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ACT V SCENE II. Entrance of the Volscian camp before Rome.
[Enter to them, MENENIUS]
First Senator Stay: whence are you?
Second Senator Stand, and go back.
MENENIUS You guard like men; ’tis well: but, by your leave,
I am an officer of state, and come
To speak with Coriolanus. 5
First Senator From whence?
First Senator You may not pass, you must return: our general
Will no more hear from thence.
Second Senator You’ll see your Rome embraced with fire before 10
You’ll speak with Coriolanus.
MENENIUS Good my friends,
If you have heard your general talk of Rome,
And of his friends there, it is lots to blanks,
My name hath touch’d your ears it is Menenius. 15
First Senator Be it so; go back: the virtue of your name
Is not here passable.
MENENIUS I tell thee, fellow,
The general is my lover: I have been
The book of his good acts, whence men have read 20
His name unparallel’d, haply amplified;
For I have ever verified my friends,
Of whom he’s chief, with all the size that verity
Would without lapsing suffer: nay, sometimes,
Like to a bowl upon a subtle ground, 25
I have tumbled past the throw; and in his praise
Have almost stamp’d the leasing: therefore, fellow,
I must have leave to pass.
First Senator Faith, sir, if you had told as many lies in his
behalf as you have uttered words in your own, you 30
should not pass here; no, though it were as virtuous
to lie as to live chastely. Therefore, go back.
MENENIUS Prithee, fellow, remember my name is Menenius,
always factionary on the party of your general.
Second Senator Howsoever you have been his liar, as you say you 35
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 Senator You are a Roman, are you? 40
MENENIUS I am, as thy general is.
First Senator 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 45
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? Can you think to blow out the
intended fire your city is ready to flame in, with 50
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 reprieve and pardon.
MENENIUS Sirrah, if thy captain knew I were here, he would 55
use me with estimation.
Second Senator Come, my captain knows you not.
MENENIUS I mean, thy general.
First Senator My general cares not for you. Back, I say, go; lest
I let forth your half-pint of blood; back,–that’s 60
the utmost of your having: back.
MENENIUS Nay, but, fellow, fellow,–
CORIOLANUS What’s the matter?
MENENIUS Now, you companion, I’ll say an errand for you:
You shall know now that I am in estimation; you shall 65
perceive that a Jack guardant cannot office 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 70
presently, and swoon for what’s to come upon thee.
The glorious gods sit in hourly synod 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 75
water to quench it. I was hardly moved 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 thy 80
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! 85
CORIOLANUS Wife, mother, child, I know not. My affairs
Are servanted to others: though I owe
My revenge properly, my remission lies
In Volscian breasts. That we have been familiar,
Ingrate forgetfulness shall poison, rather 90
Than pity note how much. Therefore, be gone.
Mine ears against your suits are stronger than
Your gates against my force. Yet, for I loved thee,
Take this along; I writ it for thy sake
[Gives a letter]
And would have rent it. Another word, Menenius, 95
I will not hear thee speak. This man, Aufidius,
Was my beloved in Rome: yet thou behold’st!
AUFIDIUS You keep a constant temper.
First Senator Now, sir, is your name Menenius?
Second Senator ‘Tis a spell, you see, of much power: you know the 100
way home again.
First Senator Do you hear how we are shent for keeping your
greatness back?
Second Senator What cause, do you think, I have to swoon?
MENENIUS I neither care for the world nor your general: for 105
such things as you, I can scarce think there’s any,
ye’re so slight. 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, 110
as I was said to, Away!
First Senator A noble fellow, I warrant him.
Second Senator The worthy fellow is our general: he’s the rock, the
oak not to be wind-shaken.

Next: Coriolanus, Act 5, Scene 3