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