Coriolanus

by: William Shakespeare

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COMINIUS

I shall lack voice: the deeds of Coriolanus
Should not be utter’d feebly. It is held
100That valour is the chiefest virtue, and
Most dignifies the haver: if it be,
The man I speak of cannot in the world
Be singly counterpoised. At sixteen years,
When Tarquin made a head for Rome, he fought
105Beyond the mark of others: our then dictator,
Whom with all praise I point at, saw him fight,
When with his Amazonian chin he drove
The bristled lips before him: be bestrid
An o’er-press’d Roman and i’ the consul’s view
110Slew three opposers: Tarquin’s self he met,
And struck him on his knee: in that day’s feats,
When he might act the woman in the scene,
He proved best man i’ the field, and for his meed
Was brow-bound with the oak. His pupil age
115Man-enter’d thus, he waxed like a sea,
And in the brunt of seventeen battles since
He lurch’d all swords of the garland. For this last,
Before and in Corioli, let me say,
I cannot speak him home: he stopp’d the fliers;
120And by his rare example made the coward
Turn terror into sport: as weeds before
A vessel under sail, so men obey’d
And fell below his stem: his sword, death’s stamp,
Where it did mark, it took; from face to foot
125He was a thing of blood, whose every motion
Was timed with dying cries: alone he enter’d
The mortal gate of the city, which he painted
With shunless destiny; aidless came off,
And with a sudden reinforcement struck
130Corioli like a planet: now all’s his:
When, by and by, the din of war gan pierce
His ready sense; then straight his doubled spirit
Re-quicken’d what in flesh was fatigate,
And to the battle came he; where he did
135Run reeking o’er the lives of men, as if ’Twere a perpetual spoil: and till we call’d
Both field and city ours, he never stood
To ease his breast with panting.

COMINIUS

I won’t say much. The deeds of Coriolanus shouldn’t be spoken of lightly. It’s well known that courage is the highest virtue and brings the highest dignity to whoever has it. And if that’s true, there’s no one in the world who is more dignified than the man I speak of. At age sixteen, when Tarquin attacked Rome, his fighting exceeded everyone else’s. Our former leader, whom I reference with all praise, saw him fight victoriously against adults when he was still young and had a beardless chin. He protected the overwhelmed Romans and as the consul watched, he defeated three enemies. He fought Tarquin himself and brought him to his knees. In that day of fighting, when he was young enough to play a woman on stage, he proved to be the best man in the field, and he was rewarded with a garland of oak. He entered into manhood, though he was still a boy, with the force of a rising tide. He has led the attack in seventeen battles since then, and he has won the garland over his fellow soldiers every time. As for this last battle, outside of and within Corioles, I have no words to describe what he did. He stopped the Roman deserters and by his rare example made these cowards overcome their fear and become warriors. The men obeyed and fell beneath his prow like waves beneath a sailboat. Wherever he swung his sword, he marked the sign of death. From head to toe he was covered in blood, and his every motion was followed by dying cries. He entered the deadly gate of the city alone, and he painted it with the blood of their inevitable destiny. Without help, he retreated, but with a sudden burst of energy he attacked Corioles with the force of a planet. Then the city was all his. After a while, as the noise of war began to wear him down, his spirit reinvigorated his tired body, and he came back to the battle and ran furiously at the enemy, as if it were an endless slaughter. He never stopped to catch his breath until both the field and city were ours.