ACT II SCENE I

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Coriolanus


ACT II SCENE I. Rome. A public place.
[ Enter MENENIUS with the two Tribunes of the people, SICINIUS and BRUTUS. ]
MENENIUS The augurer 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 friends. 5
MENENIUS Pray you, who does the wolf love?
SICINIUS The lamb.
MENENIUS Ay, to devour him; as the hungry plebeians would the
noble Marcius.
BRUTUS He’s a lamb indeed, that baes like a bear. 10
MENENIUS He’s a bear indeed, that lives like a lamb. You two
are old men: tell me one thing that I shall ask you.
Both Well, sir.
MENENIUS In what enormity is Marcius poor in, that you two
have not in abundance? 15
BRUTUS He’s poor in no one fault, but stored with all.
SICINIUS Especially in pride.
BRUTUS And topping all others in boasting.
MENENIUS This is strange now: do you two know how you are
censured here in the city, I mean of us o’ the 20
right-hand file? do you?
Both Why, how are we censured?
MENENIUS Because you talk of pride now,–will you not be angry?
Both Well, well, sir, well.
MENENIUS Why, ’tis no great matter; for a very little thief of 25
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? 30
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 35
could turn your eyes toward 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, 40
proud, violent, testy magistrates, alias fools, as
any in Rome.
SICINIUS Menenius, you are known well enough too.
MENENIUS I am known to be a humorous patrician, and one that
loves a cup of hot wine with not a drop of allaying 45
Tiber in’t; said to be something imperfect in
favouring the first complaint; 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 50
malice in my breath. Meeting two such wealsmen as
you are–I cannot call you Lycurguses–if the drink
you give me touch my palate adversely, I make a
crooked face at it. I can’t say your worships have
delivered the matter well, when I find the ass in 55
compound with the major part of your syllables: and
though I must be content to bear with those that say
you are reverend grave men, yet they lie deadly that
tell you you have good faces. If you see this in
the map of my microcosm, follows it that I am known 60
well enough too? what barm can your bisson
conspectuities glean out of this character, if I be
known well enough too?
BRUTUS Come, sir, come, we know you well enough.
MENENIUS You know neither me, yourselves nor any thing. You 65
are ambitious for poor knaves’ caps and legs: you
wear out a good wholesome forenoon in hearing a
cause between an orange wife and a fosset-seller;
and then rejourn the controversy of three pence to a
second day of audience. When you are hearing a 70
matter between party and party, if you chance to be
pinched with the colic, you make faces like
mummers; set up the bloody flag against all
patience; and, in roaring for a chamber-pot,
dismiss the controversy bleeding the more entangled 75
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 for the table than a necessary 80
bencher 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 85
so honourable a grave as to stuff a botcher’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 predecessors
since Deucalion, though peradventure some of the 90
best of ’em were hereditary hangmen. God-den 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, 95
were she earthly, no nobler,–whither do you follow
your eyes so fast?
VOLUMNIA Honourable Menenius, my boy Marcius approaches; for
the love of Juno, let’s go.
MENENIUS Ha! Marcius coming home! 100
VOLUMNIA Ay, worthy Menenius; and with most prosperous
approbation.
MENENIUS Take my cap, Jupiter, and I thank thee. Hoo!
Marcius coming home!
VIRGILIA Nay,’tis true. 105
VOLUMNIA Look, here’s a letter from him: the state hath
another, his wife another; and, I think, there’s one
at home for you.
MENENIUS I will make my very house reel tonight: a letter for
me! 110
VIRGILIA Yes, certain, there’s a letter for you; I saw’t.
MENENIUS A letter for me! it gives me an estate of seven
years’ health; in which time I will make a lip at
the physician: the most sovereign prescription in
Galen is but empiricutic, and, to this preservative, 115
of no better report than a horse-drench. Is he
not wounded? he was wont to come home wounded.
VIRGILIA O, no, no, no.
VOLUMNIA O, he is wounded; I thank the gods for’t.
MENENIUS So do I too, if it be not too much: brings a’ 120
victory in his pocket? the wounds become him.
VOLUMNIA On’s brows: Menenius, he comes the third time home
with the oaken garland.
MENENIUS Has he disciplined Aufidius soundly?
VOLUMNIA Titus Lartius writes, they fought together, but 125
Aufidius got off.
MENENIUS And ’twas time for him too, I’ll warrant him that:
an he had stayed by him, I would not have been so
fidiused for all the chests in Corioli, and the gold
that’s in them. Is the senate possessed of this? 130
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 doubly
VALERIA In troth, there’s wondrous things spoke of him. 135
MENENIUS Wondrous! ay, I warrant you, and not without his
true purchasing.
VIRGILIA The gods grant them true!
VOLUMNIA True! pow, wow.
MENENIUS True! I’ll be sworn they are true. 140
Where is he wounded?
[To the Tribunes]
God save your good worships! Marcius is coming
home: he has more cause to be proud. Where is he wounded?
VOLUMNIA I’ the shoulder and i’ the left arm there will be
large cicatrices to show the people, when he shall 145
stand for his place. 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 150
wounds upon him.
MENENIUS Now it’s twenty-seven: every gash was an enemy’s grave.
[A shout and flourish]
Hark! the trumpets.
VOLUMNIA These are the ushers of Marcius: before him he
carries noise, and behind him he leaves tears: 155
Death, that dark spirit, in ‘s nervy arm doth lie;
Which, being advanced, declines, and then men die.
[ A sennet. Trumpets sound. Enter COMINIUS the general, and TITUS LARTIUS; between them, CORIOLANUS, crowned with an oaken garland; with Captains and Soldiers, and a Herald ]
Herald Know, Rome, that all alone Marcius did fight
Within Corioli gates: where he hath won,
With fame, a name to Caius Marcius; these 160
In honour follows Coriolanus.
Welcome to Rome, renowned Coriolanus!
[Flourish]
All Welcome to Rome, renowned Coriolanus!
CORIOLANUS No more of this; it does offend my heart:
Pray now, no more. 165
COMINIUS Look, sir, your mother!
CORIOLANUS O,
You have, I know, petition’d all the gods
For my prosperity!
[Kneels]
VOLUMNIA Nay, my good soldier, up; 170
My gentle Marcius, worthy Caius, and
By deed-achieving honour newly named,–
What is it?–Coriolanus must I call thee?–
But O, thy wife!
CORIOLANUS My gracious silence, hail! 175
Wouldst thou have laugh’d had I come coffin’d home,
That weep’st to see me triumph? Ay, my dear,
Such eyes the widows in Corioli wear,
And mothers that lack sons.
MENENIUS Now, the gods crown thee! 180
CORIOLANUS And live you yet?
[To VALERIA]
O my sweet lady, pardon.
VOLUMNIA I know not where to turn: O, welcome home:
And welcome, general: and ye’re welcome all.
MENENIUS A hundred thousand welcomes. I could weep 185
And I could laugh, I am light and heavy. Welcome.
A curse begin at very root on’s heart,
That is not glad to see thee! You are three
That Rome should dote on: yet, by the faith of men,
We have some old crab-trees here 190
at home that will not
Be grafted to your relish. Yet welcome, warriors:
We call a nettle but a nettle and
The faults of fools but folly.
COMINIUS Ever right. 195
CORIOLANUS Menenius ever, ever.
Herald Give way there, and go on!
CORIOLANUS [To VOLUMNIA and VIRGILIA] Your hand, and yours:
Ere in our own house I do shade my head,
The good patricians must be visited; 200
From whom I have received not only greetings,
But with them change of honours.
VOLUMNIA I have lived
To see inherited my very wishes
And the buildings of my fancy: only 205
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. 210
COMINIUS On, to the Capitol!
[ Flourish. Cornets. Exeunt in state, as before. BRUTUS and SICINIUS come forward ]
BRUTUS All tongues speak of him, and the bleared sights
Are spectacled to see him: your prattling nurse
Into a rapture lets her baby cry
While she chats him: the kitchen malkin pins 215
Her richest lockram ’bout her reechy neck,
Clambering the walls to eye him: stalls, bulks, windows,
Are smother’d up, leads fill’d, and ridges horsed
With variable complexions, all agreeing
In earnestness to see him: seld-shown flamens 220
Do press among the popular throngs and puff
To win a vulgar station: or veil’d dames
Commit the war of white and damask in
Their nicely-gawded cheeks to the wanton spoil
Of Phoebus’ burning kisses: such a pother 225
As if that whatsoever god who leads him
Were slily crept into his human powers
And gave him graceful posture.
SICINIUS On the sudden,
I warrant him consul. 230
BRUTUS Then our office may,
During his power, go sleep.
SICINIUS He cannot temperately transport his honours
From where he should begin and end, but will
Lose those he hath won. 235
BRUTUS In that there’s comfort.
SICINIUS Doubt not
The commoners, for whom we stand, but they
Upon their ancient malice will forget
With the least cause these his new honours, which 240
That he will give them make I as little question
As he is proud to do’t.
BRUTUS I heard him swear,
Were he to stand for consul, never would he
Appear i’ the market-place nor on him put 245
The napless vesture of humility;
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 rather 250
Than carry it but by the suit of the gentry to him,
And the desire of the nobles.
SICINIUS I wish no better
Than have him hold that purpose and to put it
In execution. 255
BRUTUS ‘Tis most like he will.
SICINIUS It shall be to him then as our good wills,
A sure destruction.
BRUTUS So it must fall out
To him or our authorities. For an end, 260
We must suggest the people in what hatred
He still hath held them; that to’s power he would
Have made them mules, silenced their pleaders and
Dispropertied their freedoms, holding them,
In human action and capacity, 265
Of no more soul nor fitness for the world
Than camels in the war, who have their provand
Only for bearing burdens, and sore blows
For sinking under them.
SICINIUS This, as you say, suggested 270
At some time when his soaring insolence
Shall touch the people–which time shall not want,
If he be put upon ‘t; and that’s as easy
As to set dogs on sheep–will be his fire
To kindle their dry stubble; and their blaze 275
Shall darken him for ever.
[Enter a Messenger]
BRUTUS What’s the matter?
Messenger You are sent for to the Capitol. ‘Tis thought
That Marcius shall be consul:
I have seen the dumb men throng to see him and 280
The blind to bear him speak: matrons flung gloves,
Ladies and maids their scarfs and handkerchers,
Upon him as he pass’d: the nobles bended,
As to Jove’s statue, and the commons made
A shower and thunder with their caps and shouts: 285
I never saw the like.
BRUTUS Let’s to the Capitol;
And carry with us ears and eyes for the time,
But hearts for the event.
SICINIUS Have with you. 290
[Exeunt]

Next: Coriolanus, Act 2, Scene 2