CAIUS MARCIUS, afterwards CAIUS MARCIUS CORIOLANUS
Generals against the Volscians
MENENIUS AGRIPPA, friend to Coriolanus
Tribunes of the People
YOUNG MARCIUS, son to Coriolanus
A ROMAN HERALD
NICANOR, a Roman
TULLUS AUFIDIUS, General of the Volscians
LIEUTENANT, to Aufidius
CONSPIRATORS, With Aufidius
ADRIAN, a Volscian
A CITIZEN of Antium
TWO VOLSCIAN GUARDS
VOLUMNIA, mother to Coriolanus
VIRGILIA, wife to Coriolanus
VALERIA, friend to Virgilia
GENTLEWOMAN attending on Virgilia
Roman and Volscian Senators, Patricians, Aediles, Lictors,
Soldiers, Citizens, Messengers, Servants to Aufidius, and other
Rome and the neighbourhood; Corioli and the
ACT I. SCENE I.
Rome. A street
Enter a company of mutinous citizens, with staves, clubs,
and other weapons
FIRST CITIZEN. Before we proceed any further, hear me speak.
ALL. Speak, speak.
FIRST CITIZEN. YOU are all resolv'd rather to die than to famish?
ALL. Resolv'd, resolv'd.
FIRST CITIZEN. First, you know Caius Marcius is chief enemy to the
ALL. We know't, we know't.
FIRST CITIZEN. Let us kill him, and we'll have corn at our own
price. Is't a verdict?
ALL. No more talking on't; let it be done. Away, away!
SECOND CITIZEN. One word, good citizens.
FIRST CITIZEN. We are accounted poor citizens, the patricians good.
What authority surfeits on would relieve us; if they would yield
us but the superfluity while it were wholesome, we might guess
they relieved us humanely; but they think we are too dear. The
leanness that afflicts us, the object of our misery, is as an
inventory to particularize their abundance; our sufferance is a
gain to them. Let us revenge this with our pikes ere we become
rakes; for the gods know I speak this in hunger for bread, not in
thirst for revenge.
SECOND CITIZEN. Would you proceed especially against Caius Marcius?
FIRST CITIZEN. Against him first; he's a very dog to the
SECOND CITIZEN. Consider you what services he has done for his
FIRST CITIZEN. Very well, and could be content to give him good
report for't but that he pays himself with being proud.
SECOND CITIZEN. Nay, but speak not maliciously.
FIRST CITIZEN. I say unto you, what he hath done famously he did it
to that end; though soft-conscienc'd men can be content to say it
was for his country, he did it to please his mother and to be
partly proud, which he is, even to the altitude of his virtue.
SECOND CITIZEN. What he cannot help in his nature you account a
vice in him. You must in no way say he is covetous.
FIRST CITIZEN. If I must not, I need not be barren of accusations;
he hath faults, with surplus, to tire in repetition. [Shouts
within] What shouts are these? The other side o' th' city is
risen. Why stay we prating here? To th' Capitol!
ALL. Come, come.
FIRST CITIZEN. Soft! who comes here?
Enter MENENIUS AGRIPPA
SECOND CITIZEN. Worthy Menenius Agrippa; one that hath always lov'd
FIRST CITIZEN. He's one honest enough; would all the rest were so!
MENENIUS. What work's, my countrymen, in hand? Where go you
With bats and clubs? The matter? Speak, I pray you.
FIRST CITIZEN. Our business is not unknown to th' Senate; they have
had inkling this fortnight what we intend to do, which now we'll
show 'em in deeds. They say poor suitors have strong breaths;
they shall know we have strong arms too.
MENENIUS. Why, masters, my good friends, mine honest neighbours,
Will you undo yourselves?
FIRST CITIZEN. We cannot, sir; we are undone already.
MENENIUS. I tell you, friends, most charitable care
Have the patricians of you. For your wants,
Your suffering in this dearth, you may as well
Strike at the heaven with your staves as lift them
Against the Roman state; whose course will on
The way it takes, cracking ten thousand curbs
Of more strong link asunder than can ever
Appear in your impediment. For the dearth,
The gods, not the patricians, make it, and
Your knees to them, not arms, must help. Alack,
You are transported by calamity
Thither where more attends you; and you slander
The helms o' th' state, who care for you like fathers,
When you curse them as enemies.
FIRST CITIZEN. Care for us! True, indeed! They ne'er car'd for us
yet. Suffer us to famish, and their storehouses cramm'd with
grain; make edicts for usury, to support usurers; repeal daily
any wholesome act established against the rich, and provide more
piercing statutes daily to chain up and restrain the poor. If the
wars eat us not up, they will; and there's all the love they bear
MENENIUS. Either you must
Confess yourselves wondrous malicious,
Or be accus'd of folly. I shall tell you
A pretty tale. It may be you have heard it;
But, since it serves my purpose, I will venture
To stale't a little more.
FIRST CITIZEN. Well, I'll hear it, sir; yet you must not think to
fob off our disgrace with a tale. But, an't please you, deliver.
MENENIUS. There was a time when all the body's members
Rebell'd against the belly; thus accus'd it:
That only like a gulf it did remain
I' th' midst o' th' body, idle and unactive,
Still cupboarding the viand, never bearing
Like labour with the rest; where th' other instruments
Did see and hear, devise, instruct, walk, feel,
And, mutually participate, did minister
Unto the appetite and affection common
Of the whole body. The belly answer'd-
FIRST CITIZEN. Well, sir, what answer made the belly?
MENENIUS. Sir, I shall tell you. With a kind of smile,
Which ne'er came from the lungs, but even thus-
For look you, I may make the belly smile
As well as speak- it tauntingly replied
To th' discontented members, the mutinous parts
That envied his receipt; even so most fitly
As you malign our senators for that
They are not such as you.
FIRST CITIZEN. Your belly's answer- What?
The kingly crowned head, the vigilant eye,
The counsellor heart, the arm our soldier,
Our steed the leg, the tongue our trumpeter,
With other muniments and petty helps
Is this our fabric, if that they-
MENENIUS. What then?
Fore me, this fellow speaks! What then? What then?
FIRST CITIZEN. Should by the cormorant belly be restrain'd,
Who is the sink o' th' body-
MENENIUS. Well, what then?
FIRST CITIZEN. The former agents, if they did complain,
What could the belly answer?
MENENIUS. I will tell you;
If you'll bestow a small- of what you have little-
Patience awhile, you'st hear the belly's answer.
FIRST CITIZEN. Y'are long about it.
MENENIUS. Note me this, good friend:
Your most grave belly was deliberate,
Not rash like his accusers, and thus answered.
'True is it, my incorporate friends,' quoth he
'That I receive the general food at first
Which you do live upon; and fit it is,
Because I am the storehouse and the shop
Of the whole body. But, if you do remember,
I send it through the rivers of your blood,
Even to the court, the heart, to th' seat o' th' brain;
And, through the cranks and offices of man,
The strongest nerves and small inferior veins
From me receive that natural competency
Whereby they live. And though that all at once
You, my good friends'- this says the belly; mark me.
FIRST CITIZEN. Ay, sir; well, well.
MENENIUS. 'Though all at once cannot
See what I do deliver out to each,
Yet I can make my audit up, that all
From me do back receive the flour of all,
And leave me but the bran.' What say you to' t?
FIRST CITIZEN. It was an answer. How apply you this?
MENENIUS. The senators of Rome are this good belly,
And you the mutinous members; for, examine
Their counsels and their cares, digest things rightly
Touching the weal o' th' common, you shall find
No public benefit which you receive
But it proceeds or comes from them to you,
And no way from yourselves. What do you think,
You, the great toe of this assembly?
FIRST CITIZEN. I the great toe? Why the great toe?
MENENIUS. For that, being one o' th' lowest, basest, poorest,
Of this most wise rebellion, thou goest foremost.
Thou rascal, that art worst in blood to run,
Lead'st first to win some vantage.
But make you ready your stiff bats and clubs.
Rome and her rats are at the point of battle;
The one side must have bale.