Coriolanus

by: William Shakespeare

Original Text

Modern Text

CORIOLANUS

45What must I do?

CORIOLANUS

What should I do?

MENENIUS

Return to the tribunes.

MENENIUS

Return to the tribunes.

CORIOLANUS

Well, what then? what then?

CORIOLANUS

And then what?

MENENIUS

Repent what you have spoke.

MENENIUS

Take back what you said.

CORIOLANUS

For them! I cannot do it to the gods;
50Must I then do’t to them?

CORIOLANUS

For them! I can’t take back what I’ve said to the gods, but I must I take back what I’ve said to the people?

VOLUMNIA

You are too absolute;
Though therein you can never be too noble,
But when extremities speak. I have heard you say,
Honour and policy, like unsever’d friends,
55I’ the war do grow together: grant that, and tell me,
In peace what each of them by the other lose,
That they combine not there.

VOLUMNIA

You’re too rigid. You can never be too noble, except in extreme circumstances. I’ve heard you say that in war, honor and strategy go together. If that’s the case, tell me, why wouldn’t they also go together in times of peace?

CORIOLANUS

Tush, tush!

CORIOLANUS

Hush, hush!

MENENIUS

A good demand.

MENENIUS

That’s a good question.

VOLUMNIA

60If it be honour in your wars to seem
The same you are not, which, for your best ends,
You adopt your policy, how is it less or worse,
That it shall hold companionship in peace
With honour, as in war, since that to both
65It stands in like request?

VOLUMNIA

If it’s honorable in war to pretend to be other than how you are, if it serves your end goal, why is it less honorable to do so in times of peace?

CORIOLANUS

Why force you this?

CORIOLANUS

Why do you ask?

VOLUMNIA

Because that now it lies you on to speak
To the people; not by your own instruction,
Nor by the matter which your heart prompts you,
70But with such words that are but rooted in
Your tongue, though but bastards and syllables
Of no allowance to your bosom’s truth.
Now, this no more dishonours you at all
Than to take in a town with gentle words,
75Which else would put you to your fortune and
The hazard of much blood.
I would dissemble with my nature where
My fortunes and my friends at stake required
I should do so in honour: I am in this,
80Your wife, your son, these senators, the nobles;
And you will rather show our general louts
How you can frown than spend a fawn upon ’em,
For the inheritance of their loves and safeguard
Of what that want might ruin.

VOLUMNIA

Because you have to speak to the people now—and not to give them instructions or to talk from your heart. What you say can’t reflect the truth of what you really feel. However, this doesn’t dishonor you any more than it would to capture a town with flattering words, a town that would otherwise take your fortune and spill your blood. I would feel it honorable to hide my real nature if my fortune and my friends were at risk. I speak for your wife, your son, these senators, and the nobles about this: you’d prefer to show the miserable commoners how you frown than flatter them in any way, even for the sake of their approval and to protect what might be ruined without it.