My name is Cauis Martius

If you’re looking for Martius’ most important speech in Coriolanus, it’s most likely the speech in which he reveals himself to his enemy Aufidius, and announces his intention to join forces with him. This speech, from Act Four, Scene Five, is certainly his longest.

So let’s take a look at it…

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.
The cruelty and envy of the people,
Permitted by our dastard nobles, who
Have all forsook me, hath devoured the rest,
And suffered me by th’ voice of slaves to be
Whooped out of Rome. Now this extremity
Hath brought me to thy hearth, not out of hope—
Mistake me not—to save my life; for if
I had feared death, of all the men i’ th’ world
I would have ’voided thee, but in mere spite,
To be full quit of those my banishers,
Stand I before thee here. Then if thou hast
A heart of wreak in thee, that wilt revenge
Thine own particular wrongs and stop those maims
Of shame seen through thy country, speed thee straight
And make my misery serve thy turn. So use it
That my revengeful services may prove
As benefits to thee, for I will fight
Against my cankered country with the spleen
Of all the under fiends. But if so be
Thou dar’st not this, and that to prove more fortunes
Thou ’rt tired, then, in a word, I also am
Longer to live most weary, and present
My throat to thee and to thy ancient malice,
Which not to cut would show thee but a fool,
Since I have ever followed thee with hate,
Drawn tuns of blood out of thy country’s breast,
And cannot live but to thy shame, unless
It be to do thee service.
  • IV.v.69-105

There are a couple of things of note here.

Like I said earlier, this is his longest speech. It’s a speech in which he reveals his identity (kicked off with the spondee “MY NAME” [as opposed to the iamb “my NAME”]), and surrenders himself to his enemy.

And that’s nice general stuff.

But let’s take a look at some specific bits:

A handful of lines in, after announcing his given surname of Coriolanus–based, remember on the name of the Volscian city he conquered–he says,

~ / ~ / ~ / / / ~ /
But with that surname, a good memory

The line starts off simply enough, but midway through, a normally unstressed word, “a,” gets a stress, followed by the spondee (GOOD MEM). One might think the comma is a clue to a caesura, an enforced pause, and while that would allow for an unstressed “a,” it would also force “a GOOD” to be an iamb, which then messes up the remainder of the line. I suppose you could make “a” simply an extra unstressed syllable; but then what to make of the comma–two consecutive unstressed syllables would imply a rushing-through of the syllables, but the comma negates that. I’m thinking what’s happening here is that the recall of the surname–in a sense in Martius’ ONE good memory from his recent Roman days–naturally give the “a” a stress. In other words, the acquisition of that surname is important to him; this links to what the citizens complained about him in the opening scene–his pride.

A few lines later, we get a similar situation:

~ / ~ / ~||/ ~ ~ / ~ /
Which thou shouldst bear me. Only that name remains.

Here, we get an enforced caesura with the period, which allows for the trochee (ONly) and the remainder of an iambic line. But since that surname is the only thing that remains…you’d think then that “that” would be stressed. But it’s not. Is this because he’s now trying to denigrate the name, move beyond it, destroy it, so that he may join the former army of Corioles? I’m thinking that’s probably the case.

Later, I love the fact that this conflicted man stresses the word “mere”:

~ / ~ / ~ / ~ / / /
I would have ’voided thee, but in mere spite,

It’s just so ironic, so conflicted.

When he gives Aufidius the option of using him against Rome, he also gives him the counter-argument:

~ / ~ / ~ / ~ / ~ /
Of all the under fiends. But if so be
~ / ~ / ~ / ~ / / / ~
Thou dar’st not this, and that to prove more fortunes
~ -/- / / ~ / ~ / ~ /
Thou ’rt tired, then, in a word, I also am

It’s great how the emphasis falls on the (normally) iambically un-stressed syllable of “then”…a perfect follow-up the the earlier stressed “if” just two lines earlier. He follows this up with a line with both a trochee and spondee:

/ ~ ~ / / / ~ / ~ /
Longer to live most weary, and present

This ends the presentation of his offer against Rome–three lines filled with variations from the iambic–it’s killing him to make this offer, it’s breaking his heart. So it’s no surprise that when he then says that Aufidius can kill him, his resignation is seen in the calming of his verbal heartbeat and the return to iambs:

~ / ~ / ~ / ~ / ~ / ~
My throat to thee and to thy ancient malice,
~ / ~ / ~ / ~ / ~ /
Which not to cut would show thee but a fool,
~ / ~ / ~ / -~- / ~ /
Since I have ever followed thee with hate,

The final lines are conflicted, variations sandwiching a nicely iambic line:

/ / ~ / / ~ ~ / ~ /
Drawn tuns of blood out of thy country’s breast,
~ / ~ / ~ / ~ / ~ /
And cannot live but to thy shame, unless
/ / ~ / / / ~
It be to do thee service.

The variations of the “Drawn tuns” line feel almost like a provocation–a dare to Aufidius to take him up on the offer–and the final line’s two spondees feel like a plea of desperation.

It’s a great speech, and there’s something else at work here. For roughly the third fourth, there’s a nearly ten-line sequence where it’s perfectly iambic, perfectly regular. What’s going on here? He’s linking Aufidius’ revenge with his own. Linking Aufidius to him. So what? you ask.

Well, Martius isn’t one for regular iambs. The only times that he’s calm is when he’s speaking only to himself, so why is this moment iambic? Remember how I talked about the homosocial link between the two men? I think this is part of that link.

Yeah, it’s a great speech.

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