Coriolanus

Body Parts Symbol Analysis

Read our modern English translation.
Body Parts Symbol Icon

The renaissance trope of the “body politic” (an analogy comparing various parts of a nation to various body parts) is used throughout the play to describe the political relationship between the government and the governed. As important as the whole body is to the play, even more emphasized are various different body parts. Numerous body parts are mentioned throughout the play, like lips, chins, eyes, knees, mouths, tongues, feet, arms, teeth, stomachs, eyes, and hearts. The citizens are described as the hands of the tribunes, for example, and the tribunes as the tongues of the people. In cases like this one, body parts are used to analogize relationships, often in reference to the body politic as a whole. Coriolanus himself is characterized as a diseased foot that must be amputated from Rome. But the sheer number of body parts referenced in the play leads to a fragmentation effect, where the body is broken up into bits and pieces, representing the divided city of Rome and the common people (who are thus not so “common” after all). The citizens have a diverse set of opinions and are even called “fragments” by Coriolanus. At the same time, they are characterized as a many-headed multitude, a grotesque body with excessive parts. This fragmentation also has the threat of being made literal, as dismemberment is a very real possibility in war, and both Brutus and Coriolanus face the threat of literally being torn into pieces.

Body Parts Quotes in Coriolanus

The Coriolanus quotes below all refer to the symbol of Body Parts. 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

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 1, Scene 3 Quotes

The breasts of Hecuba,
When she did suckle Hector, looked not lovelier
Than Hector’s forehead when it spit forth blood
At Grecian sword, contemning.

Related Characters: Volumnia (speaker), Caius Martius / Coriolanus, Virgilia
Related Symbols: Body Parts, Wounds and Blood
Page Number: 1.3.43-46
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:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Act 4, Scene 5 Quotes

O Martius, Martius,
Each word thou hast spoke hath weeded from my heart
A root of ancient envy.

Let me twine
Mine arms about that body, whereagainst
My grainèd ash an hundred times hath broke
And scarred the moon with splinters.

Know thou first,
I loved the maid I married; never man
Sighed truer breath. But that I see thee here,
Thou noble thing, more dances my rapt heart
Than when I first my wedded mistress saw
Bestride my threshold.

Related Characters: Tullus Aufidius (speaker), Caius Martius / Coriolanus
Related Symbols: Body Parts
Page Number: 4.5.111-131
Explanation and Analysis:
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Act 5, Scene 3 Quotes

There’s no man in the world
More bound to ’s mother, yet here he lets me prate
Like one i’ th’ stocks. Thou hast never in thy life
Showed thy dear mother any courtesy
When she, poor hen, fond of no second brood,
Has clucked thee to the wars and safely home,
Loaden with honor. Say my request’s unjust
And spurn me back; but if it be not so,
Thou art not honest, and the gods will plague thee
That thou restrain’st from me the duty which
To a mother’s part belongs.

Related Characters: Volumnia (speaker), Caius Martius / Coriolanus
Related Symbols: Body Parts
Page Number: 5.3.180-190
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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Act 5, Scene 6 Quotes

Cut me to pieces, Volsces. 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 dovecote, I
Fluttered your Volscians in Corioles,
Alone I did it. “Boy”!

Related Symbols: Body Parts, Wounds and Blood
Page Number: 5.6.133-138
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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Body Parts Symbol Timeline in Coriolanus

The timeline below shows where the symbol Body Parts 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
Language and Names Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
...thinks that poor protesters have strong voices, and now they’ll see that they have strong arms as well. (full context)
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
...the gods causing everything, not the Roman state. The common people should take to their knees (i.e. pray to the gods) instead of taking up arms against the state. The people,... (full context)
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
...his tale of the belly: once there was a time when all of the different body parts rebelled against the belly, accusing it of being only a “gulf” in the middle... (full context)
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
...answer. The belly responded that it’s true that he receives the food that the whole body lives on first, since he is the storehouse of the body, but he reminds the... (full context)
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
...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 all public benefits come... (full context)
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
...their argument and insurrection. He cries out to the people, “Go get you home, you fragments!” (full context)
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
...he informs that the Volsces (Volscians – a neighboring, enemy Italian people) have taken up arms. Martius is thrilled, saying it will give the Romans the opportunity to “vent [their] musty... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 6
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
...his own blood rather than the blood of Volscians. Martius then embraces his general “in arms as sound as when [he] wooed, as merry as when [his] nuptial day was done.” (full context)
Act 1, Scene 9
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
Cominius and the Roman soldiers are met by Martius, whose arm is tied in a sling. Cominius says the deeds Martius has done that day are... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 1
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Family and Femininity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
Volumnia says that Martius has been wounded in the shoulder and the left arm, noting that he will be able to show his large scars to the people when... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 2
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
...worthless flatterers for every good man, and Coriolanus would rather risk losing all of his limbs in battle than be flattered himself. Menenius tells Cominius to proceed in recounting Coriolanus’s deeds. (full context)
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Family and Femininity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
...certainly the most virtuous person in the world. At age sixteen, while Tarquin raised an army to conquer Rome, Coriolanus fought better than anyone else. Coriolanus, with his “Amazonian chin,” fought... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 3
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
...if Coriolanus shows his wounds and tells of his deeds, the citizens must “put [their] tongues into those wounds and speak for them.” If he recounts his noble deeds, they need... (full context)
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
...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 Coriolanus. The citizens are to... (full context)
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
...votes. Coriolanus, though, doesn’t know what to say. He believes he cannot even force his tongue to beg, or to say “Look, sir, my wounds! I got them in my country’s... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 1
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
Brutus and Sicinius enter, and Coriolanus greets them as “the tongues o’ th’ common mouth.” He despises them since they are trying to amass power, which... (full context)
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
How did the “bosom multiplied digest” the senate’s kindness, Coriolanus asks? They decided that they got what they want... (full context)
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
...a long life, and anyone willing to risk a dangerous medical treatment without which the body of Rome would surely die, should rip out “the multitudinous tongue.” The senators must not... (full context)
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
...patricians say that they’ll defend Coriolanus, who threatens to shake Sicinius’s bones out of his body. Sicinius cries out for help, and a rabble of citizens and the Aediles enter. Menenius... (full context)
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
...not even flatter the gods to be granted their powers, let alone the people. “His heart’s his mouth”: whatever he feels or thinks he immediately must say, and when he’s enraged,... (full context)
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
...executed at the Tarpeian rock, a deed which he says will be done with “rigorous hands.” Coriolanus has resisted the force of the law, and therefore will be subjected to the... (full context)
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
...must be cut away,” but Menenius runs with this analogy, saying that Coriolanus is a limb that has a disease. Cutting off this limb would be deadly to the body, and... (full context)
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
They continue speaking of Coriolanus metaphorically as a limb, calling him a foot that no longer functions and must be cut off from the... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 2
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
Family and Femininity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
...speak to the people. He must not speak his own words or from his own heart, but rather with memorized words he will be given that have absolutely no relation to... (full context)
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
Family and Femininity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
...and “frame his spirit.” Coriolanus questions whether he must really speak a lie that his heart cannot bear. He agrees to do it, but he notes that if he only had... (full context)
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Family and Femininity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
...for his disposition to be replaced with the spirit of a harlot and for multiple body parts to be replaced. He’ll let his “throat of war” be turned into a pipe... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 3
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
...contradicted and is unable to rein himself in once “chafed.” Coriolanus “speaks what’s in his heart,” and what he really thinks is exactly what the tribunes need in order to get... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 1
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Family and Femininity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
...tells them to leave their tears, asking for a brief farewell. “The beast with many heads” has banished him. He asks his mother to show her ancient courage, and to demonstrate... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 2
Language and Names Theme Icon
Family and Femininity Theme Icon
...curses, and she wishes she 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... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 4
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
...at the “slippery turns” of the world, which turn the closest of friends, whose two bosoms seem to have one heart, into the bitterest enemies. Likewise, they will turn the greatest... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 5
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
...Instead, he’s come out of spite for those who banished him. If Aufidius has a heart for vengeance, he should make Coriolanus’s misery serve his own purpose, using Coriolanus’s desire for... (full context)
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Family and Femininity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
...god Jupiter any more than he believes the “all-noble Martius.” He asks to wrap his arms around Coriolanus’s body, which he has usually fought against. They embrace, and Aufidius grabs his... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 1
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Family and Femininity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
...He describes kneeling before Coriolanus, who faintly said “rise” and dismissed him “with his speechless hand.” Afterwards Coriolanus sent a letter promising not to yield. Cominius thinks the only hope is... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 3
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Family and Femininity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
...front, and then “the honored mold wherein this trunk was framed,” his mother, holding the hand of his son. He tries to rid himself of affection. Virgilia curtsies and makes “dove”... (full context)
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
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War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Family and Femininity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
Virgilia greets Coriolanus, and he says that her eyes are not the same as he saw in Rome, which she attributes to her sorrow.... (full context)
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Family and Femininity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
...the city, his first steps towards conquering Rome must be to tread on his “mother’s womb that brought [him] into this world.” Virgilia echoes that he’ll have to tread on her... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 6
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Family and Femininity Theme Icon
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...the Volscian people begin crying out in agreement, shouting that he should be torn into pieces for killing their family members. Another Volscian lord tries to calm them, saying that Coriolanus... (full context)
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
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Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
Aufidius stands on Coriolanus’s body and addresses the Volscian people. The Volscian lords, meanwhile, lament the bloody deed, asking Aufidius... (full context)
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
...is struck with sorrow. He says that he and three other soldiers will bear the body. Though Coriolanus has made many widows and killed many sons in the city, he will... (full context)