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
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.
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.
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.
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
What his breast forges, that his tongue must vent,
And, being angry, does forget that ever
He heard the name of death.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”!