ACT V
Scene 2
 

An Advanced post of the Volscian camp before Rome. The Guards at their station.

[Enter to them MENENIUS.]

FIRST GUARD
Stay: whence are you?

SECOND GUARD
Stand, and go back.

MENENIUS
You guard like men; 'tis well: but, by your leave,
I am an officer of state, and come
To speak with Coriolanus.

FIRST GUARD
From whence?

MENENIUS
From Rome.

FIRST GUARD
You may not pass; you must return: our general
Will no more hear from thence.

SECOND GUARD
You'll see your Rome embrac'd with fire before
You'll speak with Coriolanus.

MENENIUS
Good my friends,
If you have heard your general talk of Rome
And of his friends there, it is lots to blanks
My name hath touch'd your ears: it is Menenius.

FIRST GUARD
Be it so; go back: the virtue of your name
Is not here passable.

MENENIUS
I tell thee, fellow,
Thy general is my lover: I have been
The book of his good acts, whence men have read
His fame unparallel'd, haply amplified;
For I have ever verified my friends,--
Of whom he's chief,--with all the size that verity
Would without lapsing suffer: nay, sometimes,
Like to a bowl upon a subtle ground,
I have tumbled past the throw: and in his praise
Have almost stamp'd the leasing: therefore, fellow,
I must have leave to pass.

FIRST GUARD
Faith, sir, if you had told as many lies in his behalf as you
have uttered words in your own, you should not pass here: no,
though it were as virtuous to lie as to live chastely.
Therefore, go back.

MENENIUS
Pr'ythee, fellow, remember my name is Menenius, always
factionary on the party of your general.

SECOND GUARD
Howsoever you have been his liar,--as you say you have, I am one
that, telling true under him, must say you cannot pass. Therefore
go back.

MENENIUS
Has he dined, canst thou tell? For I would not speak with him
till after dinner.

FIRST GUARD
You are a Roman, are you?

MENENIUS
I am as thy general is.

FIRST GUARD
Then you should hate Rome, as he does. Can you, when you have
pushed out your gates the very defender of them, and in a violent
popular ignorance, given your enemy your shield, think to front
his revenges with the easy groans of old women, the virginal
palms of your daughters, or with the palsied intercession of such
a decayed dotant as you seem to be? Can you think to blow out the
intended fire your city is ready to flame in, with such weak
breath as this? No, you are deceived; therefore back to Rome, and
prepare for your execution: you are condemned; our general has
sworn you out of reprieve and pardon.

MENENIUS
Sirrah, if thy captain knew I were here he would use me with
estimation.

SECOND GUARD
Come, my captain knows you not.

MENENIUS
I mean thy general.

FIRST GUARD
My general cares not for you. Back, I say; go, lest I let forth
your half pint of blood;--back; that's the utmost of your
having:--back.

MENENIUS
Nay, but fellow, fellow,--

[Enter CORIOLANUS with AUFIDIUS.]

CORIOLANUS
What's the matter?

MENENIUS
Now, you companion, I'll say an errand for you; you shall know
now that I am in estimation; you shall perceive that a jack
guardant cannot office me from my son Coriolanus: guess but by my
entertainment with him if thou standest not i' the state of
hanging, or of some death more long in spectatorship and crueller
in suffering; behold now presently, and swoon for what's to come
upon thee.--The glorious gods sit in hourly synod about thy
particular prosperity, and love thee no worse than thy old father
Menenius does! O my son! my son! thou art preparing fire for us;
look thee, here's water to quench it. I was hardly moved to come
to thee; but being assured none but myself could move thee, I
have been blown out of your gates with sighs; and conjure thee to
pardon Rome and thy petitionary countrymen. The good gods assuage
thy wrath, and turn the dregs of it upon this varlet here; this,
who, like a block, hath denied my access to thee.

CORIOLANUS
Away!

MENENIUS
How! away!

CORIOLANUS
Wife, mother, child, I know not. My affairs
Are servanted to others: though I owe
My revenge properly, my remission lies
In Volscian breasts. That we have been familiar,
Ingrate forgetfulness shall poison, rather
Than pity note how much.--Therefore be gone.
Mine ears against your suits are stronger than
Your gates against my force. Yet, for I lov'd thee,
Take this along; I writ it for thy sake,

[Gives a letter.]

And would have sent it. Another word, Menenius,
I will not hear thee speak.--This man, Aufidius,
Was my beloved in Rome: yet thou behold'st!

AUFIDIUS
You keep a constant temper.

[Exeunt CORIOLANUS and AUFIDIUS.]

FIRST GUARD
Now, sir, is your name Menenius?

SECOND GUARD
'Tis a spell, you see, of much power: you know the way home
again.

FIRST GUARD
Do you hear how we are shent for keeping your greatness back?

SECOND GUARD
What cause, do you think, I have to swoon?

MENENIUS
I neither care for the world nor your general; for such things as
you, I can scarce think there's any, y'are so slight. He that
hath a will to die by himself fears it not from another. Let your
general do his worst. For you, be that you are, long; and your
misery increase with your age! I say to you, as I was said to,
away!

[Exit.]

FIRST GUARD
A noble fellow, I warrant him.

SECOND GUARD
The worthy fellow is our general: he is the rock, the oak not to
be wind-shaken.

[Exeunt.]