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Coriolanus
Act 1, scene 1

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Entire Play

As Coriolanus begins, two Roman patricians, Menenius and Martius, calm a revolt by the city’s famished plebians. Martius, who despises the plebians,…

Act 1, scene 1

Rome’s famished plebeians threaten revolt, and the patrician Menenius attempts to placate them. Martius announces that the plebeians, whom he…

Act 1, scene 2

Aufidius and Volscian senators discuss the Roman preparations for war.

Act 1, scene 3

Volumnia, Martius’s mother, and Virgilia, his wife, are visited by Valeria, who brings news of Martius at Corioles.

Act 1, scene 4

Before the Romans can besiege Corioles, the Volscians emerge to attack them. Martius rallies the troops to beat the Volscians…

Act 1, scene 5

Leaving Lartius to secure Corioles, Martius goes to the aid of the Roman general Cominius on the battlefield near the…

Act 1, scene 6

Martius joins Cominius and inspires the Roman troops to further combat.

Act 1, scene 7

Having secured Corioles, Lartius leaves to join Cominius.

Act 1, scene 8

Martius defeats Aufidius and his Volscian supporters.

Act 1, scene 9

Cominius awards Martius the name Coriolanus for his service at Corioles.

Act 1, scene 10

Aufidius vows to destroy Coriolanus by any means possible.

Act 2, scene 1

Coriolanus is welcomed back to Rome by his family and Menenius, and is expected to be elected consul. (Coriolanus’s entry…

Act 2, scene 2

The Senate meets to hear Cominius praise Coriolanus in a formal oration and then to choose Coriolanus as its nominee…

Act 2, scene 3

According to custom, Coriolanus asks a number of individual plebeians for their votes. Although he mocks them, they consent to…

Act 3, scene 1

Learning that the plebeians have revoked their votes, Coriolanus publicly attacks the decision that had given the people tribunes. Accusing…

Act 3, scene 2

The patricians and Volumnia persuade Coriolanus to pretend to tolerate the plebeians and their tribunes.

Act 3, scene 3

When the tribunes call Coriolanus a traitor, he angrily insults them, and they first impose a death sentence and then…

Act 4, scene 1

Coriolanus says goodbye to his family and closest supporters.

Act 4, scene 2

Meeting the tribunes, Volumnia and Virgilia curse them.

Act 4, scene 3

A Roman informer tells a Volscian spy of Coriolanus’s banishment.

Act 4, scene 4

Coriolanus comes to the Volscian city of Antium in search of Aufidius.

Act 4, scene 5

Coriolanus offers to join Aufidius in making war on Rome.

Act 4, scene 6

The tribunes’ delight in Coriolanus’s banishment is interrupted by news that an army led by him and Aufidius has invaded…

Act 4, scene 7

Aufidius, offended by the Volscian soldiers’ preference for Coriolanus, begins plotting against him.

Act 5, scene 1

After Cominius fails to persuade Coriolanus not to destroy Rome, Menenius agrees to try.

Act 5, scene 2

Menenius fails to shake Coriolanus’s determination to destroy Rome.

Act 5, scene 3

Volumnia, accompanied by Virgilia, Valeria, and young Martius, persuades Coriolanus to spare Rome.

Act 5, scene 4

News arrives in Rome of Volumnia’s success.

Act 5, scene 5

The Romans honor Volumnia as she returns.

Act 5, scene 6

Aufidius and his fellow conspirators, on their return to Corioles, publicly assassinate Coriolanus.

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Scene 1
Enter a company of mutinous Citizens with staves,
clubs, and other weapons.


FIRST CITIZEN Before we proceed any further, hear me
 speak.
ALL Speak, speak!
FIRST CITIZEN You are all resolved rather to die than to
5 famish?
ALL Resolved, resolved!
FIRST CITIZEN First, you know Caius Martius is chief
 enemy to the people.
ALL We know ’t, we know ’t!
FIRST CITIZEN 10Let us kill him, and we’ll have corn at
 our own price. Is ’t a verdict?
ALL No more talking on ’t; let it be done. Away, away!
SECOND CITIZEN One word, good citizens.
FIRST CITIZEN We are accounted poor citizens, the patricians
15 good. What authority surfeits on would
 relieve us. If they would yield us but the superfluity
 while it were wholesome, we might guess they
 relieved us humanely. But they think we are too
 dear. The leanness that afflicts us, the object of our
20 misery, is as an inventory to particularize their
 abundance; our sufferance is a gain to them. Let
 us revenge this with our pikes ere we become
7

9
Coriolanus
ACT 1. SC. 1

 rakes; for the gods know I speak this in hunger for
 bread, not in thirst for revenge.
SECOND CITIZEN 25Would you proceed especially against
 Caius Martius?
ALL Against him first. He’s a very dog to the
 commonalty.
SECOND CITIZEN Consider you what services he has
30 done for his country?
FIRST CITIZEN Very well, and could be content to give
 him good report for ’t, but that he pays himself
 with being proud.
SECOND CITIZEN Nay, but speak not maliciously.
FIRST CITIZEN 35I say unto you, what he hath done
 famously he did it to that end. Though soft-conscienced
 men can be content to say it was for
 his country, he did it to please his mother and to be
 partly proud, which he is, even to the altitude of
40 his virtue.
SECOND CITIZEN What he cannot help in his nature you
 account a vice in him. You must in no way say he
 is covetous.
FIRST CITIZEN If I must not, I need not be barren of accusations.
45 He hath faults, with surplus, to tire in
 repetition. (Shouts within.) What shouts are these?
 The other side o’ th’ city is risen. Why stay we prating
 here? To th’ Capitol!
ALL Come, come!

Enter Menenius Agrippa.

FIRST CITIZEN 50Soft, who comes here?
SECOND CITIZEN Worthy Menenius Agrippa, one that
 hath always loved the people.
FIRST CITIZEN He’s one honest enough. Would all the
 rest were so!

11
Coriolanus
ACT 1. SC. 1

MENENIUS 
55 What work ’s, my countrymen, in hand? Where go
 you
 With bats and clubs? The matter? Speak, I pray you.
SECOND CITIZEN Our business is not unknown to th’
 Senate. They have had inkling this fortnight what
60 we intend to do, which now we’ll show ’em in
 deeds. They say poor suitors have strong breaths;
 they shall know we have strong arms too.
MENENIUS 
 Why, masters, my good friends, mine honest
 neighbors,
65 Will you undo yourselves?
SECOND CITIZEN 
 We cannot, sir; we are undone already.
MENENIUS 
 I tell you, friends, most charitable care
 Have the patricians of you. For your wants,
 Your suffering in this dearth, you may as well
70 Strike at the heaven with your staves as lift them
 Against the Roman state, whose course will on
 The way it takes, cracking ten thousand curbs
 Of more strong link asunder than can ever
 Appear in your impediment. For the dearth,
75 The gods, not the patricians, make it, and
 Your knees to them, not arms, must help. Alack,
 You are transported by calamity
 Thither where more attends you, and you slander
 The helms o’ th’ state, who care for you like fathers,
80 When you curse them as enemies.
SECOND CITIZEN Care for us? True, indeed! They ne’er
 cared for us yet. Suffer us to famish, and their
 storehouses crammed with grain; make edicts for
 usury to support usurers; repeal daily any wholesome
85 act established against the rich, and provide
 more piercing statutes daily to chain up and restrain

13
Coriolanus
ACT 1. SC. 1

 the poor. If the wars eat us not up, they will;
 and there’s all the love they bear us.
MENENIUS 
 Either you must confess yourselves wondrous
90 malicious
 Or be accused of folly. I shall tell you
 A pretty tale. It may be you have heard it,
 But since it serves my purpose, I will venture
 To stale ’t a little more.
SECOND CITIZEN 95Well, I’ll hear it, sir; yet you must not
 think to fob off our disgrace with a tale. But, an ’t
 please you, deliver.
MENENIUS 
 There was a time when all the body’s members
 Rebelled against the belly, thus accused it:
100 That only like a gulf it did remain
 I’ th’ midst o’ th’ body, idle and unactive,
 Still cupboarding the viand, never bearing
 Like labor with the rest, where th’ other instruments
 Did see and hear, devise, instruct, walk, feel,
105 And, mutually participate, did minister
 Unto the appetite and affection common
 Of the whole body. The belly answered—
SECOND CITIZEN Well, sir, what answer made the belly?
MENENIUS 
 Sir, I shall tell you. With a kind of smile,
110 Which ne’er came from the lungs, but even thus—
 For, look you, I may make the belly smile
 As well as speak—it tauntingly replied
 To th’ discontented members, the mutinous parts
 That envied his receipt; even so most fitly
115 As you malign our senators for that
 They are not such as you.
SECOND CITIZEN Your belly’s answer—what?
 The kingly crownèd head, the vigilant eye,
 The counselor heart, the arm our soldier,

15
Coriolanus
ACT 1. SC. 1

120 Our steed the leg, the tongue our trumpeter,
 With other muniments and petty helps
 In this our fabric, if that they—
MENENIUS  What then?
 ’Fore me, this fellow speaks. What then? What then?
SECOND CITIZEN 
125 Should by the cormorant belly be restrained,
 Who is the sink o’ th’ body—
MENENIUS  Well, what then?
SECOND CITIZEN 
 The former agents, if they did complain,
 What could the belly answer?
MENENIUS 130 I will tell you,
 If you’ll bestow a small—of what you have little—
 Patience awhile, you’st hear the belly’s answer.
SECOND CITIZEN 
 You’re long about it.
MENENIUS  Note me this, good friend;
135 Your most grave belly was deliberate,
 Not rash like his accusers, and thus answered:
 “True is it, my incorporate friends,” quoth he,
 “That I receive the general food at first
 Which you do live upon; and fit it is,
140 Because I am the storehouse and the shop
 Of the whole body. But, if you do remember,
 I send it through the rivers of your blood
 Even to the court, the heart, to th’ seat o’ th’ brain;
 And, through the cranks and offices of man,
145 The strongest nerves and small inferior veins
 From me receive that natural competency
 Whereby they live. And though that all at once,
 You, my good friends”—this says the belly, mark
 me—
SECOND CITIZEN 
150 Ay, sir, well, well.

17
Coriolanus
ACT 1. SC. 1

MENENIUS  “Though all at once cannot
 See what I do deliver out to each,
 Yet I can make my audit up, that all
 From me do back receive the flour of all,
155 And leave me but the bran.” What say you to ’t?
SECOND CITIZEN 
 It was an answer. How apply you this?
MENENIUS 
 The senators of Rome are this good belly,
 And you the mutinous members. For examine
 Their counsels and their cares, digest things rightly
160 Touching the weal o’ th’ common, you shall find
 No public benefit which you receive
 But it proceeds or comes from them to you
 And no way from yourselves. What do you think,
 You, the great toe of this assembly?
SECOND CITIZEN 165I the great toe? Why the great toe?
MENENIUS 
 For that, being one o’ th’ lowest, basest, poorest,
 Of this most wise rebellion, thou goest foremost.
 Thou rascal, that art worst in blood to run,
 Lead’st first to win some vantage.
170 But make you ready your stiff bats and clubs.
 Rome and her rats are at the point of battle;
 The one side must have bale.

Enter Caius Martius.

 Hail, noble Martius.
MARTIUS 
 Thanks.—What’s the matter, you dissentious rogues,
175 That, rubbing the poor itch of your opinion,
 Make yourselves scabs?
SECOND CITIZEN We have ever your good word.
MARTIUS 
 He that will give good words to thee will flatter
 Beneath abhorring. What would you have, you curs,

19
Coriolanus
ACT 1. SC. 1

180 That like nor peace nor war? The one affrights you;
 The other makes you proud. He that trusts to you,
 Where he should find you lions, finds you hares;
 Where foxes, geese. You are no surer, no,
 Than is the coal of fire upon the ice
185 Or hailstone in the sun. Your virtue is
 To make him worthy whose offense subdues him,
 And curse that justice did it. Who deserves greatness
 Deserves your hate; and your affections are
 A sick man’s appetite, who desires most that
190 Which would increase his evil. He that depends
 Upon your favors swims with fins of lead,
 And hews down oaks with rushes. Hang you! Trust
 you?
 With every minute you do change a mind
195 And call him noble that was now your hate,
 Him vile that was your garland. What’s the matter,
 That in these several places of the city
 You cry against the noble senate, who,
 Under the gods, keep you in awe, which else
200 Would feed on one another?—What’s their seeking?
MENENIUS 
 For corn at their own rates, whereof they say
 The city is well stored.
MARTIUS  Hang ’em! They say?
 They’ll sit by th’ fire and presume to know
205 What’s done i’ th’ Capitol, who’s like to rise,
 Who thrives, and who declines; side factions and
 give out
 Conjectural marriages, making parties strong
 And feebling such as stand not in their liking
210 Below their cobbled shoes. They say there’s grain
 enough?
 Would the nobility lay aside their ruth
 And let me use my sword, I’d make a quarry

21
Coriolanus
ACT 1. SC. 1

 With thousands of these quartered slaves as high
215 As I could pick my lance.
MENENIUS 
 Nay, these are almost thoroughly persuaded;
 For though abundantly they lack discretion,
 Yet are they passing cowardly. But I beseech you,
 What says the other troop?
MARTIUS 220 They are dissolved. Hang
 ’em!
 They said they were an-hungry, sighed forth
 proverbs
 That hunger broke stone walls, that dogs must eat,
225 That meat was made for mouths, that the gods sent
 not
 Corn for the rich men only. With these shreds
 They vented their complainings, which being
 answered
230 And a petition granted them—a strange one,
 To break the heart of generosity
 And make bold power look pale—they threw their
 caps
 As they would hang them on the horns o’ th’ moon,
235 Shouting their emulation.
MENENIUS  What is granted them?
MARTIUS 
 Five tribunes to defend their vulgar wisdoms,
 Of their own choice. One’s Junius Brutus,
 Sicinius Velutus, and I know not. ’Sdeath!
240 The rabble should have first unroofed the city
 Ere so prevailed with me. It will in time
 Win upon power and throw forth greater themes
 For insurrection’s arguing.
MENENIUS This is strange.
MARTIUS 245Go get you home, you fragments.

Enter a Messenger hastily.


23
Coriolanus
ACT 1. SC. 1

MESSENGER 
 Where’s Caius Martius?
MARTIUS  Here. What’s the matter?
MESSENGER 
 The news is, sir, the Volsces are in arms.
MARTIUS 
 I am glad on ’t. Then we shall ha’ means to vent
250 Our musty superfluity.

Enter Sicinius Velutus, Junius Brutus, (two Tribunes);
Cominius, Titus Lartius, with other Senators.


 See our best elders.
FIRST SENATOR 
 Martius, ’tis true that you have lately told us:
 The Volsces are in arms.
MARTIUS  They have a leader,
255 Tullus Aufidius, that will put you to ’t.
 I sin in envying his nobility,
 And, were I anything but what I am,
 I would wish me only he.
COMINIUS  You have fought together?
MARTIUS 
260 Were half to half the world by th’ ears and he
 Upon my party, I’d revolt, to make
 Only my wars with him. He is a lion
 That I am proud to hunt.
FIRST SENATOR  Then, worthy Martius,
265 Attend upon Cominius to these wars.
COMINIUS 
 It is your former promise.
MARTIUS  Sir, it is,
 And I am constant.—Titus Lartius, thou
 Shalt see me once more strike at Tullus’ face.
270 What, art thou stiff? Stand’st out?

25
Coriolanus
ACT 1. SC. 1

LARTIUS  No, Caius Martius,
 I’ll lean upon one crutch and fight with t’ other
 Ere stay behind this business.
MENENIUS  O, true bred!
FIRST SENATOR 
275 Your company to th’ Capitol, where I know
 Our greatest friends attend us.
LARTIUS, to Cominius  Lead you on.—
 To Martius. Follow Cominius. We must follow you;
 Right worthy you priority.
COMINIUS 280 Noble Martius.
FIRST SENATOR, to the Citizens 
 Hence to your homes, begone.
MARTIUS  Nay, let them follow.
 The Volsces have much corn; take these rats thither
 To gnaw their garners.
Citizens steal away.
285 Worshipful mutineers,
 Your valor puts well forth.—Pray follow.
They exit. Sicinius and Brutus remain.
SICINIUS 
 Was ever man so proud as is this Martius?
BRUTUS He has no equal.
SICINIUS 
 When we were chosen tribunes for the people—
BRUTUS 
290 Marked you his lip and eyes?
SICINIUS  Nay, but his taunts.
BRUTUS 
 Being moved, he will not spare to gird the gods—
SICINIUS Bemock the modest moon.
BRUTUS 
 The present wars devour him! He is grown
295 Too proud to be so valiant.

27
Coriolanus
ACT 1. SC. 2

SICINIUS  Such a nature,
 Tickled with good success, disdains the shadow
 Which he treads on at noon. But I do wonder
 His insolence can brook to be commanded
300 Under Cominius.
BRUTUS  Fame, at the which he aims,
 In whom already he’s well graced, cannot
 Better be held nor more attained than by
 A place below the first; for what miscarries
305 Shall be the General’s fault, though he perform
 To th’ utmost of a man, and giddy censure
 Will then cry out of Martius “O, if he
 Had borne the business!”
SICINIUS  Besides, if things go well,
310 Opinion that so sticks on Martius shall
 Of his demerits rob Cominius.
BRUTUS  Come.
 Half all Cominius’ honors are to Martius,
 Though Martius earned them not, and all his faults
315 To Martius shall be honors, though indeed
 In aught he merit not.
SICINIUS  Let’s hence and hear
 How the dispatch is made, and in what fashion,
 More than his singularity, he goes
320 Upon this present action.
BRUTUS  Let’s along.
They exit.