Coriolanus

Roman Citizens Character Analysis

Read our modern English translation.
The Roman citizens in the play are described as a hungry, volatile mob. They riot because of food shortages, and they elect Junius Brutus and Sicinius Velutus as tribunes; they hate Caius Martius. Throughout the play, they are described as “voices” or “fragments,” and are characterized as one multitude instead of individuals. At the same time, this multitude of plebeians contains some power, as they are able to force Coriolanus into exile.

Roman Citizens Quotes in Coriolanus

The Coriolanus quotes below are all either spoken by Roman Citizens or refer to Roman Citizens. 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 3 Quotes

We have power in ourselves to do it, but
it is a power that we have no power to do; for, if
he show us his wounds and tell us his deeds, we
are to put our tongues into those wounds and
speak for them. So, if he tell us his noble deeds, we
must also tell him our noble acceptance of them.
Ingratitude is monstrous, and for the multitude to
be ingrateful were to make a monster of the multitude,
of the which, we being members, should
bring ourselves to be monstrous members.

Related Characters: Roman Citizens (speaker), Caius Martius / Coriolanus
Related Symbols: Body Parts, Wounds and Blood, Voices
Page Number: 2.3.4-13
Explanation and Analysis:
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Act 3, Scene 1 Quotes

For
The mutable, rank-scented meiny, 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 plowed for, sowed, and
scattered
By mingling them with us, the honored number,
Who lack not virtue, no, nor power, but that
Which they have given to beggars.

Page Number: 3.1.87.97
Explanation and Analysis:
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Act 3, Scene 2 Quotes

For in such business
Action is eloquence, and the eyes of th’ ignorant
More learnèd than the ears—waving thy head,
Which often thus correcting thy stout heart,
Now humble as the ripest mulberry
That will not hold the handling. Or say to them
Thou art their soldier and, being bred in broils,
Hast not the soft way, which thou dost confess
Were fit for thee to use as they to claim,
In asking their good loves; but thou wilt frame
Thyself, forsooth, hereafter theirs, so far
As thou hast power and person.

Related Characters: Volumnia (speaker), Caius Martius / Coriolanus, Roman Citizens
Related Symbols: Body Parts, Voices
Page Number: 3.2.94-105
Explanation and Analysis:
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To beg of thee, it is my more dishonor
Than thou of them. Come all to ruin. Let
Thy mother rather feel thy pride than fear
Thy dangerous stoutness, for I mock at death
With as big heart as thou. Do as thou list.
Thy valiantness was mine; thou suck’st it from me,
But owe thy pride thyself.

Related Characters: Volumnia (speaker), Caius Martius / Coriolanus, Roman Citizens
Related Symbols: Body Parts, Voices
Page Number: 3.2.150-158
Explanation and Analysis:
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Act 3, Scene 3 Quotes

The fires i’ th’ lowest hell fold in the people!
Call me their traitor? Thou injurious tribune!
Within thine eyes sat twenty thousand deaths,
In thy hands clutched as many millions, in
Thy lying tongue both numbers, I would say
“Thou liest” unto thee with a voice as free
As I do pray the gods.

Related Symbols: Body Parts, Voices
Page Number: 3.3.89-95
Explanation and Analysis:
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You common cry of curs, whose breath I hate
As reek o’ th’ rotten fens, whose loves I prize
As the dead carcasses of unburied men
That do corrupt my air, I banish you!
And here remain with your uncertainty;
Let every feeble rumor shake your hearts;
Your enemies, with nodding of their plumes,
Fan you into despair! Have the power still
To banish your defenders, till at length
Your ignorance—which finds not till it feels,
Making but reservation of yourselves,
Still your own foes—deliver you
As most abated captives to some nation
That won you without blows! Despising
For you the city, thus I turn my back.
There is a world elsewhere.

Related Characters: Caius Martius / Coriolanus (speaker), Roman Citizens
Related Symbols: Body Parts, Voices
Page Number: 3.3.150-165
Explanation and Analysis:
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Act 4, Scene 5 Quotes

My name is Caius Martius, who hath done
To thee particularly and to all the Volsces
Great hurt and mischief; thereto witness may
My surname Coriolanus. The painful service,
The extreme dangers, and the drops of blood
Shed for my thankless country are requited
But with that surname, a good memory
And witness of the malice and displeasure
Which thou shouldst bear me. Only that name
remains.

Related Symbols: Wounds and Blood
Page Number: 4.5.73-82
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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Roman Citizens Character Timeline in Coriolanus

The timeline below shows where the character Roman Citizens appears in Coriolanus. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 1
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
A group of mutinous Roman citizens floods a street in Rome. One calls out to make sure that his fellow people... (full context)
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War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
The first Roman citizen says that the surplus food that the ruling class “surfeits” on would be more than... (full context)
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The second citizen asks if the mob is intent on getting revenge specifically on Caius Martius, even considering... (full context)
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...that the other side of the city has risen up in revolt, and the Roman citizens prepare to make for the capitol. Before they can continue, however, the “worthy” Menenius Agrippa,... (full context)
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...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. Menenius tries to calm... (full context)
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The second Roman citizen, though, remains convinced that the patricians are causing the famine, that they support usury (illegally... (full context)
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...without doing any of the labor, like walking, seeing, hearing, feeling, or thinking. The second citizen asks for the belly’s response, but Menenius drags out the story, characterizing the belly as... (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... (full context)
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Menenius explains that the senators of Rome are the belly, and the Roman citizens are the mutinous body parts. The senators “digest things rightly” for the common good, and... (full context)
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...“dissentious rogues” that “rubbing the poor itch of [their] opinion[s] make [themselves] scabs.” The second citizen comments that the people always have Caius Martius’s good word, but this sends Caius Martius... (full context)
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Menenius asks for the status of the other group of citizens on the other side of the city, and Caius Martius reports that the group has... (full context)
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...the senators beckon all of the soldiers to return to the capital. They instruct the citizens to go home, but Martius says they should follow, since the Volsces have a lot... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 2
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...even have the power to vote at all. The tribunes plan to inform the Roman citizens of what has happened in the Capitol. (full context)
Act 2, Scene 3
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Several Roman citizens enter the Roman Forum, a public marketplace and meeting space. One citizen says that if... (full context)
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Such behavior, says the first citizen, would make them look bad, for even though they revolted over corn, Coriolanus didn’t call... (full context)
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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 to watch... (full context)
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Menenius, meanwhile, is coaxing and prepping Coriolanus to meet with the citizens. He says that the worthiest men have participated in the custom of asking for the... (full context)
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Three citizens then enter, and Coriolanus greets them, saying they know why he is there. They say... (full context)
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Two more citizens enter, and Coriolanus asks for their voices. One responds that Coriolanus has been both noble... (full context)
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...he deserves. Why, he asks, should he stand in a toga and beg every random citizen for their unnecessary votes? It’s customary, but he wonders if customs should always be followed,... (full context)
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Three more citizens enter, and Coriolanus asks for their voices. He says he has fought for them, stood... (full context)
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The plebeian citizens enter, and Sicinius asks them how they have chosen Coriolanus. While he has won their... (full context)
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...place in the government, if he remains so opposed to the needs of commoners, the citizens’ voices might be “curses” to themselves. They should have gotten him to promise to be... (full context)
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One citizen notes that Coriolanus has not yet been officially confirmed; they can still deny him. Another... (full context)
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...the tribunes, Sicinius and Brutus say, as long as they take back their votes. The citizens exit for the capitol, repenting their election of Coriolanus. Brutus believes that causing the citizens... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 1
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...a man of their infirmity,” and Sicinius says they had better report this to the citizens, but Menenius tries to dismiss Coriolanus’s rantings as mere “choler.” Coriolanus, though, refuses this excuse,... (full context)
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...Sicinius’s bones out of his 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... (full context)
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...him that the tribunes were named the magistrates of the people through consensus, and the citizens cry out that the tribunes must remain in power. Coriolanus says the real way to... (full context)
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The citizens cry out in agreement, but Menenius speaks out, trying to dissuade the tribunes and the... (full context)
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...will be subjected to the harsh law of the public power which he denies. A citizen calls out that Coriolanus will learn that the “tribunes are the people’s mouths” and the... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 2
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...son, the senators, and all the nobles, while Coriolanus would rather frown and curse the citizens than flatter them in order to gain power and therefore gain a position to keep... (full context)
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Menenius continues prompting Coriolanus to “speak fair” to the citizens, which, he believes, might still calm the rabble and restore Coriolanus’s hopes of becoming consul.... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 3
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...to keep shouting until the sentence is executed. The aedile then exits to prepare the citizens. Brutus plans to enrage Coriolanus, who he thinks is not used to being contradicted and... (full context)
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...for the gods to protect Rome and keep the peace. The aedile reenters with the citizens, whom he instructs to listen to the tribunes. Coriolanus asks if this public sentencing will... (full context)
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Menenius continues reminding the citizens that Coriolanus speaks like a soldier, not a citizen. Therefore, they should not take his... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 2
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...and an aedile enter a street in Rome. Sicinius instructs the aedile to tell the citizens to go home, since Coriolanus is gone, and the nobility who have sided with him... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 6
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Some citizens enter, and they praise the tribunes, who respond that they wish Coriolanus had loved the... (full context)
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...as an officer to Coriolanus. Rome needs to mount a desperate defense. A mob of citizens enters, and Menenius chides them for banishing Coriolanus, who is now coming in a fury.... (full context)
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The citizens all claim that when they banished Coriolanus, they thought it was a pity, and they... (full context)