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Home > Coriolanus > ACT I - SCENE I. Rome. A street.

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ACT I, SCENE II (Next) >

ACT I - SCENE I. Rome. A street.
First Citizen
1    Before we proceed any further, hear me speak.
All
2    Speak, speak.
First Citizen
3    You are all resolved rather to die than to famish?
All
4    Resolved. resolved.
First Citizen
5    First, you know Caius Marcius is chief enemy to the people.
All
6    We know't, we know't.
First Citizen
7    Let us kill him, and we'll have corn at our own price.
8    Is't a verdict?
All
9    No more talking on't; let it be done: away, away!
Second Citizen
10   One word, good citizens.
First Citizen
11   We are accounted poor citizens, the patricians good.
12   What authority surfeits on would relieve us: if they
13   would yield us but the superfluity, while it were
14   wholesome, we might guess they relieved us humanely;
15   but they think we are too dear: the leanness that
16   afflicts us, the object of our misery, is as an
17   inventory to particularise their abundance; our
18   sufferance is a gain to them Let us revenge this with
19   our pikes, ere we become rakes: for the gods know I
20   speak this in hunger for bread, not in thirst for revenge.
Second Citizen
21   Would you proceed especially against Caius Marcius?
All
22   Against him first: he's a very dog to the commonalty.
Second Citizen
23   Consider you what services he has done for his country?
First Citizen
24   Very well; and could be content to give him good
25   report fort, but that he pays himself with being proud.
Second Citizen
26   Nay, but speak not maliciously.
First Citizen
27   I say unto you, what he hath done famously, he did
28   it to that end: though soft-conscienced men can be
29   content to say it was for his country he did it to
30   please his mother and to be partly proud; which he
31   is, even till the altitude of his virtue.
Second Citizen
32   What he cannot help in his nature, you account a
33   vice in him. You must in no way say he is covetous.
First Citizen
34   If I must not, I need not be barren of accusations;
35   he hath faults, with surplus, to tire in repetition.
Shouts within
36   What shouts are these? The other side o' the city
37   is risen: why stay we prating here? to the Capitol!
All
38   Come, come.
First Citizen
39   Soft! who comes here?
Enter MENENIUS AGRIPPA

Second Citizen
40   Worthy Menenius Agrippa; one that hath always loved
41   the people.
First Citizen
42   He's one honest enough: would all the rest were so!
MENENIUS
43   What work's, my countrymen, in hand? where go you
44   With bats and clubs? The matter? speak, I pray you.
First Citizen
45   Our business is not unknown to the senate; they have
46   had inkling this fortnight what we intend to do,
47   which now we'll show 'em in deeds. They say poor
48   suitors have strong breaths: they shall know we
49   have strong arms too.
MENENIUS
50   Why, masters, my good friends, mine honest neighbours,
51   Will you undo yourselves?
First Citizen
52   We cannot, sir, we are undone already.
MENENIUS
53   I tell you, friends, most charitable care
54   Have the patricians of you. For your wants,
55   Your suffering in this dearth, you may as well
56   Strike at the heaven with your staves as lift them
57   Against the Roman state, whose course will on
58   The way it takes, cracking ten thousand curbs
59   Of more strong link asunder than can ever
60   Appear in your impediment. For the dearth,
61   The gods, not the patricians, make it, and
62   Your knees to them, not arms, must help. Alack,
63   You are transported by calamity
64   Thither where more attends you, and you slander
65   The helms o' the state, who care for you like fathers,
66   When you curse them as enemies.
First Citizen
67   Care for us! True, indeed! They ne'er cared for us
68   yet: suffer us to famish, and their store-houses
69   crammed with grain; make edicts for usury, to
70   support usurers; repeal daily any wholesome act
71   established against the rich, and provide more
72   piercing statutes daily, to chain up and restrain
73   the poor. If the wars eat us not up, they will; and
74   there's all the love they bear us.
MENENIUS
75   Either you must
76   Confess yourselves wondrous malicious,
77   Or be accused of folly. I shall tell you
78   A pretty tale: it may be you have heard it;
79   But, since it serves my purpose, I will venture
80   To stale 't a little more.
First Citizen
81   Well, I'll hear it, sir: yet you must not think to
82   fob off our disgrace with a tale: but, an 't please
83   you, deliver.
MENENIUS
84   There was a time when all the body's members
85   Rebell'd against the belly, thus accused it:
86   That only like a gulf it did remain
87   I' the midst o' the body, idle and unactive,
88   Still cupboarding the viand, never bearing
89   Like labour with the rest, where the other instruments
90   Did see and hear, devise, instruct, walk, feel,
91   And, mutually participate, did minister
92   Unto the appetite and affection common
93   Of the whole body. The belly answer'd--
First Citizen
94   Well, sir, what answer made the belly?
MENENIUS
95   Sir, I shall tell you. With a kind of smile,
96   Which ne'er came from the lungs, but even thus--
97   For, look you, I may make the belly smile
98   As well as speak--it tauntingly replied
99   To the discontented members, the mutinous parts
100  That envied his receipt; even so most fitly
101  As you malign our senators for that
102  They are not such as you.
First Citizen
103  Your belly's answer? What!
104  The kingly-crowned head, the vigilant eye,
105  The counsellor heart, the arm our soldier,
106  Our steed the leg, the tongue our trumpeter.
107  With other muniments and petty helps
108  In this our fabric, if that they--
MENENIUS
109  What then?
110  'Fore me, this fellow speaks! What then? what then?
First Citizen
111  Should by the cormorant belly be restrain'd,
112  Who is the sink o' the body,--
MENENIUS
113  Well, what then?
First Citizen
114  The former agents, if they did complain,
115  What could the belly answer?
MENENIUS
116  I will tell you
117  If you'll bestow a small--of what you have little--
118  Patience awhile, you'll hear the belly's answer.
First Citizen
119  Ye're long about it.
MENENIUS
120  Note me this, good friend;
121  Your most grave belly was deliberate,
122  Not rash like his accusers, and thus answer'd:
123  'True is it, my incorporate friends,' quoth he,
124  'That I receive the general food at first,
125  Which you do live upon; and fit it is,
126  Because I am the store-house and the shop
127  Of the whole body: but, if you do remember,
128  I send it through the rivers of your blood,
129  Even to the court, the heart, to the seat o' the brain;
130  And, through the cranks and offices of man,
131  The strongest nerves and small inferior veins
132  From me receive that natural competency
133  Whereby they live: and though that all at once,
134  You, my good friends,'--this says the belly, mark me,--
First Citizen
135  Ay, sir; well, well.
MENENIUS
136  'Though all at once cannot
137  See what I do deliver out to each,
138  Yet I can make my audit up, that all
139  From me do back receive the flour of all,
140  And leave me but the bran.' What say you to't?
First Citizen
141  It was an answer: how apply you this?
MENENIUS
142  The senators of Rome are this good belly,
143  And you the mutinous members; for examine
144  Their counsels and their cares, digest things rightly
145  Touching the weal o' the common, you shall find
146  No public benefit which you receive
147  But it proceeds or comes from them to you
148  And no way from yourselves. What do you think,
149  You, the great toe of this assembly?
First Citizen
150  I the great toe! why the great toe?
MENENIUS
151  For that, being one o' the lowest, basest, poorest,
152  Of this most wise rebellion, thou go'st foremost:
153  Thou rascal, that art worst in blood to run,
154  Lead'st first to win some vantage.
155  But make you ready your stiff bats and clubs:
156  Rome and her rats are at the point of battle;
157  The one side must have bale.
Enter CAIUS MARCIUS
158  Hail, noble Marcius!
MARCIUS
159  Thanks. What's the matter, you dissentious rogues,
160  That, rubbing the poor itch of your opinion,
161  Make yourselves scabs?
First Citizen
162  We have ever your good word.
MARCIUS
163  He that will give good words to thee will flatter
164  Beneath abhorring. What would you have, you curs,
165  That like nor peace nor war? the one affrights you,
166  The other makes you proud. He that trusts to you,
167  Where he should find you lions, finds you hares;
168  Where foxes, geese: you are no surer, no,
169  Than is the coal of fire upon the ice,
170  Or hailstone in the sun. Your virtue is
171  To make him worthy whose offence subdues him
172  And curse that justice did it.
173  Who deserves greatness
174  Deserves your hate; and your affections are
175  A sick man's appetite, who desires most that
176  Which would increase his evil. He that depends
177  Upon your favours swims with fins of lead
178  And hews down oaks with rushes. Hang ye! Trust Ye?
179  With every minute you do change a mind,
180  And call him noble that was now your hate,
181  Him vile that was your garland. What's the matter,
182  That in these several places of the city
183  You cry against the noble senate, who,
184  Under the gods, keep you in awe, which else
185  Would feed on one another? What's their seeking?
MENENIUS
186  For corn at their own rates; whereof, they say,
187  The city is well stored.
MARCIUS
188  Hang 'em! They say!
189  They'll sit by the fire, and presume to know
190  What's done i' the Capitol; who's like to rise,
191  Who thrives and who declines; side factions
192  and give out
193  Conjectural marriages; making parties strong
194  And feebling such as stand not in their liking
195  Below their cobbled shoes. They say there's
196  grain enough!
197  Would the nobility lay aside their ruth,
198  And let me use my sword, I'll make a quarry
199  With thousands of these quarter'd slaves, as high
200  As I could pick my lance.
MENENIUS
201  Nay, these are almost thoroughly persuaded;
202  For though abundantly they lack discretion,
203  Yet are they passing cowardly. But, I beseech you,
204  What says the other troop?
MARCIUS
205  They are dissolved: hang 'em!
206  They said they were an-hungry; sigh'd forth proverbs,
207  That hunger broke stone walls, that dogs must eat,
208  That meat was made for mouths, that the gods sent not
209  Corn for the rich men only: with these shreds
210  They vented their complainings; which being answer'd,
211  And a petition granted them, a strange one--
212  To break the heart of generosity,
213  And make bold power look pale--they threw their caps
214  As they would hang them on the horns o' the moon,
215  Shouting their emulation.
MENENIUS
216  What is granted them?
MARCIUS
217  Five tribunes to defend their vulgar wisdoms,
218  Of their own choice: one's Junius Brutus,
219  Sicinius Velutus, and I know not--'Sdeath!
220  The rabble should have first unroof'd the city,
221  Ere so prevail'd with me: it will in time
222  Win upon power and throw forth greater themes
223  For insurrection's arguing.
MENENIUS
224  This is strange.
MARCIUS
225  Go, get you home, you fragments!
Enter a Messenger, hastily

Messenger
226  Where's Caius Marcius?
MARCIUS
227  Here: what's the matter?
Messenger
228  The news is, sir, the Volsces are in arms.
MARCIUS
229  I am glad on 't: then we shall ha' means to vent
230  Our musty superfluity. See, our best elders.
First Senator
231  Marcius, 'tis true that you have lately told us;
232  The Volsces are in arms.
MARCIUS
233  They have a leader,
234  Tullus Aufidius, that will put you to 't.
235  I sin in envying his nobility,
236  And were I any thing but what I am,
237  I would wish me only he.
COMINIUS
238  You have fought together.
MARCIUS
239  Were half to half the world by the ears and he.
240  Upon my party, I'ld revolt to make
241  Only my wars with him: he is a lion
242  That I am proud to hunt.
First Senator
243  Then, worthy Marcius,
244  Attend upon Cominius to these wars.
COMINIUS
245  It is your former promise.
MARCIUS
246  Sir, it is;
247  And I am constant. Titus Lartius, thou
248  Shalt see me once more strike at Tullus' face.
249  What, art thou stiff? stand'st out?
TITUS
250  No, Caius Marcius;
251  I'll lean upon one crutch and fight with t'other,
252  Ere stay behind this business.
MENENIUS
253  O, true-bred!
First Senator
254  Your company to the Capitol; where, I know,
255  Our greatest friends attend us.
TITUS
To COMINIUS
256   Lead you on.
To MARCIUS
257   Follow Cominius; we must follow you;
258  Right worthy you priority.
COMINIUS
259  Noble Marcius!
First Senator
To the Citizens
260   Hence to your homes; be gone!
MARCIUS
261  Nay, let them follow:
262  The Volsces have much corn; take these rats thither
263  To gnaw their garners. Worshipful mutiners,
264  Your valour puts well forth: pray, follow.
SICINIUS
265  Was ever man so proud as is this Marcius?
BRUTUS
266  He has no equal.
SICINIUS
267  When we were chosen tribunes for the people,--
BRUTUS
268  Mark'd you his lip and eyes?
SICINIUS
269  Nay. but his taunts.
BRUTUS
270  Being moved, he will not spare to gird the gods.
SICINIUS
271  Be-mock the modest moon.
BRUTUS
272  The present wars devour him: he is grown
273  Too proud to be so valiant.
SICINIUS
274  Such a nature,
275  Tickled with good success, disdains the shadow
276  Which he treads on at noon: but I do wonder
277  His insolence can brook to be commanded
278  Under Cominius.
BRUTUS
279  Fame, at the which he aims,
280  In whom already he's well graced, can not
281  Better be held nor more attain'd than by
282  A place below the first: for what miscarries
283  Shall be the general's fault, though he perform
284  To the utmost of a man, and giddy censure
285  Will then cry out of Marcius 'O if he
286  Had borne the business!'
SICINIUS
287  Besides, if things go well,
288  Opinion that so sticks on Marcius shall
289  Of his demerits rob Cominius.
BRUTUS
290  Come:
291  Half all Cominius' honours are to Marcius.
292  Though Marcius earned them not, and all his faults
293  To Marcius shall be honours, though indeed
294  In aught he merit not.
SICINIUS
295  Let's hence, and hear
296  How the dispatch is made, and in what fashion,
297  More than his singularity, he goes
298  Upon this present action.
BRUTUS
299  Lets along.
Exeunt

ACT I, SCENE II (Next) >
Scene Index
ACT I
  • SCENE I
  • SCENE II
  • SCENE III
  • SCENE IV
  • SCENE V
  • SCENE VI
  • SCENE VII
  • SCENE VIII
  • SCENE IX
  • SCENE X


  • ACT II
  • SCENE I
  • SCENE III


  • ACT III
  • SCENE I
  • SCENE II
  • SCENE III


  • ACT IV
  • SCENE I
  • SCENE II
  • SCENE III
  • SCENE IV
  • SCENE V
  • SCENE VI
  • SCENE VII


  • ACT V
  • SCENE I
  • SCENE II
  • SCENE III
  • SCENE IV
  • SCENE V
  • SCENE VI

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