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Coriolanus - Act 1, scene 1
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Navigate this workCoriolanus - Act 1, scene 1
Act 1, scene 1
Rome’s famished plebeians threaten revolt, and the patrician Menenius attempts to placate them. Martius announces that the plebeians, whom he hates, have been granted tribunes to represent them in government. Then news arrives of a Volscian army, led by Aufidius, threatening Rome.Enter a company of mutinous Citizens with staves,
clubs, and other weapons.
FIRST CITIZEN 0001 Before we proceed any further, hear me
ALL 0003 Speak, speak!
FIRST CITIZEN 0004 You are all resolved rather to die than to
0005 5 famish?
ALL 0006 Resolved, resolved!
FIRST CITIZEN 0007 First, you know Caius Martius is chief
0008 enemy to the people.
ALL 0009 We know ’t, we know ’t!
FIRST CITIZEN 0010 10Let us kill him, and we’ll have corn at
0011 our own price. Is ’t a verdict?
ALL 0012 No more talking on ’t; let it be done. Away, away!
SECOND CITIZEN 0013 One word, good citizens.
FIRST CITIZEN 0014 We are accounted poor citizens, the patricians
0015 15 good. What authority surfeits on would
0016 relieve us. If they would yield us but the superfluity
0017 while it were wholesome, we might guess they
0018 relieved us humanely. But they think we are too
0019 dear. The leanness that afflicts us, the object of our
0020 20 misery, is as an inventory to particularize their
0021 abundance; our sufferance is a gain to them. Let
0022 us revenge this with our pikes ere we become
p. 90023 rakes; for the gods know I speak this in hunger for
0024 bread, not in thirst for revenge.
SECOND CITIZEN 0025 25Would you proceed especially against
0026 Caius Martius?
ALL 0027 Against him first. He’s a very dog to the
SECOND CITIZEN 0029 Consider you what services he has
0030 30 done for his country?
FIRST CITIZEN 0031 Very well, and could be content to give
0032 him good report for ’t, but that he pays himself
0033 with being proud.
⌜SECOND CITIZEN⌝ 0034 Nay, but speak not maliciously.
FIRST CITIZEN 0035 35I say unto you, what he hath done
0036 famously he did it to that end. Though soft-conscienced
0037 men can be content to say it was for
0038 his country, he did it to please his mother and to be
0039 partly proud, which he is, even to the altitude of
0040 40 his virtue.
SECOND CITIZEN 0041 What he cannot help in his nature you
0042 account a vice in him. You must in no way say he
0043 is covetous.
FIRST CITIZEN 0044 If I must not, I need not be barren of accusations.
0045 45 He hath faults, with surplus, to tire in
0046 repetition. (Shouts within.) What shouts are these?
0047 The other side o’ th’ city is risen. Why stay we prating
0048 here? To th’ Capitol!
ALL 0049 Come, come!
Enter Menenius Agrippa.
FIRST CITIZEN 0050 50Soft, who comes here?
SECOND CITIZEN 0051 Worthy Menenius Agrippa, one that
0052 hath always loved the people.
FIRST CITIZEN 0053 He’s one honest enough. Would all the
0054 rest were so!
0055 55 What work ’s, my countrymen, in hand? Where go
0057 With bats and clubs? The matter? Speak, I pray you.
SECOND CITIZEN 0058 Our business is not unknown to th’
0059 Senate. They have had inkling this fortnight what
0060 60 we intend to do, which now we’ll show ’em in
0061 deeds. They say poor suitors have strong breaths;
0062 they shall know we have strong arms too.
0063 Why, masters, my good friends, mine honest
0065 65 Will you undo yourselves?
0066 We cannot, sir; we are undone already.
0067 I tell you, friends, most charitable care
0068 Have the patricians of you. For your wants,
0069 Your suffering in this dearth, you may as well
0070 70 Strike at the heaven with your staves as lift them
0071 Against the Roman state, whose course will on
0072 The way it takes, cracking ten thousand curbs
0073 Of more strong link asunder than can ever
0074 Appear in your impediment. For the dearth,
0075 75 The gods, not the patricians, make it, and
0076 Your knees to them, not arms, must help. Alack,
0077 You are transported by calamity
0078 Thither where more attends you, and you slander
0079 The helms o’ th’ state, who care for you like fathers,
0080 80 When you curse them as enemies.
SECOND CITIZEN 0081 Care for us? True, indeed! They ne’er
0082 cared for us yet. Suffer us to famish, and their
0083 storehouses crammed with grain; make edicts for
0084 usury to support usurers; repeal daily any wholesome
0085 85 act established against the rich, and provide
0086 more piercing statutes daily to chain up and restrain
p. 130087 the poor. If the wars eat us not up, they will;
0088 and there’s all the love they bear us.
0089 Either you must confess yourselves wondrous
0090 90 malicious
0091 Or be accused of folly. I shall tell you
0092 A pretty tale. It may be you have heard it,
0093 But since it serves my purpose, I will venture
0094 To ⌜stale⌝ ’t a little more.
SECOND CITIZEN 0095 95Well, I’ll hear it, sir; yet you must not
0096 think to fob off our disgrace with a tale. But, an ’t
0097 please you, deliver.
0098 There was a time when all the body’s members
0099 Rebelled against the belly, thus accused it:
0100 100 That only like a gulf it did remain
0101 I’ th’ midst o’ th’ body, idle and unactive,
0102 Still cupboarding the viand, never bearing
0103 Like labor with the rest, where th’ other instruments
0104 Did see and hear, devise, instruct, walk, feel,
0105 105 And, mutually participate, did minister
0106 Unto the appetite and affection common
0107 Of the whole body. The belly answered—
SECOND CITIZEN 0108 Well, sir, what answer made the belly?
0109 Sir, I shall tell you. With a kind of smile,
0110 110 Which ne’er came from the lungs, but even thus—
0111 For, look you, I may make the belly smile
0112 As well as speak—it ⌜tauntingly⌝ replied
0113 To th’ discontented members, the mutinous parts
0114 That envied his receipt; even so most fitly
0115 115 As you malign our senators for that
0116 They are not such as you.
SECOND CITIZEN 0117 Your belly’s answer—what?
0118 The kingly crownèd head, the vigilant eye,
0119 The counselor heart, the arm our soldier,
p. 150120 120 Our steed the leg, the tongue our trumpeter,
0121 With other muniments and petty helps
0122 In this our fabric, if that they—
MENENIUS 0123 What then?
0124 ’Fore me, this fellow speaks. What then? What then?
0125 125 Should by the cormorant belly be restrained,
0126 Who is the sink o’ th’ body—
MENENIUS 0127 Well, what then?
0128 The former agents, if they did complain,
0129 What could the belly answer?
MENENIUS 0130 130 I will tell you,
0131 If you’ll bestow a small—of what you have little—
0132 Patience awhile, you’st hear the belly’s answer.
0133 You’re long about it.
MENENIUS 0134 Note me this, good friend;
0135 135 Your most grave belly was deliberate,
0136 Not rash like his accusers, and thus answered:
0137 “True is it, my incorporate friends,” quoth he,
0138 “That I receive the general food at first
0139 Which you do live upon; and fit it is,
0140 140 Because I am the storehouse and the shop
0141 Of the whole body. But, if you do remember,
0142 I send it through the rivers of your blood
0143 Even to the court, the heart, to th’ seat o’ th’ brain;
0144 And, through the cranks and offices of man,
0145 145 The strongest nerves and small inferior veins
0146 From me receive that natural competency
0147 Whereby they live. And though that all at once,
0148 You, my good friends”—this says the belly, mark
0150 150 Ay, sir, well, well.
p. 17MENENIUS 0151 “Though all at once cannot
0152 See what I do deliver out to each,
0153 Yet I can make my audit up, that all
0154 From me do back receive the flour of all,
0155 155 And leave me but the bran.” What say you to ’t?
0156 It was an answer. How apply you this?
0157 The senators of Rome are this good belly,
0158 And you the mutinous members. For examine
0159 Their counsels and their cares, digest things rightly
0160 160 Touching the weal o’ th’ common, you shall find
0161 No public benefit which you receive
0162 But it proceeds or comes from them to you
0163 And no way from yourselves. What do you think,
0164 You, the great toe of this assembly?
SECOND CITIZEN 0165 165I the great toe? Why the great toe?
0166 For that, being one o’ th’ lowest, basest, poorest,
0167 Of this most wise rebellion, thou goest foremost.
0168 Thou rascal, that art worst in blood to run,
0169 Lead’st first to win some vantage.
0170 170 But make you ready your stiff bats and clubs.
0171 Rome and her rats are at the point of battle;
0172 The one side must have bale.
Enter Caius Martius.
0173 Hail, noble Martius.
0174 Thanks.—What’s the matter, you dissentious rogues,
0175 175 That, rubbing the poor itch of your opinion,
0176 Make yourselves scabs?
SECOND CITIZEN 0177 We have ever your good word.
0178 He that will give good words to thee will flatter
0179 Beneath abhorring. What would you have, you curs,
p. 190180 180 That like nor peace nor war? The one affrights you;
0181 The other makes you proud. He that trusts to you,
0182 Where he should find you lions, finds you hares;
0183 Where foxes, geese. You are no surer, no,
0184 Than is the coal of fire upon the ice
0185 185 Or hailstone in the sun. Your virtue is
0186 To make him worthy whose offense subdues him,
0187 And curse that justice did it. Who deserves greatness
0188 Deserves your hate; and your affections are
0189 A sick man’s appetite, who desires most that
0190 190 Which would increase his evil. He that depends
0191 Upon your favors swims with fins of lead,
0192 And hews down oaks with rushes. Hang you! Trust
0194 With every minute you do change a mind
0195 195 And call him noble that was now your hate,
0196 Him vile that was your garland. What’s the matter,
0197 That in these several places of the city
0198 You cry against the noble senate, who,
0199 Under the gods, keep you in awe, which else
0200 200 Would feed on one another?—What’s their seeking?
0201 For corn at their own rates, whereof they say
0202 The city is well stored.
MARTIUS 0203 Hang ’em! They say?
0204 They’ll sit by th’ fire and presume to know
0205 205 What’s done i’ th’ Capitol, who’s like to rise,
0206 Who thrives, and who declines; side factions and
0207 give out
0208 Conjectural marriages, making parties strong
0209 And feebling such as stand not in their liking
0210 210 Below their cobbled shoes. They say there’s grain
0212 Would the nobility lay aside their ruth
0213 And let me use my sword, I’d make a quarry
p. 210214 With thousands of these quartered slaves as high
0215 215 As I could pick my lance.
0216 Nay, these are almost thoroughly persuaded;
0217 For though abundantly they lack discretion,
0218 Yet are they passing cowardly. But I beseech you,
0219 What says the other troop?
MARTIUS 0220 220 They are dissolved. Hang
0222 They said they were an-hungry, sighed forth
0224 That hunger broke stone walls, that dogs must eat,
0225 225 That meat was made for mouths, that the gods sent
0227 Corn for the rich men only. With these shreds
0228 They vented their complainings, which being
0230 230 And a petition granted them—a strange one,
0231 To break the heart of generosity
0232 And make bold power look pale—they threw their
0234 As they would hang them on the horns o’ th’ moon,
0235 235 Shouting their emulation.
MENENIUS 0236 What is granted them?
0237 Five tribunes to defend their vulgar wisdoms,
0238 Of their own choice. One’s Junius Brutus,
0239 Sicinius Velutus, and I know not. ’Sdeath!
0240 240 The rabble should have first ⌜unroofed⌝ the city
0241 Ere so prevailed with me. It will in time
0242 Win upon power and throw forth greater themes
0243 For insurrection’s arguing.
MENENIUS 0244 This is strange.
MARTIUS 0245 245Go get you home, you fragments.
Enter a Messenger hastily.
0246 Where’s Caius Martius?
MARTIUS 0247 Here. What’s the matter?
0248 The news is, sir, the Volsces are in arms.
0249 I am glad on ’t. Then we shall ha’ means to vent
0250 250 Our musty superfluity.
Enter Sicinius Velutus, Junius Brutus, ⌜(two Tribunes);⌝
Cominius, Titus Lartius, with other Senators.
0251 See our best elders.
0252 Martius, ’tis true that you have lately told us:
0253 The Volsces are in arms.
MARTIUS 0254 They have a leader,
0255 255 Tullus Aufidius, that will put you to ’t.
0256 I sin in envying his nobility,
0257 And, were I anything but what I am,
0258 I would wish me only he.
COMINIUS 0259 You have fought together?
0260 260 Were half to half the world by th’ ears and he
0261 Upon my party, I’d revolt, to make
0262 Only my wars with him. He is a lion
0263 That I am proud to hunt.
FIRST SENATOR 0264 Then, worthy Martius,
0265 265 Attend upon Cominius to these wars.
0266 It is your former promise.
MARTIUS 0267 Sir, it is,
0268 And I am constant.—Titus ⌜Lartius,⌝ thou
0269 Shalt see me once more strike at Tullus’ face.
0270 270 What, art thou stiff? Stand’st out?
p. 25LARTIUS 0271 No, Caius Martius,
0272 I’ll lean upon one crutch and fight with t’ other
0273 Ere stay behind this business.
MENENIUS 0274 O, true bred!
0275 275 Your company to th’ Capitol, where I know
0276 Our greatest friends attend us.
LARTIUS, ⌜to Cominius⌝ 0277 Lead you on.—
0278 ⌜To Martius.⌝ Follow Cominius. We must follow you;
0279 Right worthy you priority.
COMINIUS 0280 280 Noble Martius.
⌜FIRST⌝ SENATOR, ⌜to the Citizens⌝
0281 Hence to your homes, begone.
MARTIUS 0282 Nay, let them follow.
0283 The Volsces have much corn; take these rats thither
0284 To gnaw their garners.
Citizens steal away.
0285 285 Worshipful mutineers,
0286 Your valor puts well forth.—Pray follow.
They exit. Sicinius and Brutus remain.
0287 Was ever man so proud as is this Martius?
BRUTUS 0288 He has no equal.
0289 When we were chosen tribunes for the people—
0290 290 Marked you his lip and eyes?
SICINIUS 0291 Nay, but his taunts.
0292 Being moved, he will not spare to gird the gods—
SICINIUS 0293 Bemock the modest moon.
0294 The present wars devour him! He is grown
0295 295 Too proud to be so valiant.
p. 27SICINIUS 0296 Such a nature,
0297 Tickled with good success, disdains the shadow
0298 Which he treads on at noon. But I do wonder
0299 His insolence can brook to be commanded
0300 300 Under Cominius.
BRUTUS 0301 Fame, at the which he aims,
0302 In whom already he’s well graced, cannot
0303 Better be held nor more attained than by
0304 A place below the first; for what miscarries
0305 305 Shall be the General’s fault, though he perform
0306 To th’ utmost of a man, and giddy censure
0307 Will then cry out of Martius “O, if he
0308 Had borne the business!”
SICINIUS 0309 Besides, if things go well,
0310 310 Opinion that so sticks on Martius shall
0311 Of his demerits rob Cominius.
BRUTUS 0312 Come.
0313 Half all Cominius’ honors are to Martius,
0314 Though Martius earned them not, and all his faults
0315 315 To Martius shall be honors, though indeed
0316 In aught he merit not.
SICINIUS 0317 Let’s hence and hear
0318 How the dispatch is made, and in what fashion,
0319 More than his singularity, he goes
0320 320 Upon this present action.
BRUTUS 0321 Let’s along.