Coriolanus

by: William Shakespeare

Original Text

Modern Text

COMINIUS

Well, on to the market-place.

COMINIUS

Let’s go on to the marketplace.

CORIOLANUS

Whoever gave that counsel, to give forth
The corn o’ the storehouse gratis, as ’twas used
145Sometime in Greece,—

CORIOLANUS

Whoever gave the advice to give out corn from the storehouse for free, as they used to do in Greece—

MENENIUS

Well, well, no more of that.

MENENIUS

That’s enough. No more talk of that.

CORIOLANUS

Though there the people had more absolute power,
I say, they nourish’d disobedience, fed
The ruin of the state.

CORIOLANUS

Even though the people had more absolute power in Greece, I think whoever gave that advice invited disobedience and caused the ruin of the state.

BRUTUS

150Why, shall the people give
One that speaks thus their voice?

BRUTUS

Should the people give up someone who speaks for them?

CORIOLANUS

I’ll give my reasons,
More worthier than their voices. They know the corn
Was not our recompense, resting well assured
155That ne’er did service for’t: being press’d to the war,
Even when the navel of the state was touch’d,
They would not thread the gates. This kind of service
Did not deserve corn gratis. Being i’ the war
Their mutinies and revolts, wherein they show’d
160Most valour, spoke not for them: the accusation
Which they have often made against the senate,
All cause unborn, could never be the motive
Of our so frank donation. Well, what then?
How shall this bisson multitude digest
165The senate’s courtesy? Let deeds express
What’s like to be their words: ‘we did request it;
We are the greater poll, and in true fear
They gave us our demands.’ Thus we debase
The nature of our seats and make the rabble
170Call our cares fears; which will in time
Break ope the locks o’ the senate and bring in
The crows to peck the eagles.

CORIOLANUS

I’ll give my reasons, which are worthier than their wishes. They know they didn’t earn the corn, as they certainly never did any service for it. Even when they were drafted to fight the war when the center of the state was threatened, they wouldn’t leave the city gates. This kind of service doesn’t deserve free corn. When they were in the war, their mutinies and revolts, which were the only times they showed any courage, didn’t speak well for them. Their frequent accusation that the Senate was hoarding corn had no basis, so it could never be the reason for our generous gift. Well, what then? How will this many-headed monster repay the Senate’s kindness? Let their actions express what their words should be: “We asked for it, we are the majority of the population, and out of fear they gave in to our demands.” In doing this we degrade the nature of our position and make the rabble think that our sympathy is fear. In time this will break open the locks of the Senate, and the scavengers will devour us.