Coriolanus

by: William Shakespeare

  Act 4 Scene 7

page Act 4 Scene 7 Page 2

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LIEUTENANT

Sir, I beseech you, think you he’ll carry Rome?

LIEUTENANT

Sir, I beg you, do you think he’ll conquer Rome?

AUFIDIUS

30All places yield to him ere he sits down;
And the nobility of Rome are his:
The senators and patricians love him too:
The tribunes are no soldiers; and their people
Will be as rash in the repeal, as hasty
35To expel him thence. I think he’ll be to Rome
As is the osprey to the fish, who takes it
By sovereignty of nature. First he was
A noble servant to them; but he could not
Carry his honours even: whether ’twas pride,
40Which out of daily fortune ever taints
The happy man; whether defect of judgment,
To fail in the disposing of those chances
Which he was lord of; or whether nature,
Not to be other than one thing, not moving
45From the casque to the cushion, but commanding peace
Even with the same austerity and garb
As he controll’d the war; but one of these—
As he hath spices of them all, not all,
For I dare so far free him—made him fear’d,
50So hated, and so banish’d: but he has a merit,
To choke it in the utterance. So our virtues
Lie in the interpretation of the time:
And power, unto itself most commendable,
Hath not a tomb so evident as a chair
55To extol what it hath done.
One fire drives out one fire; one nail, one nail;
Rights by rights falter, strengths by strengths do fail.
Come, let’s away. When, Caius, Rome is thine,
Thou art poor’st of all; then shortly art thou mine.

AUFIDIUS

Wherever he goes, they yield to him before he begins to attack. The young nobles of Rome, the senators, and the patricians all support him. The tribunes aren’t soldiers, and their people will be as quick to reverse their judgment of him as they were to throw him out. I think he’ll be to Rome like the fish hawk is to the fish: the fish will submit by its nature. At first he was a noble servant to them, but he couldn’t handle the honors bestowed upon him. Whether it was pride—winning in battle all the time always makes men prideful—or whether it was a failure of judgment that he was unable to take advantage of the opportunities he had, or whether it was just his nature not to evolve from wearing the helmet of a soldier to the sitting on the cushion of a senator, to command peace in the same austere way that he commanded the wars. One of these—he has some of each but none in their entirety—caused him to be feared and so despised that he was banished. But all his merits should stop us from listing his faults. Time will tell whether one is judged as virtuous. Powerful men think their power is praiseworthy, but nothing destroys power faster than publicly proclaiming it. One fire burns out another, one nail hammers out another nail, and righteousness and strength crumble under their own weight. Come, let’s go. Caius, when Rome is yours, you will be the poorest of them all. And then you’ll be mine.