William Shakespeare: Coriolanus, Act II, Scene II. The same. The Capitol.
Enter two Officers, to lay cushions
Faith, there had 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: 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.
If he did not care whether he had their love or no, he waved indifferently 'twixt doing them neither good nor harm: but he seeks their hate with greater devotion than can render it him; and leaves nothing undone that may fully discover him their opposite. 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.
He hath deserved worthily of his country: and his ascent is not by such easy degrees as those who, having been supple and courteous to the people, bonneted, without any further deed to have them at an 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.
A sennet. Enter, with actors before them, Cominius the consul, Menenius, Coriolanus, Senators, Sicinius and Brutus. The Senators take their places; the Tribunes take their Places by themselves. Coriolanus stands
Having determined 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 hath Thus stood for his country: therefore, please you, 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 met here both to thank and to remember With honours like himself.
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
Masters o' the people, We do request your kindest ears, and after, Your loving motion toward the common body, To yield what passes here.
We are convented Upon a pleasing treaty, and have hearts Inclinable to honour and advance The theme of our assembly.
Which the rather We shall be blest to do, if he remember A kinder value of the people than He hath hereto prized them at.
That's off, that's off; I would you rather had been silent. Please you To hear Cominius speak?
He loves your people But tie him not to be their bedfellow. Worthy Cominius, speak.
Coriolanus offers to go away
Nay, keep your place.
Your horror's pardon: I had rather have my wounds to heal again Than hear say how I got them.
No, sir: yet oft, When blows have made me stay, I fled from words. You soothed not, therefore hurt not: but your people, I love them as they weigh.
I had rather have one scratch my head i' the sun When the alarum were struck than idly sit To hear my nothings monster'd.
Masters of the people, Your multiplying spawn how can he flatter— That's thousand to one good one—when you now see He had rather venture all his limbs for honour Than one on's ears to hear it? Proceed, Cominius.
I shall lack voice: the deeds of Coriolanus 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 counterpoised. At sixteen years, When Tarquin made a head for Rome, he fought Beyond the mark of others: our then dictator, Whom with all praise I point at, saw him fight, When with his Amazonian chin he drove The bristled lips before him: be 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 proved best man i' the field, and for his meed Was brow-bound with the oak. His pupil age Man-enter'd thus, he waxed like a sea, And in the brunt of seventeen battles since He lurch'd all swords of the garland. For this last, Before and in Corioli, let me say, I cannot speak him home: he stopp'd the fliers; 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: 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 timed with dying cries: alone he enter'd The mortal gate of the city, which he painted With shunless destiny; aidless came off, And with a sudden reinforcement struck Corioli like a planet: now all's his: When, by and by, the din of war gan pierce His ready sense; then straight his doubled spirit Re-quicken'd what in flesh was fatigate, And to the battle came he; where he did Run reeking o'er the lives of men, as if 'Twere a perpetual spoil: and till we call'd Both field and city ours, he never stood To ease his breast with panting.
Our spoils he kick'd at, And look'd upon things precious as they were The common muck of 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.
I do beseech you, Let me o'erleap that custom, for I cannot Put on the gown, stand naked and entreat them, For my wounds' sake, to give their suffrage: please you That I may pass this doing.
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.
To brag unto them, thus I did, and thus; Show them the unaching scars which I should hide, As if I had received them for the hire Of their breath only!
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.
Flourish of cornets. Exeunt all but Sicinius and Brutus
May they perceive's intent! He will require them, As if he did contemn what he requested Should be in them to give.
Come, we'll inform them Of our proceedings here: on the marketplace, I know, they do attend us.