William Shakespeare: Coriolanus, Act III
Cornets. Enter Coriolanus, Menenius, all the Gentry, Cominius, Titus Lartius, and other Senators
So then the Volsces stand but as at first, Ready, when time shall prompt them, to make road. Upon's again.
They are worn, lord consul, so, That we shall hardly in our ages see Their banners wave again.
On safe-guard he came to me; and did curse Against the Volsces, for they had so vilely Yielded the town: he is retired to Antium.
How often he had met you, sword to sword; That of all things upon the earth he hated Your person most, that he would pawn his fortunes To hopeless restitution, so he might Be call'd your vanquisher.
I wish I had a cause to seek him there, 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 them; For they do prank them in authority, Against all noble sufferance.
Are these your herd? Must these have voices, that can yield them now And straight disclaim their tongues? What are your offices? You being their mouths, why rule you not their teeth? Have you not set them on?
It is a purposed thing, and grows by plot, To curb the will of the nobility: Suffer't, and live with such as cannot rule Nor ever will be ruled.
Call't not a plot: The people cry you mock'd them, and of late, When corn was given them gratis, you repined; Scandal'd the suppliants for the people, call'd them Time-pleasers, flatterers, foes to nobleness.
Why then should I be consul? By yond clouds, Let me deserve so ill as you, and make me Your fellow tribune.
You show too much of that For which the people stir: if you will pass To where you are bound, you must inquire your way, Which you are out of, with a gentler spirit, Or never be so noble as a consul, Nor yoke with him for tribune.
The people are abused; set on. This paltering Becomes not Rome, nor has Coriolanus Deserved this so dishonour'd rub, laid falsely I' the plain way of his merit.
Now, as I live, I will. My nobler friends, I crave their pardons: For the mutable, rank-scented many, 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 of rebellion, insolence, sedition, Which we ourselves have plough'd for, sow'd, and scatter'd, By mingling them with us, the honour'd number, Who lack not virtue, no, nor power, but that Which they have given to beggars.
How! no more! As for my country I have shed my blood, Not fearing outward force, so shall my lungs Coin words till their decay against those measles, Which we disdain should tatter us, yet sought The very way to catch them.
'Shall'! O good but most unwise patricians! why, You grave but reckless senators, have you thus Given Hydra here to choose an officer, That with his peremptory 'shall,' being but The horn and noise o' the monster's, wants not spirit 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 learn'd, 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 taste Most palates theirs. They choose their magistrate, And such a one as he, who puts his 'shall,' His popular 'shall' against a graver bench Than ever frown 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.
Whoever gave that counsel, to give forth The corn o' the storehouse gratis, as 'twas used Sometime in Greece,—
Though there the people had more absolute power, I say, they nourish'd disobedience, fed The ruin of the state.
I'll give my reasons, More worthier than their voices. They know the corn Was not our recompense, resting well assured That ne'er did service for't: being press'd to the war, Even when the navel of the state was touch'd, They would not thread the gates. This kind of service 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, could never be the motive Of our so frank donation. Well, what then? How shall this bisson multitude digest The senate's courtesy? Let deeds express What's like to be their words: 'we did request it; We are the greater poll, and in true fear 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 ope the locks o' the senate and bring in The crows to peck the eagles.
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 other Insult without all reason, where gentry, title, wisdom, Cannot conclude 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 follows, Nothing is done to purpose. Therefore, beseech you,— You that will be less fearful than discreet, That love the fundamental part of state More than you doubt the change on't, that prefer A noble life before a long, and wish To jump a body with a dangerous physic That's sure of death without it, at once pluck out The multitudinous tongue; let them not lick The sweet which is their poison: your dishonour Mangles true judgment and bereaves the state Of that integrity which should become't, Not having the power to do the good it would, For the in which doth control't.
Thou wretch, despite o'erwhelm thee! What should the people do with these bald tribunes? On whom depending, their obedience fails To the greater bench: in a rebellion, 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.
Go, call the people:
in whose name myself Attach thee as a traitorous innovator, A foe to the public weal: obey, I charge thee, And follow to thine answer.
Enter a rabble of Citizens (Plebeians), with the AEdiles
Weapons, weapons, weapons!
They all bustle about Coriolanus, crying
'Tribunes!' 'Patricians!' 'Citizens!' 'What, ho!' 'Sicinius!' 'Brutus!' 'Coriolanus!' 'Citizens!' 'Peace, peace, peace!' 'Stay, hold, peace!'
What is about to be? I am out of breath; Confusion's near; I cannot speak. You, tribunes To the people! Coriolanus, patience! Speak, good Sicinius.
You are at point to lose your liberties: Marcius would have all from you; Marcius, Whom late you have named for consul.
That is the way to lay the city flat; To bring the roof to the foundation, And bury all, which yet distinctly ranges, In heaps and piles of ruin.
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 death.
Therefore lay hold of him; Bear him to the rock Tarpeian, and from thence Into destruction cast him.
Be that you seem, truly your country's friend, And temperately proceed to what you would Thus violently redress.
Sir, those cold ways, That seem like prudent helps, are very poisonous Where the disease is violent. Lay hands upon him, And bear him to the rock.
No, I'll die here.
Drawing his sword
There's some among you have beheld me fighting: Come, try upon yourselves what you have seen me.
In this mutiny, the Tribunes, the AEdiles, and the People, are beat in
The gods forbid! I prithee, noble friend, home to thy house; Leave us to cure this cause.
I would they were barbarians—as they are, Though in Rome litter'd—not Romans—as they are not, Though calved i' the porch o' the Capitol—
But now 'tis odds beyond arithmetic; 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 used to bear.
Pray you, be gone: I'll try whether my old wit be in request With those that have but little: this must be patch'd With cloth of any colour.
Exeunt Coriolanus, Cominius, and others
His nature is too noble for the world: He would not flatter Neptune for his trident, Or Jove for's power to thunder. His heart's his mouth: What his breast forges, that his tongue must vent; And, being angry, does forget that ever He heard the name of death.
A noise within
Here's goodly work!
Re-enter Brutus and Sicinius, with the rabble
He shall be thrown down the Tarpeian rock 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.
If, by the tribunes' leave, and yours, good people, 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.
Speak briefly then; For we are peremptory to dispatch 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.
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 dam Should now eat up her own!
O, he's a limb that has but a disease; 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 to the end o' the world.
We'll hear no more. Pursue him to his house, and pluck him thence: Lest his infection, being of catching nature, Spread further.
One word more, one word. This tiger-footed rage, when it shall find The harm of unscann'd swiftness, will too late Tie leaden pounds to's heels. Proceed by process; Lest parties, as he is beloved, break out, And sack great Rome with Romans.
What do ye talk? Have we not had a taste of his obedience? Our aediles smote? ourselves resisted? Come.
Consider this: he has been bred i' the wars Since he could draw a sword, and is ill school'd In bolted language; meal and bran together 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.
Noble tribunes, It is the humane way: the other course Will prove too bloody, and the end of it Unknown to the beginning.
Meet on the market-place. We'll attend you there: Where, if you bring not Marcius, we'll proceed In our first way.
I'll bring him to you.
To the Senators
Let me desire your company: he must come, Or what is worst will follow.