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(WRITTEN ABOUT 1608.)
The metrical test places Coriolanus next after Antony anal Cleopatra, and it is probable that such is its actual place in the chronological order. Having rendered into art the history of the ruin of a noble nature through voluptuous self-indulgence, Shakespeare went on to represent the ruin of a noble nature through haughtiness and pride. From Egypt, with its splendors, its glow, its revels, its moral license, we pass back to austere republican Rome. But, although free from voluptuousness, the condition of Rome is not strong and sound ; there is political division between the patricians and plebeians. Shakespeare regards the people is an overgrown child with gooul and kindly instincts; owning a basis of untutored common-sense, but capable of being led astray by its leaders; possessed of little judgment and no reasoning powers, and wi hout capacity for self-restraint. It is not ior the people, however, that he reserves his scorn, but for their tribues, the demagogues, who mislead and perveri them. Although nobler types of individual charakter are to be found among the patricians than the plebeians, the dramatist is not blind to the patrician vices, and indeed the whole tragedy turns upon the existence and the influence of these. Coriolanus is by nature of a kindly and generous disposition, but he inherits the aristocratical tradition, and his kindliness strictly limits itself to the circle which includes those of his own rank and class. For his mother, he has a veneration approaching to worship; he is content to be subordinate under Cominius ; for the old Menenius he has an almost filial regard; but the people are“ slaves,”? . curs,' * minnows." His hangutiness becomes towering, because his personal ide, which in itself is great, is built up over a solid and high-reared pride of class. When he is banished, his bitterness arises not only from luis sense of the contemptible nature of the adversaries to whom he is forced to yield, but from the additional sense that he has been deserted by his own class, "the dastard nobles." And it is in this spirit of revolt against the bonds of society and of nature, that he advances against his native city. Biit his haughtiness cannot really place him above nature. In the presence of his wife, his boy, and his mother, the strong man gives way and is restored once more to human love. And so his fate comes upon him.
To the last something of his pride remains, and the immediate occasion of his death, is an outbreak of that sudden passion, springing from his self-esteem, which had already often' and grievously wronged him. The majestic figure of Volumnia is Shakespeare's ideal of the Roman matron, The gentle Virgilia is the most beautiful and tenderly loyal of wives, and her friend Valeria is
The moon of Rome, chaste as the icicle
CAIOS MARCIUS, afterwards Caius MARCIUS
tribunes of the people.
Two Volscian Guards.
Ædiles, Lictors, Soldiers, Citizens, Messen.
tendants. SCENE: Rome and the neighborhood; Corioli and thuc ncighborhooil; Antium.
SCENE I. Rome. A strect. Enter a company of mutinous Citizens, with
staves, clubs, and other weapons. First Cit. Before we proceed any further, hear me speak.
All. Speak, speak.
First Cit. You are all resolved rather to die than to famish ?
All. Resolved, resolved.
First Cit. First, you know Caius Marcius is chief enemy to the people.
All. We know't, we know't.
First Cit. Let us kill him, and we'll have corn at our own price. Is't å verdict ? 11
All. No more talking on't ; let it be done : away, away!
Sec. Cit. One word, good citizens.
First Cit. We are accounted poor citizens, the patricians good. What authority surfeits on would relieve us : if they would yield is 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.
Sec. Cit. Would you proceed especially against Caius Marcius ?
All. Against him first : he's a very dog to the commonalty.
29 Sec. Cit. Consider you what services hehas done for his country?
First Cit. Very well; and could be content to give him good report for't, but that he pays himself with being proud.
Sec. Cit. Nay, but speak not maliciously.
First. Cit. I say unto you, what he hath done famously, he did it to that end : though sost-conscienced 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.
41 Sec. Cit. What he cannot help in his nilture, you account a vice in hini. You must in no way say he is covetous.
First Cit. If I must not, I need not be barren of accusations ; he hath faults, with surplus, to tire in repetition. [Shouts within.) What shonts are these? The other side o' the city is risen: why stay we prating here? to the Capitol! AU. Come, come.
50 First. Cit. Soft! who comes here?
Enter MENENIUS AGRIPPA. Sec. Cut. Worthy Menenius Agrippa ; one that hath always loved the people.
First Cit. He's one honest enough : would all the rest were so ! Mon. What work's, my countrymen, in
hand ? where go you
With bats and clubs? The matter ? speak, I
pray you. First Cit. Our business is not unknown to the senate ; they have had inkling this fort night 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 neighbors, Will you undo yourselves ?
First Cit. We cannot, sir, we are undone already.
(care Men. I tell you, friends, most charitable 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
70 Against the Roman state, whose course will 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 arnus, must help.
Alack, You are transported by calamity Thither where more attends you, and you
slander The helnus o' the state, who care for you like
fathers, When you curse them as enemies.
80 First Cit. 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 ; TEpeal 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. Jen. Either you must
90 Confess yourselves wondrous malicious, Or be accused of folly. I shall tell you A pretty tale : it may be you have heard it ; Buit, since it serves my purpose, I will venture To stale't a little more.
First Cit. 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. Men. There was a time when all the body's
members Rebell'd against the belly, thus accused it: 100 That only like a gulf it did remain l' the midst o' the body, idle and unactive, Still cupboarding the viand, Dever bearing Like labor with the rest, where the other in
struments Did see and hear, devise, instruct, walk, feel, And, mutnally participate, did minister Unto the appetite and affection common Of the whole body. The belly answer'd
First Cit. Well, sir, what answer made the belly ?
Men. Sir, I shall tell you. With a kind of
smile, Which ne'er came from the lungs, but even
thusFor, look you, I may make the belly smile
First Cit. Your belly's answer? What !
What then ? 'Fore me, this fellow speaks! What then ?
what then? First Cit. Should by the cormorant belly
be restrain'd, Who is the sink o' the body, Men.
Well, what then ? First Cit. The former agents, if they did
complain, What could the belly answer? Men,
I will tell you ; If you'll bestow a small-of what you have
littlePatience awhile, you'll hear the belly's answer.
130 Fost Cit. Ye're long about it. Men.
Note me this, good friend ; Your most grave belly was deliberate, Not rash like his accusers, and thus an
swer'd : 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 store-house 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 the seat o' the brain ;
140 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 Cit. Ay, sir ; well, well. Men.
* 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?
150 First Cit. It was an answer: how apply Men. The senators of Rome are this good
belly, And you the mutinous members; for examine Their counsels and their cares, digest things
Touching the weal o' the 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 Cit. I the great toe ! why the great toe ?
160 Men. For that, being one o' the lowest,
basest, poorest, Of this most wise rebellion, thou go'st fore,
most : 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. Enter CAIUS MARCIUS.
Hail, noble Marcius ! Mar. Thanks. What's the matter, you dis
sentious rogues, That, rubbing the poor itch of your opinion, Make yourselves scabs ?
First Cit. We have ever your good word. Mar. He that will give good words to thee will flatter
171 Beneath abhorring. What would you have,
you curs, That like nor peace nor war? the one af
frights you, The other makes you proud. He that trusts Where he should find you lions, finds you
hares ; Where foxes, geese: you are no surer, no, Than is the coal of fire upon the ice, Or hailstone in the sun. Your virtue is To make him worthy whose offence subdues
him And curse that justice did it. Who deserves greatness
180 Deserves your hate ; and your affections are A sick man's appetite, who desires most that Which would increase his evil. He that de
pends Upon your favors swims with fins of lead And hews down oaks with rushes. Hang ye !
Trust ye? With every minute you do change a mind, And call him noble that was now your hate, Him vile that was your garland. What's the
matter, That in these several places of the city You cry against the noble senate, who, 190 Under the gods, keep you in awe, which else Would feed on one another? What's their
seeking? Men. For corn at their own rates ; where
of, they say, The city is well stored. Mar.
Hang 'em! They say ! They'll sit by the fire, and presume to know Wliät's done i' the Capitol ; who's like to