by: William Shakespeare

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Modern Text

Rome. Before a gate of the city.
A city gate in Rome.
CORIOLANUS, VOLUMNIA, VIRGILIA, MENENIUS, and COMINIUS enter, with the young nobles.
Come, leave your tears: a brief farewell: the beast
Where is your ancient courage? you were used
To say extremity was the trier of spirits;
That common chances common men could bear;
5That when the sea was calm all boats alike
Show’d mastership in floating; fortune’s blows,
When most struck home, being gentle wounded, craves
A noble cunning: you were used to load me
With precepts that would make invincible
10The heart that conn’d them.
Stop crying now. A brief farewell! The people, like a many-headed beast, push me out. Stop it, mother. What happened to your courage? You used to say that adversity was a test of character. That even common people can handle the chance circumstances of their lives. That when the sea is calm all boats float equally well. That when fate strikes you hardest, you must have the skill of a nobleman to endure your wounds with dignity. You used to repeat these sayings to me, sayings that would make anyone who heard them enough invincible.
O heavens! O heavens!
Oh, heavens! Oh, heavens!
Nay! prithee, woman,—
Stop it! Please, woman—
Now the red pestilence strike all trades in Rome,
And occupations perish!
Now the typhoid fever strikes all the tradesmen in Rome and the economy is crumbling!
15What, what, what!
I shall be loved when I am lack’d. Nay, mother.
Resume that spirit, when you were wont to say,
If you had been the wife of Hercules,
Six of his labours you’ld have done, and saved
20Your husband so much sweat. Cominius,
Droop not; adieu. Farewell, my wife, my mother:
I’ll do well yet. Thou old and true Menenius,
Thy tears are salter than a younger man’s,
And venomous to thine eyes. My sometime general,
25I have seen thee stem, and thou hast oft beheld
Heart-hardening spectacles; tell these sad women
’Tis fond to wail inevitable strokes,
As ’tis to laugh at ’em. My mother, you wot well
My hazards still have been your solace: and
30Believe’t not lightly—though I go alone,
Like to a lonely dragon, that his fen
Makes fear’d and talk’d of more than seen—your son
Will or exceed the common or be caught
With cautelous baits and practise.
Enough, enough, enough! You’ll love me when I’m gone. Stop it, mother. Bring back your old spirit, when you used to say that if you had been the wife of Hercules, you would have done six of his twelve required tasks and saved him that much effort. Cominius, don’t despair. Goodbye. Farewell, my wife, my mother—I’ll be fine. My old and true friend Menenius, you cry more than a young man, and the salt is bad for your eyes. My former general, I have seen you be brave, and you have seen many heart-hardening spectacles. Tell these sad women that it’s as foolish to cry over inevitabilities as it is to laugh at them. Mother, you’ve always taken comfort in the risks that I take. Know this for a fact: even though I go alone, like a lonely dragon whose swamp is more feared and talked about than it is seen, I will either exceed common expectations or be caught by crafty traps and trickery.