A line-by-line translation

Coriolanus

Coriolanus Translation Act 5, Scene 3

Line Map Clear Line Map Add

Enter CORIOLANUS, AUFIDIUS, and others

CORIOLANUS

We will before the walls of Rome tomorrow Set down our host. My partner in this action, You must report to the Volscian lords, how plainly I have borne this business.

CORIOLANUS

Tomorrow, we'll camp our army in front of the walls of Rome. Aufidius, my partner in this war, you must report to the Volscian lords how straightforwardly I've acted.

AUFIDIUS

Only their ends You have respected; stopp'd your ears against The general suit of Rome; never admitted A private whisper, no, not with such friends That thought them sure of you.

AUFIDIUS

You've respected only the goals of the Volscians. You plugged your ears against the general pleas of Rome, listened not even to a whisper, no, not even with friends who were certain that you would. 

CORIOLANUS

This last old man, Whom with a crack'd heart I have sent to Rome, Loved me above the measure of a father; Nay, godded me, indeed. Their latest refuge Was to send him; for whose old love I have, Though I show'd sourly to him, once more offer'd The first conditions, which they did refuse And cannot now accept; to grace him only That thought he could do more, a very little I have yielded to: fresh embassies and suits, Nor from the state nor private friends, hereafter Will I lend ear to. Ha! what shout is this? Shall I be tempted to infringe my vow In the same time 'tis made? I will not.

CORIOLANUS

This last old man, whom with a broken heart I have sent back to Rome, loved me more than a father; no, he loved me as a god, even. It was Rome's last hope to send him,  and because I have such deep love for him—even though I conveyed that poorly to him—I've again offered the original conditions of surrender, which they had refused before and can't accept now. Out of respect for Menenius, who thought he could do more, I have yielded very little. No new negotiators or beggars, neither from the state nor private friends, will I listen to from now on. Huh? What are these shouts about? [Shouting from offstage] Will I be tempted to take back my vow the moment it's made? I will not.

Enter in mourning habits, VIRGILIA, VOLUMNIA, leading young MARCIUS, VALERIA, and Attendants

CORIOLANUS

My wife comes foremost; then the honour'd mould Wherein this trunk was framed, and in her hand The grandchild to her blood. But, out, affection! All bond and privilege of nature, break! Let it be virtuous to be obstinate. What is that curt'sy worth? or those doves' eyes, Which can make gods forsworn? I melt, and am not Of stronger earth than others. My mother bows; As if Olympus to a molehill should In supplication nod: and my young boy Hath an aspect of intercession, which Great nature cries 'Deny not.' let the Volsces Plough Rome and harrow Italy: I'll never Be such a gosling to obey instinct, but stand, As if a man were author of himself And knew no other kin.

CORIOLANUS

My wife comes at the head of the group, and after her the honored mold in which my body was created, and holding her hand, her grandchild. But I will not feel affection! I must break every familial bond and instinct! Let it be virtuous to be coldhearted. What is that curtsy worth, or those dove's eyes, which would make a god break his promise? I melt, and am not made of stronger earth than other men. My mother bows. As if Mount Olympus should bow to a molehill! My young boy has a face which seems to cry out "Don't send us away." And yet let the Volsces plow Rome to the ground and destroy all of Italy. I will not be such a child to bend to instinct, but will stand strong, as if a man created himself wholly and had no family.

VIRGILIA

My lord and husband!

VIRGILIA

My lord and husband!

CORIOLANUS

These eyes are not the same I wore in Rome.

CORIOLANUS

These eyes are not the same I had when I was in Rome.

VIRGILIA

The sorrow that delivers us thus changedMakes you think so.

VIRGILIA

It is the tragedy that brings us here which makes you think so.

CORIOLANUS

Like a dull actor now, I have forgot my part, and I am out, Even to a full disgrace. Best of my flesh, Forgive my tyranny; but do not say For that 'Forgive our Romans.' O, a kiss Long as my exile, sweet as my revenge! Now, by the jealous queen of heaven, that kiss I carried from thee, dear; and my true lip Hath virgin'd it e'er since. You gods! I prate, And the most noble mother of the world Leave unsaluted: sink, my knee, i' the earth;

CORIOLANUS

[Breaking down] Like a bad actor, I have forgotten my part, and I am out of character, to my complete disgrace. Beloved, please forgive my tyranny, but do not ask me to "Forgive our Romans." You kissed me as I was exiled, and by the jealous queen of heaven, I have carried it with me ever since and touched my lips to no one else. You gods! I'm rambling, and leave the most noble mother of the world ungreeted. My knees sink into the earth. [He kneels] 

VOLUMNIA

O, stand up blest! Whilst, with no softer cushion than the flint, I kneel before thee; and unproperly Show duty, as mistaken all this while Between the child and parent.

VOLUMNIA

Oh, stand up you foolish man, while I, with no cushion but the stony ground, kneel before you, and improperly show deference, as though you were the parent and I the child.

Kneels

CORIOLANUS

What is this? Your knees to me? to your corrected son? Then let the pebbles on the hungry beach Fillip the stars; then let the mutinous winds Strike the proud cedars 'gainst the fiery sun; Murdering impossibility, to make What cannot be, slight work.

CORIOLANUS

What is this? You would kneel to me, to your son? Then let the world reverse itself—let pebbles on the beach fill up the stars, and let the mutinous winds blow trees into the the fiery sun, doing the impossible and making what cannot be suddenly easy.

VOLUMNIA

Thou art my warrior;I holp to frame thee. Do you know this lady?

VOLUMNIA

You are my warrior. I helped to create you. [Referring to Valeria] Do you know this lady?

CORIOLANUS

The noble sister of Publicola, The moon of Rome, chaste as the icicle That's curdied by the frost from purest snow And hangs on Dian's temple: dear Valeria!

CORIOLANUS

The noble sister of Publicola, the pride of Roma, chaste as the icicle that's formed by frost from purest snow and hangs on the temple of Diana: dear Valeria!

VOLUMNIA

This is a poor epitome of yours,Which by the interpretation of full timeMay show like all yourself.

VOLUMNIA

[Pointing to young Marcius, Coriolanus's son] This is a weaker version of you, which, in time, may come to be much like you.

CORIOLANUS

The god of soldiers, With the consent of supreme Jove, inform Thy thoughts with nobleness; that thou mayst prove To shame unvulnerable, and stick i' the wars Like a great sea-mark, standing every flaw, And saving those that eye thee!

CORIOLANUS

The god of soldiers, with the consent of the supreme God, keep my thoughts noble, so that I may be invulnerable to shame. Gods, keep my resolve in this war like a great sea-mark, standing strong against every flaw and saving those who can see you!

VOLUMNIA

Your knee, sirrah.

VOLUMNIA

[To young Marcius] Kneel, boy.

CORIOLANUS

That's my brave boy!

CORIOLANUS

That's my brave boy!

VOLUMNIA

Even he, your wife, this lady, and myself,Are suitors to you.

VOLUMNIA

Even he, your wife, this lady, and myself, have come to beg your mercy.

CORIOLANUS

I beseech you, peace: Or, if you'ld ask, remember this before: The thing I have forsworn to grant may never Be held by you denials. Do not bid me Dismiss my soldiers, or capitulate Again with Rome's mechanics: tell me not Wherein I seem unnatural: desire not To ally my rages and revenges with Your colder reasons.

CORIOLANUS

Please, no more; don't ask. Or, if you ask, remember this: I have sworn not to do anything but deny you. Do not ask me to dismiss my soldiers, or to submit again to Rome's laws. Do not tell me that I have gone mad; do not ask me to exchange my rage and revenge with your cold reason.

VOLUMNIA

O, no more, no more! You have said you will not grant us any thing; For we have nothing else to ask, but that Which you deny already: yet we will ask; That, if you fail in our request, the blame May hang upon your hardness: therefore hear us.

VOLUMNIA

Oh, no more, no more! You have said you will not grant us anything, for we have nothing else to ask other than what you have already denied. Yet we will ask anyway, so that if you do not say yes, the blame may be solely on you. Therefore, hear us. 

CORIOLANUS

Aufidius, and you Volsces, mark; for we'llHear nought from Rome in private. Your request?

CORIOLANUS

Aufidius, and you Volsces, listen, because I don't want to be accused of hearing anything from Rome in private.

[To VOLUMNIA]
Your request?

VOLUMNIA

Should we be silent and not speak, our raiment And state of bodies would bewray what life We have led since thy exile. Think with thyself How more unfortunate than all living women Are we come hither: since that thy sight, which should Make our eyes flow with joy, hearts dance with comforts, Constrains them weep and shake with fear and sorrow; Making the mother, wife and child to see The son, the husband and the father tearing His country's bowels out. And to poor we Thine enmity's most capital: thou barr'st us Our prayers to the gods, which is a comfort That all but we enjoy; for how can we, Alas, how can we for our country pray. Whereto we are bound, together with thy victory, Whereto we are bound? alack, or we must lose The country, our dear nurse, or else thy person, Our comfort in the country. We must find An evident calamity, though we had Our wish, which side should win: for either thou Must, as a foreign recreant, be led With manacles thorough our streets, or else triumphantly tread on thy country's ruin, And bear the palm for having bravely shed Thy wife and children's blood. For myself, son, I purpose not to wait on fortune till These wars determine: if I cannot persuade thee Rather to show a noble grace to both parts Than seek the end of one, thou shalt no sooner March to assault thy country than to tread— Trust to't, thou shalt not— on thy mother's womb, That brought thee to this world.

VOLUMNIA

If we stayed silent and did not speak, our clothes and bodies alone should tell you how we've lived since your exile. Just consider: we are the most miserable women alive, since now that we have finally seen you again, that sight—which should make our eyes flow with joy and our hearts dance—instead makes us weep and shake with fear and sorrow. We, the mother, wife, and child are forced to see the son, husband, and the father tearing the guts out of his country. And to us, your hatred is even worse. You prevent us even from praying to the gods, something which even the most wretched can do—for how could we pray for our country, if it is to pray against you, or for you, if against our country? We see a disaster in either case: either you must, as a foreign monster, be led in chains through our streets, or else you will triumphantly walk through the ruins of Rome, and wear garlands for having bravely killed your wife and child. As for me, son, I cannot wait to see what happens. If I cannot persuade you to be merciful to both yourself and Rome rather than seek to destroy one, you will no sooner march to attack your country than you will walk over my dead body, the very womb that brought you into this world.

VIRGILIA

Ay, and mine,That brought you forth this boy, to keep your nameLiving to time.

VIRGILIA

Indeed, and mine too, the body that brought you this boy, your son, who bears your name.

YOUNG MARCIUS

A' shall not tread on me;I'll run away till I am bigger, but then I'll fight.

YOUNG MARCIUS

You will not tread on me. I'll run away till I am bigger, but then I'll fight you.

CORIOLANUS

Not of a woman's tenderness to be,Requires nor child nor woman's face to see.I have sat too long.

CORIOLANUS

If I want to avoid being tender, I cannot see the face of a child or a woman. I have sat  and listened too long.

Rising

VOLUMNIA

Nay, go not from us thus. If it were so that our request did tend To save the Romans, thereby to destroy The Volsces whom you serve, you might condemn us, As poisonous of your honour: no; our suit Is that you reconcile them: while the Volsces May say 'This mercy we have show'd;' the Romans, 'This we received;' and each in either side Give the all-hail to thee and cry 'Be blest For making up this peace!' Thou know'st, great son, The end of war's uncertain, but this certain, That, if thou conquer Rome, the benefit Which thou shalt thereby reap is such a name, Whose repetition will be dogg'd with curses; Whose chronicle thus writ: 'The man was noble, But with his last attempt he wiped it out; Destroy'd his country, and his name remains To the ensuing age abhorr'd.' Speak to me, son: Thou hast affected the fine strains of honour, To imitate the graces of the gods; To tear with thunder the wide cheeks o' the air, And yet to charge thy sulphur with a bolt That should but rive an oak. Why dost not speak? Think'st thou it honourable for a noble man Still to remember wrongs? Daughter, speak you: He cares not for your weeping. Speak thou, boy: Perhaps thy childishness will move him more Than can our reasons. There's no man in the world More bound to 's mother; yet here he lets me prate Like one i' the stocks. Thou hast never in thy life Show'd thy dear mother any courtesy, When she, poor hen, fond of no second brood, Has cluck'd thee to the wars and safely home, Loaden with honour. 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. He turns away: Down, ladies; let us shame him with our knees. To his surname Coriolanus 'longs more pride Than pity to our prayers. Down: an end; This is the last: so we will home to Rome, And die among our neighbours. Nay, behold 's: This boy, that cannot tell what he would have But kneels and holds up bands for fellowship, Does reason our petition with more strength Than thou hast to deny 't. Come, let us go: This fellow had a Volscian to his mother; His wife is in Corioli and his child Like him by chance. Yet give us our dispatch: I am hush'd until our city be a-fire, And then I'll speak a little.

VOLUMNIA

No, don't go leave us like that. Were it true that we were asking you to save the Romans by destroying the Volsces, then you might rightly condemn us for poisoning your honor, but that's not what we're asking. No, we're asking that you make a peace between them. Then, the Volsces may say "we've shown this mercy," and the Romans may say "this mercy we have received," and both sides will cry out praise to you and say: "Bless you for bringing us peace!" You know, great son, that war's outcome is uncertain, but we know this much—if you conquer Rome, all you'll get out of it will be a name so cursed that in the history books they'll write: "The man was  noble, but with his last acts undid all his nobility; he destroyed his own country, and his name will be hated forever." Speak to me, son. You have been at other times so honorable you seemed to imitate the gods, to tear open the air with thunder, and to work yourself up like lightning that would split an oak tree. Why won't you speak? Do you think it's honorable for a noble man to hold grudges?

[To VIRGILIA]
Daughter, you speak—he doesn't care about your weeping.

[To young MARCIUS]
You speak, boy. Perhaps your youthful voice will move him more than our reasoning. There's no man in the world more bound to his mother, but here he lets me ramble on like a man in the stocks. You have never in your life shown your dear mother any courtesy, when she, poor hen, fond of no second brood, has clucked you to the wars and safely home, covered in medals. Say that what I'm asking is unjust, and throw me out. But if it is not unjust, than you're not being fair, and the gods will plague you for preventing me from doing the duty which a mother should. He turns away. Down, ladies, let us shame him on our knees. He has more pride in that name, Coriolanus, than he has pity for our prayers. Down, and that's it. [All kneel] This is all we can do. Lets go home to Rome and die among our neighbors. No, look at this: this boy who barely knows what we are doing, kneeling and holds up his hands for friendship, makes our case with more strength than you can have to deny it. Come, let us go. This fellow had a Volscian as his mother, his wife is in Corioli and this child just looks like him by chance. We'll go like this—I will not speak until our city is burning, and then I'll speak a little. 

He holds her by the hand, silent

CORIOLANUS

O mother, mother! What have you done? Behold, the heavens do ope, The gods look down, and this unnatural scene They laugh at. O my mother, mother! O! You have won a happy victory to Rome; But, for your son,— believe it, O, believe it, Most dangerously you have with him prevail'd, If not most mortal to him. But, let it come. Aufidius, though I cannot make true wars, I'll frame convenient peace. Now, good Aufidius, Were you in my stead, would you have heard A mother less? or granted less, Aufidius?

CORIOLANUS

Oh, mother, mother! What have you done? Behold, the heavens open up, the gods look down and laugh at this mad scene. Oh my mother, mother! Oh! You have won a fortunate victory for Rome, but for your son—believe me, Oh, believe me—you have very dangerously convinced him, if not sentenced him to death. But, let death come. Aufidius, though I cannot make an all out war, I'll bring us a convenient peace. Now, good Aufidius, if you were in my place, would you have listened to your mother less? Or given less, Aufidius?

AUFIDIUS

I was moved withal.

AUFIDIUS

I was also moved by it.

CORIOLANUS

I dare be sworn you were: And, sir, it is no little thing to make Mine eyes to sweat compassion. But, good sir, What peace you'll make, advise me: for my part, I'll not to Rome, I'll back with you; and pray you, Stand to me in this cause. O mother! wife!

CORIOLANUS

I'd risk swearing that you were. And sir, it is no little thing to make my eyes sweat with compassion. But, good sir, tell me what peace terms you'll agree to. As for me, I'll not return to Rome, but will go back with you, so please, support me in making peace. Oh, mother! Wife!

AUFIDIUS

[Aside] I am glad thou hast set thy mercy and thy honour At difference in thee: out of that I'll work Myself a former fortune.

AUFIDIUS

[To himself] I am glad your mercy and honor are working against each other; I'll make a fortune out of this situation.

The Ladies make signs to CORIOLANUS

CORIOLANUS

Ay, by and by; But we will drink together; and you shall bear A better witness back than words, which we, On like conditions, will have counter-seal'd. Come, enter with us. Ladies, you deserve To have a temple built you: all the swords In Italy, and her confederate arms, Could not have made this peace.

CORIOLANUS

Yes, this is what must be. But we'll drink together first, and you'll take back a treaty to Rome, which we will agree to. Come along with us. Ladies, you deserve to have a temple built to you. All the swords in Italy, and all the other weapons too, could not have brought this peace.

Exeunt

Coriolanus
Join LitCharts A+ and get the entire Coriolanus Translation as a printable PDF.
LitCharts A+ members also get exclusive access to:
  • Downloadable translations of every Shakespeare play and sonnet
  • Downloads of 785 LitCharts Lit Guides
  • Explanations and citation info for 18,618 quotes covering 785 books
  • Teacher Editions for every Lit Guide
  • PDFs defining 136 key Lit Terms