Cover image for Coriolanus
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.
Publication Information:
New York : Cambridge University Press, 2000.
Physical Description:
xii, 303 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.
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PR2805.A2 B55 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
PR2805.A2 B55 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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This generously annotated edition of Coriolanus offers a thorough reconsideration of Shakespeare's remarkable, and probably his last, tragedy. A substantial introduction situates the play within its contemporary social and political contexts and presents a fresh account of how the protagonist's personal tragedy evolves within Shakespeare's most searching exploration of the political life of a community. The edition is alert throughout to the play's theatrical potential, while the stage history also attends to the politics of performance from the 1680s to the 1990s, including European productions following the Second World War.

Author Notes

William Shakespeare, 1564 - 1616 Although there are many myths and mysteries surrounding William Shakespeare, a great deal is actually known about his life. He was born in Stratford-Upon-Avon, son of John Shakespeare, a prosperous merchant and local politician and Mary Arden, who had the wealth to send their oldest son to Stratford Grammar School.

At 18, Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway, the 27-year-old daughter of a local farmer, and they had their first daughter six months later. He probably developed an interest in theatre by watching plays performed by traveling players in Stratford while still in his youth. Some time before 1592, he left his family to take up residence in London, where he began acting and writing plays and poetry.

By 1594 Shakespeare had become a member and part owner of an acting company called The Lord Chamberlain's Men, where he soon became the company's principal playwright. His plays enjoyed great popularity and high critical acclaim in the newly built Globe Theatre. It was through his popularity that the troupe gained the attention of the new king, James I, who appointed them the King's Players in 1603. Before retiring to Stratford in 1613, after the Globe burned down, he wrote more than three dozen plays (that we are sure of) and more than 150 sonnets. He was celebrated by Ben Jonson, one of the leading playwrights of the day, as a writer who would be "not for an age, but for all time," a prediction that has proved to be true.

Today, Shakespeare towers over all other English writers and has few rivals in any language. His genius and creativity continue to astound scholars, and his plays continue to delight audiences. Many have served as the basis for operas, ballets, musical compositions, and films. While Jonson and other writers labored over their plays, Shakespeare seems to have had the ability to turn out work of exceptionally high caliber at an amazing speed. At the height of his career, he wrote an average of two plays a year as well as dozens of poems, songs, and possibly even verses for tombstones and heraldic shields, all while he continued to act in the plays performed by the Lord Chamberlain's Men. This staggering output is even more impressive when one considers its variety. Except for the English history plays, he never wrote the same kind of play twice. He seems to have had a good deal of fun in trying his hand at every kind of play.

Shakespeare wrote 154 sonnets, all published on 1609, most of which were dedicated to his patron Henry Wriothsley, The Earl of Southhampton. He also wrote 13 comedies, 13 histories, 6 tragedies, and 4 tragecomedies. He died at Stratford-upon-Avon April 23, 1616, and was buried two days later on the grounds of Holy Trinity Church in Stratford. His cause of death was unknown, but it is surmised that he knew he was dying.

(Bowker Author Biography)



The Tragedy of Coriolanus ¥    I.1 Enter a company of mutinous Citizens, with staves, clubs, and other weapons. first citizen Before we proceed any further, hear me speak. all Speak, speak. first citizen You are all resolved rather to die than to famish? all Resolved, resolved. first citizen First, you know Caius Martius is chief enemy to the people. all We know't, we know't. first citizen Let us kill him, and we'll have corn at our own price. Is't a verdict? 10 11 all No more talking on't! Let it be done! Away, away! 12 second citizen  One word, good citizens. first citizen We are accounted poor citizens, the patricians good. What authority surfeits on would relieve us. If they would yield us but the superfluity while it were wholesome, we might guess they relieved us humanely, but they think we are too dear. The leanness that afflicts us, the object of our misery, is as an inventory to particularize their abundance; our sufferance is a gain to them. Let us revenge this with our pikes ere we become rakes; for the gods know I speak this in hunger for bread, not in thirst for revenge. 15 16 18 19 20 21 22 second citizen Would you proceed especially against Caius Martius? all Against him first. He's a very dog to the commonalty. 26 second citizen Consider you what services he has done for his country? 27 first citizen Very well, and could be content to give him good report for't, but that he pays himself with being proud. 30 second citizen Nay, but speak not maliciously. first citizen I say unto you, what he hath done famously, he did it to that end. Though soft-conscienced men can be content to say it was for his country, he did it to please his mother and to be partly proud, which he is, even to the altitude of his virtue. 35 38 second citizen What he cannot help in his nature, you account a vice in him. You must in no way say he is covetous. 40 41 first citizen If I must not, I need not be barren of accusations. He hath faults, with surplus, to tire in repetition. Shouts within. What shouts are these? The other side o' th' city is risen. Why stay we prating here? To th' Capitol! 46 all Come, come! first citizen Soft, who comes here? 48 Enter Menenius Agrippa. second citizen Worthy Menenius Agrippa, one that hath always loved the people. 50 first citizen He's one honest enough! Would all the rest were so! menenius   What work's, my countrymen, in hand? Where go you With bats and clubs? The matter? Speak, I pray you. first citizen Our business is not unknown to th' Senate. They have had inkling this fortnight what we intend to do, which now we'll show 'em in deeds. They say poor suitors have strong breaths; they shall know we have strong arms too. 58 menenius   Why, masters, my good friends, mine honest neighbors, 60 Will you undo yourselves? first citizen  We cannot, sir, we are undone already. menenius   I tell you, friends, most charitable care Have the patricians of you. For your wants, 64 Your suffering in this dearth, you may as well 65 Strike at the heaven with your staves as lift them Against the Roman state, whose course will on 67 The way it takes, cracking ten thousand curbs Of more strong link asunder than can ever Appear in your impediment. For the dearth, 70 The gods, not the patricians, make it, and Your knees to them, not arms, must help. Alack, You are transported by calamity 73 Thither where more attends you, and you slander The helms o' th' state, who care for you like fathers, 75 When you curse them as enemies. first citizen Care for us? True, indeed! They ne'er cared for us yet: suffer us to famish, and their storehouses crammed with grain; make edicts for usury, to support usurers; repeal daily any wholesome act established against the rich, and provide more piercing statutes daily to chain up and restrain the poor. If the wars eat us not up, they will; and there's all the love they bear us. 78 79 80 81 menenius   Either you must Confess yourselves wondrous malicious, 86 Or be accused of folly. I shall tell you A pretty tale. It may be you have heard it, 88 But, since it serves my purpose, I will venture To stale't a little more. 90 first citizen Well, I'll hear it, sir; yet you must not think to fob off our disgrace with a tale. But, an't please you, deliver. 92 menenius   There was a time when all the body's members 94 Rebelled against the belly, thus accused it: That only like a gulf it did remain I' th' midst o' th' body, idle and unactive, Still cupboarding the viand, never bearing 98 Like labor with the rest, where th' other instruments 99 Did see and hear, devise, instruct, walk, feel, 100 And mutually participate, did minister 101 Unto the appetite and affection common 102 Of the whole body. The belly answered- first citizen  Well, sir, what answer made the belly? menenius   Sir, I shall tell you. With a kind of smile, Which ne'er came from the lungs, but even thus- 106 For, look you, I may make the belly smile As well as speak-it tauntingly replied To th' discontented members, the mutinous parts That envied his receipt; even so most fitly 110 As you malign our senators, for that 111 They are not such as you. 112 first citizen       Your belly's answer? What? The kingly crownd head, the vigilant eye, The counselor heart, the arm our soldier, Our steed the leg, the tongue our trumpeter, With other muniments and petty helps 116 In this our fabric, if that they- menenius      What then? 'Fore me, this fellow speaks! What then? what then? 118 first citizen   Should by the cormorant belly be restrained, 119 Who is the sink o' th' body- 120 menenius      Well, what then? first citizen   The former agents, if they did complain, What could the belly answer? menenius      I will tell you, If you'll bestow a small-of what you have little- Patience awhile, you'st hear the belly's answer. 124 first citizen   You're long about it. menenius      Note me this, good friend; Your most grave belly was deliberate, 126 Not rash like his accusers, and thus answered: "True is it, my incorporate friends," quoth he, 128 "That I receive the general food at first, Which you do live upon; and fit it is, 130 Because I am the storehouse and the shop 131 Of the whole body. But, if you do remember, I send it through the rivers of your blood Even to the court, the heart, to th' seat o' th' brain; And, through the cranks and offices of man, 135 The strongest nerves and small inferior veins 136 From me receive that natural competency 137 Whereby they live. And though that all at once"- You, my good friends! This says the belly. Mark me. first citizen   Ay, sir, well, well. 140 menenius      "Though all at once cannot See what I do deliver out to each, Yet I can make my audit up that all 142 From me do back receive the flour of all, And leave me but the bran." What say you to't? first citizen   It was an answer. How apply you this? menenius   The senators of Rome are this good belly, And you the mutinous members. For examine Their counsels and their cares, disgest things rightly 148 Touching the weal o' th' common, you shall find 149 No public benefit which you receive 150 But it proceeds or comes from them to you, And no way from yourselves. What do you think, You, the great toe of this assembly? first citizen   I the great toe! Why the great toe? menenius   For that, being one o' th' lowest, basest, poorest Of this most wise rebellion, thou goest foremost. Thou rascal, that art worst in blood to run, 157 Lead'st first to win some vantage. 158 But make you ready your stiff bats and clubs: Rome and her rats are at the point of battle; 160 The one side must have bale. 161 Enter Caius Martius.     Hail, noble Martius! martius   Thanks. What's the matter, you dissentious rogues, 162 That, rubbing the poor itch of your opinion, Make yourselves scabs? first citizen      We have ever your good word. martius   He that will give good words to thee will flatter Beneath abhorring. What would you have, you curs, 166 That like nor peace nor war? The one affrights you, 167 The other makes you proud. He that trusts to you, 168 Where he should find you lions, finds you hares; Where foxes, geese. You are no surer, no, 170 Than is the coal of fire upon the ice, Or hailstone in the sun. Your virtue is To make him worthy whose offense subdues him 173 And curse that justice did it. Who deserves greatness 174 Deserves your hate; and your affections are A sick man's appetite, who desires most that Which would increase his evil. He that depends Upon your favors swims with fins of lead And hews down oaks with rushes. Hang ye! Trust ye? With every minute you do change a mind, 180 And call him noble that was now your hate, Him vile that was your garland. What's the matter, 182 That in these several places of the city 183 You cry against the noble Senate, who, Under the gods, keep you in awe, which else Would feed on one another? What's their seeking? 186 menenius   For corn at their own rates, whereof they say The city is well stored. martius      Hang 'em! They say? They'll sit by th' fire and presume to know What's done i' th' Capitol, who's like to rise, 190 Who thrives and who declines; side factions and give out 191 Conjectural marriages, making parties strong 192 And feebling such as stand not in their liking 193 Below their cobbled shoes. They say there's grain enough? 194 Would the nobility lay aside their ruth, 195 And let me use my sword, I'd make a quarry 196 With thousands of these quartered slaves as high 197 As I could pick my lance. 198 menenius   Nay, these are almost thoroughly persuaded; For though abundantly they lack discretion, 200 Yet are they passing cowardly. But, I beseech you, 201 What says the other troop? martius      They are dissolved. Hang 'em! They said they were anhungry, sighed forth proverbs- 203 That hunger broke stone walls, that dogs must eat, That meat was made for mouths, that the gods sent not Corn for the rich men only. With these shreds 206 They vented their complainings, which being answered And a petition granted them, a strange one, To break the heart of generosity, 209 And make bold power look pale, they threw their caps 210 As they would hang them on the horns o' th' moon, Shouting their emulation. 212 menenius      What is granted them? martius   Five tribunes to defend their vulgar wisdoms, 213 Of their own choice. One's Junius Brutus, Sicinius Velutus, and I know not-'Sdeath! 215 The rabble should have first unroofed the city Ere so prevailed with me; it will in time Win upon power, and throw forth greater themes 218 For insurrection's arguing. 219 menenius      This is strange. martius   Go, get you home, you fragments! 220 Enter a Messenger hastily. messenger   Where's Caius Martius? martius      Here. What's the matter? messenger   The news is, sir, the Volsces are in arms. martius   I am glad on't. Then we shall ha' means to vent 223 Our musty superfluity. See, our best elders. 224 Enter Sicinius Velutus, Junius Brutus, Cominius, Titus Lartius, with other Senators. first senator   Martius, 'tis true that you have lately told us: 225 The Volsces are in arms. martius      They have a leader, Tullus Aufidius, that will put you to't. 227 I sin in envying his nobility, And were I any thing but what I am, I would wish me only he. 230 cominius      You have fought together? martius   Were half to half the world by th' ears and he 231 Upon my party, I'd revolt, to make 232 Only my wars with him. He is a lion That I am proud to hunt. first senator      Then, worthy Martius, Attend upon Cominius to these wars. cominius   It is your former promise. martius      Sir, it is, And I am constant. Titus Lartius, thou Shalt see me once more strike at Tullus' face. What, art thou stiff? Stand'st out? 239 titus      No, Caius Martius, I'll lean upon one crutch and fight with t' other, 240 Ere stay behind this business. menenius      O, true-bred! first senator   Your company to th' Capitol, where I know Our greatest friends attend us. 243 titus [To Cominius]    Lead you on. [To Martius] Follow Cominius. We must follow you. Right worthy you priority. 245 cominius      Noble Martius! first senator  [To the Citizens] Hence to your homes, be gone! martius      Nay, let them follow. The Volsces have much corn. Take these rats thither To gnaw their garners. Worshipful mutineers, 248 Your valor puts well forth. Pray follow. 249 Exeunt. Citizens steal away. Manent Sicinius and Brutus. sicinius   Was ever man so proud as is this Martius? 250 brutus   He has no equal. sicinius   When we were chosen tribunes for the people- brutus   Marked you his lip and eyes? sicinius      Nay, but his taunts. brutus   Being moved, he will not spare to gird the gods. 254 sicinius   Bemock the modest moon. brutus   The present wars devour him! He is grown Too proud to be so valiant. sicinius      Such a nature, Tickled with good success, disdains the shadow Which he treads on at noon. But I do wonder His insolence can brook to be commanded 260 Under Cominius. brutus      Fame, at the which he aims, In whom already he's well graced, cannot 262 Better be held nor more attained than by A place below the first; for what miscarries 264 Shall be the general's fault, though he perform To th' utmost of a man, and giddy censure 266 Will then cry out of Martius, "O, if he Had borne the business!" sicinius      Besides, if things go well, Opinion, that so sticks on Martius, shall 269 Of his demerits rob Cominius. 270 brutus      Come. Half all Cominius' honors are to Martius, 271 Though Martius earned them not; and all his faults To Martius shall be honors, though indeed In aught he merit not. 274 sicinius      Let's hence and hear How the dispatch is made, and in what fashion, 275 More than his singularity, he goes 276 Upon this present action. brutus      Let's along.Exeunt. * ¥    I.2 Enter Tullus Aufidius, with Senators of Corioles. first senator   So, your opinion is, Aufidius, That they of Rome are entered in our counsels 2 And know how we proceed. Excerpted from Coriolanus by William Shakespeare All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Dramatis Personaep. vi
Act Ip. 1
Act IIp. 29
Act IIIp. 54
Act IVp. 78
Act Vp. 101