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Text With Definitions of Difficult Words and Explanations
of Difficult Passages
Edited by Michael J. Cummings
The following version of
William Shakespeare's Coriolanus is based on the text in
the authoritative 1914 Oxford Edition of Shakespeare's works,
edited by W. J. Craig. The Oxford text numbers the lines,
including those with stage directions such as "Enter" and
"Exit." Notes and definitions (annotations), as well as
Shakespeare's stage directions, appear in brackets. Here is an
chats [talks about] him: the kitchen malkin [mawkin: slovenly
lockram [collar] ’bout her reechy [dirty] neck
Antagonists: (1) Common People of Rome, (2) the Volscians
Coriolanus (Caius Marcius): Roman warrior of quick temper
and great pride, who thinks like a lion when he should think like
a fox. His birth name is Caius Marcius, but he receives the
honorary name of Coriolanus after he conquers the enemy city of
Corioli. Like protagonists in ancient Greek tragedies,
Coriolanus's arrogance and inflexibility precipitate his downfall.
Toward the end of the play, he does bend his iron will away from
vengeance against Rome—but it is too late. The die has been cast.
Volumnia: Ambitious, meddlesome mother of Coriolanus. She
had exercised considerable control over his character formation.
She is not unlike the strong-willed mothers in another Shakespeare
play, King John. In some historical accounts, Volumnia is
identified as Veturia, and Coriolanus's wife as Volumnia.
Virgilia: Gentle and soft-spoken wife of Coriolanus. In her
sweetness and delicacy, she is reminiscent of Desdemona in
Shakespeare's play Othello.
Menenius Agrippa (full historical name: Agrippa Menius
Lanatus): Sensible patrician politician and friend of Coriolanus.
Cominius: General in the Roman army in the war against the
Titus Lartius: General in the Roman army in the war against
Sicinius Velutus, Junius Brutus: Tribunes of the
people. A tribune was an elected official charged with
safeguarding the rights of commoners, called plebeians.
Tullus Aufidius: General of the Volscians, or Volsci, who
occupied a valley south of Rome.
Lieutenant of Aufidius
Conspirators Supporting Aufidius Against Coriolanus: First
conspirator, second conspirator, third conspirator.
Young Marcius: Son of Coriolanus.
Valeria: Friend of Virgilia.
Gentlewoman Attending Virgilia
Adrian: Volscian who meets a Roman, Nicanor, on the road
between Rome and Antium. Nicanor informs him that the Roman
citizens have banished Coriolanus.
Nicanor: Roman citizen. See the previous entry.
Minor Characters: Citizen of Antium, two Volscian guards,
Roman herald, Roman and Volscian senators, patricians, aediles
(officials enforcing the law and overseeing public buildings and
roads, markets, sanitation facilities, and certain public events),
lictors (magistrates' assistants who helped makes arrests),
soldiers, citizens, messengers, servants of Aufidius, other
1, Scene 1: Rome. A street.
Act 1, Scene 2: Corioli. The
Act 1, Scene 3: A room in Marcius's
Act 1, Scene 4: Before Corioli.
Act 1, Scene 5: Corioli. A street.
Act 1, Scene 6: Near the camp of
Act 1, Scene 7: The gates of Corioli.
Act 1, Scene 8: A field of battle
between the Roman and Volscian camps.
Act 1, Scene 9: The Roman camp.
Act 1, Scene 10: The camp of the
Act 2, Scene 1: Rome. A public place.
Act 2, Scene 2: Rome. The Capitol.
Act 2, Scene 3: Rome. The Forum
Act 3, Scene 1: Rome. A street.
Act 3, Scene 2: Rome. A room in
Act 3, Scene 3: Rome. The Forum.
Act 4, Scene 1: Rome. Before a gate
of the city.
Act 4, Scene 2: Rome. A street near
Act 4, Scene 3: A highway between
Rome and Antium.
Act 4, Scene 4: Antium. Before
Act 4, Scene 5: Antium. A hall in
Act 4, Scene 6: Rome. A public place.
Act 4, Scene 7: A camp at a small
distance from Rome.
Act 5, Scene 1: Rome. A public place.
Act 5, Scene 2: The Volscian camp
before Rome. The guards at their stations.
Act 5, Scene 3: The tent of
Act 5, Scene 4: Rome. A public place.
Act 5, Scene 5: Corioli. A public
Act 1, Scene 1
Rome. A street.
Enter a Company of mutinous Citizens, with staves, clubs, and
FIRST CITIZEN: Before we proceed any further, hear me
ALL: Speak, speak.
FIRST CITIZEN: You are all resolved rather to die than to
ALL: Resolved, resolved.
FIRST CITIZEN: First, you know Caius Marcius is chief enemy
to the people.
[Caius Marcius: Name of the title character before he is called
ALL: We know ’t, we know ’t.
FIRST CITIZEN: Let us kill him, and we’ll
have corn at our own price. Is ’t a verdict?
[corn: Various grains, including wheat, oats, and barley]
ALL: No more talking on ’t; let it be done. Away,
SECOND CITIZEN: One word, good citizens.
FIRST CITIZEN: We are accounted poor citizens, the
patricians good. [We are regarded as poor citizens while the
wealthy upper classes are regarded as good citizens.] What
authority surfeits on [the food that these high and mighty
citizens gorge on] would relieve us. If they would yield us but
the superfluity [extra food they don't need], while it were
wholesome, we might guess they relieved us humanely; but they
think we are too dear [too expensive to support]: the leanness
that afflicts us, the object of our misery, is as an inventory to
particularise [demonstrate; point out] their abundance; our
sufferance is a gain to them. Let us revenge this with our pikes
[spears], ere [before] we become rakes [as thin as rakes]: for the
gods know I speak this in hunger for bread, not in thirst for
SECOND CITIZEN: Would you proceed especially against Caius
FIRST CITIZEN: Against him first: he’s a very dog to the
SECOND CITIZEN: Consider you what services he has done for
FIRST CITIZEN: Very well; and could be content to give him
good report for ’t, but that he pays himself with being
SECOND CITIZEN: Nay, but speak not
FIRST CITIZEN: I say unto you, what he hath done famously,
he did it to that end: though soft-conscienced men can be content
to say it was for his country, he did it to please his mother, and
to be partly proud; which he is, even to the altitude of his
virtue [which he is, even to the highest
SECOND CITIZEN: What he cannot help in his nature, you
account a vice in him. You must in no way say he is
FIRST CITIZEN: If I must not, I need not be barren of
accusations: he hath faults, with surplus, to tire in
repetition. [Shouts within.]
What shouts are these? The other side o’ the city is risen: why
stay we prating here? to the Capitol!
ALL: Come, come.
FIRST CITIZEN: Soft! [Wait a minute!] who comes
Enter MENENIUS AGRIPPA.
SECOND CITIZEN: Worthy Menenius Agrippa; one that hath
always loved the people.
FIRST CITIZEN: He’s one honest enough: would all the rest
MENENIUS: What work’s [work is], my countrymen, in hand?
Where go you
With bats and clubs? The matter? Speak, I pray
FIRST CITIZEN: Our business is not unknown to the senate;
they have had inkling this fortnight [in the last two weeks] what
we intend to do, which now we’ll show ’em in deeds. They say poor
suitors have strong breaths: they shall know we have strong arms
MENENIUS: Why, masters, my good friends, mine honest
Will you undo yourselves?
FIRST CITIZEN: We cannot, sir; we are undone
MENENIUS: I tell you, friends, most charitable
Have the patricians of you. For your wants,
Your suffering in this dearth [scarcity of food], you may as
Strike at the heaven with your staves as lift
Against the Roman state, whose course will on [continue on]
The way it takes, cracking ten thousand curbs
Of more strong link asunder than can ever
Appear in your impediment [opposition; opposing forces]. For the
The gods, not the patricians, make it, and
Your knees to them, not arms, must help. Alack!
[For the . . . help: For food, the gods will provide it, not the
patricians. So bend your knees to them, not arms, to receive
You are transported by calamity
Thither where more attends you; and you slander
The helms o’ the state, who care for you like
When you curse them as enemies.
[You are . . . enemies: You are acting rashly because of your
misfortune. But you slander the leaders of the state, who care for
you like fathers when you curse them as enemies.]
FIRST CITIZEN: Care for us! True, indeed! They ne’er cared
for us yet: suffer us to famish, and their storehouses crammed
with grain; make edicts for usury, [charging interest at an
excessive rate] to support usurers; repeal daily any wholesome act
established against the rich, and provide more piercing statutes
[burdensome laws] daily to chain up and restrain the poor. If the
wars eat us not up, they will; and there’s all the love they bear
MENENIUS: Either you must
Confess yourselves wondrous malicious,
Or be accus’d of folly. I shall tell you
A pretty tale: it may be you have heard it;
But, since it serves my purpose, I will venture
To stale it a little more.
[I will . . . more: I will venture to tell it again at the risk of
making it seem old and stale.]
FIRST CITIZEN: Well, I’ll hear it, sir; yet you must not
think to fob off [dismiss] our disgrace with a tale; but, an [if]
’t please you, deliver.
MENENIUS: There was a time when all the body’s
Rebell’d against the belly; thus accus’d it:
That only like a gulf it did remain
I’ the midst o’ the body, idle and unactive,
Still cupboarding the viand, never bearing
Like labour with the rest, where the other
Did see and hear, devise, instruct, walk, feel,
And, mutually participate, did minister
Unto the appetite and affection common
Of the whole body. The belly answer’d,—
[There was a time . . . whole body: There was a time when all the
members of the body rebelled against the belly because they
thought it simply sat in the middle of the body, lazy and inactive
but still consuming food. Meanwhile, the other members of the body
worked to sustain the entire body.]
FIRST CITIZEN: Well, sir, what answer made the
MENENIUS: Sir, I shall tell you.—With a kind of
Which ne’er came from the lungs, but even thus—
For, look you, I may make the belly smile
As well as speak—it tauntingly replied
To the discontented members, the mutinous parts
That envied his receipt; even so most fitly
As you malign our senators for that
They are not such as you.
[it tauntingly . . . such as you: It taunted the discontented,
rebellious members angry that he was eating food they worked for.
You are like those rebellious members when you malign our senators
in the belief that they are doing nothing on your behalf.]
FIRST CITIZEN: Your belly’s answer? What!
The kingly crowned head, the vigilant eye,
The counsellor heart, the arm our soldier,
Our steed the leg, the tongue our trumpeter,
With other muniments and petty helps
In this our fabric, if that they—
MENENIUS: What then?—
’Fore me, this fellow speaks! what then? what
FIRST CITIZEN: Should by the cormorant belly be
Who is the sink o’ the body,—
[Lines 73-82: The First Citizen asks how the belly answered the
other members—the head, the eye, the heart, the arm, the leg, the
tongue, and so on—which all had certain rights to the food and
claims against the body. Menenius says, "What then, what then?"
The First Citizen finishes his sentence, asking why the greedy
(cormorant) belly should restrain the other members.]
MENENIUS: Well, what then?
FIRST CITIZEN: The former agents, if they did
What could the belly answer?
MENENIUS: I will tell you;
If you’ll bestow a small, of what you have
Patience a while, you’ll hear the belly’s
FIRST CITIZEN: You’re long about it.
MENENIUS: Note me this, good friend;
Your most grave belly was deliberate,
Not rash like his accusers, and thus answer’d:
‘True is it, my incorporate friends,’ quoth he,
[incorporate friends: The rebellious members. They are
"incorporated"—that is, united—in the same body.]
‘That I receive the general food at first,
Which you do live upon; and fit it is;
Because I am the store-house and the shop
Of the whole body: but, if you do remember,
I send it [the food] through the rivers of your
Even to the court, the heart, to the seat o’ the
And, through the cranks and offices of man,
[Line 100: And through the twists and turns of the bloodstream and
the functions of the body, send this food to all the body parts in
need of nourishment.]
The strongest nerves and small inferior veins
From me receive that natural competency [sustenance; vigor]
Whereby they live. And though that all at once,
You, my good friends,’—this says the belly, mark
FIRST CITIZEN: Ay, sir; well, well.
MENENIUS: ‘Though all at once cannot
See what I do deliver out to each,
Yet I can make my audit up, that all
From me do back receive the flour of all,
And leave me but the bran.’ What say you to ’t?
FIRST CITIZEN: It was an answer: how apply you
MENENIUS: The senators of Rome are this good
And you the mutinous members; for, examine
Their counsels and their cares, digest things
Touching the weal o’ the common [welfare of the common people],
you shall find
No public benefit which you receive
But it proceeds or comes from them to you,
And no way from yourselves. What do you think,
You, the great toe of this assembly?
FIRST CITIZEN: I the great toe? Why the great
MENENIUS: For that, being one o’ the lowest, basest,
Of this most wise rebellion, thou go’st
Thou rascal, that art worst in blood to run,
Lead’st first to win some vantage.
But make you ready your stiff bats and clubs:
Rome and her rats are at the point of battle;
The one side must have bale [must suffer
Enter CAIUS MARCIUS.
Hail, noble Marcius!
MARTIUS: Thanks.—What’s the matter, you dissentious
That, rubbing the poor itch of your opinion,
Make yourselves scabs [contemptible persons]?
FIRST CITIZEN: We have ever your good word.
MARTIUS: He that will give good words to thee will
Beneath abhorring. What would you have, you
[will flatter . . . abhorring: He that will flatter you has no
words except those that brand you as detestable.]
That like nor peace nor war? the one affrights [frightens]
The other makes you proud. He that trusts to
Where he should find you lions, finds you hares;
Where foxes, geese: you are no surer, no,
Than is the coal of fire upon the ice,
[He that . . . ice (137-140): He that trusts you will find that
you turn out to be hares, not lions; geese, not foxes. You are no
more reliable than a coal fire on ice.]
Or hailstone in the sun. Your virtue [your idea of virtue]
To make him worthy whose offence subdues him [whose own crime
And curse that justice did it. Who deserves
Deserves [receives] your hate; and your affections
A sick man’s appetite, who desires most that
Which would increase his evil. He that depends
Upon your favours swims with fins of lead
And hews down oaks with rushes [plants with hollow stems]. Hang
ye! Trust ye?
With every minute you do change a [your] mind,
And call him noble that was now your hate,
[Line 150: And call a man noble that you previously hated]
Him vile that was your garland [friend; supporter]. What’s the
That in these several places of the city
You cry against the noble senate, who,
Under the gods, keep you in awe [in check; in an obedient state],
Would feed on one another? What’s their seeking?
[which else . . . seeking: Otherwise you would feed on one
another. Menenius, what do they want?]
MENENIUS: For corn at their own rates; whereof they
The city is well stor’d.
MARTIUS: Hang ’em! They say!
[Line 158: That's what they say. Well, let them hang.]
They’ll sit by the fire, and presume to know
What’s done i’ the Capitol; who’s like to rise [to achieve
Who thrives, and who declines; side factions [who takes sides],
and give out
Conjectural marriages [speculate on who marries whom]; making
And feebling such as stand not in their liking,
[Line 163: And weakening parties that they do not like]
Below their cobbled shoes. They say there’s grain
Would the nobility lay aside their ruth [mercy;
And let me use my sword, I’d make a quarry [big pile]
With thousands of these quarter’d slaves, as
As I could pick [hurl] my lance.
MENENIUS: Nay, these are almost thoroughly
For though abundantly they lack discretion,
Yet are they passing cowardly. But, I beseech
What says the other troop?
MARTIUS: They are dissolv’d: hang ’em!
They said they were an-hungry; sigh’d forth
That hunger broke stone walls; that dogs must
That meat was made for mouths; that the gods sent
Corn for the rich men only. With these shreds
They vented their complainings; which being
And a petition granted them, a strange one,—
To break the heart of generosity,
[Line 180: To break the heart of generous patricians]
And make bold power look pale,—they threw their
As they would hang them on the horns o’ the
Shouting their emulation [trying to outdo one another with the
loudness of their shouts].
MENENIUS: What is granted them?
MARTIUS: Five tribunes to defend their vulgar
[tribune: Roman officer who protected the rights of commoners]
Of their own choice: one’s Junius Brutus,
Sicinius Velutus, and I know not—’Sdeath!
['Sdeath: By his death—that is, by the death of God]
The rabble should have first unroof’d the city,
Ere so prevail’d with me; it will in time
Win upon power, and throw forth greater themes
For insurrection’s arguing.
[Lines 188-191: Before I would allow them to have their way, they
would have to raise the roof of the city. In time, they will gain
more power and find other ways to sow upheaval and rebellion.]
MENENIUS: This is strange.
MARTIUS: Go; get you home, you fragments [you
Enter a Messenger, hastily.
MESSENGER: Where’s Caius Marcius?
MARTIUS: Here: what’s the matter?
MESSENGER: The news is, sir, the Volsces are in
[Volsces: Ancient people of west-central Italy]
MARTIUS: I am glad on ’t; then we shall ha’ [have] means to
Our musty superfluity. See, our best elders.
[means to vent . . . superfluity: War will give us a way to get
rid of these stupid commoners.]
Enter COMINIUS, TITUS LARTIUS, and other Senators; JUNIUS BRUTUS
and SICINIUS VELUTUS. 200
FIRST SENATOR: Marcius, ’tis true that you have lately told
The Volsces are in arms.
MARTIUS: They have a leader,
Tullus Aufidius, that will put you to ’t.
[put you to 't: Test you.]
I sin in envying his nobility,
And were I anything but what I am,
I would wish me only he.
COMINIUS: You have fought together.
MARTIUS: Were half to half the world by the ears, and
[Were . . . ears: If half the world were quarreling with the other
Upon my party, I’d revolt, to make
Only my wars with him: he is a lion
That I am proud to hunt.
FIRST SENATOR: Then, worthy Marcius,
Attend upon Cominius to these wars.
COMINIUS: It is your former promise.
MARTIUS: Sir, it is;
And I am constant. [I can be relied on.] Titus Lartius,
Shalt see me once more strike at Tullus’ face.
What! art thou stiff? stand’st out?
[What . . . out: What! Do you stiffen yourself against my aims? Do
you oppose them?]
TITUS: No, Caius Marcius;
I’ll lean upon one crutch and fight with t’
Ere stay behind this business.
[Ere . . . business: Before I would oppose you]
MENENIUS: O! true-bred.
FIRST SENATOR: Your company to the Capitol; where I
Our greatest friends attend [await] us.
TITUS: [To COMINIUS.] Lead you on:
[To MARCIUS.] Follow Cominius; we must follow
Right worthy you priority.
[Right . . . priority: It is only right that you should lead us.]
COMINIUS: Noble Marcius!
FIRST SENATOR: [To the Citizens.] Hence! to your homes! be
MARTIUS: Nay, let them follow:
The Volsces have much corn; take these rats
To gnaw their garners [stores of grain; granaries]. Worshipful
Your valour puts well forth; pray, follow. [Exeunt Senators,
COMINIUS, MARCIUS, TITUS, and MENENIUS. Citizens steal
SICINIUS: Was ever man so proud as is this
BRUTUS: He has no equal.
SICINIUS: When we were chosen tribunes for the
BRUTUS: Mark’d you [did you notice] his lip and
SICINIUS: Nay, but his taunts.
BRUTUS: Being mov’d, he will not spare to gird [jeer] the
SICINIUS: Bemock the modest moon.
BRUTUS: The present wars devour him; he is
Too proud to be so valiant.
SICINIUS: Such a nature,
Tickled with good success, disdains the shadow
Which he treads on at noon. But I do wonder
His insolence can brook [tolerate] to be
BRUTUS: Fame, at the which he aims,
In whom already he is well grac’d, cannot
Better be held nor more attain’d than by
A place below the first; for what miscarries
Shall be the general’s fault, though he perform
To the utmost of a man; and giddy censure
Will then cry out of Marcius ‘O! if he
Had borne the business.’
[Fame . . . business: He aims to gain more fame, which he already
has in abundance. He will be in a good position—second to
Cominius—to maintain or add to his fame. For, if anything goes
wrong, it shall be the fault of General Cominius, even though he
performs to his utmost ability. Critics will say, "O! It's too bad
Marcius wasn't in charge."]
SICINIUS: Besides, if things go well,
Opinion, that so sticks on Marcius, shall
Of his demerits rob Cominius.
[Of . . . Cominius: Rob Cominius of what he deserves]
Half all Cominius’ honours are to Marcius,
Though Marcius earn’d them not; and all his
To Marcius shall be honours, though indeed
In aught [anything] he merit not.
SICINIUS: Let’s hence and hear
How the dispatch is made [how everything turns out]; and in what
More than his singularity [manner; behavior], he
Upon this present action.
BRUTUS: Let’s along [let's go]. [Exeunt.
Act 1, Scene 2
Corioli. The senate
Enter TULLUS AUFIDIUS
FIRST SENATOR: So, your opinion is, Aufidius,
That they of Rome are enter’d in our counsels [are aware of our
And know how we proceed.
AUFIDIUS: Is it not yours?
What ever have been thought on in this state,
That could be brought to bodily act ere Rome
Had circumvention? ’Tis not four days gone
[What ever . . . circumvention: Whenever we considered action
against the Romans, they always seemed to know what we were
Since I heard thence; these are the words: I
I have the letter here; yes, here it is.
They have press’d a power [mustered an army], but it is not
Whether for east, or west: the dearth is great;
The people mutinous; and it is rumour’d,
Cominius, Marcius, your old enemy,—
Who is of Rome worse hated than of [by] you,—
And Titus Lartius, a most valiant Roman,
These three lead on this preparation
Whither ’tis bent [wherever the army goes]: most likely ’tis for
Consider of it.
FIRST SENATOR: Our army’s in the field:
We never yet made doubt but Rome was ready
To answer us.
AUFIDIUS: Nor did you think it folly
To keep your great pretences veil’d till when
They needs must show themselves; which in the hatching [discovery;
It seem’d, appear’d to Rome. By the discovery
We shall be shorten’d [come up short; fail] in our aim, which
To take in many towns ere almost Rome
[ere almost Rome: Almost before Rome]
Should know we were afoot.
SECOND SENATOR: Noble Aufidius,
Take your commission [document approving Aufidius as commander];
hie you to your bands [troops];
Let us alone to guard Corioli:
If they set down before’s [if they lay siege to Corioli], for the
Bring up your army; but, I think you’ll find
They’ve not prepared for us.
AUFIDIUS: O! doubt not that;
I speak from certainties. Nay, more;
Some parcels of their power [army] are forth
And only hitherward [nearby]. I leave your
If we and Caius Marcius chance to meet,
’Tis sworn between us we shall ever strike
Till one can do no more.
ALL: The gods assist you!
AUFIDIUS: And keep your honours safe!
FIRST SENATOR: Farewell.
SECOND SENATOR: Farewell.
ALL: Farewell. [Exeunt.
Act 1, Scene 3
Rome. A room in MARCIUS'S
Enter VOLUMNIA and VIRGILIA: they sit on two low stools and sew.
VOLUMNIA: I pray you, daughter, sing; or express yourself in
a more comfortable sort. If my son were my husband, I would
freelier [more freely] rejoice in that absence wherein he won
honour than in the embracements of his bed where he would show
most love. When yet he was but tender-bodied and the only son of
my womb, when youth with comeliness plucked all gaze his way [when
he was a handsome youth and attracted all gazes to him], when for
a day of kings’ entreaties a mother should not sell him an hour
from her beholding, I, considering how honour would become such a
person, that it was no better than picture-like to hang by the
wall, if renown made it not stir [that he was no better than a
picture on the wall if he did not earn renown], was pleased to let
him seek danger where he was like to find fame. To a cruel war I
sent him; from whence he returned, his brows bound with oak [he
returned, wearing a wreath of oak leaves signifying his great
valor in battle], I tell thee, daughter, I sprang not more in joy
at first hearing he was a man-child than now in first seeing he
had proved himself a man.
VIRGILIA: But had he died in the business, madam; how
VOLUMNIA: Then, his good report should have been my son [the
report of his valor would comfort me like a son]; I therein would
have found issue [found a new child to take joy in]. Hear me
profess sincerely: had I a dozen sons, each in my love alike, and
none less dear than thine and my good Marcius, I had rather had
eleven die nobly for their country than one voluptuously surfeit
[enjoying luxury] out of action.
Enter a Gentlewoman.
GENTLEWOMAN: Madam, the Lady Valeria is come to visit
VIRGILIA: Beseech you, give me leave to retire
VOLUMNIA: Indeed, you shall not.
Methinks I hear hither [nearby] your husband’s
See him pluck Aufidius down by the hair,
As children from a bear, the Volsces shunning
Methinks I see him stamp thus, and call thus:
‘Come on, you cowards! you were got [born; begotten] in
Though you were born in Rome.’ His bloody brow
With his mail’d hand [hand protected with armor] then wiping,
forth he goes,
Like to a harvestman that’s task’d to mow
Or all or lose his hire.
[Lines 17-18: Like a farm laborer hired to mow the field. If he
fails to perform his task, he loses his job.]
VIRGILIA: His bloody brow! O Jupiter! no
[Jupiter or Jove: The Roman name for the
king of the gods. His Greek name was Zeus.]
VOLUMNIA: Away, you fool! it more becomes a
Than gilt his trophy: the breasts of Hecuba (see Trojan War),
[it more . . . trophy: The bloody brow of a man is a greater
testament to his worth than a trophy gilded with gold.]
When she did suckle Hector (see Trojan
War), look’d not lovelier
Than Hector’s forehead when it spit forth blood
At Grecian swords, contemning [despising; disdaining]. Tell
We are fit to bid her welcome. [Exit
VIRGILIA: Heavens bless [safeguard] my lord from fell
VOLUMNIA: He’ll beat Aufidius’ head below his
And tread upon his neck.
Re-enter Gentlewoman, with VALERIA and an Usher.
Val. My ladies both, good day to you.
VOLUMNIA: Sweet madam.
VIRGILIA: I am glad to see your ladyship.
Val. How do you both? you are manifest housekeepers [good
homemakers]. What are you sewing here? A fine spot, in good faith.
How does your little son?
VIRGILIA: I thank your ladyship; well, good
VOLUMNIA: He had rather see the swords and hear a drum, than
look upon his schoolmaster.
Val. O’ my word, the father’s son [oh, he is like his
father]; I’ll swear ’tis a very pretty boy. O’ my troth [oh, I can
truly say], I looked upon him o’ Wednesday half an hour together:
he has such a confirmed countenance. I saw him run after a gilded
butterfly; and when he caught it, he let it go again; and after it
again; and over and over he comes, and up again; catched it again:
or whether his fall enraged him, or how ’twas, he did so set his
teeth and tear it; O! I warrant, how he mammocked it [ripped it
VOLUMNIA: One on ’s father’s moods [He has his father's
Val. Indeed, la, ’tis a noble child.
VIRGILIA: A crack, madam.
[crack: G. B. Harrison says crack means imp. (Shakespeare:
The Complete Works. New York: Harcourt, 1952, page 1275)]
Val. Come, lay aside your stitchery; I must have you play
the idle huswife [housewife] with me this
VIRGILIA: No, good madam; I will not out of
Val. Not out of doors!
VOLUMNIA: She shall, she shall.
VIRGILIA: Indeed, no, by your patience; I’ll not over the
threshold till my lord return from the wars.
VOLUMNIA: Fie! you confine yourself most unreasonably. Come;
you must go visit the good lady that lies in.
VIRGILIA: I will wish her speedy strength, and visit her
with my prayers; but I cannot go thither.
VOLUMNIA: Why, I pray you?
VIRGILIA: ’Tis not to save labour, nor that I want
Val. You would be another Penelope; yet, they say, all the
yarn she spun in Ulysses’ absence did but fill Ithaca full of
moths. Come; I would your cambric were sensible as your finger,
that you might leave pricking it for pity. Come, you shall go with
[Penelope: Wife of the Greek warrior, Ulysses, who spent ten years
fighting in the Trojan War, then
ten more years on a perilous journey returning home. While he was
gone, Penelope spent her days weaving a burial shroud for her
husband's father, Laertes.]
VIRGILIA: No, good madam, pardon me; indeed, I will not
Val. In truth, la, go with me; and I’ll tell you excellent
news of your husband.
VIRGILIA: O, good madam, there can be none
Val. Verily, I do not jest with you; there came news from
him last night.
VIRGILIA: Indeed, madam?
Val. In earnest, it’s true; I heard a senator speak it. Thus
it is: The Volsces have an army forth; against whom Cominius the
general is gone, with one part of our Roman power [army]: your
lord and Titus Lartius are set down before their city Corioli;
they nothing doubt prevailing [they do not doubt that they will
defeat the Volsces] and to make it brief wars. This is true, on
mine honour; and so, I pray, go with us.
VIRGILIA: Give me excuse, good madam; I will obey you in
every thing hereafter.
VOLUMNIA: Let her alone, lady: as she is now she will but
disease our better mirth.
Val. In troth [truth], I think she would. Fare you well
then. Come, good sweet lady. Prithee, Virgilia, turn thy solemness
out o’ door, and go along with us.
VIRGILIA: No, at a word, madam; indeed I must not. I wish
you much mirth.
Val. Well then, farewell. [Exeunt.
Act 1, Scene 4
Enter, with drum and colours [flag], MARCIUS, TITUS LARTIUS,
Officers, and Soldiers. To them a Messenger.
MARTIUS: Yonder comes news: a wager they have
[a wager . . . met: I'll bet Cominius has encountered the enemy.]
LARTIUS: My horse to yours, no. [I'll bet my horse that he
MARTIUS: ’Tis done.
MARTIUS: Say, has our general met the
MESSENGER: They lie in view, but have not spoke as
LARTIUS: So the good horse is mine.
MARTIUS: I’ll buy him of you.
LARTIUS: No, I’ll nor sell nor give him; lend you him I
For half a hundred years. Summon the town.
MARTIUS: How far off lie these armies?
MESSENGER: Within this mile and half.
MARTIUS: Then shall we hear their ’larum [alarum, or alarm:
call to arms], and they ours.
Now, Mars, I prithee, make us quick in
[Mars: In ancient mythology, the Roman name for the Greek god of
That we with smoking swords may march from hence
To help our fielded friends [friends in the field of battle]!
Come, blow thy blast.
A Parley sounded [trumpet blown to summon the enemies to a
conference under a truce]. Enter, on the Walls, two
Senators, and Others.
Tullus Aufidius, is he within your walls [the walls of the city of
FIRST SENATOR: No, nor a man that fears you less than
That’s lesser than a little. Hark, our drums [Drums afar
Are bringing forth our youth: we’ll break our
Rather than they shall pound us up [trap us within the walls;
pound us up like dogs in a kennel]: our gates.
Which yet seem shut, we have but pinn’d with rushes [we have
secured only with flimsy plants];
They’ll open of themselves. Hark you, far off! [Alarum afar
There is Aufidius: list [listen to; hear] what work he
Amongst your cloven [divided; split] army.
MARTIUS: O! they are at it!
LARTIUS: Their noise be our instruction. Ladders,
The Volsces enter, and pass over the stage.
MARTIUS: They fear us not, but issue forth their
Now put your shields before your hearts, and
With hearts more proof [stronger] than shields. Advance, brave
They do disdain us much beyond our thoughts [more than we can
Which makes me sweat with wrath. Come on, my
He that retires, I’ll take him for a Volsce,
And he shall feel mine edge [the edge of my
Alarum. The Romans are beaten back to their trenches. Re-enter
MARTIUS: All the contagion of the south light on
You shames of Rome! you herd of—Boils and
Plaster you o’er, that you may be abhorr’d
[you herd of . . . o'er: you herd of—I hope boils and plagues
plaster your bodies]
Further than seen, and one infect another
Against the wind a mile! You souls of geese,
That bear the shapes of men, how have you run
From slaves that apes would beat! Pluto and
[Pluto: Roman name for Hades, the Greek god of the Underworld]
All hurt behind; backs red, and faces pale
With flight and agu’d [agued: feverish] fear! Mend [sew up your
fears] and charge home,
Or, by the fires of heaven [moon and stars], I’ll leave the
And make my wars on you; look to ’t: come on;
If you’ll stand fast, we’ll beat them to their
As they us to our trenches follow’d.
Another alarum. The Volsces and Romans re-enter, and the
fight is renewed. The Volsces retire into Corioli, and
MARCIUS follows them to the gates.
So, now the gates are ope [open]: now prove good seconds [now back
’Tis for the followers Fortune widens them,
Not for the fliers: mark me, and do the like. [He enters the
FIRST SOLDIER: Foolhardiness! not I.
SECOND SOLDIER: Nor I. [MARCIUS is shut
THIRD SOLDIER: See, they have shut him
ALL: To the pot, I warrant him. [Alarum
[pot: Pot over a fire that melts metals or other materials]
Re-enter TITUS LARTIUS.
LARTIUS: What is become of Marcius?
ALL: Slain, sir, doubtless.
FIRST SOLDIER: Following the fliers at the very
With them he enters; who, upon the sudden,
Clapp’d-to their gates; he is himself alone,
To answer all the city.
LARTIUS: O noble fellow!
Who, sensibly, outdares his senseless sword,
And, when it bows, stands up. Thou art left,
A carbuncle [precious gem] entire, as big as thou
Were not so rich a jewel. Thou wast a soldier
Even to Cato’s wish, not fierce and terrible
[Cato (234-149 BC): Prominent Roman senator]
Only in strokes; but, with thy grim looks and
The thunder-like percussion of thy sounds,
Thou mad’st thine enemies shake, as if the world
Were feverous and did tremble.
Re-enter MARCIUS, bleeding, assaulted by the enemy.
FIRST SOLDIER: Look, sir!
LARTIUS: O! ’tis Marcius!
Let’s fetch him off, or make remain alike. [They fight, and
all enter the city.
[Let's . . . off: Let's go to his rescue instead of standing
Act 1, Scene 5
Corioli. A street.
Enter certain Romans, with spoils [seized property; plunder;
FIRST ROMAN: This will I carry to Rome.
SECOND ROMAN: And I this.
THIRD ROMAN: A murrain [plague] on ’t! I took this for
silver. [Alarum continues still afar off.
MARTIUS: See here these movers that do prize their
At a crack’d drachma! Cushions, leaden spoons,
[crack'd: Of little value]
[drachma: Silver coin of ancient Greece]
Irons of a doit, doublets that hangmen
[Irons of doit: Iron objects worth about a doit, a copper coin
(also called a duit) worth no more than a cent or two.]
[doublets: Close-fitting jackets for men]
Bury with those that wore them, these base
Ere [before] yet the fight be done, pack up [they pack their bags
with plunder]. Down with them!
And hark, what noise the general makes! To him!
There is the man of my soul’s hate, Aufidius,
Piercing our Romans: then, valiant Titus, take
Convenient numbers to make good the city,
Whilst I, with those that have the spirit, will
To help Cominius.
LARTIUS: Worthy sir, thou bleed’st;
Thy exercise hath been too violent
For a second course of fight.
MARTIUS: Sir, praise me not;
My work hath yet not warm’d me: fare you well:
The blood I drop is rather physical [helpful]
Than dangerous to me: to Aufidius thus
I will appear, and fight.
LARTIUS: Now the fair goddess, Fortune,
Fall deep in love with thee; and her great
Misguide thy opposers’ swords! Bold gentleman,
Prosperity be thy page!
MARTIUS: Thy friend no less
Than those she places highest! So, farewell.
LARTIUS: Thou worthiest Marcius!— [Exit
Go, sound thy trumpet in the market-place;
Call thither all the officers of the town,
Where they shall know our mind. Away! [Exeunt.
Act 1, Scene 6
Near the camp of
Enter COMINIUS and Forces, retreating.
COMINIUS: Breathe you [pause to take a breath], 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
By interims and conveying gusts we have heard
[By . . . gusts: By the pauses created by gusts of wind]
The charges of our friends. Ye Roman gods!
Lead their successes as we wish our own,
That both our powers [armies], with smiling fronts
May give you thankful sacrifice.
Enter a Messenger.
MESSENGER: The citizens of Corioli have
And given to Lartius and to Marcius battle:
I saw our party to their trenches driven,
And then I came away.
COMINIUS: Though thou speak’st truth,
Methinks thou speak’st not well. How long is ’t
MESSENGER: Above an hour, my lord.
COMINIUS: ’Tis not a mile; briefly [a short while ago] we
heard their drums:
How couldst thou in a mile confound [spend] an
And bring thy news so late?
MESSENGER: 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.
COMINIUS: Who’s yonder,
That does appear as he were flay’d? O gods!
He has the stamp [the look; the appearance] of Marcius; and I
Before-time seen him thus.
MARTIUS: [Within.] Come I too
COMINIUS: The shepherd knows not thunder from a tabor [small
More than I know the sound of Marcius’ tongue
From every meaner man.
MARTIUS: Come I too late?
COMINIUS: Ay, if you come not in the blood of
But mantled in your own.
MARTIUS: O! let me clip [hug; embrace] ye
In arms as sound as when I woo’d, in heart
As merry as when our nuptial day was done,
And tapers burn’d to bedward.
COMINIUS: Flower of warriors [You are the brightest flower
of all the warriors].
How is ’t with Titus Lartius?
MARTIUS: As with a man busied about
Condemning some to death, and some to exile;
Ransoming him [one man], or pitying, threat’ning the
Holding Corioli in the name of Rome,
Even like a fawning [affectionate] greyhound in the
To let him slip at will.
COMINIUS: Where is that slave
Which told me they had beat you to your
Where is he? Call him hither.
MARTIUS: Let him alone;
He did inform the truth: but for our gentlemen
The common file [common recruits]—a plague! tribunes for
The mouse ne’er shunn’d the cat as they did
From rascals worse than they.
COMINIUS: But how prevail’d you?
MARTIUS: Will the time serve to tell? I do not
Where is the enemy? Are you lords o’ the field?
If not, why cease you till you are so?
COMINIUS: Marcius, we have at disadvantage
And did retire to win our purpose.
MARTIUS: How lies their battle [troop formation]? Know you
on which side
They have plac’d their men of trust?
COMINIUS: As I guess, Marcius,
Their bands i’ the vaward [front] are the
[Antiates: Citizens of Antium (present-day Anzio, Italy)
Of their best trust; o’er them Aufidius,
Their very heart of hope.
MARTIUS: I do beseech you,
By all the battles wherein we have fought,
By the blood we have shed together, by the vows
We have made to endure friends, that you
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.
COMINIUS: 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.
MARTIUS: Those are they
That most are willing. If any such be here—
As it were sin to doubt—that love this painting [blood "painted"
on Marcius in the fighting]
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 Marcius. [They all shout, and wave their swords;
take him up in their arms, and cast up their
O! me alone? Make you a sword of me? [Are you elevating me as if I
were a sword?]
If these shows be not outward, which of you
But is [is equal to] four Volsces? None of you but
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
Shall bear the business in some other fight,
As cause will be obey’d [as circumstances require]. Please you to
And four shall quickly draw out my command,
Which men are best inclin’d.
[Lines 103-104: And four of you officers shall choose the men best
suited to go with me.]
COMINIUS: March on, my fellows:
Make good this ostentation, and you shall
Divide in all with us. [Exeunt.
[Lines 106-107: Live up to your show of bravery, and you will
share in all the plunder we take.]
Act 1, Scene 7
The gates of Corioli.
TITUS LARTIUS, having set a guard upon CORIOLI, going with drum
and trumpet towards COMINIUS and CAIUS MARCIUS, enters with a
Lieutenant, a party of Soldiers, and a Scout.
LARTIUS: So; let the ports [city gates] be guarded: keep
As I have set them down. If I do send [if I do send for help],
Those centuries [army units that each have a hundred soldiers] to
our aid; the rest will serve
For a short holding: if we lose the field,
We cannot keep the town.
LIEUTENANT: Fear not our care, sir.
LARTIUS: Hence [go], and shut your gates upon
Our guider, come; to the Roman camp conduct us. [Exeunt.
Act 1, Scene 8
A field of battle between
the Roman and the Volscian camps.
Alarum [call to arms sounded by a trumpet]. Enter from opposite
sides MARCIUS and AUFIDIUS.
MARTIUS: I’ll fight with none but thee; for I do hate
Worse than a promise-breaker.
AUFIDIUS: We hate alike:
Not Afric [Africa] owns a serpent I abhor
More than thy fame and envy. Fix [anchor] thy
MARTIUS: Let the first budger [let the first man who budges]
die the other’s slave,
And the gods doom him after!
AUFIDIUS: If I fly, Marcius,
Halloo me like a hare.
MARTIUS: Within these three hours, Tullus,
Alone I fought in your Corioli walls,
And made what work I pleas’d; ’tis not my blood
Wherein thou seest me mask’d; for thy revenge
['tis not . . . mask'd: That's not my blood you see on me.]
Wrench up thy power to the highest.
AUFIDIUS: Wert thou the Hector
That was the whip of your bragg’d progeny,
[Wert . . . progeny: Even if you were Troy's
greatest warrior, Hector, who led
your ancestors—the founders of Rome—into battle]
Thou shouldst not ’scape me here.— [They fight, and certain
Volsces come to the aid of AUFIDIUS.
Officious, and not valiant, you have sham’d me
In your condemned seconds. [Exeunt
fighting, all driven in by MARCIUS.
[Officious . . . seconds: Aufidius tells the Volscians who came to
his aid that they have shamed him in doing so.]
Act 1, Scene 9
The Roman camp.
Alarum. A retreat sounded. Flourish [loud trumpet fanfare]. Enter
from one side, COMINIUS and Romans; from the other side, MARCIUS,
with his arm in a scarf, and other Romans.
COMINIUS: If I should tell thee o’er [talk over with you]
this thy day’s work,
Thou’lt not believe thy deeds: but I’ll report
Where senators shall mingle tears with smiles,
Where great patricians shall attend [listen] and shrug [shrug in
In the end, admire; where ladies shall be
And, gladly quak’d, hear more; where the dull
[where ladies . . . more: where ladies shall be frightened by the
story of your slaughter of the enemy and, liking what they hear,
continue to listen]
That, with the fusty [bad-smelling] plebeians, hate thine
Shall say, against their hearts,
‘We thank the gods our Rome hath such a
Yet cam’st thou to a morsel of this feast,
Having fully din’d before.
Enter TITUS LARTIUS, with his power [army], from the pursuit.
LARTIUS: O general,
Here is the steed, we the caparison:
[Here . . . caparison: Marcius was the horse that led us into
battle. We were merely the decorations on the horse. A caparison
is a richly ornamented covering.]
Hadst thou beheld—
MARTIUS: Pray now, no more: my mother,
Who has a charter to extol her blood,
[blood: Lineage; family history; ancestry]
When she does praise me grieves me. I have done
As you have done; that’s what I can; induc’d
As you have been; that’s for my country:
He that has but effected his good will
Hath overta’en mine act.
[Lines 23-34: He that has done his utmost in the fighting has more
than matched my efforts.]
COMINIUS: You shall not be
The grave of your deserving; Rome must know
[You . . . deserving: You should not try to bury the praise you
The value of her own: ’twere a concealment
Worse than a theft, no less than a traducement [slander; a lie
intended to humiliate someone],
To hide your doings; and to silence that,
Which, to the spire and top of praises vouch’d [which deserves the
Would seem but modest. Therefore, I beseech
In sign of what you are, not to reward
What you have done,—before our army hear me.
MARTIUS: I have some wounds upon me, and they
To hear themselves remember’d.
COMINIUS: Should they not.
Well might they fester ’gainst ingratitude,
And tent themselves with death. Of all the horses,
[Should . . . death: If they are not remembered with praise, they
might fester and kill you.]
Whereof we have ta’en good, and good store, of
The treasure, in this field achiev’d and city,
We render you the tenth [one-tenth of all plunder]; to be ta’en
Before the common distribution,
At your only choice.
[Lines 42-43: Before the plunder is distributed, you will have the
MARTIUS: I thank you, general;
But cannot make my heart consent to take
A bribe to pay my sword: I do refuse it;
And stand upon my common part with those
That have beheld the doing.
[And stand . . . doing: I stand like the other soldiers and will
share the plunder with them.]
[A long [trumpet] flourish. They all cry ‘Marcius! Marcius!’ cast
up their caps and lances: COMINIUS and LARTIUS stand bare.]
MARTIUS: May these same instruments [trumpets], which you
Never sound more! When drums and trumpets shall
I’ the field prove flatterers, let courts and cities
Made all of false-fac’d soothing [flattery; insincere
When steel grows soft as is the parasite’s silk,
Let him be made a coverture for the wars!
No more, I say! For that I have not wash’d
My nose that bled, or foil’d [defeated] some debile [weak]
Which, without note, here’s many else have done,
You shout me forth
In acclamations hyperbolical [exaggerated
As if I lov’d my little should be dieted
[Line 60: Little is used as a noun meaning small
accomplishment. Dieted means described.]
In praises sauc’d with lies.
COMINIUS: Too modest are you;
More cruel to your good report than grateful
To us that give you truly. By your patience,
If ’gainst yourself you be incens’d, we’ll put
Like one that means his proper harm, in
Then reason safely with you. Therefore, be it
As to us, to all the world, that Caius Marcius
Wears this war’s garland; in token of the which,
My noble steed, known to the camp, I give him,
With all his trim belonging; and from this time,
For what he did before Corioli, call him,
With all the applause and clamour of the host,
CAIUS MARCIUS CORIOLANUS! Bear
The addition [the addition of Coriolanus to his name]
ALL: Caius Marcius Coriolanus! [Flourish. Trumpets sound,
[The rest of the play refers to Marcius as Coriolanus in the
capital letters preceding his dialogue.]
CORIOLANUS: I will go wash;
And when my face is fair, you shall perceive
Whether I blush, or no: howbeit [be that as it may], I thank
I mean to stride your steed, and at all times
To undercrest your good addition
To the fairness of my power.
[Lines 81-82: To honor the name you have given me to the best of
COMINIUS: So, to our tent;
Where, ere [before] we do repose us, we will
To Rome of our success. You, Titus Lartius,
Must to Corioli back: send us to Rome
The best, with whom we may articulate,
For their own good and ours.
[Lines 85-88, beginning with you: You, Titus Lartius, must
go back to Corioli. There, select the most distinguished among our
enemy and send them to Rome to forge a peace agreement for their
good and ours.]
LARTIUS: I shall, my lord.
CORIOLANUS: The gods begin to mock me. I, that
Refus’d most princely gifts, am bound to beg
Of my lord general.
COMINIUS: Take it; ’tis yours. What is ’t?
CORIOLANUS: I sometime lay [stayed; lodged] here in
At a poor man’s house; he us’d me kindly:
He cried to me; I saw him prisoner;
But then Aufidius was within my view,
And wrath o’erwhelm’d my pity: I request you
To give my poor host freedom.
COMINIUS: O! well begg’d!
Were he the butcher of my son, he should
Be free as is the wind. Deliver him, Titus.
LARTIUS: Marcius, his name?
CORIOLANUS: By Jupiter [Roman name for the king of the gods.
His Greek name was Zeus.]! Forgot.
I am weary; yea, my memory is tir’d.
Have we no wine here?
COMINIUS: Go we to our tent:
The blood upon your visage dries; ’tis time
It should be look’d to: come. [Exeunt.
Act 1, Scene 10
The camp of the Volsces.
Cornets. Enter TULLIUS AUFIDIUS, with two or three soldiers.
[Cornets: Brass instruments in the trumpet family]
AUFIDIUS: The town is ta’en [taken]!
First Sol. ’Twill be deliver’d back on good condition [terms
of a treaty].
I would I were a Roman; for I cannot,
Being a Volsce, be that I am. Condition!
What good condition can a treaty find
I’ the part that is at mercy? Five times,
[Line 9: In the army that has been defeated]
I have fought with thee; so often hast thou beat
And wouldst do so, I think, should we encounter
As often as we eat. By the elements,
[elements: Earth, water, air, and fire]
If e’er again I meet him beard to beard,
He is mine, or I am his: mine emulation [envy; jealousy]
Hath not that honour in ’t it had; for where
I thought to crush him in an equal force—
True sword to sword—I’ll potch [stab; poke] at him some
Or wrath or craft may get him.
First Sol. He’s the devil.
AUFIDIUS: Bolder, though not so subtle. My valour’s
With only suffering stain by him; for him
Shall fly out of itself. Nor sleep nor sanctuary,
Being naked, sick, nor fane [temple] nor
The prayers of priests, nor times of sacrifice,
Embarquements [obstacles] all of fury, shall lift
Their rotten privilege and custom ’gainst
My hate to [for] Marcius. Where I find him, were
At home, upon my brother’s guard, even there
Against the hospitable canon [against the rules of hospitality],
Wash my fierce hand in ’s [his] heart. Go you to the
Learn how ’tis held, and what they are that must
Be hostages for Rome.
First Sol. Will not you go?
AUFIDIUS: I am attended [waited for] at the cypress grove: I
’Tis south [of] the city mills—bring me word thither [there]
How the world goes, that to the pace of it
I may spur on my journey.
First Sol. I shall, sir. [Exeunt.
Act 2, Scene 1
Rome. A public place.
Enter MENENIUS, SICINIUS, and BRUTUS.
MENENIUS: The augurer [seer; prophet; soothsayer] tells me
we shall have news to-night.
BRUTUS: Good or bad?
MENENIUS: Not according to the prayer of the people, for
they love not Marcius.
SICINIUS: Nature teaches beasts to know their
MENENIUS: Pray you, who does the wolf
SICINIUS: The lamb.
MENENIUS: Ay, to devour him; as the hungry plebeians would
the noble Marcius.
BRUTUS: He’s a lamb indeed, that baas like a
MENENIUS: He’s a bear indeed, that lives like a lamb. You
two are old men; tell me one thing that I shall ask
SICINIUS and BRUTUS: Well, sir.
MENENIUS: In what enormity is Marcius poor in, that you two
have not in abundance?
BRUTUS: He’s poor in no one fault, but stored with
SICINIUS: Especially in pride.
BRUTUS: And topping all others in
MENENIUS: This is strange now: do you two know how you are
censured [rated; judged] here in the city, I mean of us o’ the
right-hand file [of the patrician class]? Do
BOTH: Why, how are we censured?
MENENIUS: Because you talk of pride now,—Will you not be
BOTH: Well, well, sir; well.
MENENIUS: Why, ’tis no great matter; for a very little thief
of occasion will rob you of a great deal of patience: give your
dispositions the reins, and be angry at your pleasures; at the
least, if you take it as a pleasure to you in being so. You blame
Marcius for being proud?
BRUTUS: We do it not alone, sir.
MENENIUS: I know you can do very little alone; for your
helps are many, or else your actions would grow wondrous single:
your abilities are too infant-like, for doing much alone. You talk
of pride: O! that you could turn your eyes towards the napes of
your necks, and make but an interior survey of your good selves.
O! that you could.
BRUTUS: What then, sir?
MENENIUS: Why, then you should discover a brace of
unmeriting, proud, violent, testy magistrates—alias [also known
as] fools—as any in Rome.
SICINIUS: Menenius, you are known well enough
MENENIUS: I am known to be a humorous [capricious; fanciful;
whimsical] patrician, and one that loves a cup of hot wine with
not a drop of allaying Tiber [diluting water] in ’t; said to be
something imperfect in favouring the first complaint [said to be
biased, favoring the first complainant over the second]; hasty and
tinder-like upon too trivial motion; one that converses more with
the buttock of the night than with the forehead of the morning.
What I think I utter, and spend my malice in my breath. Meeting
two such wealsmen as you are,—I cannot call you Lycurguses [wise
men, like Lycurgus, who developed the constitution and legal
system of Sparta]—if the drink you give me touch my palate
adversely, I make a crooked face at it. I cannot say your worships
have delivered the matter well when I find the ass in compound
with the major part of your syllables [when I find stupidity in
the words you speak]; and though I must be content to bear with
those that say you are reverend grave men, yet they lie deadly
that tell you have good faces. If you see this in the map of my
microcosm [face], follows it that I am known well enough too? What
harm can your bisson conspectuities [blind visions] glean out of
this character, if I be known well enough too?
BRUTUS: Come, sir, come, we know you well
MENENIUS: You know neither me, yourselves, nor anything. You
are ambitious for poor knaves’ caps and legs [you want respect]:
you wear out a good wholesome forenoon in hearing a cause between
an orange-wife [woman who sells oranges] and a fosset-seller
[seller of faucets], and then rejourn [adjourn; postpone] the
controversy of three-pence to a second day of audience. When you
are hearing a matter between party and party, if you chance to be
pinched with the colic [abdominal pain], you make faces like
mummers [masked merrymakers; pantomimists], set up the bloody flag
against all patience [you oppose all patience], and, in roaring
for a chamber-pot, dismiss the controversy bleeding [without
resolving it], the more entangled by your hearing: all the peace
you make in their cause is, calling both the parties knaves. You
are a pair of strange ones.
BRUTUS: Come, come, you are well understood to be a
perfecter giber [jokester] for the table than a necessary bencher
[senator; legislator] in the Capitol.
MENENIUS: Our very priests must become mockers if they shall
encounter such ridiculous subjects as you are. When you speak best
unto the purpose it is not worth the wagging of your beards; and
your beards deserve not so honourable a grave as to stuff a
botcher’s [mender's; sewer's] cushion, or to be entombed in an
ass’s pack-saddle. Yet you must be saying Marcius is proud; who,
in a cheap estimation, is worth all your predecessors since
Deucalion [a survivor of the great flood of antiquity], though
peradventure some of the best of ’em were hereditary hangmen. Good
den [good evening] to your worships: more of your conversation
would infect my brain, being the herdsmen of the beastly
plebeians: I will be bold to take my leave of you. [BRUTUS
and SICINIUS go aside.
Enter VOLUMNIA, VIRGILIA, and VALERIA.
How now, my as fair as noble ladies,—and the moon [the Roman moon
goddess, Diana, whose Greek name was Artemis], were she earthly,
no nobler,—whither do you follow your eyes so
VOLUMNIA: Honourable Menenius, my boy Marcius approaches;
for the love of Juno, let’s go.
[Juno: In Roman mythology, the name of the queen of the gods. Her
Greek name was Hera.]
MENENIUS: Ha! Marcius coming home?
VOLUMNIA: Ay, worthy Menenius; and with most prosperous
MENENIUS: Take my cap, Jupiter, and
I thank thee. Hoo! Marcius coming home!
VOLUMNIA and VIRGILIA: Nay, ’tis true.
VOLUMNIA: Look, here’s a letter from him: the state [Roman
senate] hath another, his wife another; and, I think, there’s one
at home for you.
MENENIUS: I will make my very house reel [dance] to-night. A
letter for me!
VIRGILIA: Yes, certain, there’s a letter for you; I saw
MENENIUS: A letter for me! It gives me an estate of seven
years’ health; in which time I will make a lip [make a face] at
the physician: the most sovereign prescription in Galen is but
empiricutic, and, to this preservative [compared to this honor],
of no better report than a horse-drench [preparation to purge the
bowels of a horse]. Is he not wounded? he was wont to come home
[Galen: Renowned Greek physician and medical historian.]
[empiricutic: Based on observation and experiment rather than
VIRGILIA: O! no, no, no.
VOLUMNIA: O! he is wounded, I thank the gods for
MENENIUS: So do I too, if it be not too much. Brings a’
victory in his pocket? The wounds become him.
VOLUMNIA: On ’s [his] brows, Menenius; he comes the third
time home with the oaken garland [wreath of oak leaves signifying
his great valor in battle].
MENENIUS: Has he disciplined Aufidius
VOLUMNIA: Titus Lartius writes they fought together, but
Aufidius got off.
MENENIUS: And ’twas time for him too, I’ll warrant him that:
an [if] he had stayed by him I would not have been so fidiused
[treated the same way that Marcius treated Aufidius] for all the
chests in Corioli, and the gold that’s in them. Is the senate
possessed of this [possessed of this
VOLUMNIA: Good ladies, let’s go. Yes, yes, yes; the senate
has letters from the general, wherein he gives my son the whole
name of the war. He hath in this action outdone his former deeds
Val. In troth [truth] there’s wondrous things spoke of
MENENIUS: Wondrous! ay, I warrant you, and not without his
true purchasing [valor; courageous fighting].
VIRGILIA: The gods grant them true!
VOLUMNIA: True! pow, wow.
MENENIUS: True! I’ll be sworn they are true. Where is he
wounded? [To the Tribunes.] God save your good
worships! Marcius is coming home: he has more cause to be
proud. [To VOLUMNIA.] Where is he
VOLUMNIA: I’ the shoulder, and i’ the left arm: there will
be large cicatrices [scars] to show the people when he shall stand
for his place [run for elected office]. He received in the repulse
of Tarquin seven hurts i’ the body.
MENENIUS: One i’ the neck, and two i’ the thigh, there’s
nine that I know.
VOLUMNIA: He had, before this last expedition, twenty-five
wounds upon him.
MENENIUS: Now, it’s twenty-seven: every gash was an enemy’s
grave. [A shout and flourish.] Hark! the
VOLUMNIA: These are the ushers of Marcius: before him he
carries noise, and behind him he leaves tears:
Death, that dark spirit, in ’s nervy arm doth
Which, being advanc’d, declines, and then men
A Sennet [ceremonial music]. Trumpets
sound. Enter COMINIUS and TITUS LARTIUS; between them,
CORIOLANUS, crowned with an oaken garland; with Captains,
Soldiers, and a Herald.
HERALD: Know, Rome, that all alone Marcius did
Within Corioli gates: where he hath won,
With fame, a name to Caius Marcius; these
In honour follows Coriolanus.
Welcome to Rome, renowned Coriolanus!
ALL: Welcome to Rome, renowned Coriolanus!
CORIOLANUS: No more of this; it does offend my
Pray now, no more.
COMINIUS: Look, sir, your mother!
You have, I know, petition’d all the gods
For my prosperity. [Kneels.
VOLUMNIA: Nay, my good soldier, up;
My gentle Marcius, worthy Caius, and
By deed-achieving honour newly nam’d,—
What is it?—Coriolanus must I call thee?
But O! thy wife!—
CORIOLANUS: My gracious silence [Virgilia],
Wouldst thou have laugh’d had I come coffin’d
That weep’st to see me triumph? Ah! my dear,
Such eyes the widows in Corioli wear,
And mothers that lack sons.
MENENIUS: Now, the gods crown thee!
CORIOLANUS: And live you yet? [To VALERIA.] O my
sweet lady, pardon.
VOLUMNIA: I know not where to turn: O! welcome
And welcome, general; and ye’re [ye are] welcome
MENENIUS: A hundred thousand welcomes: I could
And I could laugh; I am light, and heavy.
A curse begnaw at very root on ’s [his; anyone's]
That is not glad to see thee! You are three [Coriolanus, Cominius,
and Titus Lartius]
That Rome should dote on; yet, by the faith of
We have some old crab-trees here at home that will
Be grafted to your relish. Yet, welcome, warriors!
[Lines 95-96: Yet there are some old crabs here at home that will
not praise you for your accomplishments.]
We call a nettle but a nettle, and
The faults of fools but folly.
COMINIUS: Ever right.
CORIOLANUS: Menenius, ever, ever.
HERALD: Give way there, and go on!
CORIOLANUS: [To VOLUMNIA and VALERIA.] Your hand, and
Ere [before] in our own house I do shade my
The good patricians must be visited;
From whom I have receiv’d not only greetings,
But with them change of [additional] honours.
VOLUMNIA: I have liv’d
To see inherited my very wishes,
And the buildings of my fancy [and my dreams become reality]:
There’s one thing wanting, which I doubt not but
Our Rome will cast upon thee.
CORIOLANUS: Know, good mother,
I had rather be their servant in my way
Than sway with them in theirs.
COMINIUS: On, to the Capitol! [Flourish.
in state, as before. The Tribunes remain.
BRUTUS: All tongues speak of him, and the bleared sights
[those with weak eyesight]
Are spectacled [have put on spectacles] to see him: your prattling
Into a rapture lets her baby cry
[Line 118: Lets her baby go into a crying spell.]
While she chats [talks about] him: the kitchen malkin [mawkin:
slovenly woman] pins
Her richest lockram [collar] ’bout her reechy [dirty]
Clambering the walls to eye him: stalls, bulks,
Are smother’d up, leads fill’d, and ridges
With variable complexions, all agreeing
[Lines 121-123: Climbing the walls to see him. From vendors'
stalls, storefronts, windows, and rooftops, citizens of various
backgrounds gaze upon Coriolanus, all of them agreeing]
In earnestness to see him: seld-shown flamens
[seld-shown flamens: Seldom-seen flamens. A flamen was any of
fifteen priests, each serving a major or minor deity.]
Do press among the popular throngs, and puff
To win a vulgar station: our veil’d dames
[Lines 125-126: Do circulate among the common people and wear
themselves out trying to find a vantage point among them.]
Commit the war of white and damask in
Their nicely-gawded cheeks to the wanton spoil
Of Phœbus’ burning kisses: such a pother
As if that whatsoever god who leads him
Were slily crept into his human powers,
And gave him graceful posture.
[126-132: Our veiled ladies paint their white cheeks with pink
only to have the hot sun (Phoebus Apollo was the sun god) burn
them with his kisses. Their commotion makes it seem as if they are
following a graceful god who has taken human form.]
SICINIUS: On the sudden
I warrant him consul.
[133-134: It occurs to me that Marcius should be consul. (A consul
was one of two officials, elected annually, as the highest
authorities in Rome.)]
BRUTUS: Then our office may,
During his power, go sleep.
[Lines 135-136: Then our job as tribunes and protectors of the
common people may become unnecessary during his tenure.]
SICINIUS: He cannot temperately transport his
From where he should begin and end, but will
Lose those he hath won.
BRUTUS: In that there’s comfort.
SICINIUS: Doubt not, the commoners, for whom we
But they upon their ancient malice will
Forget with the least cause these his new
Which that he’ll give them, make I as little
As he is proud to do ’t.
[Lines 141-145: Doubt not that the commoners we protect will
forget, for the flimsiest reason, his newly won honors. Be assured
that his pride will compel him to talk about those honors.]
BRUTUS: I heard him swear,
Were he to stand for consul, never would he
Appear i’ the market-place, nor on him put
The napless vesture [threadbare apparel; worn-out toga] of
Nor, showing, as the manner is, his wounds
To the people, beg their stinking breaths.
SICINIUS: ’Tis right.
BRUTUS: It was his word. O! he would miss it
Than carry it but by the suit o’ the gentry to
And the desire of the nobles.
[Lines 153-155: It was his word that he would not kowtow to the
commoners. However, he would cooperate at the request of the
gentry and the noblemen.]
SICINIUS: I wish no better
Than have him hold that purpose and to put it
BRUTUS: ’Tis most like he will.
SICINIUS: It shall be to him then, as our good
A sure destruction.
BRUTUS: So it must fall out
To him or our authorities. For an end [for bringing this matter to
We must suggest [stir up; urge on] the people in what
He still hath held them; that to his power he
Have made them mules, silenc’d their pleaders,
Dispropertied [taken away] their freedoms; holding
In human action and capacity,
Of no more soul nor fitness for the world
Than camels in the war; who have their provand [provender: hay;
Only for bearing burdens, and sore blows
For sinking under them.
SICINIUS: This, as you say, suggested
At some time when his soaring insolence
Shall teach the people—which time shall not
If he be put upon ’t [if he has a mind to do it]; and that’s as
As to set dogs on sheep—will be his fire
To kindle their dry stubble; and their blaze
Shall darken him for ever.
Enter a Messenger.
BRUTUS: What’s the matter?
MESSENGER: You are sent for to the Capitol. ’Tis
That Marcius shall be consul.
I have seen the dumb men throng to see him, and
The blind to hear him speak: matrons flung
Ladies and maids their scarfs and handkerchers
Upon him as he pass’d; the nobles bended,
As to Jove’s statue, and the commons
A shower and thunder with their caps and shouts:
I never saw the like.
BRUTUS: Let’s to the Capitol;
And carry with us ears and eyes for the time [for the time
But hearts for the event [future].
SICINIUS: Have with you. [I agree with you.] [Exeunt.
Act 2, Scene 2
Rome. The Capitol.
Enter two Officers to lay cushions.
FIRST OFFICER: Come, come, they are almost here. How many
stand for consulships?
SECOND OFFICER: Three, they say; but ’tis thought of every
one Coriolanus will carry it [will be elected].
FIRST OFFICER: That’s a brave fellow; but he’s vengeance
proud, and loves not the common people.
SECOND OFFICER: Faith, there have been many great men that
have flattered the people, who ne’er loved them; and there be many
that they have loved, they know not wherefore [why]: so that if
they love they know not why, they hate upon no better a ground.
Therefore, for Coriolanus neither to care whether they love or
hate him manifests the true knowledge he has in their disposition;
and out of his noble carelessness lets them plainly see ’t [what
he is thinking].
FIRST OFFICER: If he did not care whether he had their love
or no, he waved indifferently ’twixt [between] doing them neither
good nor harm; but he seeks their hate with greater devotion than
they can render it him; and leaves nothing undone that may fully
discover him their opposite [foe]. Now, to seem to affect the
malice and displeasure of the people is as bad as that which he
dislikes, to flatter them for their love.
SECOND OFFICER: He hath deserved worthily of his country;
and his ascent is not by such easy degrees as those who, having
been supple [respectful] and courteous to the people, bonneted
[taking off their hats in salute to the people], without any
further deed to have them at all into their estimation and report;
but he hath so planted his honours in their eyes, and his actions
in their hearts, that for their tongues to be silent, and not
confess so much, were a kind of ingrateful injury; to report
otherwise, were a malice, that, giving itself the lie, would pluck
reproof and rebuke from every ear that heard it.
FIRST OFFICER: No more of him; he is a worthy man: make way,
they are coming.
A Sennet. Enter, with Lictors before
them, COMINIUS the Consul, MENENIUS, CORIOLANUS, many other
Senators, SICINIUS and BRUTUS. The Senators take their
places; the Tribunes take theirs also by themselves.
[Lictors: Minor Roman officials who served as bodyguards to
MENENIUS: Having determin’d of the Volsces, and
To send for Titus Lartius, it remains,
As the main point of this our after-meeting,
To gratify his noble service that
[Lines 11-14: Having decided what to do with the Volsces and
having determined to send for Titus Lartius, we now must turn to
the main point of our meeting: to reward the noble service of
Hath thus stood for his country: therefore, please
Most reverend and grave elders, to desire
The present consul, and last general
In our well-found successes, to report
A little of that worthy work perform’d
By Caius Marcius Coriolanus, whom
We meet here both to thank and to remember
With honours like himself.
FIRST SENATOR: Speak, good Cominius:
Leave nothing out for length, and make us think
Rather our state’s defective for requital,
Than we to stretch it out. [To the Tribunes.]
[Line 24-26: Don't leave out any details. Make us think that any
reward we give Coriolanus cannot adequately compensate him for his
great valor. Don't give the impression that we will not be
generous. The First Senator then addresses the Tribunes.]
Masters o’ the people,
We do request your kindest ears, and, after,
Your loving motion toward the common body,
To yield what passes here.
[Lines 29-30: Your loving recommendation to the commoners to
approve what happens here.]
SICINIUS: We are convented
Upon a pleasing treaty, and have hearts
Inclinable to honour and advance
The theme of our assembly.
[Lines 31-34: We have convened to work out a pleasing agreement
that will honor and advance the theme of our assembly.]
BRUTUS: Which the rather
We shall be bless’d [happy] to do, if he remember [would adopt;
A kinder value [a better opinion] of the people
He hath hereto priz’d them at.
MENENIUS: That’s off, that’s off; [that's out of order.]
I would you rather had been silent. Please you
To hear Cominius speak?
BRUTUS: Most willingly;
But yet my caution was more pertinent [was better advice]
Than the rebuke you give it.
MENENIUS: He loves your people;
But tie him not to be their bedfellow.
[Line 46: But don't force him to become a close friend of them.]
Worthy Cominius, speak. [CORIOLANUS rises, and offers to go
Nay, keep your place.
FIRST SENATOR: Sit, Coriolanus; never shame to
What you have nobly done.
CORIOLANUS: Your honours’ pardon:
I had rather have my wounds to heal again
Than hear say how I got them.
BRUTUS: Sir, I hope
My words disbench’d you not.
[disbench'd you not: Did not cause you to get up to leave; did not
CORIOLANUS: No, sir: yet oft,
When blows have made me stay, I fled from words.
You sooth’d not, therefore hurt not. But your
I love them as they weigh.
[Lines 58-59: You did not heap flattery on me and therefore did
not hurt me. As for the commoners you protect, I love them for the
weight of their worth.]
MENENIUS: Pray now, sit down.
CORIOLANUS: I had rather have one scratch my head i’ the
When the alarum were struck than idly sit
To hear my nothings monster’d. [Exit.
[nothings monster'd: Deeds exaggerated]
MENENIUS: Masters of the people,
Your multiplying spawn how can he flatter,—
That’s thousand to one good one,—when you now
He had rather venture all his limbs for honour
Than one on ’s ears to hear it. Proceed, Cominius.
[Lines 65-68: How can he please the people when, for honor, he
would rather risk his life in battle than hear tales told about
COMINIUS: I shall lack voice: the deeds of
Should not be utter’d feebly. It is held
That valour is the chiefest virtue, and
Most dignifies the haver: if it be,
The man I speak of cannot in the world
Be singly counterpois’d. At sixteen years,
[Lines 69-74: I wish I had a stronger voice to shout out the deeds
of Coriolanus for all to hear. Valor is the chief of all virtues,
distinguishing the man who displays it. If that is so, the man I
speak of cannot in the world be matched by any other man.]
When Tarquin made a head for Rome, he fought
Beyond the mark of others; our then dictator,
[Tarquin: Tarquin the Proud (Lucius Tarquinius Superbus), the last
king of Rome, who was overthrown when the Romans decided to
establish a representative form of government.]
Whom with all praise I point at, saw him fight,
When with his Amazonian [beardless, like the female warriors of
myth, for he was only sixteen] chin he drove
The bristled lips [older enemy soldiers] before him. He bestrid
An o’er-press’d Roman, and i’ the consul’s view
Slew three opposers: Tarquin’s self he met,
And struck him on his knee: in that day’s feats,
When he might act the woman in the scene,
He prov’d best man i’ the field, and for his meed [reward]
Was brow-bound with the oak [wreath of oak leaves]. His pupil
Man-enter’d thus, he waxed like a sea,
[His pupil . . . sea: On that day, this teenager became a man and
rose up like an ocean wave.]
And in the brunt of seventeen battles since
He lurch’d all swords of the garland. For this
[He . . . garland: He deflected all swords to win high honors.]
Before and in Corioli, let me say,
I cannot speak him home: he stopp’d the fliers,
[Line 90: I cannot praise him enough: he stopped those fleeing]
And by his rare example made the coward
Turn terror into sport: as weeds before
A vessel under sail, so men obey’d,
And fell below his stem [prow, a curved beam in the front of a
ship]: his sword, death’s stamp,
Where it did mark, it took; from face to foot
He was a thing of blood, whose every motion
Was tim’d with dying cries: alone he enter’d
The mortal gate of the city, which he painted
With shunless [unavoidable] destiny; aidless came off [without
help, devastated the enemy],
And with a sudden re-enforcement struck
Corioli like a planet. Now all’s his:
When by and by the din of war ’gan [began to]
His ready sense; then straight his doubled
Re-quicken’d what in flesh was fatigate [fatigued; tired; worn
And to the battle came he; where he did
Run reeking [fuming; smoking] o’er the lives of men, as
’Twere a perpetual spoil [massacre]; and till we
Both field and city ours, he never stood
To ease his breast with panting.
MENENIUS: Worthy man!
FIRST SENATOR: He cannot but with measure fit the
Which we devise him.
[Lines 111-112: He is fit beyond measure for the honors we devise
COMINIUS: Our spoils he kick’d at,
And look’d upon things precious as they were
The common muck o’ the world: he covets less
Than misery itself would give; rewards
His deeds with doing them, and is content
To spend the time to end it.
[Lines 113-118: He spurned his share of the plunder we took,
looking upon valuable prizes of war as common muck. He covets less
than misery would grant him. His reward for his valorous deeds is
the satisfaction of having done them. He is thus content.]
MENENIUS: He’s right noble:
Let him be call’d for.
FIRST SENATOR: Call Coriolanus.
Off. He doth appear.
MENENIUS: The senate, Coriolanus, are well
To make thee consul.
CORIOLANUS: I do owe them still
My life and services.
MENENIUS: It then remains
That you do speak to the people.
CORIOLANUS: I do beseech you,
Let me o’erleap [avoid; leave out] that custom, for I
Put on the gown, stand naked, and entreat them,
For my wounds’ sake, to give their suffrage [to vote for me]:
That I may pass [be exempt from] this doing.
SICINIUS: Sir, the people
Must have their voices; neither will they bate [eliminate; omit;
One jot of ceremony.
MENENIUS: Put them not to ’t:
Pray you, go fit you to the custom, and
Take to you, as your predecessors have,
Your honour with your form.
[Lines 139-141: I beg you, Coriolanus, to abide by the custom and
present yourself, as your predecessors have, honorably before the
CORIOLANUS: It is a part
That I shall blush in acting, and might well
Be taken from the people.
BRUTUS: [Aside to SICINIUS.] Mark you
CORIOLANUS: To brag unto them, thus I did, and
Show them the unaching scars which I should
As if I had receiv’d them for the hire
Of their breath only!
MENENIUS: Do not stand upon ’t.
We recommend to you, tribunes of the people,
Our purpose to them; and to our noble consul
Wish we all joy and honour.
SENATOR To Coriolanus come all joy and honour!
[Flourish. Exeunt all but SICINIUS and
BRUTUS: You see how he intends to use the
SICINIUS: May they perceive ’s intent! He will require
As if he did contemn [despise] what he requested
Should be in them to give.
BRUTUS: Come; we’ll inform them
Of our proceedings here: on the market-place
I know they do attend us. [Exeunt.
Act 2, Scene 3
Rome. The Forum.
Enter several Citizens.
FIRST CITIZEN: Once [keep in mind that], if he do require
our voices, we ought not to deny him.
SECOND CITIZEN: We may, sir, if we will.
THIRD CITIZEN: We have power in ourselves to do it, but it
is a power that we have no power to do; for if he show us his
wounds, and tell us his deeds, we are to put our tongues into
those wounds and speak for them; so, if he tell us his noble
deeds, we must also tell him our noble acceptance of them.
Ingratitude is monstrous, and for the multitude to be ingrateful
were to make a monster of the multitude; of the which, we being
members, should bring ourselves to be monstrous
FIRST CITIZEN: And to make us no better thought of, a little
help will serve; for once we stood up about the corn [after we
complained about the shortage of corn], he himself stuck not to
call us the many-headed multitude [he himself wasted no time in
calling us the many-headed multitude].
THIRD CITIZEN: We have been called so of many; not that our
heads are some brown, some black, some abram [archaic term for auburn],
some bald, but that our wits are so diversely coloured: and truly
I think, if all our wits were to issue out of one skull, they
would fly east, west, north, south; and their consent of one
direct way should be at once to all the points o’ the
SECOND CITIZEN: Think you so? Which way do you judge my wit
THIRD CITIZEN: Nay, your wit will not so soon out as another
man’s will; ’tis strongly wedged up in a block-head; but if it
were at liberty, ’twould, sure, southward.
SECOND CITIZEN: Why that way?
THIRD CITIZEN: To lose itself in a fog; where being three
parts melted away with rotten dews, the fourth would return for
conscience’ sake, to help to get thee a wife.
SECOND CITIZEN: You are never without your tricks
[wisecracks]: you may, you may.
THIRD CITIZEN: Are you all resolved to give your voices? But
that’s no matter, the greater part carries it. I say, if he would
incline to the people, there was never a worthier
Re-enter CORIOLANUS, in a gown of humility, and MENENIUS.
Here he comes, and in a gown of humility: mark his behaviour. We
are not to stay all together, but to come by him where he stands,
by ones, by twos, and by threes. He’s to make his requests by
particulars; wherein every one of us has a single honour, in
giving him our own voices with our own tongues: therefore follow
me, and I’ll direct you how you shall go by him.
ALL: Content, content. [Exeunt
MENENIUS: O, sir, you are not right: have you not
The worthiest men have done ’t?
CORIOLANUS: What must I say?
‘I pray, sir,’—Plague upon ’t! I cannot bring
My tongue to such a pace. ‘Look, sir, my wounds!
I got them in my country’s service, when
Some certain of your brethren roar’d and ran
From the noise of our own drums.’
MENENIUS: O me! the gods!
You must not speak of that: you must desire them
To think upon you.
CORIOLANUS: Think upon me! Hang ’em!
I would they would forget me, like the virtues
Which our divines lose by ’em.
[Lines 29-30: I wish they would forget me, like the virtues which
our holy men preach but do not abide by.]
MENENIUS: You’ll mar all:
I’ll leave you. Pray you, speak to ’em, I pray
In wholesome [agreeable] manner.
CORIOLANUS: Bid them wash their faces,
And keep their teeth clean. [Exit
So, here comes a brace [pair].
Re-enter two Citizens.
You know the cause, sir, of my standing here?
FIRST CITIZEN: We do, sir; tell us what hath brought you to
CORIOLANUS: Mine own desert.
SECOND CITIZEN: Your own desert!
CORIOLANUS: Ay, not mine own desire.
FIRST CITIZEN: How! not your own desire?
CORIOLANUS: No, sir, ’twas never my desire yet to trouble
the poor with begging.
FIRST CITIZEN: You must think, if we give you any thing, we
hope to gain by you.
CORIOLANUS: Well, then, I pray, your price o’ the
FIRST CITIZEN: The price is, to ask it
CORIOLANUS: Kindly! sir, I pray, let me ha ’t [have it]: I
have wounds to show you, which shall be yours in private. Your
good voice, sir; what say you?
SECOND CITIZEN: You shall ha ’t [have it], worthy
CORIOLANUS: A match [a deal is struck, then], sir. There is
in all two worthy voices begged. I have your alms [promise]: adieu
[French for good-bye].
FIRST CITIZEN: But this is something odd.
SECOND CITIZEN: An ’twere to give again,—but ’tis no
matter. [Exeunt the two
Re-enter two other Citizens.
CORIOLANUS: Pray you now, if it may stand with the tune of
your voices that I may be consul, I have here the customary
THIRD CITIZEN: You have deserved nobly of your country, and
you have not deserved nobly.
CORIOLANUS: Your enigma? [What do you mean?]
THIRD CITIZEN: You have been a scourge to her [Rome's]
enemies, you have been a rod [tyrant; cruel disciplinarian] to her
friends; you have not indeed loved the common
CORIOLANUS: You should account me the more virtuous that I
have not been common in my love. I will, sir, flatter my sworn
brother the people, to earn a dearer estimation of them; ’tis a
condition [a way of behaving] they account gentle [acceptable]:
and since the wisdom of their choice is rather to have my hat than
my heart, I will practise the insinuating [polite; flattering]
nod, and be off [remove my hat] to them most counterfeitly;
that is, sir, I will counterfeit the bewitchment [pretend to have
the pleasing behavior] of some popular man, and give it
bountifully to the desirers. Therefore, beseech you, I may be
FOURTH CITIZEN: We hope to find you our friend, and
therefore give you our voices heartily.
THIRD CITIZEN: You have received many wounds for your
CORIOLANUS: I will not seal [confirm; verify] your knowledge
with showing them. I will make much of your voices, and so trouble
you no further.
BOTH CITIZENS: The gods give you joy, sir, heartily! [Exeunt.
CORIOLANUS: Most sweet voices!
Better it is to die, better to starve,
Than crave the hire which first we do deserve.
[Line 65: Than plead for a reward which is due to us.]
Why in this woolvish toge should I stand here,
To beg of Hob and Dick, that do appear,
Their needless vouches? Custom calls me to ’t:
[Lines 66-68: Why should I stand here in this stupid toga to beg
like a sheep for the approval of Joe Blow or John Doe? Custom says
What custom wills, in all things should we do
The dust on antique time would lie unswept,
And mountainous error be too highly heap’d
For truth to o’er-peer [to peer over]. Rather than fool it
[Lines 70-72: A criticism of what Coriolanus perceives as outdated
customs and traditions]
Let the high office and the honour go
To one that would do thus. I am half through;
The one part suffer’d, the other will I do.
Here come more voices.
Re-enter three other Citizens.
Your voices [citizens and their opinions]: for your voices I have
Watch’d [gave protection] for your voices; for your voices
Of wounds two dozen odd; battles thrice six
I have seen and heard of; for your voices have
Done many things, some less, some more; your
Indeed, I would be consul.
FIFTH CITIZEN: He has done nobly, and cannot go without any honest
SIXTH CITIZEN: Therefore let him be consul. The gods give
him joy, and make him good friend to the people!
ALL: Amen, amen.
God save thee, noble consul! [Exeunt
CORIOLANUS: Worthy voices!
Re-enter MENENIUS, with BRUTUS and SICINIUS.
MENENIUS: You have stood your limitation; and the
Endue [invest] you with the people’s voice:
That, in the official marks invested, you
Anon do meet the senate.
[Lines 90-93: You have stood the test. And the tribunes regard you
as the voice of the people. What remains is for you to meet soon
with the senate in the insignia of your office.]
CORIOLANUS: Is this done?
SICINIUS: The custom of request you have
The people do admit you, and are summon’d
To meet anon, upon your approbation.
CORIOLANUS: Where? at the senate-house?
SICINIUS: There, Coriolanus.
CORIOLANUS: May I change these garments?
SICINIUS: You may, sir.
CORIOLANUS: That I’ll straight do; and, knowing myself
Repair [go] to the senate-house.
MENENIUS: I’ll keep you company. Will you
BRUTUS: We stay here for the people.
SICINIUS: Fare you well. [Exeunt
CORIOLANUS and MENENIUS.
He has it now; and by his looks, methinks,
’Tis warm at ’s [at his] heart.
BRUTUS: With a proud heart he wore
His humble weeds [clothing; toga]. Will you dismiss the
SICINIUS: How now, my masters! have you chose this
FIRST CITIZEN: He has our voices, sir.
BRUTUS: We pray the gods he may deserve your
SECOND CITIZEN: Amen, sir. To my poor unworthy
He mock’d us when he begg’d our voices.
THIRD CITIZEN: Certainly,
He flouted us downright.
FIRST CITIZEN: No, ’tis his kind of speech; he did not mock
SECOND CITIZEN: Not one amongst us, save yourself, but
He used us scornfully: he should have show’d us
His marks of merit, wounds receiv’d for ’s [for his]
SICINIUS: Why, so he did, I am sure.
ALL: No, no; no man saw ’em.
THIRD CITIZEN: He said he had wounds, which he could show in
And with his hat, thus waving it in scorn,
‘I would be consul,’ says he: ‘aged custom,
But by your voices, will not so permit me;
[aged . . . me: According to custom, I can be consul only if I
have your voices (approval).]
Your voices therefore:’ when we granted that,
Here was, ‘I thank you for your voices, thank
Your most sweet voices: now you have left your
I have no further with you.’ Was not this
SICINIUS: Why, either were you ignorant to see
Or, seeing it, of such childish friendliness
To yield your voices?
BRUTUS: Could you not have told him
As you were lesson’d [taught], when he had no
But was a petty servant to the state,
He was your enemy, ever spake [spoke] against
Your liberties and the charters [rights and privileges] that you
I’ the body of the weal [commonwealth; state] and now, arriving
A place of potency and sway o’ the state,
If he should still malignantly remain
Fast foe to the plebeii [plebeians; commoners], your voices
Be curses to yourselves? You should have said
That as his worthy deeds did claim no less
Than what he stood for, so his gracious nature
Would think upon you for your voices and
Translate his malice towards you into love,
Standing [standing as] your friendly lord.
SICINIUS: Thus to have said,
As you were fore-advis’d, had touch’d his spirit
And tried his inclination; from him pluck’d
[Thus . . . inclination: Thus, if you had said what you were
advised to say, you would have touched his spirit and made him
think about how he would treat you.]
Either his gracious promise, which you might,
As cause had call’d you up, have held him to;
Or else it would have gall’d his surly nature,
Which easily endures not article
Tying him to aught; so, putting him to rage,
You should have ta’en the advantage of his
And pass’d him unelected.
[Lines 154-160: Either you would have received his promise to look
after your needs, or you would have enraged him to the point that
he would have become your adversary. Had he become angry, you
could have responded by saying that you would not vote for him to
BRUTUS: Did you perceive
He did solicit yo
u in free [obvious] contempt
When he did need your loves, and do you think
That his contempt shall not be bruising to you
When he hath power to crush? Why, had your
No heart among you? or had you tongues to cry
Against the rectorship of judgment?
[or had . . . judgment: Or had you no gumption to speak out with
common sense and good judgment?]
SICINIUS: Have you
Ere [before] now denied the asker? and now again
Of him that did not ask, but mock, bestow
Your su’d-for tongues?
[Lines 168-170: Surely you have previously refused to endorse a
candidate who asked for your approval. Now you're ready to vote
for a man that did not ask you but instead mocked you.]
THIRD CITIZEN: He’s not confirm’d; we may deny him
SECOND CITIZEN: And will deny him:
I’ll have five hundred voices [voters] of that
FIRST CITIZEN: Ay, twice five hundred and their friends to
piece ’em [to add to them].
BRUTUS: Get you hence instantly, and tell those
They have chose a consul that will from them
Their liberties; make them of no more voice
Than dogs that are as often beat for barking
As therefore kept to do so.
SICINIUS: Let them assemble;
And, on a safer judgment, all revoke
Your ignorant election. Enforce [Emphasize] his
And his old hate unto you; besides, forget not
With what contempt he wore the humble weed
How in his suit [plea for votes] he scorn’d you; but your
Thinking upon his services, took from you
The apprehension of his present portance,
[but your loves . . . portance: But your desire for his services
blinded you to his scornful attitude toward you.]
Which most gibingly [derisively], ungravely [without dignity], he
did fashion [make; design]
After the inveterate [thoroughgoing; constant] hate he bears
A fault on us, your tribunes; that we labour’d,—
No impediment between,—but that you must
Cast your election on him.
SICINIUS: Say, you chose him
More after our commandment than as guided
By your own true affections; and that, your
Pre-occupied with what you rather must do
Than what you should, made you against the grain
To voice [approve] him consul: lay the fault on
BRUTUS: Ay, spare us not. Say we read lectures to
How youngly he began to serve his country,
How long continu’d, and what stock [ancestry] he springs
The noble house o’ the Marcians, from whence
That Ancus Marcius, Numa’s daughter’s son,
Who, after great Hostilius, here was king;
[Ancus Marcius (677-617 BC): Fourth king of Rome.]
[Numa's daughter: Pompilia, daughter of the second king of Rome,
Numa Pompilius (753-673 BC).]
[Hostilius: Tullus Hostilius (673-642 BC): Third king of Rome, who
suceeded Numa Pompilius.]
Of the same house Publius and Quintus were,
That our best water brought by conduits hither;
And Censorinus, that was so surnam’d,—
And nobly nam’d so, twice being censor,—
Was his great ancestor.
SICINIUS: One thus descended,
That hath, beside, well in his person wrought
To be set high in place, we did commend
To your remembrances: but you have found,
Scaling his present bearing with his past,
That he’s your fixed enemy, and revoke
Your sudden approbation.
[Lines 212-218: Say also that we recommended him to you because,
besides his distinguished ancestry, he performed deeds that would
set him in a high place. But then say that after we made our
recommendation, you found out—after witnessing his behavior toward
you—that he's your sworn enemy. Finally, say that you now take
back your approval of him.
BRUTUS: Say you ne’er had done ’t—
Harp on that still—but by our putting on;
And presently, when you have drawn your number,
Repair to the Capitol.
[Lines 219-222: Say you never would have approved of him—make that
point clear—if we tribunes had not recommended him. Now, when you
and your fellow citizens are ready, go to the Capitol.]
ALL: We will so; almost all
Repent in their election. [Exeunt
BRUTUS: Let them go on;
This mutiny were better put in hazard
Than stay, past doubt, for greater.
[Lines 226-227: It's better to allow their uprising against
Coriolanus now than to risk a greater uprising later.]
If, as his nature is, he fall in rage
With their refusal, both observe and answer
The vantage of his anger.
[both observe . . . anger: His nature is such that he is quick to
anger. If he does fall into a rage because of their refusal to
elect him, take note that his anger will be to our advantage.]
SICINIUS: To the Capitol, come:
We will be there before the stream o’ the
And this shall seem, as partly ’tis, their own,
Which we have goaded onward. [Exeunt.
Act 3, Scene 1
Rome. A street.
Cornets. Enter CORIOLANUS, MENENIUS,
COMINIUS, TITUS LARTIUS, Senators, and Patricians.
CORIOLANUS: Tullus Aufidius then had made new head [had
assembled new forces]?
LARTIUS: He had, my lord; and that it was which
Our swifter composition.
CORIOLANUS: So then the Volsces stand but as at
Ready, when time shall prompt them, to make road
Upon ’s again [to make war upon us again].
COMINIUS: They are worn, lord consul, so,
That we shall hardly in our ages see
Their banners wave again.
CORIOLANUS: Saw you Aufidius?
LARTIUS: On safe-guard [under a flag of truce] he came to
me; and did curse
Against the Volsces, for they had so vilely
Yielded the town: he is retir’d to Antium [Volscian
CORIOLANUS: Spoke he of me?
LARTIUS: He did, my lord.
CORIOLANUS: How? what?
LARTIUS: How often he had met you, sword to
That of all things upon the earth he hated
Your person most, that he would pawn his
To hopeless restitution, so he might
Be call’d your vanquisher.
CORIOLANUS: At Antium lives he?
LARTIUS: At Antium.
CORIOLANUS: I wish I had a cause to seek him
To oppose his hatred fully. Welcome home.
Enter SICINIUS and BRUTUS.
Behold! these are the tribunes of the people,
The tongues o’ the common mouth: I do despise
For they do prank them in authority
Against all noble sufferance.
[Line 31-32: For they conceive of themselves as the authority in
Rome against the wishes of the nobility.]
SICINIUS: Pass no further.
CORIOLANUS: Ha! what is that?
BRUTUS: It will be dangerous to go on: no
CORIOLANUS: What makes this change? [Why are you stopping
me? What's the matter?]
MENENIUS: The matter?
COMINIUS: Hath he not pass’d the noble and the
BRUTUS: Cominius, no.
CORIOLANUS: Have I had children’s voices
FIRST SENATOR: Tribunes, give way; he shall to the
BRUTUS: The people are incens’d against
Or all will fall in broil.
CORIOLANUS: Are these your herd [Are these people your
Must these have voices [votes], that can yield [renounce;
invalidate] them now,
And straight disclaim their tongues? What are your offices
You being their mouths, why rule you not their
Have you not set them on?
[Lines 48-49: You speak for them as protectors of their rights. I
think you have set them against me.]
MENENIUS: Be calm, be calm.
CORIOLANUS: It is a purpos’d thing, and grows by
To curb the will of the nobility:
Suffer ’t, and live with such as cannot rule
Nor ever will be rul’d.
[Lines 51-54: Your purpose is to thwart the will of the nobility.
If Rome does not stop your plot, uproar and chaos will follow.]
BRUTUS: Call ’t not a plot:
The people cry you mock’d them, and of late,
When corn was given them gratis [free; without payment], you
Scandall’d the suppliants for the people, call’d
Time-pleasers, flatterers, foes to nobleness.
[Lines 58-59: Scorned the advocates for the people, calling them
opportunists, flatterers, enemies of the nobility.]
CORIOLANUS: Why, this was known before.
BRUTUS: Not to them all.
CORIOLANUS: Have you inform’d them sithence [since
BRUTUS: How! I inform them!
CORIOLANUS: You are like to do such
BRUTUS: Not unlike,
Each way, to better yours.
[Lines 65-66: I am not unlikely to do whatever I can to get the
better of you.]
CORIOLANUS: Why then should I be consul? By yond [yonder]
Let me deserve so ill as you, and make me
Your fellow tribune.
SICINIUS: You show too much of that
For which the people stir; if you will pass
To where you are bound, you must inquire your
Which you are out of, with a gentler spirit;
Or never be so noble as a consul,
Nor yoke with him for tribune.
[if you . . . for tribune: If you wish to achieve your goal of
becoming a consul, you must seek it with a gentler spirit. If you
don't, you will never be a consul or even a tribune.]
MENENIUS: Let’s be calm.
COMINIUS: The people are abus’d [misled]; set on. This
paltering [quibbling; bargaining]
Becomes not Rome, nor has Coriolanus
Deserv’d this so dishonour’d rub [irritation; obstacle], laid
I’ the plain way of his merit.
CORIOLANUS: Tell me of corn!
This was my speech, and I will speak ’t again,—
MENENIUS: Not now, not now.
FIRST SENATOR: Not in this heat, sir, now.
CORIOLANUS: Now, as I live, I will. My nobler
I crave their pardons:
For the mutable, rank-scented many [for the fickle, bad-smelling
commoners], let them
Regard me as I do not flatter, and
Therein behold themselves: I say again,
In soothing them we nourish ’gainst our senate
The cockle [weed that grows in wheat fields] of rebellion,
Which we ourselves have plough’d for, sow’d and
By mingling them with us, the honour’d number;
[Lines 92-93: We ourselves have planted this weed by allowing the
commoners to mingle with us, the nobility of Rome, as the weed
mingles with wheat.]
Who lack’d not virtue, no, nor power, but that
Which they have given to beggars.
[Lines 94-95: We noble Romans do not lack virtue or power except
what we have given to these lowly commoners.]
MENENIUS: Well, no more.
FIRST SENATOR: No more words, we beseech
CORIOLANUS: How! no more!
As for my country I have shed my blood,
Not fearing outward force, so shall my lungs
Coin words till they decay against those measles [disease,
referring to the commoners]
Which we disdain should tetter [infect] us, yet
The very way to catch them [the disease].
BRUTUS: You speak o’ the people,
As if you were a god to punish, not
A man of their infirmity.
SICINIUS: ’Twere well
We let the people know ’t.
MENENIUS: What, what? his choler [anger]?
Were I as patient as the midnight sleep,
By Jove, ’twould be my
SICINIUS: It is a mind
That shall remain a poison where it is,
Not poison any further.
CORIOLANUS: Shall remain!
Hear you this Triton of the minnows? mark you
His absolute ‘shall?’
[Line 117-118: Do you hear this poor excuse for Triton? He dares
to say I "shall remain." (Triton was the son of the god of the
sea, Neptune, whose Greek name was Poseidon. Triton was depicted
as using a trumpet made from a conch shell. Minnows is an
insulting metaphor for the commoners.)]
COMINIUS: ’Twas from the canon [law].
O good but most unwise patricians! why,
You grave but reckless senators, have you thus
Given Hydra here to choose an officer,
[Hydra: In Greek mythology, a monster with nine heads.]
That with his peremptory ‘shall,’ being but
The horn and noise o’ the monster’s, wants not
To say he’ll turn your current in a ditch,
And make your channel his? If he have power,
Then vail your ignorance; if none, awake
Your dangerous lenity. If you are learned,
Be not as common fools; if you are not,
Let them have cushions by you. You are plebeians
If they be senators; and they are no less,
When, both your voices blended, the great’st
Most palates theirs. They choose their
And such a one as he, who puts his ‘shall,’
His popular ‘shall,’ against a graver bench
Than ever frown’d in Greece. By Jove himself!
It makes the consuls base; and my soul aches
To know, when two authorities are up,
Neither supreme, how soon confusion
May enter ’twixt the gap of both and take
The one by the other.
[Lines 126-142: To say he'll divert the course of your stream into
a ditch, then use the bed of the waterway as his own. If he has
power, then cast off the ignorance that granted it to him. You are
educated men, but you act like fools. If you are not as wise as
your education suggests, then let the tribunes and commoners sit
on cushions beside you as equals. You senators are commoners if
you allow the tribunes and commoners to be senators. The commoners
choose their magistrate, or protector. But such a protector as
Sicinius dares to use shall to order us around and make
the high office of consul seem base. When two authorities are in
power but neither supreme, confusion takes over.]
COMINIUS: Well, on to the market-place.
CORIOLANUS: Whoever gave that counsel, to give
The corn o’ the store-house grátis [free of charge], as ’twas
Sometime in Greece,—
MENENIUS: Well, well; no more of that.
CORIOLANUS: Though there the people had more absolute
I say, they nourish’d disobedience, fed
The ruin of the state.
BRUTUS: Why, shall the people give
One that speaks thus their voice?
CORIOLANUS: I’ll give my reasons,
More worthier than their voices. They know the
Was not our recompense [payment for military duty], resting well
They ne’er did service for ’t. Being press’d to the
Even when the navel of the state was touch’d,
[Line 157: Even when the Volscians threatened Rome]
They would not thread the gates [go through the gates]: this kind
Did not deserve corn gratis. Being i’ the war,
Their mutinies and revolts, wherein they show’d
Most valour, spoke not for them. The accusation
Which they have often made against the senate,
All cause unborn [without cause; baseless], could never be the
Of our so frank [sincere] donation. Well, what
How shall this bisson [short-sighted] multitude
The senate’s courtesy? Let deeds express
What’s like to be their words: ‘We did request
We are the greater poll [majority; we have the most votes], and in
They gave us our demands.’ Thus we debase
The nature of our seats, and make the rabble
Call our cares, fears; which will in time break
The locks o’ the senate, and bring in the crows
To peck the eagles.
MENENIUS: Come, enough.
BRUTUS: Enough, with over-measure.
CORIOLANUS: No, take more:
What may be sworn by, both divine and human,
Seal what I end withal! This double worship,
Where one part does disdain with cause, the
Insult without all reason; where gentry [noblemen], title,
Cannot conclude [decide], but by the yea and no
Of general ignorance,—it must omit
Real necessities, and give way the while
To unstable slightness: purpose so barr’d, it
Nothing is done to purpose. Therefore, beseech
You that will be less fearful than discreet [cowardly; reserved;
That love the fundamental part of state
More than you doubt the change on ’t, that
A noble life before a long, and wish
To jump [treat; administer] a body with a dangerous
That’s sure of death without it, at once pluck
The multitudinous tongue; let them not lick
The sweet which is their poison. Your dishonour [deplorable
Mangles true judgment, and bereaves the state
Of that integrity which should become it,
Not having the power to do the good it would,
For the ill which doth control ’t.
BRUTUS: He has said enough.
SICINIUS: He has spoken like a traitor, and shall
As traitors do.
CORIOLANUS: Thou wretch! despite [insults; bad luck]
What should the people do with these bald [without merit; having
no redeeming quality] tribunes?
On whom depending, their obedience fails
To the greater bench [to the senate]. In a
When what’s not meet, but what must be, was law,
Then were they chosen: in a better hour,
Let what is meet be said it must be meet,
And throw their power i’ the dust.
BRUTUS: Manifest treason!
SICINIUS: This a consul? no.
BRUTUS: The ædiles, ho! Let him be
[Aediles: Enforcers of order; law officers]
Enter an Aedile.
SICINIUS: Go, call the people; [Exit Aedile] in whose
Attach [arrest] thee as a traitorous innovator [rebel; plotter
against the state],
A foe to the public weal [welfare]: obey, I charge
And follow to thine answer.
CORIOLANUS: Hence [go away], old goat!
SENATOR We’ll surety [post bail for] him.
COMINIUS: Aged sir, hands off.
CORIOLANUS: Hence, rotten thing! or I shall shake thy
Out of thy garments.
SICINIUS: Help, ye citizens!
Re-enter Aediles, with Others, and a rabble of Citizens.
MENENIUS: On both sides more respect.
SICINIUS: Here’s he that would take from you all your
BRUTUS: Seize him, aediles!
CITIZENS: Down with him!—down with him!—
SENATOR Weapons!—weapons!—weapons!— [They all bustle
about CORIOLANUS, crying
MENENIUS: What is about to be?—I am out of
Confusion’s near; I cannot speak. You, tribunes
To the people! Coriolanus, patience!
Speak, good Sicinius.
SICINIUS: Hear me, people; peace!
CITIZENS: Let’s hear our tribune:—Peace!—Speak, speak,
SICINIUS: You are at point to lose your
Marcius would have all [take your rights] from you;
Whom late you have nam’d for consul.
MENENIUS: Fie, fie, fie!
This is the way to kindle, not to quench.
[Line 242: This is the way to cause an uproar, not to stop one.]
FIRST SENATOR: To unbuild the city and to lay all
[Line 243: This is the way to tear down the city.]
SICINIUS: What is the city but the people?
The people are the city.
BRUTUS: By the consent of all, we were
The people’s magistrates.
CITIZENS: You so remain.
MENENIUS: And so are like to do.
COMINIUS: That is the way to lay the city
To bring the roof to the foundation,
And bury all, which yet distinctly ranges [which at this moment
In heaps and piles of ruin.
SICINIUS: This deserves death.
BRUTUS: Or let us stand to our authority,
Or let us lose it. We do here pronounce,
Upon the part o’ the people, in whose power
We were elected theirs, Marcius is worthy
Of present [immediate] death.
SICINIUS: Therefore lay hold of him;
Bear him to the rock Tarpeian, and from thence
Into destruction cast him.
[rock Tarpeian: Cliff on the Capitoline
Hill in Rome. Convicted criminals were sometimes sentenced to be
cast off the Tarpeian rock.]
BRUTUS: Aediles, seize him!
CITIZENS: Yield, Marcius, yield!
MENENIUS: Hear me one word;
Beseech you, tribunes, hear me but a word.
AEDILES: Peace, peace!
MENENIUS: Be that you seem, truly your country’s
And temperately proceed to what you would
Thus violently redress.
BRUTUS: Sir, those cold ways,
That seem like prudent helps, are very poisonous
Where the disease is violent. Lay hands upon
And bear him to the rock.
CORIOLANUS: No, I’ll die here. [Drawing his
There’s some among you have beheld me fighting:
Come, try upon yourselves what you have seen me.
MENENIUS: Down with that sword! Tribunes, withdraw
BRUTUS: Lay hands upon him.
MENENIUS: Help Marcius, help,
You that be noble; help him, young and old!
CITIZENS: Down with him!—down with him! [In this
mutiny the Tribunes, the Aediles, and the People are beat
MENENIUS: Go, get you to your house; be gone,
All will be naught [disaster] else.
SECOND SENATOR: Get you gone.
CORIOLANUS: Stand fast;
We have as many friends as enemies.
MENENIUS: Shall it be put to that?
FIRST SENATOR: The gods forbid!
I prithee, noble friend, home to thy house;
Leave us to cure this cause.
MENENIUS: For ’tis a sore upon us,
You cannot tent yourself [heal yourself in their eyes]: be gone,
COMINIUS: Come, sir, along with us.
CORIOLANUS: I would they were barbarians,—as they
Though in Rome litter’d,—not Romans,—as they are
Though calv’d i’ the porch o’ the Capitol,—
[Line 298: Though born here in Rome within sight of the Capitol]
MENENIUS: Be gone;
Put not your worthy rage into your tongue;
One time will owe another.
[Line 301: The time will come for you to get back at them.]
CORIOLANUS: On fair ground
I could beat forty of them.
MENENIUS: I could myself
Take up a brace [pair] o’ the best of them; yea, the two
COMINIUS: But now ’tis odds beyond
And manhood is call’d foolery when it stands
Against a falling fabric. Will you hence,
Before the tag return? whose rage doth rend
Like interrupted waters and o’erbear
What they are us’d to bear.
[Lines 306-311: But the odds are against us. A man is a fool to
stand against a wild rabble. Will you leave before the citizens
return? Their rage is as violent as a river that overflows its
MENENIUS: Pray you, be gone.
I’ll try whether my old wit be in request
With those that have but little: this must be
With cloth of any colour.
COMINIUS: Nay, come away. [Exeunt
CORIOLANUS, COMINIUS, and Others.
FIRST PATRICIAN: This man has marr’d his
MENENIUS: His nature is too noble for the
He would not flatter Neptune for his trident,
[Neptune: In ancient mythology, the Roman name for the god of the
sea. His Greek name was Poseidon.]
Or Jove for ’s [for his] power to thunder.
His heart’s his mouth:
What his breast forges, that his tongue must
And, being angry, does forget that ever
He heard the name of death. [A noise within.
Here’s goodly work!
SECOND PATRICIAN: I would they were a-bed!
MENENIUS: I would they were in Tiber [in the Tiber River]!
What the vengeance!
Could he not speak ’em fair?
Re-enter BRUTUS and SICINIUS, with the rabble.
SICINIUS: Where is this viper
That would depopulate the city and
Be every man himself?
MENENIUS: You worthy tribunes,—
SICINIUS: He shall be thrown down the Tarpeian
With rigorous hands: he hath resisted law,
And therefore law shall scorn him further trial
Than the severity of the public power,
Which he so sets at nought.
[Lines 335-337: And therefore he will receive no further trial
except the severity of the will of the people, whom he regards as
FIRST CITIZEN: He shall well know
The noble tribunes are the people’s mouths,
And we their hands.
CITIZENS: He shall, sure on ’t.
MENENIUS: Sir, sir,—
MENENIUS: Do not cry havoc, where you should but
With modest warrant.
[Lines 344-345: Be modest, not extreme, in your judgment of him.]
SICINIUS: Sir, how comes ’t that you
Have holp [helped] to make this rescue [to make a plea on his
MENENIUS: Hear me speak:
As I do know the consul’s worthiness,
So can I name his faults.
SICINIUS: Consul! what consul?
MENENIUS: The Consul Coriolanus.
BRUTUS: He consul!
CITIZENS: No, no, no, no, no.
MENENIUS: If, by the tribunes’ leave, and yours, good
I may be heard, I would crave a word or two,
The which shall turn you to no further harm
Than so much loss of time.
SICINIUS: Speak briefly then;
For we are peremptory [firm; determined] to
This viperous traitor. To eject him hence
Were but one danger, and to keep him here
Our certain death; therefore it is decreed
He dies to-night.
MENENIUS: Now the good gods forbid
That our renowned Rome, whose gratitude
Towards her deserved children is enroll’d
In Jove’s own book, like an unnatural
Should now eat up her own!
SICINIUS: He’s a disease that must be cut
MENENIUS: O! he’s a limb that has but a
Mortal to cut it off; to cure it easy.
What has he done to Rome that’s worthy death?
Killing our enemies, the blood he hath lost,—
Which, I dare vouch, is more than that he hath
By many an ounce,—he dropp’d it for his country;
And what is left, to lose it by his country,
Were to us all, that do ’t and suffer it,
A brand [mark of disgrace and dishonor] to th’ end o’ the
SICINIUS: This is clean kam [sheer nonsense; very
BRUTUS: Merely awry [off course; askew]: when he did love
It honour’d him.
MENENIUS: The service of the foot
Being once gangren’d, is not then respected
For what before it was.
BRUTUS: We’ll hear no more.
Pursue him to his house, and pluck him thence,
Lest his infection, being of catching nature,
MENENIUS: One word more, one word.
This tiger-footed rage, when it shall find
The harm of unscann’d swiftness [the harm of being too hasty],
will, too late,
Tie leaden pounds [weights] to’s [to his] heels. Proceed by
process [legal means];
Lest parties—as he is belov’d—break out,
And sack great Rome with Romans.
BRUTUS: If ’twere so,—
SICINIUS: What do ye talk?
Have we not had a taste of his obedience?
Our aediles smote [beaten]? ourselves resisted?
MENENIUS: Consider this: he has been bred i’ the
Since he could draw a sword, and is ill school’d
In bolted [careful; prudent] language; meal and bran
He throws without distinction. Give me leave,
I’ll go to him, and undertake to bring him
Where he shall answer by a lawful form,—
In peace,—to his utmost peril.
FIRST SENATOR: Noble tribunes,
It is the humane way: the other course
Will prove too bloody, and the end of it
Unknown to the beginning.
SICINIUS: Noble Menenius,
Be you then as the people’s officer.
Masters, lay down your weapons.
BRUTUS: Go not home.
SICINIUS: Meet on the market-place. We’ll attend you
Where, if you bring not Marcius, we’ll proceed
In our first way.
MENENIUS: I’ll bring him to you.
[To the Senators.] Let me desire your company. He must
Or what is worst will follow.
FIRST SENATOR: Pray you, let’s to him. [Exeunt.
Act 3, Scene 2
Rome. A room in
Enter CORIOLANUS and Patricians.
CORIOLANUS: Let them pull all about mine ears; present
Death on the wheel [torture device], or at wild horses’
Or pile ten hills on the Tarpeian rock,
That the precipitation [steepness; slope; incline] might down
Below the beam [range; limit] of sight; yet will I
Be thus [be an adversary] to them.
FIRST PATRICIAN: You do the nobler.
CORIOLANUS: I muse [wonder why] my mother
Does not approve me further [does not show more enthusiasm for
what I do], who was wont
To call them woollen vassals [slaves wearing woolen clothes],
To buy and sell with groats, to show bare heads
[groat: Coin with a value equivalent to a few pennies]
In congregations, to yawn, be still, and wonder,
When one but of my ordinance [standing; rank] stood up
To speak of peace or war.
I talk of
Why did you wish me milder? Would you have me
False to my nature? Rather say I play
The man I am.
VOLUMNIA: O! sir, sir, sir,
I would have had you put your power well on
Before you had worn it out.
CORIOLANUS: Let go. [That's enough.]
VOLUMNIA: You might have been enough the man you
With striving less to be so: lesser had been
The thwarting of your dispositions if
You had not show’d them how you were dispos’d,
Ere [before] they lack’d power to cross you.
[Lines 29-30: You should have concealed your contempt for them.
But because you didn't, they're now using their power to oppose
CORIOLANUS: Let them hang.
VOLUMNIA: Ay, and burn too.
Enter MENENIUS and Senators.
MENENIUS [to Coriolanus]: Come, come; you have been too
rough, something too rough;
You must return and mend it.
FIRST SENATOR: There’s no remedy;
Unless, by not so doing, our good city
Cleave [split apart] in the midst, and perish.
VOLUMNIA: Pray be counsell’d.
I have a heart of mettle [spirit; courage; fortitude] apt as
But yet a brain that leads my use of anger
To better vantage [advantage].
MENENIUS: Well said, noble woman!
Before he should thus stoop to the herd, but that
The violent fit o’ the time craves it as physic
For the whole state, I would put mine armour on,
Which I can scarcely bear.
[Lines 44-47: Before Coriolanus stoops to the commoners, which the
violent rioters want him to do as a penalty to satisfy the state,
I would put my armor on.]
CORIOLANUS: What must I do?
MENENIUS: Return to the tribunes.
CORIOLANUS: Well, what then? what then?
MENENIUS: Repent what you have spoke.
CORIOLANUS: For them! I cannot do it to the
Must I then do ’t to them?
VOLUMNIA: You are too absolute [stubborn;
Though therein you can never be too noble,
But when extremities speak. I have heard you say,
[Though . . . . speak: Although you would be justified in
asserting yourself in times of crisis and danger.]
Honour and policy [craftiness; slyness], like unsever’d
In the war do grow together: grant that, and tell me,
In peace what each of them by th’ other lose,
That they combine not there.
CORIOLANUS: Tush, tush!
MENENIUS: A good demand.
VOLUMNIA: If it be honour in your wars to seem
The same [what; that which] you are not,—which, for your best
You adopt your policy,—how is it less or worse,
That it shall hold companionship in peace
With honour, as in war, since that to both
It stands in like request?
CORIOLANUS: Why force you this?
VOLUMNIA: Because that now it lies you on [it requires you]
To the people; not by your own instruction [opinion; belief;
Nor by the matter which your heart prompts you,
But with such words that are but rooted in
Your tongue, though but bastards and syllables
Of no allowance to your bosom’s truth.
[though but . . . truth: Though these words do not truly represent
what you believe]
Now, this no more dishonours you at all
Than to take in [conquer] a town with gentle words,
Which else would put you to your fortune and
The hazard of much blood.
[Lines 78-79: Rather than having to shed blood to conquer it]
I would dissemble with my nature where
My fortunes and my friends at stake requir’d
I should do so in honour: I am in this,
Your wife, your son, these senators, the nobles;
[I would dissemble . . . honour: I would rather lie or become a
hypocrite if my fortunes and my friends were at stake. I would do
so with honor. I am speaking these words as if I were your wife,
your son, these senators and nobles.]
And you will rather show our general louts
How you can frown than spend a fawn upon ’em,
[Lines 84-85: And you would rather frown at these louts than try
to appease them]
For the inheritance of their loves and safeguard
Of what that want might ruin.
MENENIUS: Noble lady!
Come, go with us; speak fair; you may salve so [you may calmly
Not what is dangerous present, but the loss
Of what is past.
VOLUMNIA: I prithee now, my son,
Go to them, with this bonnet [hat] in thy hand;
And thus far having stretch’d it,—here be with them,
Thy knee bussing the stones [kneeling on the stones],—for in such
Action is eloquence, and the eyes of the ignorant
More learned than the ears,—waving thy head,
Which often, thus, correcting thy stout heart,
Now humble [soft; yielding] as the ripest mulberry
That will not hold [sustain] the handling: or say to
Thou art their soldier, and being bred in broils
Hast not the soft way which, thou dost confess,
[being bred . . . soft way: Being used to the violent and
disorderly ways of war, lack a subdued and mild manner]
Were fit for thee to use as they to claim [to deem
In asking their good loves; but thou wilt frame
Thyself, forsooth [in truth], hereafter theirs, so far
As thou hast power and person.
MENENIUS: This but done,
Even as she speaks, why, their hearts were yours;
For they have pardons, being ask’d, as free
[Line 109: For they will pardon you, if asked, as freely]
As words to little purpose.
VOLUMNIA: Prithee now,
Go, and be rul’d; although I know thou hadst rather
Follow thine enemy in a fiery gulf [into a fiery chasm; into a
Than flatter him in a bower. Here is Cominius.
COMINIUS: I have been i’ the market-place; and, sir, ’tis
You make strong party [you have supporters to back you up], or
By calmness or by absence: all’s in anger.
MENENIUS: Only fair speech.
COMINIUS: I think ’twill serve if he
Can thereto frame his spirit.
VOLUMNIA: He must, and will.
Prithee now, say you will, and go about it.
CORIOLANUS: Must I go show them my unbarbed sconce?
[my unbarbed sconce: Without a helmet to protect my head]
Must I with my base tongue give to my noble heart
A lie that it must bear? Well, I will do ’t:
Yet, were there but this single plot [body] to lose,
This mould [shape; form; body] of Marcius, they to dust should
And throw ’t against the wind. To the market-place!
You have put me now to such a part [actor's role] which
I shall discharge to the life [shall act
COMINIUS: Come, come, we’ll prompt you.
VOLUMNIA: I prithee now, sweet son, as thou hast
My praises made thee first a soldier, so,
To have my praise for this, perform a part
Thou hast not done before.
CORIOLANUS: Well, I must do ’t:
Away, my disposition, and possess me
Some harlot’s spirit! My throat of war be turn’d,
Which quired [sang] with my drum, into a pipe [voice]
Small as a eunuch [eunuch's], or the virgin voice
That babies lulls [that lulls babies] asleep! The smiles of
Tent [camp] in my cheeks, and school-boys’ tears take
The glasses of my sight [surface of my eyes]! A beggar’s
Make motion through my lips, and my arm’d knees,
Who [which] bow’d but [only] in my stirrup, bend like
That hath receiv’d an alms! I will not do ’t,
Lest I surcease [cease] to honour mine own truth,
And by my body’s action teach my mind
A most inherent baseness.
VOLUMNIA: At thy choice then:
To beg of thee it is my more dishonour
Than thou of them. Come all to ruin; let
[Lines152-153: It is a greater dishonor for me to plead with you
than it is for you to plead with the commoners. All will come to
Thy mother rather feel [endure] thy pride than fear
Thy dangerous stoutness, for I mock at death
With as big heart as thou. Do as thou list [wish],
Thy valiantness was mine, thou suck’dst [sucked] it from
But owe [own] thy pride thyself.
CORIOLANUS: Pray, be content:
Mother, I am going to the market-place;
Chide me no more. I’ll mountebank their loves,
[mountebank . . . loves: Solicit their approval with false
Cog [coax; win] their hearts from them, and come home
Of all the trades in Rome. Look, I am going:
Commend me to my wife. I’ll return consul,
Or never trust to what my tongue can do
I’ the way of flattery further.
VOLUMNIA: Do your will. [Exit.
COMINIUS: Away! the tribunes do attend you: arm
To answer mildly; for they are prepar’d
With accusations, as I hear, more strong
Than are upon you yet.
MENENIUS: The word is ‘mildly.’
CORIOLANUS: Pray you, let us go:
Let them accuse me by invention, I
Will answer in mine honour.
[Lines 174-175: If they accuse me with invented lies, I will
answer according to my honor.]
MENENIUS: Ay, but mildly.
CORIOLANUS: Well, mildly be it then. Mildly! [Exeunt.
Act 3, Scene 3
Rome. The Forum.
Enter SICINIUS and BRUTUS.
BRUTUS: In this point charge him home, that he
Tyrannical power: if he evade us there,
[Lines 3-4: On this point, be strong and unyielding—namely,
that he wants to become a dictator, a tyrant.]
Enforce him with his envy to the people,
[Line 5: Condemn him by emphasizing how much he hates the people]
And that the spoil got on the Antiates
Was ne’er distributed.—
[Lines 6-7: And that the spoil (treasure; property) seized from
the citizens of Antiates was never distributed.]
Enter an Aedile.
What, will he come?
AEDILE: He’s coming.
BRUTUS: How accompanied?
AEDILE: With old Menenius, and those
That always favour’d him.
SICINIUS: Have you a catalogue
Of all the voices [votes] that we have procur’d,
Set down by the poll?
AEDILE: I have; ’tis ready.
SICINIUS: Have you collected them by
AEDILE: I have.
SICINIUS: Assemble presently the people hither
And when they hear me say, ‘It shall be so,
I’ the right and strength o’ the commons,’ be it
For death, for fine, or banishment, then let
If I say, fine, cry ‘fine,’—if death, cry
Insisting on the old prerogative [right; entitlement]
And power i’ the truth o’ the cause.
AEDILE: I shall inform them.
BRUTUS: And when such time they have begun to
Let them not cease, but with a din confus’d
Enforce the present execution
Of what we chance to sentence.
[Lines 28-31: And when they begin to cry out, let them keep it up.
Amid all the noise, see that the sentence we pronounce is carried
AEDILE: Very well.
SICINIUS: Make them be strong and ready for this hint [ready
for this cue],
When we shall hap [seize the occasion] to give ’t [give it to]
BRUTUS: Go about it. [Exit Aedile.
Put him to choler [make him angry] straight. He hath been
Ever to conquer, and to have his worth
Of contradiction: being once chaf’d, he cannot
Be rein’d again to temperance; then he speaks
[and to have . . . temperance: And to have his fill of being the
boss. Being once angered, he cannot calm himself so easily.]
What’s in his heart; and that is there which
With us to break his neck.
SICINIUS: Well, here he comes.
Enter CORIOLANUS, MENENIUS, COMINIUS, Senators, and Patricians.
MENENIUS: Calmly, I do beseech you.
CORIOLANUS: Ay, as an ostler, that for the poorest
Will bear the knave by the volume. The honour’d
[Lines 45-46: Yes, I will be as calm as as a man who tends horses
in a stable. For a mere penny, I will endure being called a knave
a hundred times. The honored gods]
Keep Rome in safety, and the chairs of justice
Supplied with worthy men! plant love among us!
Throng our large temples with the shows [rituals] of
And not our streets with war!
FIRST SENATOR: Amen, amen.
MENENIUS: A noble wish.
Re-enter Aedile, with Citizens.
SICINIUS: Draw near, ye people.
AEDILE: List to your tribunes; audience; peace! I
[Line 55: Listen to your tribunes, people. Be calm and attentive.]
CORIOLANUS: First, hear me speak.
BOTH TRIBUNES: Well, say. Peace, ho!
CORIOLANUS: Shall I be charg’d no further than this
Must all determine here?
[Lines 58-59: Will this matter be concluded here at the present
SICINIUS: I do demand,
If you submit you [yourself] to the people’s
Allow [acknowledge; recognize; respect] their officers, and are
To suffer lawful censure [judgment] for such
As shall be prov’d upon you?
CORIOLANUS: I am content.
MENENIUS: Lo! citizens, he says he is
The war-like service he has done, consider;
Upon the wounds his body bears, which show
Like graves i’ the holy churchyard.
CORIOLANUS: Scratches with briers,
Scars to move [cause] laughter only.
MENENIUS: Consider further,
That when he speaks not like a citizen,
You find him like a soldier: do not take
His rougher accents for malicious sounds,
But, as I say, such as become a soldier,
Rather than envy you [rather than indicating hatred for
COMINIUS: Well, well; no more.
CORIOLANUS: What is the matter,
That being pass’d for consul with full voice [approval]
I am so dishonour’d that the very hour
You take it off again [you withdraw it]?
SICINIUS: Answer to us.
CORIOLANUS: Say, then: ’tis true, I ought
SICINIUS: We charge you, that you have contriv’d to
From Rome all season’d [established; long-standing] office, and to
Yourself into a power tyrannical;
For which you are a traitor to the people.
CORIOLANUS: How! Traitor!
MENENIUS: Nay, temperately; your promise.
[Line 90: Be calm. Remember your promise.]
CORIOLANUS: The fires i’ the lowest hell fold-in the
[Line 91: May the people burn in the fires of the lowest
Call me their traitor! Thou injurious [contemptuous; insulting]
Within thine eyes sat twenty thousand deaths,
In thy hands clutch’d as many millions, in
Thy lying tongue both numbers, I would say
‘Thou liest’ unto thee with a voice as free
As I do pray the gods.
[Lines 93-97: Even if your eyes and hands could kill numberless
men, I would say that you are a liar. You lie with as free a voice
as mine when I pray to the gods.]
SICINIUS: Mark you this, people?
CITIZENS: To the rock!—to the rock with him!
[rock: The Tarpeian rock]
We need not put new matter to his charge:
What you have seen him do, and heard him speak,
Beating your officers, cursing yourselves,
Opposing laws with strokes, and here defying
Those whose great power must try him; even this,
So criminal and in such capital [deserving a death penalty] kind
Deserves the extremest death.
BRUTUS: But since he hath
Serv’d well for Rome,—
CORIOLANUS: What do you prate of service?
[Line 110: What do you know of service to Rome?]
BRUTUS: I talk of that, that know it.
MENENIUS: Is this the promise that you made your
COMINIUS: Know, I pray you,—
CORIOLANUS: I’ll know no further:
Let them pronounce the steep Tarpeian death,
Vagabond exile, flaying, pent [caged; closed in] to
But with a grain a day, I would not buy
Their mercy at the price of one fair word,
Nor check [hold back; restrain; bridle] my courage [boldness;
spirit; freedom] for what they can give,
To have ’t with saying ‘Good morrow.’
SICINIUS: For that he has,—
As much as in him lies,—from time to time
Envied against [displayed hatred for] the people, seeking
To pluck away their power, as now at last
Given hostile strokes, and that not in the
Of dreaded justice, but on the ministers
That do distribute it; in the name o’ the
And in the power of us the tribunes, we,
Even from this instant, banish him [from] our
In peril of precipitation [being thrown]
From off the rock Tarpeian, never
To enter our Rome gates: i’ the people’s name,
I say, it shall be so.
CITIZENS: It shall be so,—It shall be so,—Let him
He’s banish’d, and it shall be so.
COMINIUS: Hear me, my masters, and my common
SICINIUS: He’s sentenc’d; no more hearing.
COMINIUS: Let me speak:
I have been consul, and can show for Rome
Her enemies’ marks upon me. I do love
My country’s good with a respect more tender,
More holy, and profound, than mine own life,
My dear wife’s estimate [reputation; honor], her womb’s
And treasure of my loins; then if I would
[womb's . . . loins: The children I fathered]
SICINIUS: We know your drift: speak what?
BRUTUS: There’s no more to be said, but he is
As enemy to the people and his country:
It shall be so.
CITIZENS: It shall be so,—it shall be so.
CORIOLANUS: You common cry of curs! whose breath I
As reek [the stink] o’ the rotten fens [marshes; swamps; bogs],
whose loves [opinions] I prize
As the dead carcasses of unburied men
That do corrupt my air, I banish you;
And here remain with your uncertainty!
[Line 156: May you remain here in confusion]
Let every feeble rumour shake your hearts!
Your enemies, with nodding of their plumes [the plumes on their
Fan you into despair! Have the power still
To banish your defenders; till at length
Your ignorance,—which finds not, till it feels
Making but reservation of yourselves,—
Still your own foes,—deliver you as most
Abated captives to some nation
That won you without blows! Despising,
[Lines 158-165: Merely by waving the plumes on their helmets, your
enemies will fan you into despair. But you unwisely banish your
defenders. Your stupidity will make you captives of a nation that
conquered you without striking a blow.]
For you, the city, thus I turn my back:
There is a world elsewhere. [Exeunt
CORIOLANUS, COMINIUS, MENENIUS, Senators, and
AEDILE: The people’s enemy is gone, is
CITIZENS: Our enemy is banish’d!—he is gone!—Hoo! hoo!
[They all shout and throw up their caps.
SICINIUS: Go, see him out at gates, and follow
As he hath follow’d you, with all despite;
Give him deserv’d vexation. Let a guard
Attend us through the city.
CITIZENS: Come, come,—let us see him out at gates!
The gods preserve our noble tribunes! Come! [Exeunt.
Act 4, Scene 1
Rome. Before a gate of
Enter CORIOLANUS, VOLUMNIA, VIRGILIA, MENENIUS, COMINIUS, and
several young Patricians.
CORIOLANUS: Come, leave your tears: a brief farewell: the
With many heads butts me away. Nay, mother,
[Lines 3-4: Let's have a brief farewell with no tears. The
commoners ("beast with many heads") have rejected me.]
Where is your ancient [previous; former] courage? you were
To say extremity was the trier of spirits;
[Lines 5-6: Where is that old courage you exhibited when you used
to tell me that extreme difficulties or perils were what tested
That common chances common men could bear;
That when the sea was calm all boats alike
Show’d mastership in floating; fortune’s blows,
When most struck home, being gentle wounded,
A noble cunning: you were us’d to load me
With precepts that would make invincible
The heart that conned them.
[fortune's blows . . . conned them: When ill fortune wounds you,
your nobility—with all the skills it gives you—should enable you
to bear it with gentlemanly calm. That was what you told me. And
you used to instill in me wise advice and principles that would
make invincible the heart that learned them.]
VIRGILIA: O heavens! O heavens!
CORIOLANUS: Nay, I prithee [pray thee; beg you],
VOLUMNIA: Now the red pestilence strike all trades in
And occupations perish!
[Lines 16-17: Now may the plague strike all the tradesmen in Rome.
I hope all occupations perish!]
CORIOLANUS: What, what, what!
I shall be lov’d when I am lack’d [missing]. Nay,
Resume that spirit, when you were wont to say,
If you had been the wife of Hercules,
Six of his labours you’d have done, and sav’d
Your husband so much sweat. Cominius,
[labours: Hercules was famous for his
his completion of twelve seemingly impossible labors,
including slaying a lion and killing a nine-headed monster.]
Droop not; adieu [French for good-bye]. Farewell, my wife!
I’ll do well yet. Thou old and true Menenius,
Thy tears are salter [saltier] than a younger
And venomous to thine eyes. My sometime general
I have seen thee stern, and thou hast oft beheld
Heart-hardening spectacles; tell these sad women
’Tis fond [as foolish; as stupid] to wail inevitable
As ’tis to laugh at them. My mother, you wot [know]
My hazards still [always] have been your solace;
Believe ’t [it] not lightly,—though I go alone
Like to a lonely dragon, that his fen
Makes fear’d [makes it feared] and talk’d of more than seen,—your
Will or [either] exceed the common or be caught
With cautelous [cunning; tricky] baits and practice.
VOLUMNIA: My first son,
Whither wilt thou go? Take good Cominius
With thee awhile: determine on some course,
More than a wild exposture [exposure] to each
That starts i’ the way before thee.
CORIOLANUS: O the gods!
COMINIUS: I’ll follow thee a month, devise with
Where thou shalt rest, that thou mayst hear of
And we of thee: so, if the time thrust forth
A cause for thy repeal, we shall not send
[A cause . . . repeal: A reason to end your banishment]
O’er the vast world to seek a single man,
And lose advantage, which doth ever cool
In the absence of the needer.
CORIOLANUS: Fare ye well:
Thou hast years upon thee; and thou art too full
Of the wars’ surfeits, to go rove with one
[Lines 52-53: You're getting up in years and are too tired of the
hardships of war to go off with me]
That’s yet unbruis’d: bring me but out at [of the]
Come, my sweet wife, my dearest mother, and
My friends of noble touch, when I am forth,
Bid me farewell, and smile. I pray you, come.
While I remain above the ground [while I remain alive] you
Hear from me still; and never of me aught [anything]
But what is like me formerly.
MENENIUS: That’s worthily
As any ear can hear. Come, let’s not weep.
If I could shake off but one seven years
From these old arms and legs, by the good gods,
I’d [go] with thee every foot.
CORIOLANUS: Give me thy hand:
Act 4, Scene 2
Rome. A street near the
Enter SICINIUS, BRUTUS, and an Aedile.
SICINIUS: Bid them all home; he’s gone, and we’ll [go] no
The nobility are vex’d, whom we see have sided
In his behalf.
BRUTUS: Now we have shown our power,
Let us seem humbler after it is done
Than when it was a-doing.
SICINIUS: Bid them home;
Say their great enemy is gone, and they
Stand in their ancient strength.
BRUTUS: Dismiss them home. [Exit
Enter VOLUMNIA, VIRGILIA, and MENENIUS.
Here comes his mother.
SICINIUS: Let’s not meet her.
SICINIUS: They say she’s mad.
BRUTUS: They have ta’en note of us: keep on your
VOLUMNIA: O! you’re well met. The hoarded plague o’ the
Requite your love!
[Lines 19-20: O! I'm glad we ran into you villainous tribunes. I
hope the gods repay you for your treatment of my son with all the
evil plagues they keep to punish people like you.]
MENENIUS: Peace, peace! be not so loud.
VOLUMNIA: If that I could for weeping, you should
Nay, and you shall hear some. [To BRUTUS.] Will you be
VIRGILIA: [To SICINIUS.] You shall stay too. I would I
had the power
To say so to my husband.
SICINIUS: [To VOLUMNIA] Are you mankind?
[mankind: Sicinius is asking Volumnia sarcastically whether she is
a man. Her boldness and outspokenness cause him to make the
VOLUMNIA: Ay, fool; is that a shame? Note but this
Was not a man my father? Hadst thou foxship [slyness; cunning]
To banish him that struck more blows for Rome
Than thou hast spoken words?
SICINIUS: O blessed heavens!
VOLUMNIA: More noble blows than ever thou wise
And for Rome’s good. I’ll tell thee what [what's what; a thing or
two]; yet go:
Nay, but thou shalt stay too: I would my son
Were in Arabia, and thy tribe before him,
His good sword in his hand.
[I would my . . . his hand: I wish my son were in a barren desert,
sword in hand, with you and your supporters.]
SICINIUS: What then?
VIRGILIA: What then!
He’d make an end of thy posterity.
[Line 39: He'd kill you, preventing you from fathering offspring.]
VOLUMNIA: Bastards and all.
Good man, the wounds that he does bear for Rome!
MENENIUS: Come, come: peace!
SICINIUS: I would he had continu’d to his
As he began, and not unknit himself
The noble knot he made.
[Lines 43-45: I wish he had remained a noble man instead of
becoming a rebellious troublemaker.]
BRUTUS: I would he had.
VOLUMNIA: ‘I would he had!’ ’Twas you incens’d the
Cats, that can judge as fitly of his worth
As I can of those mysteries which heaven
Will not have earth to know.
['Twas you . . . earth to know: It was you who incited the rabble
against him. These commoners have no more ability to judge his
worth than I do in trying to solve the mysteries of heaven.]
BRUTUS: Pray, let us go.
VOLUMNIA: Now, pray, sir, get you gone:
You have done a brave deed. Ere [before] you go, hear
As far as doth the Capitol exceed
The meanest [humblest; lowliest] house in Rome, so far my
This lady’s husband here, this, do you see,—
Whom you have banish’d, does exceed you all.
BRUTUS: Well, well, we’ll leave you.
SICINIUS: Why stay we to be baited
With one that wants her wits?
VOLUMNIA: Take my prayers with you. [Exeunt
I would the gods had nothing else to do
But to confirm my curses! Could I meet ’em
But once a day, it would unclog my heart
Of what lies heavy to ’t.
MENENIUS: You have told them home [told them off; scolded
And, by my troth [by heavens], you have cause. You’ll sup with
VOLUMNIA: Anger’s my meat; I sup upon
And so shall starve with feeding. Come, let’s
Leave this faint puling [whining; complaining] and lament as I
In anger, Juno-like. Come, come, come.
[Juno: In ancient mythology, the Roman name for the queen of the
gods. Her Greek name was Hera.]
MENENIUS: Fie, fie, fie! [Exeunt.
Act 4, Scene 3
highway between Rome and Antium [present-day Anzio, Italy].
Enter a Roman and a Volsce [Volscian], meeting.
ROMAN: I know you well, sir, and you know me: your name I
think is Adrian.
VOLSCIAN: It is so, sir: truly, I have forgot
ROMAN: I am a Roman; and my services are, as you are,
against ’em: know you me yet?
VOLSCIAN: Nicanor? No.
ROMAN: The same, sir.
VOLSCIAN: You had more beard, when I last saw you; but your
favour [appearance] is well approved by your tongue. What’s the
news in Rome? I have a note [I have orders] from the Volscian
state to find you out there: you have well saved me a day’s
ROMAN: There hath been in Rome strange insurrections: the
people against the senators, patricians, and
VOLSCIAN: Hath been! Is it ended then? Our state thinks not
so; they are in a most war-like preparation, and hope to come upon
them in the heat of their division.
ROMAN: The main blaze of it is past, but a small thing would
make it flame again. For the nobles receive so to heart the
banishment of that worthy Coriolanus, that they are in a ripe
aptness to take all power from the people and to pluck from them
their tribunes for ever. This lies glowing [like a smoldering
fire], I can tell you, and is almost mature for the violent
VOLSCIAN: Coriolanus banished!
ROMAN: Banished, sir.
VOLSCIAN: You will be welcome with this intelligence,
ROMAN: The day [this moment; this interval] serves well for
them [Volscian soldiers] now. I have heard it said, the fittest
time to corrupt a man’s wife is when she’s fallen out with her
husband. Your noble Tullus Aufidius will appear well in these
wars, his great opposer, Coriolanus, being now in no request of
[being rejected by] his country.
VOLSCIAN: He cannot choose. I am most fortunate, thus
accidentally to encounter you: you have ended my business, and I
will merrily accompany you home.
ROMAN: I shall, between this and supper, tell you most
strange things from Rome; all tending to the good of their
adversaries. Have you an army ready, say you?
VOLSCIAN: A most royal one: the centurions and their charges
[troops] distinctly [individually] billeted [camped; lodged],
already in the entertainment [already standing ready to fight],
and to be on foot at an hour’s warning.
ROMAN: I am joyful to hear of their readiness, and am the
man, I think, that shall set them in present action. So, sir,
heartily well met, and most glad of your
VOLSCIAN: You take my part from me, sir; I have the most
cause to be glad of yours.
ROMAN: Well, let us go together. [Exeunt.
Act 4, Scene 4
Before AUFIDIUS' house.
Enter CORIOLANUS, in mean apparel, disguised and muffled.
CORIOLANUS: A goodly city is this Antium.
’Tis I that made thy widows: many an heir
Of these fair edifices ’fore my wars [before my deadly blows on
Have I heard groan and drop: then, know me not,
Lest that thy wives with spits and boys with
[spits: Metal rods on which meat was roasted. The wives could use
them as weapons.]
In puny battle slay me.
Enter a Citizen.
Save you, sir.
[Line 10: May God save you, sir (a greeting).]
CITIZEN: And you.
CORIOLANUS: Direct me, if it be your will,
Where great Aufidius lies. Is he in Antium?
CITIZEN: He is, and feasts the nobles of the
At his house this night.
CORIOLANUS: Which is his house, beseech
CITIZEN: This, here before you.
CORIOLANUS: Thank you, sir. Farewell. [Exit
O world! thy slippery turns. Friends now fast
Whose double bosoms seem to wear one heart,
Whose hours, whose bed, whose meal, and
Are still together, who twin, as ’twere, in love
Unseparable, shall within this hour,
On a dissension of a doit, break
To bitterest enmity: so, fellest [deadliest]
Whose passions and whose plots have broke their
To take the one the other, by some chance,
Some trick not worth an egg, shall grow dear
And interjoin their issues. So with me:
My birth-place hate I, and my love’s upon
This enemy town. I’ll enter: if he slay me,
He does fair justice; if he give me way,
I’ll do his country service. [Exit.
[Lines 19-33: Coriolanus delivers a short monologue on how the
closest of friends can become bitter enemies over a trivial issue
and how changing circumstances can make bitter enemies close
friends. Coriolanus hopes to make friends with Aufidius, the
leader of the Volscian enemies of Rome.]
Act 4, Scene 5
A hall in AUFIDIUS' house.
Music within. Enter a Servingman.
FIRST SERVANT: Wine, wine, wine! What service is here! I
think our fellows are asleep. [Exit.
Enter a Second Servingman.
SECOND SERVANT: Where’s Cotus? my master calls for him.
CORIOLANUS: A goodly house: the feast smells well; but
Appear not like a guest.
Re-enter the First Servingman.
FIRST SERVANT: What would you have, friend? Whence are you?
Here’s no place for you: pray, go to the door.
CORIOLANUS: I have deserv’d no better
In being Coriolanus.
Re-enter Second Servingman.
SECOND SERVANT: Whence are you, sir? Has the porter his eyes
in his head, that he gives entrance to such companions? Pray, get
SECOND SERVANT: ‘Away!’ Get you away.
CORIOLANUS: Now, thou art troublesome.
SECOND SERVANT: Are you so brave? I’ll have you talked with
Enter a Third Servingman. Re-enter the First.
THIRD SERVANT: What fellow’s this?
FIRST SERVANT: A strange one as ever I looked on: I cannot
get him out o’ the house: prithee [please], call my master to
THIRD SERVANT: What have you to do here, fellow? Pray you,
avoid [leave] the house.
CORIOLANUS: Let me but stand; I will not hurt your
THIRD SERVANT: What are you?
CORIOLANUS: A gentleman.
THIRD SERVANT: A marvellous poor one.
CORIOLANUS: True, so I am.
THIRD SERVANT: Pray you, poor gentleman, take up some other
station; here’s no place for you; pray you, avoid:
CORIOLANUS: Follow your function [go back to your work]; go,
and batten on cold bits [go, and fatten yourself on food
scraps]. [Pushes him away.
THIRD SERVANT: What, you will not? Prithee, tell my master
what a strange guest he has here.
SECOND SERVANT: And I shall. [Exit.
THIRD SERVANT: Where dwell’st thou?
CORIOLANUS: Under the canopy.
THIRD SERVANT: ‘Under the canopy [sky; heavens]!
THIRD SERVANT: Where’s that?
CORIOLANUS: I’ the city of kites and crows.
THIRD SERVANT: ‘I’ the city of kites [birds of prey] and
crows!’ What an ass it is! Then thou dwell’st with daws [jackdaws,
which are similar to crows] too?
CORIOLANUS: No; I serve not thy master.
THIRD SERVANT: How sir! Do you meddle with my
CORIOLANUS: Ay; ’tis an honester service than to meddle with
Thou prat’st, and prat’st [pratest, or prate: talk idly]: serve
with thy trencher [wooden platter of food]. Hence [go].
[Beats him away.
Enter AUFIDIUS and First Servingman.
AUFIDIUS: Where is this fellow?
SECOND SERVANT: Here, sir: I’d have beaten him like a dog,
but for disturbing the lords within.
AUFIDIUS: Whence com’st thou [Where do you come from]? what
wouldst thou [what do you want]? Thy name?
Why speak’st not? Speak, man: what’s thy name?
CORIOLANUS: [Unmuffling.] If, Tullus,
Not yet thou know’st me, and, seeing me, dost not
Think me for the man I am, necessity
Commands me name myself.
AUFIDIUS: What is thy name? [Servants
CORIOLANUS: A name unmusical to the Volscians’
And harsh in sound to thine.
AUFIDIUS: Say, what’s thy name?
Thou hast a grim appearance, and thy face
Bears a command in ’t; though thy tackle’s torn,
Thou show’st a noble vessel [appearance]. What’s thy
CORIOLANUS: Prepare thy brow to frown. Know’st thou me
AUFIDIUS: I know thee not. Thy name?
CORIOLANUS: My name is Caius Marcius, who hath
To thee particularly, and to all the Volsces,
Great hurt and mischief; thereto witness may
My surname, Coriolanus: the painful service,
The extreme dangers, and the drops of blood
Shed for my thankless country, are requited [paid back]
But [only] with that surname; a good memory,
And witness of the malice and displeasure
Which thou shouldst bear me: only that name remains;
The cruelty and envy of the people,
Permitted by our dastard [cowardly; contemptible] nobles,
Have all forsook me, hath devour’d the rest;
And suffer’d me by the voice of slaves to be
Whoop’d out of Rome. Now this extremity
Hath brought me to thy hearth; not out of hope,
Mistake me not, to save my life; for if
I had fear’d death, of all the men i’ the world
I would have avoided thee; but in mere spite,
To be full quit of those my banishers,
Stand I before thee here. Then if thou hast
A heart of wreak [vengeance] in thee, that will
Thine own particular wrongs and stop those maims
Of shame seen through thy country, speed thee
And make my misery serve thy turn: so use it,
That my revengeful services may prove
As benefits to thee, for I will fight
Against my canker’d [rotten with injustice and ingratitude]
country with the spleen [spirit; vigor; wrath]
Of all the underfiends [demons in hell]. But if so be
Thou dar’st [dare] not this, and that to prove more
Thou art tir’d, then, in a word, I also am
Longer to live most weary, and present
My throat to thee and to thy ancient malice;
Which not to cut would show thee but a fool,
Since I have ever follow’d thee with hate,
Drawn tuns of blood out of thy country’s breast,
[tun: Cask that can hold 252 gallons of wine]
And cannot live but to thy shame, unless
It be to do thee service.
[Lines 96-97: And while I live, I remind you of the shame you
endured when I defeated you]
AUFIDIUS: O Marcius, Marcius!
Each word thou hast spoke hath weeded [pulled] from my
A root of ancient envy [hatred]. If Jupiter
Should from yond [yonder] cloud speak divine things,
And say, ‘’Tis true,’ I’d not believe them [the divine things,
line 101] more
Than thee, all noble Marcius. Let me twine
Mine arms about that body, where against
My grained ash a hundred times hath broke,
[ash: Strong but flexible wood. Ash here refers to the shaft of
And scarr’d the moon with splinters: here I clip
The anvil of my sword, and do contest
[here I . . . sword: Here I embrace you Marcius. Clip
means embrace; anvil is a metaphor for Martius, since he
was the unyielding iron that Aufidius struck with his sword.]
As hotly and as nobly with thy love
As ever in ambitious strength I did
Contend against thy valour. Know thou first,
I lov’d the maid I married; never man
Sigh’d truer breath; but that I see thee here,
Thou noble thing! more dances my rapt heart
Than when I first my wedded mistress saw
Bestride my threshold. Why, thou Mars! I
We have a power on foot [an army on foot]; and I had
Once more to hew thy target from thy brawn,
[hew . . . brawn: Strike your shield from your brawny arm]
Or lose mine arm for ’t. Thou hast beat me out
Twelve several [separate] times, and I have nightly
Dreamt of encounters ’twixt [between] thyself and me;
We have been down together in my sleep,
Unbuckling helms [helmets], fisting each other’s
And wak’d half dead with nothing. Worthy Marcius,
Had we no quarrel else to Rome, but that
Thou art thence [from that place] banish’d, we would muster
From twelve to seventy, and, pouring war
Into the bowels of ungrateful Rome,
Like a bold flood o’er-bear. O! come; go in,
And take our friendly senators by the hands,
Who now are here, taking their leaves of me,
Who am prepar’d against your territories,
Though not for Rome itself.
CORIOLANUS: You bless me, gods!
AUFIDIUS: Therefore, most absolute [flawless; excellent]
sir, if thou wilt have
The leading of thine own revenges, take
The one half of my commission [army; force], and set down [and
As best thou art experienc’d, since thou know’st
Thy country’s strength and weakness, thine own ways;
Whether to knock against the gates of Rome,
Or rudely visit [harass] them in parts remote,
To fright them, ere [before] destroy [destroying them]. But come
Let me commend thee first to those that shall
Say yea to thy desires. A thousand welcomes!
And more a friend than e’er an enemy;
Yet, Marcius, that was much. Your hand: most welcome! [Exeunt CORIOLANUS and AUFIDIUS.
FIRST SERVANT: [Advancing.] Here’s a strange
SECOND SERVANT: By my hand, I had thought to have strucken
[struck] him with a cudgel; and yet my mind gave me his clothes
made a false report of him.
[my mind . . . him: My mind told me that his clothing did not
reflect his nobility.]
FIRST SERVANT: What an arm he has! He turned me about with
his finger and his thumb, as one would set up a top.
SECOND SERVANT: Nay, I knew by his face that there was
something in him: he had, sir, a kind of face, methought,—I cannot
tell how to term it.
FIRST SERVANT: He had so; looking as it were,—would I were
hanged but I thought there was more in him than I could
SECOND SERVANT: So did I, I’ll be sworn: he is simply the
rarest man i’ the world.
FIRST SERVANT: I think he is; but a greater soldier than he
you wot on [greater soldier than anyone you know of].
SECOND SERVANT: Who? my master?
FIRST SERVANT: Nay, it’s no matter for that.
SECOND SERVANT: Worth six on him.
FIRST SERVANT: Nay, not so neither; but I take him to be the
SECOND SERVANT: Faith, look you, one cannot tell how to say
that [how to compare them]: for the defence of a town our general
FIRST SERVANT: Ay, and for an assault too.
Re-enter Third Servingman.
THIRD SERVANT: O slaves! I can tell you news; news, you
FIRST AND SECOND SERVANTS: What, what, what? let’s
THIRD SERVANT: I would not be a Roman, of all nations; I had
as lief [readily] be a condemned man.
FIRST AND SECOND SERVANTS: Wherefore [why]?
THIRD SERVANT: Why, here’s he that was wont to thwack [beat;
thrash] our general, Caius Marcius.
FIRST SERVANT: Why do you say ‘thwack our
THIRD SERVANT: I do not say, ‘thwack our general;’ but he
was always good enough for him.
SECOND SERVANT: Come, we are fellows and friends: he was
ever too hard for him; I have heard him say so
FIRST SERVANT: He was too hard for him,—directly to say the
truth on ’t: before Corioli he scotched [cut] him and notched him
like a carbonado [like a piece of meat ready to be
SECOND SERVANT: An [if] he had been cannibally given, he
might have broiled and eaten him too.
FIRST SERVANT: But, more of thy news.
THIRD SERVANT: Why, he is so made on here within, as if he
were son and heir to Mars; set [placed] at
upper end o’ the table; no question asked him by any of the
senators, but they stand bald [hats removed out of respect] before
him. Our general himself makes a mistress of him [treats him with
deference]; sanctifies himself with’s hand [makes himself holy by
touching his hand], and turns up the white o’ the eye to his
discourse. But the bottom [essence; pith] of the news is, our
general is cut i’ the middle, and but one half of what he was
yesterday, for the other [Coriolanus] has half, by the entreaty
and grant of the whole table. He’ll go, he says, and sowle [drag
out; pull out] the porter of Rome gates by the ears: he will mow
down all before him, and leave his passage polled [leave the way
open, like a path cleared through a jungle].
SECOND SERVANT: And he’s as like to do ’t as any man I can
THIRD SERVANT: Do ’t! he will do ’t; for—look you, sir—he
has as many friends as enemies; which friends, sir—as it
were—durst [dare] not—look you, sir—show themselves—as we term
it—his friends, whilst he’s in directitude.
[whilst . . . directitude: While he's directing his attention to
the humiliation Rome imposed on him]
FIRST SERVANT: Directitude! what’s that?
SECOND SERVANT: But when they shall see, sir, his crest up
again, and the man in blood [at full strength], they will out of
their burrows, like conies [rabbits] after rain, and revel all
FIRST SERVANT: But when goes this forward?
THIRD SERVANT: To-morrow; to-day; presently. You shall have
the drum struck up this afternoon; ’tis, as it were, a parcel
[part] of their feast, and to be executed ere [before] they wipe
SECOND SERVANT: Why, then we shall have a stirring world
again. This peace is nothing but to rust iron, increase tailors,
and breed ballad-makers.
[ballad-makers: Composers of ballads thrive in peacetime.]
FIRST SERVANT: Let me have war, say I; it exceeds peace as
far as day does night; it’s spritely, waking, audible, and full of
vent. Peace is a very apoplexy, lethargy [dull and sluggish];
mulled [meditated on], deaf, sleepy, insensible; a getter of more
bastard children than war’s a destroyer of men.
SECOND SERVANT: ’Tis so: and as war, in some sort, may be
said to be a ravisher, so it cannot be denied but peace is a great
maker of cuckolds [husbands whose wives cheat on
FIRST SERVANT: Ay, and it makes men hate one
THIRD SERVANT: Reason: because they then less need one
another. The wars for my money. I hope to see Romans as cheap as
Volscians. They are rising [from the dinner table], they are
ALL: In, in, in, in! [Exeunt.
Act 4, Scene 6
Rome. A public place.
Enter SICINIUS and BRUTUS.
SICINIUS: We hear not of him, neither need we fear
His remedies are tame i’ the present peace
[Line 3-4: Not only have we heard nothing of him, but we also need
not worry about any edicts he would have issued had he been
elected a consul].
And quietness o’ the people, which before
Were in wild hurry [frenzy; uproar]. Here do we make his
Blush that the world goes well, who rather had,
Though they themselves did suffer by ’t, behold
Dissentious numbers pestering streets, than see
Our tradesmen singing in their shops and going
About their functions friendly.
BRUTUS: We stood to ’t [we stood our ground] in good time.
Is this Menenius?
SICINIUS: ’Tis he, ’tis he. O! he is grown most
Of late. Hail, sir!
MENENIUS: Hail to you both!
SICINIUS: Your Coriolanus is not much
But with [except by] his friends: the commonwealth doth
And so would do, were he more angry at it.
MENENIUS: All’s well; and might have been much better,
He could have temporiz’d [accommodated the people;
SICINIUS: Where is he, hear you?
MENENIUS: Nay, I hear nothing: his mother and his
Hear nothing from him.
Enter three or four
CITIZENS: The gods preserve you both!
SICINIUS: Good den [good day], our
BRUTUS: Good den to you all, good den to you
FIRST CITIZEN: Ourselves, our wives, and children, on our
Are bound to pray for you both.
SICINIUS: Live, and thrive!
BRUTUS: Farewell, kind neighbours: we wish’d
Had lov’d you as we did.
CITIZENS: Now the gods keep you!
SICINIUS and BRUTUS: Farewell, farewell. [Exeunt
SICINIUS: This is a happier and more comely
Than when these fellows ran about the streets
BRUTUS: Caius Marcius was
A worthy officer i’ the war; but insolent,
O’ercome with pride, ambitious past all
SICINIUS: And affecting one sole throne,
[Lines 43-44: [And desiring to occupy a throne as king of Rome]
MENENIUS: I think not so.
SICINIUS: We should by this, to all our
If he had gone forth consul, found it so.
[Lines 46-47: On the contrary, we would have discovered to our
great dismay that if he had become a consul, he would have seized
BRUTUS: The gods have well prevented it, and
Sits safe and still without him.
Enter an Aedile.
AEDILE: Worthy tribunes,
There is a slave, whom we have put in prison,
Reports, the Volsces with two several powers
Are enter’d in the Roman territories,
And with the deepest malice of the war
Destroy what lies before them.
MENENIUS: ’Tis Aufidius,
Who, hearing of our Marcius’ banishment,
Thrusts forth his horns again into the world;
Which were inshell’d when Marcius stood for
And durst not once peep out.
SICINIUS: Come, what talk you of Marcius?
BRUTUS: Go see this rumourer whipp’d. It cannot
The Volsces dare break [dare break the peace treaty] with
MENENIUS: Cannot be!
We have record that very well it can,
And three examples of the like have 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.
SICINIUS: Tell not me:
I know this cannot be.
BRUTUS: Not possible.
Enter a Messenger.
MESSENGER: The nobles in great earnestness are
All to the senate-house: some news is come,
That turns their countenances [that attracts their
SICINIUS: ’Tis this slave.—
Go whip him ’fore the people’s eyes: his
Nothing but his report.
[Lines 81-82; Go whip him before the people, for he is trying to
unnerve us with a false report.]
MESSENGER: Yes, worthy sir,
The slave’s report is seconded [endorsed; believed]; and
More fearful, is deliver’d [spread throughout
SICINIUS: What more fearful?
MESSENGER: It is spoke freely out of many
How probable I do not know—that Marcius,
Join’d with Aufidius, leads a power [army] ’gainst
And vows revenge as spacious as between
The young’st and oldest thing.
SICINIUS: This is most likely.
[Line 92: Spoken sneeringly, with sarcasm.]
BRUTUS: Rais’d only, that the weaker sort may
Good Marcius home again.
[Lines 93-94: Marcius is spreading this rumor so that the Romans
afraid of him will approve his return to Rome.]
SICINIUS: The very trick on ’t.
[Line 95: Yes, it's a trick.]
MENENIUS: This is unlikely:
He and Aufidius can no more atone [reconcile],
Than violentest contrariety [than the most violent enemies].
Enter another Messenger.
SECOND MESSENGER: You are sent for to the
A fearful army, led by Caius Marcius,
Associated with Aufidius, rages
Upon our territories; and have already
O’erborne [overrun everything in] their way, consum’d with fire,
What lay before them.
COMINIUS: O! you have made good work! [Spoken sarcastically]
MENENIUS: What news? what news?
COMINIUS: You have holp to ravish your own daughters,
To melt the city leads upon your pates.
Lines 109-110: By incurring the wrath of Marcius, you have helped
(holp) to ravish your own daughters. Meanwhile, the fires he sets
while on the march will melt the metal roofs. Hot lead will spill
onto your heads.]
To see your wives dishonour’d to your noses,—
MENENIUS: What’s the news? what’s the
COMINIUS: Your temples burned in their cement,
Your franchises [rights and privileges], whereon you stood,
Into an auger’s bore [into a small hole].
MENENIUS: Pray now, your news?—
You have made fair work, I fear me. Pray, your
If Marcius should be join’d with 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.
MENENIUS: You have made good work [spoken
You, and your apron-men [craftsmen]; you that stood so
Upon the voice of occupation [commoners with jobs]
The breath of garlic-eaters!
COMINIUS: He will shake
Your Rome about your ears.
MENENIUS: As Hercules
Did shake down mellow fruit. You have made fair
[Lines 132-133: In ancient mythology, Hercules retrieved golden
apples in a dangerous adventure as one of his fabled Twelve
BRUTUS: But is this true, sir?
COMINIUS: Ay; and you’ll look pale
Before you find it other. All the regions
Do smilingly revolt; and who resist
Are mock’d for valiant ignorance,
And perish constant fools. Who is ’t can blame
Your enemies, and his, find something in him.
MENENIUS: We are all undone unless
The noble man have mercy.
COMINIUS: 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
Should say, ‘Be good to Rome,’ they charg’d [impugned; accused]
As those should do that had deserv’d his hate,
And therein show’d like enemies.
MENENIUS: ’Tis true:
If he were putting to my house the brand [torch; firebrand]
That should consume it, I have not the face
To say, ‘Beseech you, cease.’—You have made fair
You and your crafts! you have crafted fair!
COMINIUS: You have brought
A trembling upon Rome, such as was never
So incapable of help.
SICINIUS and BRUTUS: Say not we brought
MENENIUS: How! Was it we? We lov’d him; but, like
And cowardly nobles, gave way unto your clusters [mobs of
Who did hoot him out o’ the city.
COMINIUS: But I fear
They’ll roar him in again. Tullus Aufidius,
The second name of men [most feared warrior after Coriolanus],
obeys his points [obeys Coriolanus's orders]
As if he were his officer: desperation
Is all the policy, strength, and defence,
That Rome can make against them.
Enter a troop of Citizens.
MENENIUS: 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 [jesters' hats]
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.
CITIZENS: Faith, we hear fearful news.
FIRST CITIZEN: For mine own part,
When I said banish him, I said ’twas pity.
SECOND CITIZEN: And so did I.
THIRD CITIZEN: 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
COMINIUS: You’re goodly things, you
MENENIUS: You have made
Good work, you and your cry! Shall’s [shall we go] to the
COMINIUS: O! ay; what else? [Exeunt
COMINIUS and MENENIUS.
SICINIUS: Go, masters, get you home; be not
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.
FIRST CITIZEN: The gods be good to us! Come, masters, let’s
home. I ever said we were i’ the wrong when we banished
SECOND CITIZEN: So did we all. But come, let’s home. [Exeunt Citizens.
BRUTUS: I do not like this news.
SICINIUS: Nor I.
BRUTUS: Let’s to the Capitol. Would half my
Would buy this for a lie!
[Would . . . lie: I would give half my wealth if I could make this
disturbing report turn out to be false.]
SICINIUS: Pray let us go. [Exeunt.
Act 4, Scene 7
A camp at a small
distance from Rome.
Enter AUFIDIUS and his lieutenant.
AUFIDIUS: Do they [my soldiers] still fly to the Roman
LIEUTENANT: I do not know what witchcraft’s in him,
Your soldiers use him as the grace ’fore meat,
Their talk at table, and their thanks at end;
And you are darken’d [lessened in esteem] in this action,
Even by your own [your own soldiers].
AUFIDIUS: I cannot help it now,
Unless, by using means, I lame the foot
Of our design. He bears himself more proudlier,
Even to my person, than I thought he would
When first I did embrace him; yet his nature
In that’s no changeling, and I must excuse
What cannot be amended.
[Lines 9-15: I cannot do anything about that unless I undermine
our war plans. He bears himself more proudly, even to me, than I
thought he would when I first greeted him as a friend. But that's
his nature. That's the way he always acts. So the plan must go
LIEUTENANT: Yet, I wish, sir,—
I mean for your particular [for your particular honor and
reputation],—you had not
Join’d in commission [joined in partnership] with him; but
Had borne the action of yourself, or else
To him had left it solely.
AUFIDIUS: I understand thee well; and be thou
When he shall come to his account, he knows not
[When . . . account: When the time comes for him to settle
accounts with me and our state]
What I can urge against him. Although it seems,
And so he thinks, and is no less apparent
To the vulgar eye, that he bears all things
And shows good husbandry [leadership; management] for the Volscian
Fights dragon-like, and does achieve as soon
As draw his sword; yet he hath left undone
That which shall break his neck or hazard mine,
Whene’er we come to our account.
LIEUTENANT: Sir, I beseech you, think you he’ll carry
AUFIDIUS: All places yield to him ere [before] he sits
And the nobility of Rome are his:
The senators and patricians love him too:
The tribunes are no soldiers; and their people
Will be as rash in the repeal as hasty
To expel him thence. I think he’ll be to Rome
[and their . . . thence: And their people will be as rash in
calling him back from exile as they were hasty to expel him from
As is the osprey [bird of prey] to the fish, who takes
By sovereignty of nature [by the power nature gave him]. First he
A noble servant to them, but he could not
Carry his honours even [with a consistent temperament]; whether
Which out of daily fortune [success] ever taints
The happy man; whether defect of judgment,
To fail in the disposing of those chances
Which he was lord of; or whether nature,
Not to be other than one thing, not moving
From the casque [helmet of war] to the cushion [seat in government
in peacetime], but commanding peace
Even with the same austerity and garb
As he controll’d the war; but one of these,
As he hath spices of them all [as he has a mixture of all these
defects], not all,
For I dare so far free him, made him fear’d,
So hated, and so banish’d: but he has a merit
To choke it in the utterance. So our virtues
Lie in the interpretation of the time;
[but he has . . . of the time: But he has such great merit that he
should not have been banished. However, the Romans ignored his
merits in favor of dwelling on his flaws.]
And power, unto itself most commendable,
Hath not a tomb so evident as a chair
To extol what it hath done.
[Lines 55-57: A man's power may be commendable. But when the man
sits down on a chair and praises himself for his use of power, his
chair becomes his ruin.]
One fire drives out one fire; one nail, one
Rights by rights falter, strengths by strengths do
Come, let’s away. When, Caius, Rome is thine,
Thou art poor’st of all; then shortly art thou mine. [Exeunt.
Act 5, Scene 1
Rome. A public place.
Enter MENENIUS, COMINIUS, SICINIUS, BRUTUS, and Others.
MENENIUS: No, I’ll not go: you hear what he hath
Which was sometime [a time ago] his general [Cominius]; who lov’d
In a most dear particular. He call’d me father:
[Lines 3-5: No, I won't go. You heard what he said, you who were
his general sometime ago and loved him dearly.
But what o’ that? [To the tribunes] Go, you that banish’d
A mile before his tent fall down, and knee
The way into his mercy. Nay, if he coy’d
To hear Cominius speak, I’ll keep at home.
[Lines 7-9: A mile before you reach his tent, proceed to it on
your knees in order to win his mercy (an obvious hyperbole). And
if it's true that he pretended not to hear Cominius speak, I'll
COMINIUS: He would not seem to know me [he acted as if he
did not know me].
MENENIUS: Do you hear?
COMINIUS: Yet one time he did call me by my
I urg’d our old acquaintance, and the drops
That we have bled together. Coriolanus
He would not answer to; forbade all names;
He was a kind of nothing, titleless,
Till he had forg’d himself a name o’ the fire
Of burning Rome.
MENENIUS: Why, so: you have made good
A pair of tribunes that have rack’d [wracked: labored hard] for
To make coals cheap: a noble memory!
COMINIUS: I minded him how royal ’twas to
When it was less expected: he replied,
It was a bare petition [insulting request; worthless request] of a
To one [Coriolanus] whom they had punish’d.
MENENIUS: Very well.
Could he say less?
COMINIUS: I offer’d to awaken his regard
For’s [for his] private friends: his answer to me
He could not stay to pick them in [from] a pile
Of noisome [stinking] musty chaff: he said ’twas
For one poor grain or two, to leave unburnt,
And still to nose [smell] the offence.
MENENIUS: For one poor grain or two!
I am one of those; his mother, wife, his child,
And this brave fellow too, we are the grains:
You are the musty chaff, and you are smelt
Above the moon. We must be burnt for you.
SICINIUS: Nay, pray, be patient: if you refuse your
In this so-never-needed help [in our time of need], yet do
Upbraid’s [criticize us; scold us] with our distress. But, sure,
Would be your country’s pleader, your good
More than the instant army we can make,
Might stop our countryman.
MENENIUS: No; I’ll not meddle.
SICINIUS: Pray you, go to him.
MENENIUS: What should I do?
BRUTUS: Only make trial what your love can
For Rome, towards Marcius.
MENENIUS: Well; and say [suppose] that
Return me, as Cominius is return’d,
Unheard; what then?
But as a discontented friend, grief-shot [full of grief]
With his unkindness? say ’t be so?
SICINIUS: Yet your good will
Must have that thanks from Rome, after the
As you intended well.
MENENIUS: I’ll undertake it:
I think he’ll hear me. Yet, to bite his lip [to contain his
And hum at good Cominius, much unhearts [dismays; disheartens]
He was not taken well [not approached at the right time]; he had
The veins unfill’d, our blood is cold, and then
We pout upon the morning, are unapt
To give or to forgive; but when we have stuff’d
These pipes and these conveyances of our blood
[but when . . . blood: But when we have eaten well and thus
fortified our blood]
With wine and feeding, we have suppler souls
Than in our priest-like fasts: therefore, I’ll watch
Till he be dieted [fed] to my request,
And then I’ll set upon him.
BRUTUS: You know the very road into his
And cannot lose your way.
MENENIUS: Good faith, I’ll prove [test]
Speed how it will [no matter how things turn out]. I shall ere
[before] long have knowledge
Of my success [knowledge of whether I succeeded].
COMINIUS: He’ll never hear him.
COMINIUS: I tell you he does sit in gold [like a king on a
golden throne], his eye
Red as ’twould burn Rome, and his injury
The gaoler to his pity. I kneel’d before him;
[Lines 77-79: I tell you he sits like a king on a golden throne,
his eye red as if he means to burn Rome. His hurt feelings are
like a jailer that imprisons his pity. I knelt before him;]
’Twas very faintly he said ‘Rise;’ dismiss’d me
Thus, with his speechless hand: what he would do
He sent in writing after me; what he would not [not do,
Bound with an oath to yield to his conditions:
So that all hope is vain
Unless his noble mother and his wife,
Who, as I hear, mean to solicit him
For mercy to his country. Therefore let’s hence [let's
And with our fair entreaties haste [hasten] them on. [Exeunt.
Act 5, Scene 2
The Volscian camp before
Rome. The Guards at their stations.
Enter to them, MENENIUS.
FIRST GUARD: Stay! whence are you? [Stay! Where are you
SECOND GUARD: Stand! and go back.
MENENIUS: You guard like men; ’tis well; but, by your
I am an officer of state, and come
To speak with Coriolanus.
FIRST GUARD: From whence?
MENENIUS: From Rome.
FIRST GUARD: You may not pass; you must return: our
Will no more hear from thence [will not listen to anyone from that
SECOND GUARD: You’ll see your Rome embrac’d with fire
You’ll speak with Coriolanus.
MENENIUS: Good my friends [my good
If you have heard your general talk of Rome,
And of his friends there, it is lots [winning lottery tickets] to
blanks [losing tickets]
My name hath touch’d your ears: it is Menenius.
FIRST GUARD: Be it so; go back: the virtue of your
Is not here passable [is not enough to allow you to
MENENIUS: I tell thee, fellow,
Thy general is my lover [friend]: I have been
The book [observer and recorder] of his good acts, whence [from
where] men have read
His fame unparallel’d, haply amplified [probably
For I have ever glorified my friends—
Of whom he’s chief—with all the size that verity [truth]
Would without lapsing suffer: nay, sometimes,
Like to a bowl upon a subtle [uneven] ground,
I have tumbled past the throw, and in his praise
Have almost stamp’d the leasing [have almost turned an
exaggeration or a lie into the truth]. Therefore, fellow, I
must have leave to pass.
FIRST GUARD: Faith, sir, if you had told as many lies in his
behalf as you have uttered words in your own, you should not pass
here; no, though it were as virtuous to lie as to live chastely.
Therefore go back.
MENENIUS: Prithee [please], fellow, remember my name is
Menenius, always factionary on [siding with; supporting] the party
of your general.
SECOND GUARD: 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.
MENENIUS: Has he dined, canst thou tell? for I would not
speak with him till after dinner.
FIRST GUARD: You are a Roman, are you?
MENENIUS: I am as thy general is.
FIRST GUARD: Then you should hate Rome, as he does. Can you,
when you have pushed 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 decayed dotant as you seem to be? [You should hate Rome,
as Coriolanus does. You and the ignorant Roman commoners have
banished him, an action which sent him to us, the Volscians. Do
you now think you can stop his vengeance with the easy groans of
old women, the virginal palms of young women, or the palsied
intercession of such an old fool as you?] 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 deceived; therefore, back to
Rome, and prepare for your execution: you are condemned, our
general has sworn you out of [has sworn you are not to receive]
reprieve and pardon.
MENENIUS: Sirrah, if thy captain knew I were here, he would
use me with estimation [treat me respectfully].
SECOND GUARD: Come, my captain knows you
MENENIUS: I mean, thy general.
FIRST GUARD: 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.
MENENIUS: Nay, but, fellow, fellow,—
Enter CORIOLANUS and AUFIDIUS.
CORIOLANUS: What’s the matter?
MENENIUS: Now, you companion [scoundrel; villain], I’ll say
an errand [message; story] for you: you shall know now that I am
in estimation [esteem]; you shall perceive that a Jack guardant
[lowly guard like you] cannot office [separate] me from my son
Coriolanus: guess, but by my entertainment with him, if thou
standest not i’ the state of hanging, or of some death more long
in spectatorship, and crueller in suffering; behold now presently,
and swound [faint; swoon] for what’s to come upon thee. [To
CORIOLANUS.] The glorious gods sit in hourly synod
[assembly] 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 moved [hardly persuaded] to come to thee; but being assured
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 [ease; lessen] thy
wrath, and turn the dregs of it upon this varlet here; this, who,
like a block, hath denied my access to thee.
MENENIUS: How! away!
CORIOLANUS: Wife, mother, child, I know not. My
Are servanted [dedicated] to others: though I owe [own]
My revenge properly [as my right], my remission [forgiveness]
In Volscian breasts. That we have been familiar [friendly;
Ingrate forgetfulness shall poison, rather
Than pity note how much. Therefore, be gone:
Mine ears against your suits [pleas] are stronger
Your gates against my force. Yet, for I lov’d
Take this along; I writ it for thy sake, [Gives a
And would have sent it. Another word, Menenius,
I will not hear thee speak. This man [Menenius],
Was my belov’d in Rome: yet thou behold’st!
AUFIDIUS: You keep a constant temper. [Exeunt CORIOLANUS and
FIRST GUARD: Now, sir, is your name
SECOND GUARD: ’Tis a spell, you see, of much power. You know
the way home again.
FIRST GUARD: Do you hear how we are shent [shamed; chided]
for keeping your greatness back?
SECOND GUARD: What cause, do you think, I have to swound
MENENIUS: I neither care for the world, nor your general:
for such things as you, I can scarce think there’s any, ye’re [ye
are; you are] so slight [unimpressive; insignificant]. 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,
FIRST GUARD: A noble fellow, I warrant
SECOND GUARD: The worthy fellow is our general: he is the
rock, the oak not to be wind-shaken. [Exeunt.
Act 5, Scene 3
The tent of Coriolanus.
Enter CORIOLANUS, AUFIDIUS, and Others.
CORIOLANUS: We will before the walls of Rome
Set down our host [encamp our troops]. My partner in this
You must report to the Volscian lords, how
I have borne this business.
AUFIDIUS: Only their ends
You have respected; stopp’d your ears against [refused to hear]
The general suit [pleas] of Rome; never admitted
A private whisper; no, not with such friends
That thought them sure of you.
CORIOLANUS: This last old man [Menenius],
Whom with a crack’d heart I have sent to Rome,
Lov’d me above the measure of a father;
Nay, godded [deified; worshiped] 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,
Will I lend ear to. [Shout within.]
Ha! what shout is this?
[fresh . . . ear to: If there are any more messengers with pleas,
I will not listen to them whether they are personal friends or
Shall I be tempted to infringe my vow
In the same time ’tis made? I will not.
Enter, in mourning habits, VIRGILIA, VOLUMNIA, leading young
MARCIUS, VALERIA, and Attendants.
My wife comes foremost; then the honour’d mould [then my mother]
Wherein this trunk [my body] was fram’d, and in her
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
[Olympus: The highest mountain in Greece, on which the gods of
mythology were said to reside.]
In supplication [humility] 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 [naive or inexperienced man] to obey instinct,
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
VIRGILIA: The sorrow that delivers us thus
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
[queen of heaven: In ancient mythology, the queen who ruled the
heavens. Her Greek name was Hera; her Roman name was Juno.]
I carried from thee, dear, and my true lip
Hath virgin’d it [maintained its holiness] e’er since. You gods! I
prate [talk too much],
And the most noble mother of the world
Leave unsaluted. Sink, my knee, i’ the earth;
Of thy deep duty more impression show
Than that of common sons.
VOLUMNIA: O! stand up bless’d;
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 is this?
Your knees to me! to your corrected son!
Then let the pebbles on the hungry beach
Fillip [strike; tap] the stars; then let the mutinous
Strike the proud cedars ’gainst the fiery sun,
Murd’ring impossibility, to make
What cannot be, slight work.
[Lines 67-71: Coriolanus describes impossible events to compare
them with another seemingly impossible event: his own mother
kneeling to him.]
VOLUMNIA: Thou art my warrior;
I holp [helped] to frame thee. Do you know this
CORIOLANUS: The noble sister of Publicola
[Publicola: Aristocrat who helped lead the overthrow of the Roman
monarchy in 509 BC, resulting in the establishment of the Roman
Republic. Publicola served as a consul.]
The moon of Rome; chaste as the icicle
That’s curdied [curdled; frozen] by the frost from purest
And hangs on Dian’s temple: dear Valeria!
[Dian: Diana, the Roman name for the goddess of the moon—who was
chaste, like the icicle in line 75. Her Greek name was
VOLUMNIA: This is a poor epitome [copy; likeness;] of
yours, [Pointing to the Child.
Which by the interpretation of full time
May show like all yourself.
CORIOLANUS: The god of soldiers,
With the consent of supreme Jove,
Thy thoughts with nobleness; that thou mayst
To shame unvulnerable [invulnerable], and stick i’ the
Like a great sea-mark [landmark observed from a ship], standing
every flaw [withstanding every wind and storm],
And saving those that eye thee!
VOLUMNIA: Your knee, sirrah.
CORIOLANUS: That’s my brave boy!
VOLUMNIA: Even he [the child of Coriolanus], your wife, this
lady [Valeria], and myself,
Are suitors to you [are here to plead with you].
CORIOLANUS: I beseech you, peace:
Or, if you’d ask, remember this before:
The things I have forsworn to grant may never
Be held by you denials. Do not bid me
Dismiss my soldiers, or capitulate [surrender]
Again with Rome’s mechanics: tell me not
Wherein I seem unnatural: desire not
To 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
Hear nought [nothing] from Rome in private. Your
VOLUMNIA: Should we be silent and not speak, our raiment
And state of bodies would bewray [reveal; betray] what
We have led since thy exile. Think with thyself
How more unfortunate than all living women
Are we come hither [here]: since that thy sight, which
Make our eyes flow with joy, hearts dance with
Constrains them weep and shake with fear and
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
[And to poor . . . capital: We poor relatives of yours are the
target of your deadliest hatred.
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 [alas]! or we must
The country, our dear nurse, or else thy person,
Our comfort in the country. We must find
An evident [eventual; certain] calamity, though we
Our wish, which side should win; for either thou
Must, as a foreign recreant [traitor], be led
With manacles through our streets, or else
Triumphantly tread on thy country’s ruin,
And bear the palm [of triumph] for having bravely
Thy wife and children’s blood. For myself, son,
I purpose [plan] not to wait on Fortune till
These wars determine [end; are settled]: if I cannot persuade
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
That brought thee to this world.
VIRGILIA: Ay, and mine,
That brought you forth this boy, to keep your
Living to time.
Boy. A’ shall not tread on me:
I’ll run away till I am bigger, but then I’ll
CORIOLANUS: Not of a woman’s tenderness to
Requires nor child nor woman’s face to see.
[Lines 145-146: I am not required to look at a child or woman if I
lack a woman's tenderness.]
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
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
‘This we receiv’d;’ and each in either side
Give the all-hail to thee, and cry, ‘Be bless’d
For making up this peace!’ Thou know’st, great
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 the ensuing age abhorr’d.’ Speak to me, son!
Thou hast affected [taken on; used] the fine strains [properties]
To imitate the graces of the gods;
To tear with thunder the wide cheeks o’ the air,
And yet to charge thy sulphur with a bolt
That should but rive [split] an oak. Why dost not
[Lines 168-170: However, though you would tear the air with
thunder, you would load your cannon with a missile that would only
split an oak tree. Why don't you 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 is no man in the
More bound to ’s mother; yet here he lets me prate [talk on]
Like one i’ the stocks. Thou hast never in thy
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
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 [belongs] more
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 us.
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 a-fire,
And then I’ll speak a little.
CORIOLANUS: [Holding VOLUMNIA by the hand, silent.] O,
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
Stand to me in this cause. O mother! wife!
AUFIDIUS: [Aside.] I am glad thou
hast set thy mercy and thy honour
At difference in thee: out of that I’ll work
Myself a former fortune. [The ladies make signs to
CORIOLANUS: Ay, by and by;
But we will drink together; and you shall bear
A better witness back than words, which we,
On like conditions, would have counter-seal’d [would have written
down and sealed].
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.
Act 5, Scene 4
Rome. A public place.
Enter MENENIUS and SICINIUS.
MENENIUS: See you yond coign [yonder corner] o’ the Capitol,
SICINIUS: Why, what of that?
MENENIUS: If it be possible for you to displace it with your
little finger, there is some hope the ladies of Rome, especially
his mother, may prevail with him. But I say, there is no hope in
’t. Our throats are sentenced and stay upon
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; yet your butterfly was a grub. This Marcius is grown
from man to dragon: he has wings; he’s more than a creeping
SICINIUS: He loved 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
ripe grapes: when he walks, he moves like an engine [weapon of
war, such as a catapult or a battering ram], and the ground
shrinks before his treading: he is able to pierce a corslet [chest
armor] with his eye; talks like a knell, and his hum is a battery.
He sits in his state, as a thing made for Alexander [as a
sculpture depicting Alexander the Great (356-323 BC)]. What he
bids be done is finished with his bidding. He wants nothing of a
god but eternity and a heaven to throne in.
SICINIUS: Yes, mercy, if you report him
MENENIUS: I paint him in the character. [I paint him as he
truly is.] Mark what mercy his mother 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 this is ’long of you [came along
because 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 banished him, we respected not them; and, he returning
to break our necks, they respect not us.
Enter a Messenger.
MESSENGER: Sir, if you’d save your life, fly to your
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 a second
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 the expulsion of the Tarquins.
[Tarquins: Tarquin the Proud was the last king of Rome. Tarquin
and his son, as well as the rest of his family, were banished from
Rome in 509 BC for their tyranny and moral turpitude.]
Art thou certain this is true? is it most
SECOND MESSENGER: As certain as I know the sun is
Where have you lurk’d [been keeping yourself; been hiding] that
you make doubt of it?
Ne’er through an arch so hurried the blown tide,
As the recomforted [relieved populace] through the gates. Why,
hark you! [Trumpets and hautboys (oboes) sounded, and drums
beaten, all together. Shouting also within.
The trumpets, sackbuts [instruments resembling trombones],
psalteries [stringed instruments in the harp family], and fifes
Tabors [small drums], and cymbals, and the shouting
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 [is worth as much as] consuls, senators,
A city full; of tribunes, such as you,
A sea and land full. You have pray’d well
This morning for ten thousand of your throats
I’d not have given a doit. Hark, how they
joy! [Music still and shouts.
SICINIUS: First, the gods bless you for your tidings;
Accept my thankfulness.
SECOND MESSENGER: Sir, we have all
Great cause to give great thanks.
SICINIUS: They are near the city?
SECOND MESSENGER: Almost at point to
SICINIUS: We will meet them,
And help the joy. [Going.
Enter the Ladies, accompanied by Senators, Patricians, and
People. They pass over the
FIRST SENATOR: Behold our patroness [Volumnia], the life of
Call all your tribes together, praise the gods,
And make triumphant fires; strew flowers before
Unshout the noise that banish’d Marcius;
Repeal him [forgive him; end his banishment] with the welcome of
Cry, ‘Welcome, ladies, welcome!’
ALL: Welcome, ladies,
Welcome! [A flourish with drums and trumpets. Exeunt.
[Note: Some editions of Shakespeare regard lines 50-58 as a
separate scene of Act 5. If the edition you are using does so,
then the following and final scene of the play would be the sixth
scene of Act 5.]
Act 5, Scene 5
Corioli. A public place.
Enter TULLIUS AUFIDIUS, with Attendants.
AUFIDIUS: Go tell the lords o’ the city I am
Deliver them this paper: having read it,
Bid them repair [go] to the market-place; where
Even in theirs and in the commons’ ears,
Will vouch the truth of it. Him I accuse
The city ports [gates] by this hath enter’d, and
Intends to appear before the people, hoping
To purge [excuse; pardon; exculpate] himself with words:
Enter three or four Conspirators of AUFIDIUS’ faction.
FIRST CONSPIRATOR: How is it with our
AUFIDIUS: Even so
As with a man by his own alms empoison’d,
And with his charity slain.
SECOND CONSPIRATOR: Most noble sir,
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
’Twixt you [between you and Coriolanus] 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 [glorified] him, and I
Mine honour for his truth: who being so
He water’d his new plants with dews of flattery,
Seducing so my friends; and, to this end,
He bow’d [proclaimed; forced] his nature, never known
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 spoke 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 [my troops], his projects to
My best and freshest men; serv’d his designments [designs]
In mine own person; holp to reap the fame
Which he did end all his; and took some pride
[holp . . . all his: Helped to win fame just for himself]
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.
[Lines 48-49: He looked at me as if I had been his subordinate.]
FIRST CONSPIRATOR: So he did, my lord:
The army marvell’d at it; and, in the last,
When we had carried Rome, and that we look’d
For no less spoil than glory,—
AUFIDIUS: There was it;
For which my sinews [literally, tendons; figuratively, strength or
strong arms] shall be stretch’d upon him.
At a few drops of women’s rheum [literally, mucous; figuratively,
tears], 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 [Coriolanus]
Splitting the air with noise.
SECOND CONSPIRATOR: And patient fools,
Whose children he hath slain, their base throats
With giving him glory.
THIRD CONSPIRATOR: Therefore, at your vantage
Ere [before] he express himself, or move the
With what he would say, let him feel your sword,
Which we will second. When he lies along [lies dead on the
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 perus’d
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 [sanctions; penalties]; but there to
Where he was to begin, and give away
The benefit of our levies [plunder; spoils of war], answering
With our own charge [forcing us to pay for the costs of war],
making a treaty where
There was a yielding, this admits no excuse.
AUFIDIUS: He approaches: you shall hear
Enter CORIOLANUS, with drums and colours [flag]; a crowd of
Citizens with him.
CORIOLANUS: Hail, lords! I am return’d your
No more infected with my country’s love
Than when I parted hence, but still subsisting [remaining;
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
Do more than counterpoise [offset] a full third
The charges [cost] of the action. We have made
With no less honour to the Antiates
Than shame to the Romans; and we here deliver,
Subscrib’d [signed; endorsed] by the consuls and
Together with the seal o’ the senate, what
We have compounded [agreed] 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
I’ll grace thee with that robbery, thy stol’n
Coriolanus in Corioli?
You lords and heads of the state, perfidiously
He has betray’d your business, and given up,
For certain drops of salt [tears of his mother and wife], your
I say ‘your city,’ to his wife and mother;
Breaking his oath and resolution like
A twist of rotten silk, never admitting
Counsel o’ the war, but at his nurse’s tears
[never . . . the war: Never consulting with his fellow military
He whin’d and roar’d away your victory,
That pages [young attendants of officers] blush’d at him, and men
Look’d wondering each at other.
CORIOLANUS: Hear’st thou, Mars?
[Mars: In ancient mythology, the Roman name for the Greek god of
AUFIDIUS: Name not the god, thou boy of tears [whining
AUFIDIUS: No more.
CORIOLANUS: Measureless liar, thou hast made my
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
Must give this cur the lie [must brand him a liar]: and his own
Who wears my stripes [scars of wounds inflicted by Coriolanus]
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
CORIOLANUS: Cut me to pieces, Volsces; men and
Stain all your edges [swords and knives] on me. Boy! False
If you have writ your annals [history] true, ’tis
That, like an eagle in a dove-cote [shelter for doves and
Flutter’d [routed] your Volscians in Corioli:
Alone I did it. Boy!
[Line 140: I did it alone. How dare you call me Boy!]
AUFIDIUS: Why, noble lords,
Will you be put in mind of his blind fortune [lucky or accidental
Which was your shame, by this unholy braggart,
’Fore [before] your own eyes and ears?
CONSPIRATORS: Let him die for ’t.
ALL THE PEOPLE: Tear him to pieces.—Do it presently.—He
killed my son.—My daughter.—He killed my cousin Marcus.—He killed
SECOND LORD: Peace, ho! no outrage: peace!
The man is noble and his fame folds [is everywhere known] in
This orb o’ the earth. His last offences to us
Shall have judicious hearing [a court hearing]. Stand,
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!
[AUFIDIUS and the Conspirators draw, and kill CORIOLANUS, who
falls: AUFIDIUS stands on his body.
LORDS: Hold, hold, hold, hold!
AUFIDIUS: My noble masters, hear me speak.
FIRST LORD: O Tullus!
SECOND LORD: Thou hast done a deed whereat valour will
THIRD LORD: Tread not upon him. Masters all, be
Put up your swords.
AUFIDIUS: My lords, when you shall know,—as in this
Provok’d by him, you cannot,—the great danger
Which this man’s life did owe you [did place you in], you’ll
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 [here] his
And mourn you for him! Let him be regarded
As the most noble corse [corpse] that ever
Did follow to his urn [container for the ashes of a cremated
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’ the chiefest soldiers; I’ll be
Beat thou the drum, that it speak mournfully;
Trail your steel pikes. Though in this city he
Hath widow’d 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 [funeral] march
Aside: Words whispered or spoken softly
so that only the character (or characters) near the speaker can
hear them. The audience hears everything, however.
Exeunt: The specified characters—or
all the characters—leave the stage.
Flourish: Playing of
Within: Offstage; at a distance.
In the works of
Shakespeare and other writers, many direct and indirect references
to classical mythology derive from accounts of (1) events leading
up to the Trojan War, (2) the war itself, and (3) the aftermath of
the war. Gods, goddesses, monsters, and humans all appear in these
accounts. The war pitted the Bronze Age city of Troy, a walled
community in present-day Turkey, against Greece.
Following is a brief summary of key events before, during, and
after the war as presented in oral and written stories from
ancient Greece and Rome. The most important of these stories are The
Iliad and The Odyssey, by Homer, and The Aeneid,
by Vergil. The Iliad centers on the Greek hero Achilles,
the greatest soldier in classical mythology, during the last year
of the war. The Odyssey centers on Odysseus (Roman name:
Ulysses) and his perilous voyage home after the war. The
Aeneid focuses on the Trojan hero Aeneas on his perilous
voyage to Italy after the war.
The Cause of the War
In the ancient Mediterranean world, feminine beauty reaches its
zenith in Helen, wife of King Menelaus of Greece. Her wondrous
face and body are without flaw. Even the goddess of love,
Aphrodite, admires her. When Aphrodite competes with other
goddesses in a beauty contest—in which a golden apple is to be
awarded as the prize—she bribes the judge, a young Trojan named
Paris, promising him the most ravishing woman in the world, Helen,
if he will select her, Aphrodite, as the most beautiful goddess.
Paris, of course, chooses Aphrodite. After receiving the coveted
golden apple, she tells Paris about Helen; he goes to Greece and
abducts her, taking her to Troy.
The abduction is an affront to all the Greeks. How dare an upstart
Trojan invade their land! How dare he steal the wife of one of
their kings! Which Greek family will be next to fall victim to a
Trojan machination? Infuriated, King Menelaus and his brother,
Agamemnon, assemble a mighty army with the finest warriors in the
land, including Achilles, the greatest warrior in the world, and
the giant Ajax, second only to Achilles in battlefield prowess.
Agamemnon acts as commanding general. The Greeks then cross the
sea in one thousand ships to make war against Troy and win back
their pride—and Helen. The king of Troy is named Priam; his wife
and queen is Hecuba. Priam's son Hector is the leader of the
The war drags on for ten years—the Trojans gaining an advantage
one day, the Greeks gaining the advantage the next.
One day, the Greek warrior Odysseus (Roman name Ulysses), king of
Ithaca, proposes to his fellow Greeks that they build a gigantic
wooden horse. Inside its hollow belly will be fully armed
soldiers. The Greeks will then make the Trojans believe that they
have left the battlefield and returned home, leaving behind the
horse as a gift. The Greeks accept his plan, build the horse, and
leave the wooden horse at the gate of Troy with one of their men,
Sinon, while the rest of the Greek army hides outside Troy. Sinon
persuades the Trojans that the Greek army has departed but left
the horse as a gift in honor of the goddess Athena, who will
protect their city. The Trojans believe Sinon, open their main
gate, and pull the horse into the city. At nightfall, the Greek
soldiers descend from the belly of the horse, open the gate, and
surprise the sleeping Trojans. The Greeks outside the city swarm
in and conquer and burn Troy. Priam is killed by the son of
Achilles, Pyrrhus, also known as Neoptolemus.
When Odysseus and his men return home on several ships, they
encounter many perils at sea and on land—including a one-eyed
giant (a Cyclops), who eats some of his men; a sorceress named
Circe, who turns several of his men into pigs; the six-headed
monster Scylla, who devours more of the crewmen; and other perils.
Eventually, he makes it home to Ithaca, where he confronts and
disposes of squatters on his land seeking to marry his wife,
Aeneas, a Trojan who escaped his burning city with a cohort of
soldiers, also goes on a journey fraught with perils. He
eventually lands in Italy and establishes the foundation of the
Roman civilization that later rises to greatness.