Coriolanus Important Quotes

Quotes in Context

"A Cup Of Hot Wine, With Not A Drop Of Allaying Tiber In It"

Context: The renowned Roman general Caius Martius, dubbed Coriolanus for his victory at Corioles, is nevertheless hated by the mobs of Rome, already disgruntled because of famine. Menenius, a popular patrician and friend of Coriolanus, chides Sicinius and Brutus, elected tribunes of the people, for their condemnation of Coriolanus for his pride while they, too, are proud and with little reason. Menenius, dismissing Sicinius and Brutus as "a brace of unmeriting, proud, violent, testy magistrates, alias fools," is told by Sicinius that his reputation is also known in Rome. Menenius then sums up his own reputation:


MENENIUS
I am known to be a humorous patrician, and one that loves a cup of hot wine, with not a drop of allaying Tiber in't; said to be something imperfect in favouring the first complaint, hasty and tinderlike upon too trivial motion; one that converses more with the buttock of the night than with the forehead of the morning. What I think I utter, and spend my malice in my breath. . . .

"Death By Inches"

Context: Coriolanus, after having been banished from Rome by the tribunes because of his arrogance and contempt for the Roman rabble, has made peace with the Volcians, whom he conquered for Rome, and is now leading a force of these his former enemies against the Romans, his former friends. Coriolanus and his army are camped outside Rome threatening her destruction. The Romans have sent emissaries of former friends of Coriolanus to urge him to spare the city, but he has refused. Now in a last effort Rome has sent out Coriolanus's mother, wife, and son. As the city awaits the outcome of this effort, Sicinius, a tribune, and Menenius, a former friend of Coriolanus, are talking about the chances of Coriolanus's relenting. Menenius thinks that the chances are slight because Coriolanus is now an "engine" bent only on destruction. A messenger enters with news about how fear among the Roman people has caused them to panic.


MESSENGER
Sir, if you'd save your life, fly to your house.
The plebeians have got your fellow tribune,
And hale him up and down; all swearing, if
The Roman ladies bring not comfort home
They'll give him death by inches.

"Fill Ithaca Full Of Moths"

Context: Caius Martius is a noble but haughty general of Rome. He is away from the city leading his forces against the Volcians. During his absence his wife, Virgilia, fears for his safety and prefers to remain in retirement until his return. A friend, Valeria, asks her to go visiting with her, but Virgilia adamantly refuses to go out of doors and resumes her sewing. Valeria chides her for being like Penelope, who, spinning away the time during her husband's absence, did more harm than good and thus wasted her labor.


VALERIA
You would be another Penelope; yet they say, all the yarn she spun in Ulysses' absence did but fill Ithaca full of moths. . . . Come you shall go with us.

"Like A Great Sea-mark Standing Every Flaw"

Context: Having been unjustly banished from Rome and his family, Coriolanus has joined forces with his sworn enemy, Aufidius, and the Volscian army. Under the guidance of Coriolanus, this army scores a number of successes and is soon standing before the gates of Rome. Coriolanus has revenge within his reach; Rome is powerless before him. He who was once Rome's savior is now ready to destroy her. The Senate sends an old friend to persuade Coriolanus to spare the city. Coriolanus refuses: "Wife, mother, child, I know not. My affairs/ Are servanted to others. Though I owe/ My revenge properly, my remission lies/ In Volscian breasts." The Roman Senators, in a final effort to hold off the doom that threatens the city, send forth the mother, wife, and child, whom Coriolanus has sworn to "know not." Before his mother's logic and appeal, Coriolanus is faced with an impossible choice. If he denies his own flesh, he will destroy his good name for all history; if he spares Rome, he will probably be killed by the Volscians. Volumnia realizes full well what she is asking, and she begins her attack on her son by presenting him his child:


VOLUMNIA
This is a poor epitome of yours,
Which by th' interpretation of full time
May show like all yourself.
CORIOLANUS
The god of soldiers,
With the consent of supreme Jove, inform
Thy thoughts with nobleness, that thou mayst prove
To shame invulnerable, and stick i' th' wars
Like a great sea-mark standing every flaw,
And saving those that eye thee.

"Like An Eagle In The Dove Cote"

Context: Caius Martius, Roman general, leads his forces against the Volcians and defeats them near Corioles, their capital. He is given the surname Coriolanus by his troops and returns home in triumph. Martius, now Coriolanus, despises the Roman rabble, and they hate him. When the Senate rewards him by nominating him as Consul, he reluctantly exhibits himself in the Forum, shows his wounds, and solicits votes as tradition demands. The people give him their support but, as he is preparing to leave, the fickle public, led by two dissident tribunes, turns on him, fearful he will take away their liberties. Incapable of tact, flattery, or compromise, Coriolanus is banished. Bitterly, he joins his old enemies; and their leader, Aufidius, amazed at Rome's ingratitude, accepts him as his equal. They march on Rome, sweeping all in their way, but Aufidius resents Coriolanus' popularity with the Volcians and swears vengeance. Coriolanus is finally dissuaded from sacking Rome by his mother and wife, who intercede for the city, and he agrees to make peace between the two nations. Now, at Corioles, Aufidius accuses Coriolanus of treason and of making a disgraceful peace. He is inciting the Volcians against Coriolanus, and the latter, incapable of cajolery, flares out in anger and pride, referring to his initial victory over them, and seems to invite death.


CORIOLANUS
Cut me to pieces Volces; men and lads,
Stain all your edges on me. Boy! False hound!
If you have writ your annals true, 'tis there,
That like an eagle in a dove-cote I
Fluttered your Volcians in Corioles.
Alone I did it, boy!

"Nature Teaches Beasts To Know Their Friends"

Context: Caius Martius, an extremely proud, noble general of Rome, hates the rabble of the city, who are rebelling because of a famine. He has no compassion for them but lashes out at them as a cowardly, fickle, stupid mob. He welcomes the news that the Volcians, old enemies of Rome, are up in arms again, for it is a means of draining off the rebellious segment of the populace. He leads the Romans in battle and defeats the Volcians near Corioles, their capital, and is thenceforth called Coriolanus. During his absence from Rome, the enmity that the people have for this man of overweening pride does not diminish. Sicinius and Brutus, tribunes of the people, side with them, while Menenius, a friend of the general, tries to defend him.


MENENIUS
The augurer tells me we shall have news to-night.
BRUTUS
Good or bad?
MENENIUS
Not according to the prayer of the people, for they love not Martius.
SICINIUS
Nature teaches beasts to know their friends.
MENENIUS
Pray you, who does the wolf love?

"Pride, Which Out Of Daily Fortune Ever Taints The Happy Man"

Context: Caius Martius, a brilliant general, leads the Roman forces against the Volcians, ancient enemies led by Aufidius, and defeats them near their capital, Corioles. He is named Coriolanus by his troops and returns to Rome in triumph. The Senate nominates him for Consul, but his tactless scorn for the common man and hate for the rabble do not endear him to them or their tribunes. They turn on him and obtain his banishment from Rome. He curses Rome and, leaving the city defenseless, joins his old foes the Volcians led by Aufidius, who accetps him as a commander equal in rank to himself. Together, they lead the Volcians against Rome. Aufidius, however, realizes Coriolanus is overshadowing him with his troops and resents him. He discusses Coriolanus and Rome with another officer.


AUFIDIUS
. . .
First, he was
A noble servant to them, but he could not
Carry his honours even: whether 'twas pride,
Which out of daily fortune ever taints
The happy man; whether defect of judgement,
. . . or whether nature, . . .
. . . made him feared,
So hated, and so banished:
. . .

"The Mutable, Rank-scented Many"

Context: Coriolanus has returned to Rome fresh from his astounding feats at the battle of Corioli, where, singlehanded, he captured the enemy town. The Roman Senate rewards him with the office of Consul. However, in order to be confirmed in the office, Coroilanus must perform the ceremony of seeking the confirmation of the plebeians. From his very birth Coriolanus has been bred to fight, to be proud, and to despise the plebeians. He seeks the consulship because his mother, Volumnia, wishes him to do so. Reluctantly he goes through the degrading process of begging the masses for their support. His aristocratic pride, which is his virtue, is here a weakness which leaves him at the mercy of his enemies. Although he is elected according to the custom, his enemies arouse the masses to revoke the election before it is confirmed. When urged by his friends to curb his pride, Coriolanus will not back down. He tells his friends:

. . . My nobler friends,
I crave their pardons.
For the mutable, rank-scented many, let them
Regard me as I do not flatter, and
Therein behold themselves. I say again,
In soothing them, we nourish 'gainst our senate
The cockle of rebellion, insolence, sedition,
Which we ourselves have ploughed for, sowed, and scattered,
By mingling them with us, the honoured number,
Who lack not virtue, no, nor power, but that
Which they have given to beggars.

"What Is The City, But The People?"

Context: Ciaus Martius is a brilliant Roman general who leads the Roman forces against the Volcians and defeats them. Although he is able, Martius, now known as Coriolanus, has overweening pride of name and hates the rabble of Rome. They reciprocate. But, because of his great victory, he comes home in triumph, and is nominated by the Senate to the office of Consul. During his absence, the plebeians have been granted tribunes, two of whom, Brutus and Sicinius, hate Coriolanus, and hope to see him fall. Nominated for Consul, Coriolanus, although it is distasteful to him, bows to tradition and stands in the Forum begging votes. His contempt for the common man repels the people, but he nevertheless gains their support. As he is preparing to leave, Brutus and Sicinius turn the people against him and convince them he would deprive them of their liberties. Enraged by the ingratitude of the people, he is so outspoken that the tribunes seize upon his words as an excuse to call him traitor and demand his death. Coriolanus' old friend, Menenius, together with other senators, intervenes and helps him.


SICINIUS
[addressing throng.]
You are at point to lose your liberties
Martius would have all from you; Martius,
Whom late you have named for consul.
MENENIUS
Fie, fie, fie,
This is the way to kindle, not to quench.
FIRST SENATOR
To unbuild the city, and to lay all flat.
SICINIUS
What is the city, but the people?