Coriolanus

Voices Symbol Analysis

Read our modern English translation.
Voices Symbol Icon

As explained in the Language and Names theme, voices refer to literal voices and language, to opinions, and to votes, and ultimately they also represent the common people themselves. When Cominius prepares to give a speech, for example, he humbly says “I shall lack voice,” and throughout the play different characters shout over each other in public trying to make sure their voices are heard. This struggle to be heard is essentially the struggle of the common people, who have elected tribunes to speak for them. Traditionally, the people must give their voices (votes of approval) to whomever the senate elects as consul, and it’s this type of voice that Coriolanus dreads begging for, receives, and ultimately loses. Throughout this process, Coriolanus starts calling the citizens “voices,” as to him they are disembodied voices rather than people of consequence. It’s this way of thinking, and his desire to remove any power the people’s voices carry, that gets Coriolanus banished, suggesting that it’s dangerous to undervalue commoners and their voices. At the same time, the common people are shown to be extremely fickle, giving and then revoking their votes, and then later claiming that they were forced into banishing Coriolanus. Thus, the notion the people are just disembodied voices is both supported and challenged by the play.

Voices Quotes in Coriolanus

The Coriolanus quotes below all refer to the symbol of Voices. 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 2, Scene 2 Quotes

I shall lack voice. The deeds of Coriolanus
Should not be uttered feebly.

At sixteen years,
When Tarquin made a head for Rome, he fought
Beyond the mark of others. Our then dictator,
Whom with all praise I point at, saw him fight
When with his Amazonian chin he drove
The bristled lips before him. He bestrid
An o’erpressed Roman and i’ th’ Consul’s view
Slew three opposers. Tarquin’s self he met
And struck him on his knee. In that day’s feats,
When he might act the woman in the scene,
He proved best man i’ th’ field and for his meed
Was brow-bound with the oak. His pupil age
Man-entered thus, he waxèd like a sea,
And in the brunt of seventeen battles since
He lurched all swords of the garland.

Related Characters: Cominius (speaker), Caius Martius / Coriolanus
Related Symbols: Wounds and Blood, Voices
Page Number: 2.2.98-117
Explanation and Analysis:
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Before and in Corioles, let me say,
I cannot speak him home. He stopped the flyers
And by his rare example made the coward
Turn terror into sport. As weeds before
A vessel under sail, so men obeyed
And fell below his stem. His sword, Death’s stamp,
Where it did mark, it took; from face to foot
He was a thing of blood, whose every motion
Was timed with dying cries. Alone he entered
The mortal gate o’ th’ city, which he painted
With shunless destiny; aidless came off
And with a sudden reinforcement struck
Corioles like a planet.

Related Characters: Cominius (speaker), Caius Martius / Coriolanus
Related Symbols: Wounds and Blood, Voices
Page Number: 2.2.118-130
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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

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:
Quotes explanation short mobile

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:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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:
Quotes explanation short mobile

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:
Quotes explanation short mobile

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:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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:
Quotes explanation short mobile

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
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Voices Symbol Timeline in Coriolanus

The timeline below shows where the symbol Voices 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
...planning and what they are now enacting. The Senate thinks that poor protesters have strong voices, and now they’ll see that they have strong arms as well. (full context)
Act 2, Scene 1
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
...public and show the people his wounds according to tradition, nor “beg their stinking breath” (voices, meaning votes). The tribunes decide that in order to preserve their power, they must destroy... (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
...worthy, and the second officer goes as far to say that if the people are silent about his greatness it would be a kind of malice and “ingrateful injury.” (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
Cominius begins humbly, saying “I shall lack voice,” and he notes that Coriolanus’s deeds should not be spoken of lightly. If it’s true... (full context)
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
...wounds 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... (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
...Forum, a public marketplace and meeting space. One citizen says that if Coriolanus requires their voices they should not deny him. Another says that the citizens have the power to deny... (full context)
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
...and the citizens are supposed to each get the honor of “giving him [their] own voices with [their] own tongues.” The citizens exit and prepare to meet with Coriolanus individually. (full context)
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
...that the price is asking nicely. Nicely, then, Coriolanus asks for the consulship and their voices, saying he has wounds to show in private. The citizens find the situation odd, but... (full context)
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
Two more citizens enter, and Coriolanus asks for their voices. One responds that Coriolanus has been both noble and not noble. He clarifies that Coriolanus... (full context)
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
Three more citizens enter, and Coriolanus asks for their voices. He says he has fought for them, stood watch for them, and received dozens of... (full context)
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
...which he could show in private, but other than that he simply raved about their voices and dismissed them once they agreed. (full context)
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
Brutus and Sicinius question why the people were so childish and granted Coriolanus their voices. Why didn’t they do as they were taught? When Coriolanus had no power, he was... (full context)
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
...chimes in that the people will deny him. The citizens say they have hundreds of voices who all will speak to deny Coriolanus. Brutus instructs them to leave immediately and to... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 1
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
...in the senate. Senators are made plebeians if the tribunes are made senators. When the voices of the senators and the people are blended, it favors the people. The people chose... (full context)
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
...the ruin of the state.” Brutus prods Coriolanus, asking why the people should give their voices to someone with that opinion, and Coriolanus launches into yet another speech. (full context)
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Coriolanus claims that the reasons behind his opinions are much more meaningful than the voices of the people. The people know the corn was not given to them as a... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 2
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
...if Coriolanus does as Volumnia instructs, he will surely win the people’s hearts, pardons, and voices. Volumnia tells Coriolanus to listen to them, even though she knows he would rather follow... (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
...be replaced. He’ll let his “throat of war” be turned into a pipe with a voice like a “eunuch.” “The smiles of knaves” will enter his cheeks and “schoolboy’s tears” will... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 3
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
The aedile, as instructed by the tribunes, has catalogued all of the voices against Coriolanus. He’s now instructed to tell the people to yell out in agreement with... (full context)
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
...an end to the situation, and Sicinius demands that he must submit to the people’s voices, obey the officers, and agree to whatever punishment they see fit for him. Coriolanus says... (full context)
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
...it’s just the way that soldiers speak. Coriolanus asks why people who earlier gave “full voice” to name him consul have now revoked the approval, but Sicinius says that the tribunes... (full context)
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
...responds, calling the people a “common cry of curs.” He says he hates their breath (voices) like the stench of “rotten fens,” and he cares for their love like he cares... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 5
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
...that name remains.” The cruel people have “devoured” the rest of him, and by the “voice of slaves” he was exiled from Rome. (full context)
Act 4, Scene 6
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
...the 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... (full context)