches.

Enter another MESSENGER

SICINIUS. What's the news?
SECOND MESSENGER. Good news, good news! The ladies have
The Volscians are dislodg'd, and Marcius gone.
A merrier day did never yet greet Rome,
No, not th' expulsion of the Tarquins.
Art thou certain this is true? Is't most certain?
SECOND MESSENGER. As certain as I know the sun is fire.
Where have you lurk'd, that you make doubt of it?
Ne'er through an arch so hurried the blown tide
As the recomforted through th' gates. Why, hark you!
[Trumpets, hautboys, drums beat, all together]
The trumpets, sackbuts, psalteries, and fifes,
Tabors and cymbals, and the shouting Romans,
Make the sun dance. Hark you! [A shout within]
MENENIUS. This is good news.
I will go meet the ladies. This Volumnia
Is worth of consuls, senators, patricians,
A city full; of tribunes such as you,
A sea and land full. You have pray'd well to-day:
This morning for ten thousand of your throats
I'd not have given a doit. Hark, how they joy!
[Sound still with the shouts]
SICINIUS. First, the gods bless you for your tidings; next,
Accept my thankfulness.
SECOND MESSENGER. Sir, we have all
Great cause to give great thanks.
SICINIUS. They are near the city?
MESSENGER. Almost at point to enter.
SICINIUS. We'll meet them,
And help the joy. Exeunt

Rome. A street near the gate

the stage,
'With other LORDS

FIRST SENATOR. Behold our patroness, the life of Rome!
Call all your tribes together, praise the gods,
And make triumphant fires; strew flowers before them.
Unshout the noise that banish'd Marcius,
Repeal him with the welcome of his mother;
ALL. Welcome, ladies, welcome!
[A flourish with drums and trumpets. Exeunt]

Corioli. A public place

Enter TULLUS AUFIDIUS with attendents

AUFIDIUS. Go tell the lords o' th' city I am here;
Deliver them this paper; having read it,
Bid them repair to th' market-place, where I,
Even in theirs and in the commons' ears,
Will vouch the truth of it. Him I accuse
The city ports by this hath enter'd and
Intends t' appear before the people, hoping
To purge himself with words. Dispatch.
Exeunt attendants

Enter three or four CONSPIRATORS of AUFIDIUS' faction

Most welcome!
FIRST CONSPIRATOR. How is it with our general?
As with a man by his own alms empoison'd,
And with his charity slain.
If you do hold the same intent wherein
You wish'd us parties, we'll deliver you
Of your great danger.
AUFIDIUS. Sir, I cannot tell;
We must proceed as we do find the people.
THIRD CONSPIRATOR. The people will remain uncertain whilst
'Twixt you there's difference; but the fall of either
Makes the survivor heir of all.
AUFIDIUS. I know it;
And my pretext to strike at him admits
A good construction. I rais'd him, and I pawn'd
Mine honour for his truth; who being so heighten'd,
He watered his new plants with dews of flattery,
Seducing so my friends; and to this end
He bow'd his nature, never known before
But to be rough, unswayable, and free.
THIRD CONSPIRATOR. Sir, his stoutness
When he did stand for consul, which he lost
By lack of stooping-
AUFIDIUS. That I would have spoken of.
Being banish'd for't, he came unto my hearth,
Presented to my knife his throat. I took him;
Made him joint-servant with me; gave him way
In all his own desires; nay, let him choose
Out of my files, his projects to accomplish,
My best and freshest men; serv'd his designments
In mine own person; holp to reap the fame
Which he did end all his, and took some pride
To do myself this wrong. Till, at the last,
I seem'd his follower, not partner; and
He wag'd me with his countenance as if
I had been mercenary.
FIRST CONSPIRATOR. So he did, my lord.
The army marvell'd at it; and, in the last,
When he had carried Rome and that we look'd
For no less spoil than glory-
AUFIDIUS. There was it;
For which my sinews shall be stretch'd upon him.
At a few drops of women's rheum, which are
As cheap as lies, he sold the blood and labour
Of our great action; therefore shall he die,
And I'll renew me in his fall. But, hark!
[Drums and
trumpets sound, with great shouts of the people]
FIRST CONSPIRATOR. Your native town you enter'd like a post,
And had no welcomes home; but he returns
Splitting the air with noise.
SECOND CONSPIRATOR. And patient fools,
Whose children he hath slain, their base throats tear
With giving him glory.
THIRD CONSPIRATOR. Therefore, at your vantage,
Ere he express himself or move the people
With what he would say, let him feel your sword,
Which we will second. When he lies along,
After your way his tale pronounc'd shall bury
His reasons with his body.
AUFIDIUS. Say no more:
Here come the lords.

Enter the LORDS of the city

LORDS. You are most welcome home.
AUFIDIUS. I have not deserv'd it.
But, worthy lords, have you with heed perused
What I have written to you?
LORDS. We have.
FIRST LORD. And grieve to hear't.
What faults he made before the last, I think
Might have found easy fines; but there to end
Where he was to begin, and give away
The benefit of our levies, answering us
With our own charge, making a treaty where
There was a yielding- this admits no excuse.
AUFIDIUS. He approaches; you shall hear him.

Enter CORIOLANUS, marching with drum and colours;
the commoners being with him

CORIOLANUS. Hail, lords! I am return'd your soldier;
No more infected with my country's love
Than when I parted hence, but still subsisting
Under your great command. You are to know
That prosperously I have attempted, and
With bloody passage led your wars even to
The gates of Rome. Our spoils we have brought home
Doth more than counterpoise a full third part
The charges of the action. We have made peace
With no less honour to the Antiates
Than shame to th' Romans; and we here deliver,
Subscrib'd by th' consuls and patricians,
Together with the seal o' th' Senate, what
We have compounded on.
AUFIDIUS. Read it not, noble lords;
But tell the traitor in the highest degree
He hath abus'd your powers.
CORIOLANUS. Traitor! How now?
AUFIDIUS. Ay, traitor, Marcius.
AUFIDIUS. Ay, Marcius, Caius Marcius! Dost thou think
I'll grace thee with that robbery, thy stol'n name
Coriolanus, in Corioli?
You lords and heads o' th' state, perfidiously
He has betray'd your business and given up,
For certain drops of salt, your city Rome-
I say your city- to his wife and mother;
Breaking his oath and resolution like
A twist of rotten silk; never admitting
Counsel o' th' war; but at his nurse's tears
He whin'd and roar'd away your victory,
That pages blush'd at him, and men of heart
Look'd wond'ring each at others.
CORIOLANUS. Hear'st thou, Mars?
AUFIDIUS. Name not the god, thou boy of tears-
AUFIDIUS. -no more.
CORIOLANUS. Measureless liar, thou hast made my heart
Too great for what contains it. 'Boy'! O slave!
Pardon me, lords, 'tis the first time that ever
I was forc'd to scold. Your judgments, my grave lords,
Must give this cur the lie; and his own notion-
Who wears my stripes impress'd upon him, that
Must bear my beating to his grave- shall join
To thrust the lie unto him.
FIRST LORD. Peace, both, and hear me speak.
CORIOLANUS. Cut me to pieces, Volsces; men and lads,
Stain all your edges on me. 'Boy'! False hound!
If you have writ your annals true, 'tis there
That, like an eagle in a dove-cote, I
Flutter'd your Volscians in Corioli.
Alone I did it. 'Boy'!
AUFIDIUS. Why, noble lords,
Will you be put in mind of his blind fortune,
Which was your shame, by this unholy braggart,
Fore your own eyes and ears?
CONSPIRATORS. Let him die for't.
ALL THE PEOPLE. Tear him to pieces. Do it presently. He kill'd
son. My daughter. He kill'd my cousin Marcus. He kill'd my
SECOND LORD. Peace, ho! No outrage- peace!
The man is noble, and his fame folds in
This orb o' th' earth. His last offences to us
Shall have judicious hearing. Stand, Aufidius,
And trouble not the peace.
CORIOLANUS. O that I had him,
With six Aufidiuses, or more- his tribe,
To use my lawful sword!
AUFIDIUS. Insolent villain!
CONSPIRATORS. Kill, kill, kill, kill, kill him!
[The CONSPIRATORS draw and kill CORIOLANUS,who falls.
AUFIDIUS stands on him]
LORDS. Hold, hold, hold, hold!
AUFIDIUS. My noble masters, hear me speak.
SECOND LORD. Thou hast done a deed whereat valour will weep.
THIRD LORD. Tread not upon him. Masters all, be quiet;
Put up your swords.
AUFIDIUS. My lords, when you shall know- as in this rage,
Provok'd by him, you cannot- the great danger
Which this man's life did owe you, you'll rejoice
That he is thus cut off. Please it your honours
To call me to your Senate, I'll deliver
Myself your loyal servant, or endure
Your heaviest censure.
FIRST LORD. Bear from hence his body,
And mourn you for him. Let him be regarded
As the most noble corse that ever herald
Did follow to his um.
SECOND LORD. His own impatience
Takes from Aufidius a great part of blame.
Let's make the best of it.
AUFIDIUS. My rage is gone,
And I am struck with sorrow. Take him up.
Help, three o' th' chiefest soldiers; I'll be one.
Beat thou the drum, that it speak mournfully;
Trail your steel pikes. Though in this city he
Hath widowed and unchilded many a one,
Which to this hour bewail the injury,
Yet he shall have a noble memory.
Assist. Exeunt, bearing the body of CORIOLANUS

[A dead march sounded]




Back to Full Books