Act I, Scene 1
Rome. A street.
- Enter a company of mutinous Roman Citizens with staves,
- clubs, and other weapons.
First Roman Citizen1
- Before we proceed any further, hear me speak.
All Roman Citizens2
- Speak, speak.
First Roman Citizen3
- You are all resolv’d rather to die than to famish?
All Roman Citizens4
- Resolv’d, resolv’d.
First Roman Citizen5
- First, you know Caius Martius is chief enemy to the people.
All Roman Citizens6
- We know’t, we know’t.
First Roman Citizen7 - 8
- Let us kill him, and we’ll have corn at our own price. Is’t
- a verdict?
All Roman Citizens9
- No more talking on’t; let it be done. Away, away!
Second Roman Citizen10
- One word, good citizens.
First Roman Citizen11 - 19
- 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 reliev’d 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 Roman Citizen20
- Would you proceed especially against Caius Martius?
First Roman Citizen21
- Against him first; he’s a very dog to the commonalty.
Second Roman Citizen22
- Consider you what services he has done for his country?
First Roman Citizen23 - 24
- Very well, and could be content to give him good report
- for’t, but that he pays himself with being proud.
Second Roman Citizen25
- Nay, but speak not maliciously.
First Roman Citizen26 - 30
- 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
Second Roman Citizen31 - 32
- What he cannot help in his nature, you account a vice in
- him. You must in no way say he is covetous.
First Roman Citizen33 - 36
- 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 a’ th’ city is risen;
- why stay we prating here? To th’ Capitol!
All Roman Citizens37
- Come, come.
First Roman Citizen38
- Soft, who comes here?
- Enter Menenius Agrippa.
Second Roman Citizen39 - 40
- Worthy Menenius Agrippa, one that hath always lov’d the
First Roman Citizen41
- He’s one honest enough; would all the rest were so!
Menenius42 - 43
- What work’s, my countrymen, in hand? Where go you
- With bats and clubs? The matter? Speak, I pray you.
First Roman Citizen44 - 47
- 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.
Menenius48 - 49
- Why, masters, my good friends, mine honest neighbors,
- Will you undo yourselves?
First Roman Citizen50
- We cannot, sir, we are undone already.
Menenius51 - 64
- 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 Roman Citizen65 - 71
- Care for us? True indeed! They ne’er car’d for us yet.
- Suffer us to famish, and their store-houses cramm’d with
- grain; make edicts for usury, to support usurers; repeal
- daily any wholesome act establish’d 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.
Menenius72 - 77
- 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 Roman Citizen78 - 79
- Well, I’ll hear it, sir; yet you must not think to fob off
- our disgrace with a tale. But and’t please you, deliver.
Menenius80 - 89
- 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 a’ th’ body, idle and unactive,
- Still cupboarding the viand, never bearing
- Like labor 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 Roman Citizen90
- Well, sir, what answer made the belly?
Menenius91 - 98
- 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 Roman Citizen99 - 104
- 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
- In this our fabric, if that they—
Menenius105 - 106
- What then?
- ’Fore me, this fellow speaks! What then? What then?
First Roman Citizen107 - 108
- Should by the cormorant belly be restrain’d,
- Who is the sink a’ th’ body—
- Well, what then?
First Roman Citizen110 - 111
- The former agents, if they did complain,
- What could the belly answer?
Menenius112 - 114
- 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 Roman Citizen115
- Y’ are long about it.
Menenius116 - 130
- 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 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 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 Roman Citizen131
- Ay, sir, well, well.
Menenius132 - 136
- “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 Roman Citizen137
- It was an answer. How apply you this?
Menenius138 - 145
- 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 a’ 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 Roman Citizen146
- I the great toe? Why the great toe?
Menenius147 - 154
- 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.
- Enter Caius Martius.
- Hail, noble Martius!
Caius Martius155 - 157
- Thanks. What’s the matter, you dissentious rogues,
- That rubbing the poor itch of your opinion
- Make yourselves scabs?
First Roman Citizen158
- We have ever your good word.
Caius Martius159 - 180
- He that will give good words to thee will flatter
- Beneath abhorring. What would you have, you curs,
- That like nor peace nor war? The one affrights you,
- The other makes you proud. He that trusts to you,
- 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 offense subdues him,
- And curse that justice did it. Who deserves greatness
- Deserves your hate; and your affections are
- A sick man’s appetite, who desires most that
- Which would increase his evil. He that depends
- 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
- (Under the gods) keep you in awe, which else
- Would feed on one another? What’s their seeking?
Menenius181 - 182
- For corn at their own rates, whereof they say
- The city is well stor’d.
Caius Martius183 - 193
- Hang ’em! They say?
- They’ll sit by th’ fire, and presume to know
- What’s done i’ th’ Capitol; who’s like to rise,
- Who thrives, and who declines; side factions, and give out
- Conjectural marriages, making parties strong,
- And feebling such as stand not in their liking
- Below their cobbled shoes. They say there’s grain enough?
- Would the nobility lay aside their ruth
- And let me use my sword, I’d make a quarry
- With thousands of these quarter’d slaves, as high
- As I could pick my lance.
Menenius194 - 197
- Nay, these are almost thoroughly persuaded;
- For though abundantly they lack discretion,
- Yet are they passing cowardly. But I beseech you,
- What says the other troop?
Caius Martius198 - 208
- They are dissolv’d. Hang ’em!
- They said they were an-hungry; sigh’d forth proverbs—
- That hunger broke stone walls, that dogs must eat,
- That meat was made for mouths, that the gods sent not
- Corn for the rich men only. With these shreds
- They vented their complainings, which being answer’d,
- And a petition granted them—a strange one,
- To break the heart of generosity
- And make bold power look pale—they threw their caps
- As they would hang them on the horns a’ th’ moon,
- Shouting their emulation.
- What is granted them?
Caius Martius210 - 216
- Five tribunes to defend their vulgar wisdoms,
- Of their own choice. One’s Junius Brutus,
- Sicinius Velutus, and I know not—’sdeath,
- The rabble should have first unroof’d the city
- Ere so prevail’d with me; it will in time
- Win upon power, and throw forth greater themes
- For insurrection’s arguing.
- This is strange.
- Go get you home, you fragments!
- Enter First Messenger hastily.
- Where’s Caius Martius?
- Here. What’s the matter?
- The news is, sir, the Volsces are in arms.
Caius Martius222 - 223
- I am glad on’t, then we shall ha’ means to vent
- Our musty superfluity. See, our best elders.
- Enter Sicinius Velutus, Junius Brutus, Cominius, Titus
- Lartius, with other Senators.
First Roman Senator224 - 225
- Martius, ’tis true that you have lately told us,
- The Volsces are in arms.
Caius Martius226 - 230
- They have a leader,
- Tullus Aufidius, that will put you to’t.
- I sin in envying his nobility;
- And were I any thing but what I am,
- I would wish me only he.
- You have fought together?
Caius Martius232 - 235
- Were half to half the world by th’ ears, and he
- Upon my party, I’d revolt, to make
- Only my wars with him. He is a lion
- That I am proud to hunt.
First Roman Senator236 - 237
- Then, worthy Martius,
- Attend upon Cominius to these wars.
- It is your former promise.
Caius Martius239 - 242
- Sir, it is,
- And I am constant. Titus Lartius, thou
- Shalt see me once more strike at Tullus’ face.
- What, art thou stiff? Stand’st out?
Lartius243 - 245
- No, Caius Martius,
- I’ll lean upon one crutch, and fight with t’ other,
- Ere stay behind this business.
- O, true-bred!
First Roman Senator247 - 248
- Your company to th’ Capitol, where I know
- Our greatest friends attend us.
Lartius249 - 251
- To Cominius.
- Lead you on.
- To Martius.
- Follow Cominius; we must follow you,
- Right worthy you priority.
- Noble Martius!
First Roman Senator253
- To the Citizens.
- Hence to your homes, be gone!
Caius Martius254 - 257
- Nay, let them follow.
- The Volsces have much corn; take these rats thither
- To gnaw their garners. Worshipful mutiners,
- Your valor puts well forth; pray follow.
- Exeunt. Roman Citizens steal away. Manent Sicinius and
- Was ever man so proud as is this Martius?
- He has no equal.
- When we were chosen tribunes for the people—
- Mark’d you his lip and eyes?
- Nay, but his taunts.
- Being mov’d, he will not spare to gird the gods.
- Bemock the modest moon.
Brutus265 - 266
- The present wars devour him! He is grown
- Too proud to be so valiant.
Sicinius Velutus267 - 271
- Such a nature,
- Tickled with good success, disdains the shadow
- Which he treads on at noon. But I do wonder
- His insolence can brook to be commanded
- Under Cominius.
Brutus272 - 279
- Fame, at the which he aims,
- In whom already he’s well grac’d, cannot
- Better be held nor more attain’d than by
- A place below the first; for what miscarries
- Shall be the general’s fault, though he perform
- To th’ utmost of a man, and giddy censure
- Will then cry out of Martius, “O, if he
- Had borne the business!”
Sicinius Velutus280 - 282
- Besides, if things go well,
- Opinion that so sticks on Martius shall
- Of his demerits rob Cominius.
Brutus283 - 287
- Half all Cominius’ honors are to Martius,
- Though Martius earn’d them not; and all his faults
- To Martius shall be honors, though indeed
- In aught he merit not.
Sicinius Velutus288 - 291
- Let’s hence, and hear
- How the dispatch is made, and in what fashion,
- More than his singularity, he goes
- Upon this present action.
- Let’s along.