Coriolanus

Menenius Agrippa Character Analysis

Read our modern English translation.
Menenius is a Roman patrician and surrogate father figure to Coriolanus. He is a master orator and politician, able to expertly calm the common people during the play’s opening rebellion by telling the belly fable and invoking the “body politic.” Menenius tries to coach Coriolanus on what to say, almost like a campaign manager, and he is shocked when Coriolanus can’t (or won’t) simply tell the common people what they want to hear.

Menenius Agrippa Quotes in Coriolanus

The Coriolanus quotes below are all either spoken by Menenius Agrippa or refer to Menenius Agrippa . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Simon & Schuster edition of Coriolanus published in 2009.
Act 1, Scene 1 Quotes

If the wars eat us not up, they will; and there’s all the love they bear us.

Related Characters: Roman Citizens (speaker), Menenius Agrippa
Page Number: 1.1.87-88
Explanation and Analysis:
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There was a time when all the body’s members
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
Like labor with the rest, where th’ other instruments
Did see and hear, devise, instruct, walk, feel,
And, mutually participate, did minister
Unto the appetite and affection common
Of the whole body.

The senators of Rome are this good belly,
And you the mutinous members. For examine
Their counsels and their cares, digest things rightly
Touching the weal o’ th’ common, you shall find
No public benefit which you receive
But it proceeds or comes from them to you
And no way from yourselves.

Related Characters: Menenius Agrippa (speaker), Roman Citizens
Page Number: 1.1.98-163
Explanation and Analysis:
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Act 2, Scene 1 Quotes

MENENIUS: Is he not
wounded? He was wont to come home wounded.
VIRGILIA: O no, no, no!
VOLUMNIA: O, he is wounded, I thank the gods for ’t.
MENENIUS: So do I too, if it be not too much. Brings he
victory in his pocket, the wounds become him.

Related Characters: Volumnia (speaker), Virgilia (speaker), Menenius Agrippa (speaker), Caius Martius / Coriolanus
Related Symbols: Wounds and Blood
Page Number: 2.1.122-127
Explanation and Analysis:
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Act 3, Scene 1 Quotes

His nature is too noble for the world.
He would not flatter Neptune for his trident
Or Jove for ’s power to thunder. His heart’s his
mouth;
What his breast forges, that his tongue must vent,
And, being angry, does forget that ever
He heard the name of death.

Related Characters: Menenius Agrippa (speaker), Caius Martius / Coriolanus
Related Symbols: Body Parts, Voices
Page Number: 3.1.326-332
Explanation and Analysis:
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SICINIUS: He’s a disease that must be cut away.
MENENIUS: O, he’s a limb that has but a disease—
Mortal to cut it off; to cure it easy.
What has he done to Rome that’s worthy death?
Killing our enemies, the blood he hath lost—
Which I dare vouch is more than that he hath
By many an ounce—he dropped it for his country;
And what is left, to lose it by his country
Were to us all that do ’t and suffer it
A brand to th’ end o’ th’ world.

Related Characters: Menenius Agrippa (speaker), Sicinius Velutus (speaker), Caius Martius / Coriolanus
Related Symbols: Body Parts, Wounds and Blood
Page Number: 3.1.378-87
Explanation and Analysis:
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Act 3, Scene 2 Quotes

MENENIUS: Return to th’ Tribunes.
CORIOLANUS: Well, what then? What then?
MENENIUS: Repent what you have spoke.
CORIOLANUS: For them? I cannot do it to the gods.
Must I then do ’t to them?
VOLUMNIA: You are too absolute,
Though therein you can never be too noble
But when extremities speak.

Related Characters: Caius Martius / Coriolanus (speaker), Volumnia (speaker), Menenius Agrippa (speaker), Sicinius Velutus, Junius Brutus
Related Symbols: Voices
Page Number: 3.2.46-3
Explanation and Analysis:
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Act 4, Scene 6 Quotes

He is their god; he leads them like a thing
Made by some other deity than Nature,
That shapes man better; and they follow him
Against us brats with no less confidence
Than boys pursuing summer butterflies
Or butchers killing flies.

Page Number: 4.6.115-120
Explanation and Analysis:
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Act 5, Scene 1 Quotes

Yet one time he did call me by my name.
I urged our old acquaintance, and the drops
That we have bled together. “Coriolanus”
He would not answer to, forbade all names.
He was a kind of nothing, titleless,
Till he had forged himself a name o’ th’ fire
Of burning Rome.

Related Characters: Cominius (speaker), Caius Martius / Coriolanus, Menenius Agrippa
Related Symbols: Wounds and Blood
Page Number: 5.1.10-16
Explanation and Analysis:
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Act 5, Scene 4 Quotes

There is differency between a grub and a
butterfly, yet your butterfly was a grub. This Martius
is grown from man to dragon. He has wings;
he’s more than a creeping thing.

When he walks, he moves like an engine, and the ground
shrinks before his treading. He is able to pierce a
corslet with his eye, talks like a knell, and his hum
is a battery. He sits in his state as a thing made for
Alexander. What he bids be done is finished with
his bidding. He wants nothing of a god but eternity
and a heaven to throne in.

Related Characters: Menenius Agrippa (speaker), Caius Martius / Coriolanus
Related Symbols: Body Parts
Page Number: 5.4.11-25
Explanation and Analysis:
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Menenius Agrippa Character Timeline in Coriolanus

The timeline below shows where the character Menenius Agrippa appears in Coriolanus. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 1
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...Roman citizens prepare to make for the capitol. Before they can continue, however, the “worthy” Menenius Agrippa, a patrician recognized as a friend to the common people, enters the street. Menenius... (full context)
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Speaking colloquially and emphasizing that he is a friend to the common people, Menenius asks why the citizens are undoing themselves. The citizens, though, believe they are already undone.... (full context)
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...If the wars don’t “eat [the common people] up,” the citizen claims, the patricians will. Menenius responds that the citizens are either being extremely malicious or foolish, and he offers to... (full context)
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Menenius begins his tale of the belly: once there was a time when all of the... (full context)
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After telling the second citizen to be patient, Menenius explains that the belly was deliberate in his answer. The belly responded that it’s true... (full context)
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Menenius explains that the senators of Rome are the belly, and the Roman citizens are the... (full context)
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Menenius tells Caius Martius that the people want “corn at their own rates,” since they believe... (full context)
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Menenius asks for the status of the other group of citizens on the other side of... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 1
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Menenius and the two Roman tribunes Brutus and Sicinius enter a public place in Rome. A... (full context)
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Sicinius says that Menenius is also notorious, but Menenius launches into a description of his own character: he is... (full context)
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When Brutus says he knows Menenius, Menenius responds that the tribunes don’t know him, themselves, or anything at all. They are... (full context)
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Menenius greets the ladies, and Volumnia reports that Martius is coming home. Menenius celebrates this news,... (full context)
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Menenius wonders if Martius has fought with Aufidius, and Volumnia tells him that Lartius reported they... (full context)
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...a candidate for Consul. In the battle to expel Tarquin, he received seven wounds, and Menenius counts nine that he knows of. Volumnia produces the true number of wounds before the... (full context)
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...eyes of the new widows and mothers lacking sons in Corioles. He also excitedly greets Menenius and Valeria. (full context)
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Volumnia welcomes everyone home from war, and Menenius echoes her sentiment, saying he could weep or laugh since he is so “light and... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 2
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Roman Senators enter along with the tribunes, Cominius, Menenius, and Coriolanus. Coriolanus stands, and Menenius says it’s time to honor the noble service Coriolanus... (full context)
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...hear his deeds, which he calls “nothings,” be “monstered” in a retelling. He exits, and Menenius tells the people that there are a thousand worthless flatterers for every good man, and... (full context)
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Menenius cries out that Coriolanus is a “worthy man,” and a Roman senator says that Coriolanus... (full context)
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...to ask for their votes. But Sicinius responds that the people must have their voices. Menenius tells Coriolanus to follow custom, and Coriolanus agrees, though he says it’s a part that... (full context)
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But Menenius tells him not to worry—the senators and tribunes are supporting him and want only joy... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 3
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Coriolanus then enters the public Forum in a gown of humility, along with Menenius. One citizen notes that Coriolanus is approaching in this gown, and instructs the other citizens... (full context)
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Menenius, meanwhile, is coaxing and prepping Coriolanus to meet with the citizens. He says that the... (full context)
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Menenius warns him not to talk about that, since it would insult the citizens; Coriolanus should... (full context)
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...that any honest man could not refuse Coriolanus in this request. The citizens exit, and Menenius, Brutus, and Sicinius enter. Menenius says that Coriolanus has fulfilled his customary obligation to the... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 1
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Coriolanus, Menenius, Cominius, Lartius, Roman Senators, and other patricians enter a street in Rome. Coriolanus asks Lartius... (full context)
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...he asserts that Brutus and Sicinius control the people and have turned them against him. Menenius tries to calm him, but Coriolanus claims that the tribunes are intentionally plotting against him... (full context)
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...If Coriolanus hopes to be consul, he must cooperate and exhibit a calmer, “gentler spirit.” Menenius and a senator try to calm Coriolanus, and Cominius says that the people have been... (full context)
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Menenius and a Roman senator try to silence Coriolanus, saying “no more words,” but Coriolanus continues.... (full context)
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...type of thinking, Coriolanus believes the senate has debased itself and made itself extremely vulnerable. Menenius tells Coriolanus “enough,” and Brutus agrees, but Coriolanus offers even more words. (full context)
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...body. Sicinius cries out for help, and a rabble of citizens and the Aediles enter. Menenius calls for more respect from both sides, but Sicinius shouts to the people that Coriolanus... (full context)
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...people that they are about to lose their liberties, since “Martius” wants to remove them. Menenius is furious, recognizing that Sicinius is stoking the flames rather than calming the people. A... (full context)
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The citizens cry out in agreement, but Menenius speaks out, trying to dissuade the tribunes and the people from killing Coriolanus. Brutus, though,... (full context)
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Menenius tells Coriolanus to go home, or all will be lost. Coriolanus wants to stay where... (full context)
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...he could kill them, bragging that he could take on forty of them at once. Menenius says he wishes he could fight with the two tribunes, but Cominius says the situation... (full context)
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As soon as Coriolanus walks out, a patrician says that he has ruined his fortune. Menenius explains that Coriolanus’s “nature is too noble for the world.” He would not even flatter... (full context)
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...whom Sicinius calls a “viper that would depopulate the city and be every man himself.” Menenius tries to begin a speech, but Sicinius cuts him off, insisting that Coriolanus will executed... (full context)
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Menenius is finally able to get a word in, asking the tribunes and the people not... (full context)
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Menenius, though, takes the position that it would be extremely un-Roman for the city to be... (full context)
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...longer functions and must be cut off from the body to prevent infection from spreading. Menenius interjects, asking for one more word. He says that acting too swiftly in rage often... (full context)
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The tribunes aren’t yet convinced, but Menenius reminds them that Coriolanus was “bred [in the] wars since he could draw a sword,”... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 2
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...“let them hang” in reference to the people, and Volumnia agrees, adding “and burn too.” Menenius and Roman Senators then enter Coriolanus’s house, and Menenius immediately begins scolding Coriolanus for being... (full context)
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...the common people that he has, but she also uses her anger to her advantage. Menenius says that Rome requires the medicine of Coriolanus stooping to the “herd.” He must return... (full context)
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Menenius continues prompting Coriolanus to “speak fair” to the citizens, which, he believes, might still calm... (full context)
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...defend himself calmly, or not show up at all, since the people are extremely angry. Menenius, Cominius, and Volumnia all agree that Coriolanus will be fine if he can speak fairly... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 3
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...been distributed. A Roman Aedile enters, reporting that Coriolanus is on his way, accompanied by Menenius and the supporting Roman senators. (full context)
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Coriolanus, Menenius, Cominius, and other Senators enter. Aside, Menenius reminds Coriolanus to be calm, and Coriolanus begrudgingly... (full context)
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Menenius continues reminding the citizens that Coriolanus speaks like a soldier, not a citizen. Therefore, they... (full context)
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...service for Rome – at which point Coriolanus chides him for knowing nothing of service. Menenius reminds Coriolanus that he promised Volumnia to be mild, and Cominius tries to calm him,... (full context)
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...the city. He says “there is a world elsewhere,” and he exits along with Cominius, Menenius, and the other Roman senators. The people and tribunes rejoice that their enemy has been... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 1
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Outside a gate of Rome, Coriolanus is saying farewell to Volumnia, Virgilia, Menenius, Cominius, and the young nobles of Rome. He tells them to leave their tears, asking... (full context)
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...Cominius not to be sad, and says goodbye to his wife and mother. He tells Menenius not to cry, and asks his general (Cominius) to teach the women how to be... (full context)
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...gates and smile when they say goodbye. He promises that they’ll still hear from him. Menenius says if he were seven years younger he’d accompany Coriolanus into his exile, and they... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 2
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...the people that “their great enemy is gone.” The aedile exits, and Volumnia, Virgilia, and Menenius enter the street. Sicinius wants to avoid them, since Volumnia is apparently mad, but she... (full context)
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...laments the banishment of her son, especially given the wounds that he received for Rome. Menenius tries to calm her down, and Sicinius says he wishes that Coriolanus had continued being... (full context)
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...could meet the tribunes once a day to “unclog [her] heart” and yell at them. Menenius asks if she will eat dinner with him, but she responds “Anger’s my meat. I... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 6
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...being revoked, since things have calmed down and gone so well since his exile began. Menenius enters and is greeted by the tribunes, who comment that Coriolanus isn’t missed much in... (full context)
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...excellent officer in war, but also overcome with pride and too ambitious for tyrannical power. Menenius disagrees, but Sicinius thinks that if Coriolanus had been named consul he’d already be a... (full context)
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...have gathered two armies and entered Roman territory with the intent of starting another war. Menenius guesses that Aufidius has heard of Coriolanus’s banishment and been emboldened to attack by it.... (full context)
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...an army against Rome seeking revenge. Sicinius and Brutus believe the news at once, but Menenius says it’s unlikely, since Coriolanus and Aufidius are mortal enemies. A second messenger then enters... (full context)
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...tells the tribunes that they have done good work, helping to “ravish [their] own daughters.” Menenius repeatedly asks for news, but Cominius keeps berating the tribunes. Menenius asks Cominius if Coriolanus... (full context)
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Menenius thinks they are “all undone,” unless Coriolanus shows mercy. Cominius wonders who will ask for... (full context)
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The tribunes try to avoid blame, but Menenius says that the nobles loved Coriolanus, but, cowardly, they gave way to the tribunes and... (full context)
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...people didn’t really want it to happen. Cominius cries out, “you’re goodly things, you voices!” Menenius again says they have done good work, and they exit. The tribunes tell the citizens... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 1
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In a public place in Rome, Menenius, Cominius, Sicinius, and Brutus discuss Coriolanus. Menenius refuses to go beg Coriolanus for mercy, even... (full context)
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Menenius doesn’t want to go to Coriolanus, and he is afraid that he might fail, but... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 2
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Menenius approaches the Volscian camp outside of Rome, where he is greeted by two members of... (full context)
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Menenius keeps pressing, saying the general is his “lover.” He has been like a book of... (full context)
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Menenius then greets Coriolanus, calling himself his father, Coriolanus his son, and beginning to weep. He... (full context)
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...lies with the Volscians, not him. The fact that they know each other doesn’t help Menenius, since Menenius failed to defend Coriolanus before his banishment. Coriolanus sends Menenius away, but also... (full context)
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The two members of the watch taunt Menenius, but he responds that he doesn’t care, telling the Volscians to do their worst, and... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 3
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...pleas of Rome, even refusing to have private conversations with his friends. Coriolanus explains that Menenius, whom he “with a cracked heart” sent back to Rome, loved him like a father.... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 4
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Menenius and Sicinius are talking in a street in Rome. Menenius thinks there is only a... (full context)
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“When he walks, he moves like an engine,” Menenius says about Coriolanus, and he is like a “thing made for Alexander.” He’s even become... (full context)