Coriolanus

Wounds and Blood Symbol Analysis

Read our modern English translation.
Wounds and Blood Symbol Icon

Given the play’s obsession with body parts and its heavy investment in violence, it makes sense that wounds and blood are another important symbol. Blood represents family and passion, but mostly it relates to violence. Coriolanus is so deadly in war that he gets covered with blood from head to toe and becomes “a thing of blood.” This blood is mostly from his enemies, but Coriolanus’s passion for violence is so great that when he spills his own blood, he says it’s medicinal to him rather than dangerous.

The wounds from which blood pours are accrued during violent episodes, and they become physical reminders of valiant feats and of risks one has taken for one’s country. At one point in the play, Volumnia and Menenius meticulously count each wound that Coriolanus has received, because in the political sphere wounds are treated like a commodity. The more wounds someone has, the more honorable and worthy they are perceived to be. Cominius, for example, uses his wounds to remind the common people of his credibility, and Coriolanus’s wounds are constantly the topic of public debate. One of the reasons he is banished is that he refuses to publicly show his wounds to the people as is customary, demonstrating that the wounds (and thus the violence associated with them) don’t fully belong to him; they also belong to Rome itself.

Wounds and Blood Quotes in Coriolanus

The Coriolanus quotes below all refer to the symbol of Wounds and Blood. 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 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 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:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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:
Quotes explanation short mobile

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:
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Act 3, Scene 1 Quotes

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 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:
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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:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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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Wounds and Blood Symbol Timeline in Coriolanus

The timeline below shows where the symbol Wounds and Blood appears in Coriolanus. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 3
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Family and Femininity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
...son’s war drum, and visualizes him defeating Aufidius and uplifting Roman soldiers. She describes his bloody brow and compares him to a laborer hired to mow down an entire field or... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 4
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
...if the world were feverous and did tremble.” After this would-be hero’s goodbye, Martius re-enters, bleeding, followed by Volscian soldiers. Shocked, Lartius and the soldiers come to Martius’s aid and enter... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 5
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
Lartius points out that Martius is bleeding, saying that he has been injured too much in the first violent episode to continue... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 6
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
Caius Martius then enters the camp in a bloodied state that Cominius has seen many times before. Martius repeatedly asks if he has come... (full context)
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
...to face Aufidius, evoking all of the battles Martius and Cominius have fought and the blood they have shed together, all the vows they’ve made, and their long friendship in his... (full context)
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
...the Roman camp that if there is anyone there who loves to be painted in blood, if anyone is unafraid and thinks a brave death is better than a bad life,... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 8
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
...three hours within the walls of Corioles and was able to do so easily; the blood that covers his body is not his own. He goads Aufidius to try his best... (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
...what he is, not for what he has done, and Martius says that he has “wounds” that “smart to hear themselves remembered.” Cominius says that if they are not, they’ll become... (full context)
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
Coriolanus says he’ll go wash off the blood, after which Cominius will be able to tell if he is blushing. Coriolanus thanks the... (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
...front, including one for Menenius. Menenius jokes about his health and asks if Martius is wounded (which he thinks is preferable). Virgilia hopes he isn’t wounded, but Volumnia thanks the gods... (full context)
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... (full context)
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
...Coriolanus has sworn that he would not stand in public and show the people his wounds according to tradition, nor “beg their stinking breath” (voices, meaning votes). The tribunes decide that... (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
Coriolanus, though, says he would rather have his wounds heal all over again than hear talk about how he received them. While he would... (full context)
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
...sword acted as “Death’s stamp,” killing wherever he marked, until Coriolanus became “a thing of blood, whose every motion was timed with dying cries.” Coriolanus entered the gates of the city... (full context)
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
...cannot wear the candidate’s robe and stand exposed in front of the people, using his wounds to ask for their votes. But Sicinius responds that the people must have their voices.... (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
...time they don’t really have the power to do so, since if Coriolanus shows his wounds and tells of his deeds, the citizens must “put [their] tongues into those wounds 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
...believes he cannot even force his tongue to beg, or to say “Look, sir, my wounds! I got them in my country’s service when some certain of your brethren roared 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
...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 they agree to give... (full context)
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
...He says he has fought for them, stood watch for them, and received dozens of wounds for them. He asks to be consul, and the citizens answer that any honest man... (full context)
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
...was just his way of speaking. One complains that Coriolanus did not show them his wounds, and all the citizens agree that no one saw the wounds. He said he had... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 1
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
...to silence Coriolanus, saying “no more words,” but Coriolanus continues. He says he has shed blood for his country without fear of any outside force, and likewise he will speak words... (full context)
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
...continue encouraging Coriolanus to go home, and they compare his loss of approval to a wound that he himself cannot cure. (full context)
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
...done nothing to Rome to warrant death. He’s killed Rome’s enemies and lost his own blood, all for his country. Killing Coriolanus would permanently mark Rome with shame. Sicinius disagrees, 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
...can face legal justice. A senator urges the tribunes to agree to this, since otherwise bloody infighting in Rome is highly likely. The tribunes agree to meet Menenius and Coriolanus at... (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
...dishonorable than taking a town with gentle words instead of risking his life in a bloody battle. Volumnia herself would conceal her true nature (“dissemble”) if her friends and her success... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 3
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
...that the people notice, reminding them that Coriolanus has done military service and has received wounds for his country. Humbly, Coriolanus calls the wounds “scratches.” (full context)
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
...to speak, reminding the tribunes that he himself was once consul and can show the wounds he has received for Rome. He intends to plead for Coriolanus, but Brutus and Sicinius... (full context)
Act 4, 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
Volumnia 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... (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
...and has therefore been surnamed Coriolanus. For all of the danger he has faced and blood he has shed for his ungrateful country, his only reward is that surname, which is... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 7
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
...and is extremely successful in battle, Aufidius can still accuse Coriolanus, and he plans a bloody reckoning. (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
...not eaten when he refused to hear Cominius. Without food, he says, humans get cold blood and are likely to be unforgiving, while well-fed humans have a better temperament. Menenius plans... (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
...of Rome in shackles, or Coriolanus will destroy Rome and receive accolades for shedding the blood of his wife and child. (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
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
...a few drops of women’s tears (“which are as cheap as lies”) Coriolanus “sold the blood and labor of their great action.” For this, he will die, and Aufidius will renew... (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
...has returned still hating Rome and still under their command. He led the armies “with bloody passage” all the way to the gates of Rome, and has brought home spoils equaling... (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
...“boy,” Coriolanus tells the Volscian lords that Aufidius is a lying cur who bears many wounds inflicted by Coriolanus himself. (full context)
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
...stands on Coriolanus’s body and addresses the Volscian people. The Volscian lords, meanwhile, lament the bloody deed, asking Aufidius not to stand on the body. Aufidius assures the lords that when... (full context)