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ACT I. SCENE I.
Rome. A Street.
Enter a Company of mutinous Citizens, with Staves, Clubs, and other Weapons.
1 CIT. Before we proceed any further, hear me speak.
CIT. Speak, speak.
[Several speaking at once.
1 CIT. You are all resolved rather to die, than to famish?
CIT. Resolved, resolved.
1 CIT. First you know, Caius Marcius is chief enemy to the people.
CIT. We know't, we know't.
1 CIT. Let us kill him, and we'll have corn at our own price. Is't a verdict?
CIT. No more talking on't; let it be done: away, away.
2 CIT. One word, good citizens.
1 CIT. 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 as humanely; but they think, we are too dear2: the leanness that afflicts us, the object
1 Cit. We are accounted POOR citizens; the patricians, GOOD;] Good is here used in the mercantile sense. So, Touchstone in Eastward Hoe:
known good men, well monied." FARMER. Again, in The Merchant of Venice : "Antonio's a good man."
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.
- but they think, we are too dear:] They think that the charge of maintaining us is more than we are worth. JOHNSON. 3 Let us revenge this with our PIKES, ere we become RAKES:] It was Shakspeare's design to make this fellow quibble all the way. But time, who has done greater things, has here stifled a miserable joke; which was then the same as if it had been now wrote, "Let us now revenge this with forks, ere we become rakes: for pikes then signified the same as forks do now. So, Jewel in his own translation of his Apology, turns “ Christianos ad furcas condemnare," to-"To condemn christians to the pikes." But the Oxford editor, without knowing any thing of this, has with great sagacity found out the joke, and reads on his own authority, pitch-forks. Warburton.
It is plain that, in our author's time, we had the proverb, lean as a rake." Of this proverb the original is obscure. Rake now signifies a dissolute man, a man worn out with disease and debauchery. But the signification is, I think, much more modern than the proverb. Rakel, in Islandick, is said to mean a cur-dog, and this was probably the first use among us of the word rake; as lean as a rake" is, therefore, as lean as a dog too worthless to be fed. JOHNSON.
It may be so and yet I believe the proverb, as lean as a rake," owes its origin simply to the thin taper form of the instrument made use of by hay-makers. Chaucer has this simile in his description of the clerk's horse in the prologue to the Canterbury Tales, Mr. Tyrwhitt's edit. v. 281:
"As lene was his hors as is a rake."
Spenser introduces it in the second book of his Fairy Queen, Canto II.:
"His body lean and meagre as a rake."
"As thin as a whipping-post," is another proverb of the same kind.
Stanyhurst, in his translation of the third book of Virgil, 1582, describing Achæmenides, says:
A meigre leane rake," &c.
This passage, however, seems to countenance Dr. Johnson's supposition; as also does the following from Churchyard's Tragicall Discourse of the Haplesse Man's Life, 1593:
“And though as leane as rake in every rib." STEEVENS.
2 CIT. Would you proceed especially against Caius Marcius?
ALL. Against him first; he's a very dog to the commonalty.
2 CIT. Consider you what services he has done for his country?
1 CIT. Very well; and could be content to give him good report for't, but that he pays himself with being proud.
2 CIT. Nay, but speak not maliciously.
1 CIT. 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.
2 CIT. What he cannot help in his nature, you account a vice in him: You must in no way say, he is covetous.
1 CIT. 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' the city is risen: Why stay we prating here? to the Capitol.
CIT. Come, come.
1 CIT. Soft; who comes here ?
Enter MENENIUS AGRIPPA.
2 CIT. Worthy Menenius Agrippa; one that hath always loved the people.
1 CIT. He's one honest enough; 'Would, all the rest were so !
4 Cit. Against him first, &c.] This speech is in the old play, as here, given to a body of the Citizens speaking at once. ieve, it ought to be assigned to the first Citizen. MALONE. to the altitude] So, in King Henry VIII. : "He's traitor to the height," STEEVENS.
MEN. What work's, my countrymen, in hand?
With bats and clubs? The matter? Speak, I pray
1 CIT. Our business is not unknown to the 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.
MEN. Why, masters, my good friends, mine honest neighbours,
Will you undo yourselves?
1 CIT. We cannot, sir, we are undone already.
Thither where more attends you; and you slander
6 Our business, &c.] This and all the subsequent plebeian speeches in this scene are given in the old copy to the second Citizen. But the dialogue at the opening of the play shows that it must have been a mistake, and that they ought to be attributed to the first Citizen. The second is rather friendly to Coriolanus. MALONE.
- cracking ten thousand curbs }
"I have made my way through more impediments
1 Cir. Care for us!-True, indeed!-They ne'er cared for us yet. Suffer us to famish, and their store-houses crammed 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 us. MEN. Either you must
Confess yourselves wondrous malicious,
8 - I will venture
TO SCALE 't a little more.] To scale is to disperse. The word is still used in the North. The sense of the old reading is, Though some of you have heard the story, I will spread it yet wider, and diffuse it among the rest.
A measure of wine spilt, is called-" a scal'd pottle of wine," in Decker's comedy of The Honest Whore, 1604. So, in The Hystorie of Clyomon, Knight of the Golden Shield, &c. a play published in 1599:
The hugie heapes of cares that lodged in my minde, "Are skaled from their nestling-place, and pleasures passage find."
Again, in Decker's Honest Whore, already quoted:
Fye, fye; idle, idle; he's no Frenchman, to fret at the loss of little scal'd hair." In the North they say scale the corn, i. e. scatter it scale the muck well, i. e. spread the dung well. The two foregoing instances are taken from Mr. Lambe's notes on the old metrical history of Floddon Field.
Again, Holinshed, vol. ii. p. 499, speaking of the retreat of the Welshmen during the absence of Richard II. says - they would no longer abide, but scaled and departed away." So again, p. 530: " - whereupon their troops scaled, and fled their waies." In the learned Ruddiman's Glossary to Gawin Douglas's translation of Virgil, the following account of the word is given. Skail, skale, to scatter, to spread, perhaps from the Fr. escheveler, Ital. scapigliare, crines passos, seu sparsos habere. All from the Latin capillus. Thus escheveler, schevel, skail; but of a more general signification. See vol. ix. p. 115, n. 5. STEEVENS.