Coriolanus

by: William Shakespeare

  Act 1 Scene 4

page Act 1 Scene 4 Page 2

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20Hark! our drums
Are bringing forth our youth. We’ll break our walls,
Rather than they shall pound us up: our gates,
Which yet seem shut, we, have but pinn’d with rushes;
They’ll open of themselves.
(to the Volsces) Listen! Our drums are summoning our young soldiers. We’d rather break down our own walls than let them fence us in. Our gates, which look locked, are actually just gently shut. They’ll open on their own.
Alarum afar off
A trumpet is heard from far away.
25Hark you, far off!
There is Aufidius; list, what work he makes
Amongst your cloven army.
(to the Romans) Listen! In the distance, that’s Aufidius. Listen to how he’s beating your divided army.

MARTIUS

O, they are at it!

MARTIUS

Oh, they’re fighting each other!

LARTIUS

Their noise be our instruction. Ladders, ho!

LARTIUS

Their noise tells us what to do. Raise the ladders!
Enter the army of the Volsces
The Volscian army enters.

MARTIUS

30They fear us not, but issue forth their city.
Now put your shields before your hearts, and fight
With hearts more proof than shields. Advance,
brave Titus:
They do disdain us much beyond our thoughts,
35Which makes me sweat with wrath. Come on, my fellows:
He that retires I’ll take him for a Volsce,
And he shall feel mine edge.

MARTIUS

They’re not afraid of us—instead they march out of their own city. Cover your hearts with your shields now and fight with hearts that are stronger than these shields. Go forward, brave Titus. They hate us more than we think, which makes me sweat with anger. Come on, my fellow soldiers. Whoever hangs back, I’ll think you’re a Volsce, and you’ll feel the edge of my sword.
Alarum. The Romans are beat back to their trenches. Re-enter MARTIUS cursing
Trumpets sound. The Romans all exit, as they are beaten back to their trenches. MARTIUS re-enters, cursing.

MARTIUS

All the contagion of the south light on you,
You shames of Rome! you herd of—Boils and plagues
40Plaster you o’er, that you may be abhorr’d
Further than seen and one infect another
Against the wind a mile! You souls of geese,
That bear the shapes of men, how have you run
From slaves that apes would beat! Pluto and hell!
45All hurt behind; backs red, and faces pale
With flight and agued fear! Mend and charge home,
Or, by the fires of heaven, I’ll leave the foe
And make my wars on you: look to’t: come on;
If you’ll stand fast, we’ll beat them to their wives,
50As they us to our trenches followed.

MARTIUS

I curse you with the plague of the south, you shameful Romans! You bunch of—may blisters and infection cover over you so that people will smell you before they see you, and may your disease spread on the wind for a mile, even when the wind blows against you! You look like men, but you have the souls of geese. Why did you run from slaves that even apes could beat? Pluto, god of the dead and the underworld! You ran away and didn’t fight back; your backs are red with blood and your faces pale with fear! Pull yourselves together and charge again, or, by the fires of heaven, I’ll stop fighting the Volsces and attack you instead. Listen, if you can hold steady, we’ll beat them and take their wives. They’re in our trenches. Follow me!