Coriolanus Quotes in Context
by William Shakespeare

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

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

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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:

MENENIUSI 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"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

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.

MESSENGERSir, 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, ifThe Roman ladies bring not comfort homeThey'll give him death by inches.

"Fill Ithaca Full Of Moths"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

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.

VALERIAYou 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"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

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...

(The entire section is 1,805 words.)