Coriolanus

by: William Shakespeare

  Act 3 Scene 1

page Act 3 Scene 1 Page 5

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CORIOLANUS

How! no more!
As for my country I have shed my blood,
Not fearing outward force, so shall my lungs
100Coin words till their decay against those measles,
Which we disdain should tatter us, yet sought
The very way to catch them.

CORIOLANUS

What? No more? I have shed my blood for my country without fearing opposing forces, so my lungs will speak until the hated measles—that we caught by trying to help the people—cause us to become infected and die.

BRUTUS

You speak o’ the people,
As if you were a god to punish, not
105A man of their infirmity.

BRUTUS

You speak of the people as if you were a god to punish them, not a mortal man just like them.

SICINIUS

’Twere well
We let the people know’t.

SICINIUS

It would be a good idea for us to let the people know this.

MENENIUS

What, what? his choler?

MENENIUS

Know what? About his anger?

CORIOLANUS

Choler!
110Were I as patient as the midnight sleep,
By Jove, ’twould be my mind!

CORIOLANUS

Anger! If I were as calm as in midnight sleep, by Jove, this would still be my opinion!

SICINIUS

It is a mind
That shall remain a poison where it is,
Not poison any further.

SICINIUS

It’s a poisonous opinion that shall remain where it is and not poison any further.

CORIOLANUS

115Shall remain!
Hear you this Triton of the minnows? mark you
His absolute ‘shall’?

CORIOLANUS

“Shall remain”? Do you hear this, Triton of the minnows? Do you hear his absolute “shall”?

COMINIUS

’Twas from the canon.

COMINIUS

It was inappropriate.

CORIOLANUS

‘Shall’!
120O good but most unwise patricians! why,
You grave but reckless senators, have you thus
Given Hydra here to choose an officer,
That with his peremptory ‘shall,’ being but
The horn and noise o’ the monster’s, wants not spirit
125To say he’ll turn your current in a ditch,
And make your channel his? If he have power
Then vail your ignorance; if none, awake
Your dangerous lenity. If you are learn’d,
Be not as common fools; if you are not,
130Let them have cushions by you. You are plebeians,
If they be senators: and they are no less,
When, both your voices blended, the great’st taste
Most palates theirs. They choose their magistrate,
And such a one as he, who puts his ‘shall,’
135His popular ‘shall’ against a graver bench
Than ever frown in Greece. By Jove himself!
It makes the consuls base: and my soul aches
To know, when two authorities are up,
Neither supreme, how soon confusion
140May enter ’twixt the gap of both and take
The one by the other.

CORIOLANUS

“Shall”! Oh, good but most unwise nobleman! You dignified but reckless senators, why have you permitted this many-headed monster to choose a representative whose arrogant “shall” is just the monster’s noisy horn and who has the nerve to say he’ll take advantage of your power and use your resources for his own purposes? If he’s in power, then it’s your mistake that has you bowing to him. If not, then wake up from your dangerous tolerance of him. If you’re good leaders, don’t be common fools. If you’re not, let them have seats with you in the Senate. If they were senators, that would make you into commoners. And if you had equal say, the interests of the common people would outweigh yours. The people chose as their representative someone who addresses his “shall,” his common man’s command of “shall” to the most dignified legislature since the Greeks. By Jove himself! It lowers the position of the consuls and my soul aches to know, when there are two authorities and neither is supreme, how quickly chaos will arise in the space between them and use one to overthrow the other.