William Shakespeare: Coriolanus, Act V, Scene III

Scene III

The tent of Coriolanus

Enter Coriolanus, Aufidius, and others

Coriolanus

We will before the walls of Rome tomorrow Set down our host. My partner in this action, You must report to the Volscian lords, how plainly I have borne this business.

Aufidius

Only their ends You have respected; stopp'd your ears against The general suit of Rome; never admitted A private whisper, no, not with such friends That thought them sure of you.

Coriolanus

This last old man, Whom with a crack'd heart I have sent to Rome, Loved me above the measure of a father; Nay, godded me, indeed. Their latest refuge Was to send him; for whose old love I have, Though I show'd sourly to him, once more offer'd The first conditions, which they did refuse And cannot now accept; to grace him only That thought he could do more, a very little I have yielded to: fresh embassies and suits, Nor from the state nor private friends, hereafter Will I lend ear to. Ha! what shout is this?

Shout within

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 Wherein this trunk was framed, and in her hand The grandchild to her blood. But, out, affection! All bond and privilege of nature, break! Let it be virtuous to be obstinate. What is that curt'sy worth? or those doves' eyes, Which can make gods forsworn? I melt, and am not Of stronger earth than others. My mother bows; As if Olympus to a molehill should In supplication nod: and my young boy Hath an aspect of intercession, which Great nature cries 'Deny not.' let the Volsces Plough Rome and harrow Italy: I'll never Be such a gosling to obey instinct, but stand, As if a man were author of himself And knew no other kin.

Virgilia

My lord and husband!

Coriolanus

These eyes are not the same I wore in Rome.

Virgilia

The sorrow that delivers us thus changed Makes you think so.

Coriolanus

Like a dull actor now, I have forgot my part, and I am out, Even to a full disgrace. Best of my flesh, Forgive my tyranny; but do not say For that 'Forgive our Romans.' O, a kiss Long as my exile, sweet as my revenge! Now, by the jealous queen of heaven, that kiss I carried from thee, dear; and my true lip Hath virgin'd it e'er since. You gods! I prate, And the most noble mother of the world Leave unsaluted: sink, my knee, i' the earth;

Kneels

Of thy deep duty more impression show Than that of common sons.

Volumnia

O, stand up blest! Whilst, with no softer cushion than the flint, I kneel before thee; and unproperly Show duty, as mistaken all this while Between the child and parent.

Kneels

Coriolanus

What is this? Your knees to me? to your corrected son? Then let the pebbles on the hungry beach Fillip the stars; then let the mutinous winds Strike the proud cedars 'gainst the fiery sun; Murdering impossibility, to make What cannot be, slight work.

Volumnia

Thou art my warrior; I holp to frame thee. Do you know this lady?

Coriolanus

The noble sister of Publicola, The moon of Rome, chaste as the icicle That's curdied by the frost from purest snow And hangs on Dian's temple: dear Valeria!

Volumnia

This is a poor epitome of yours, Which by the interpretation of full time May show like all yourself.

Coriolanus

The god of soldiers, With the consent of supreme Jove, inform Thy thoughts with nobleness; that thou mayst prove To shame unvulnerable, and stick i' the wars Like a great sea-mark, standing every flaw, And saving those that eye thee!

Volumnia

Your knee, sirrah.

Coriolanus

That's my brave boy!

Volumnia

Even he, your wife, this lady, and myself, Are suitors to you.

Coriolanus

I beseech you, peace: Or, if you'ld ask, remember this before: The thing I have forsworn to grant may never Be held by you denials. Do not bid me Dismiss my soldiers, or capitulate Again with Rome's mechanics: tell me not Wherein I seem unnatural: desire not To ally my rages and revenges with Your colder reasons.

Volumnia

O, no more, no more! You have said you will not grant us any thing; For we have nothing else to ask, but that Which you deny already: yet we will ask; That, if you fail in our request, the blame May hang upon your hardness: therefore hear us.

Coriolanus

Aufidius, and you Volsces, mark; for we'll Hear nought from Rome in private. Your request?

Volumnia

Should we be silent and not speak, our raiment And state of bodies would bewray what life We have led since thy exile. Think with thyself How more unfortunate than all living women Are we come hither: since that thy sight, which should Make our eyes flow with joy, hearts dance with comforts, Constrains them weep and shake with fear and sorrow; Making the mother, wife and child to see The son, the husband and the father tearing His country's bowels out. And to poor we Thine enmity's most capital: thou barr'st us Our prayers to the gods, which is a comfort That all but we enjoy; for how can we, Alas, how can we for our country pray. Whereto we are bound, together with thy victory, Whereto we are bound? alack, or we must lose The country, our dear nurse, or else thy person, Our comfort in the country. We must find An evident calamity, though we had Our wish, which side should win: for either thou Must, as a foreign recreant, be led With manacles thorough our streets, or else triumphantly tread on thy country's ruin, And bear the palm for having bravely shed Thy wife and children's blood. For myself, son, I purpose not to wait on fortune till These wars determine: if I cannot persuade thee Rather to show a noble grace to both parts Than seek the end of one, thou shalt no sooner March to assault thy country than to tread— Trust to't, thou shalt not—on thy mother's womb, That brought thee to this world.

Virgilia

Ay, and mine, That brought you forth this boy, to keep your name Living to time.

Young Marcius

A' shall not tread on me; I'll run away till I am bigger, but then I'll fight.

Coriolanus

Not of a woman's tenderness to be, Requires nor child nor woman's face to see. I have sat too long.

Rising

Volumnia

Nay, go not from us thus. If it were so that our request did tend To save the Romans, thereby to destroy The Volsces whom you serve, you might condemn us, As poisonous of your honour: no; our suit Is that you reconcile them: while the Volsces May say 'This mercy we have show'd;' the Romans, 'This we received;' and each in either side Give the all-hail to thee and cry 'Be blest For making up this peace!' Thou know'st, great son, The end of war's uncertain, but this certain, That, if thou conquer Rome, the benefit Which thou shalt thereby reap is such a name, Whose repetition will be dogg'd with curses; Whose chronicle thus writ: 'The man was noble, But with his last attempt he wiped it out; Destroy'd his country, and his name remains To the ensuing age abhorr'd.' Speak to me, son: Thou hast affected the fine strains of honour, To imitate the graces of the gods; To tear with thunder the wide cheeks o' the air, And yet to charge thy sulphur with a bolt That should but rive an oak. Why dost not speak? Think'st thou it honourable for a noble man Still to remember wrongs? Daughter, speak you: He cares not for your weeping. Speak thou, boy: Perhaps thy childishness will move him more Than can our reasons. There's no man in the world More bound to 's mother; yet here he lets me prate Like one i' the stocks. Thou hast never in thy life Show'd thy dear mother any courtesy, When she, poor hen, fond of no second brood, Has cluck'd thee to the wars and safely home, Loaden with honour. Say my request's unjust, And spurn me back: but if it be not so, Thou art not honest; and the gods will plague thee, That thou restrain'st from me the duty which To a mother's part belongs. He turns away: Down, ladies; let us shame him with our knees. To his surname Coriolanus 'longs more pride Than pity to our prayers. Down: an end; This is the last: so we will home to Rome, And die among our neighbours. Nay, behold 's: This boy, that cannot tell what he would have But kneels and holds up bands 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.

He holds her by the hand, silent

Coriolanus

O mother, mother! What have you done? Behold, the heavens do ope, The gods look down, and this unnatural scene They laugh at. O my mother, mother! O! You have won a happy victory to Rome; But, for your son,—believe it, O, believe it, Most dangerously you have with him prevail'd, If not most mortal to him. But, let it come. Aufidius, though I cannot make true wars, I'll frame convenient peace. Now, good Aufidius, Were you in my stead, would you have heard A mother less? or granted less, Aufidius?

Aufidius

I was moved withal.

Coriolanus

I dare be sworn you were: And, sir, it is no little thing to make Mine eyes to sweat compassion. But, good sir, What peace you'll make, advise me: for my part, I'll not to Rome, I'll back with you; and pray you, Stand to me in this cause. O mother! wife!

Aufidius

Aside

I am glad thou hast set thy mercy and thy honour At difference in thee: out of that I'll work Myself a former fortune.

The Ladies make signs to Coriolanus

Coriolanus

Ay, by and by;

To Volumnia, Virgilia, &c

But we will drink together; and you shall bear A better witness back than words, which we, On like conditions, will have counter-seal'd. Come, enter with us. Ladies, you deserve To have a temple built you: all the swords In Italy, and her confederate arms, Could not have made this peace.

Exeunt