Enter a company of mutinous Citizens, with staves,
clubs, and other weapons
Before we proceed any further, hear me
You are all resolved rather to die than to
First, you know Caius Martius is chief
enemy to the people?
We know't, we know't.
Let us kill him, and we'll have corn at
our own price. Is't a verdict?
No more talking on't. Let it be done. Away, away!
One word, good citizens.
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 particularise 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.
Would you proceed especially against
Against him first. He's a very dog to the
Consider you what services he has
done for his country?
Very well, and could be content to give
him good report for't, but that he pays himself with being
Nay, but speak not maliciously.
I say unto you, what he hath done
famously he did it to that end. Though soft-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.
What he cannot help in his nature, you
account a vice in him. You must in no way say he is
If I must not, I need not be barren of
accusations. He hath faults, with surplus, to tire in
What shouts are these? The other side o'th' city is risen.
Why stay we prating here? To th' Capitol!
Soft, who comes here?
Enter Menenius Agrippa
Worthy Menenius Agrippa, one that
hath always loved the people.
He's one honest enough. Would all the
rest were so!
What work's, my countrymen, in hand? Where go you
With bats and clubs? The matter? Speak, I pray you.
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.
Why, masters, my good friends, mine honest neighbours,
Will you undo yourselves?
We cannot, sir, we are undone already.
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
controlling chain or strap passed under a horse's jaw; check, restraint
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.
Care for us? True indeed! They ne'er
cared for us yet. Suffer us to famish, and their storehouses
crammed with grain; make edicts for usury, to
support usurers; repeal daily any wholesome act established
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
Either you must
Confess yourselves wondrous malicious,
Or be accused 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.
Well, I'll hear it, sir. Yet you must not
think to fob off our disgrace with a tale. But, an't please
There was a time when all the body's members
Rebelled against the belly, thus accused it:
That only like a gulf it did remain
I'th' midst o'th' body, idle and unactive,
Still cupboarding the viand, never bearing
(usually plural) food, victuals, foodstuff
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 answered –
Well, sir, what answer made the belly?
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.
Your belly's answer – What!
The kingly crownéd 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 –
'Fore me, this fellow speaks! What then? what then?
Should by the cormorant belly be restrained
Who is the sink o'th' body –
Well, what then?
The former agents, if they did complain,
What could the belly answer?
I will tell you.
If you'll bestow a small – of what you have little –
Patience awhile, you'st hear the belly's answer.
Y'are long about it.
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 –
Ay, sir, well, well.
‘ 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?
It was an answer. How apply you this?
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
welfare, well-being, prosperity
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?
I the great toe? Why the great toe?
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,
[hunting] full of life, in fine condition
rascal (n.) 2
young or inferior deer in a herd; one of the common herd
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!
Thanks. What's the matter, you dissentious rogues,
That, rubbing the poor itch of your opinion
Make yourselves scabs?
We have ever your good word.
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 offence 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 favours 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?
For corn at their own rates, whereof they say
The city is well stored.
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 quartered slaves as high
As I could pick my lance.
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?
They are dissolved. Hang 'em!
They said they were an-hungry, sighed 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 answered,
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 o'th' moon,
Shouting their emulation.
What is granted them?
Five tribunes to defend their vulgar wisdoms,
Of their own choice. One's Junius Brutus, one
Sicinius Velutus, and I know not.'Sdeath!
The rabble should have first unroofed the city
Ere so prevailed 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 a Messenger, hastily
Where's Caius Martius?
Here. What's the matter?
The news is, sir, the Volsces are in arms.
I am glad on't. Then we shall ha' means to vent
Our musty superfluity. See, our best elders.
Enter Cominius, Titus Lartius, with other Senators;
Junius Brutus and Sicinius Velutus
Martius, 'tis true that you have lately told us:
The Volsces are in arms.
They have a leader,
Tullus Aufidius, that will put you to't.
I sin in envying his nobility,
And were I anything but what I am,
I would wish me only he.
You have fought together.
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.
Then, worthy Martius,
Attend upon Cominius to these wars.
It is your former promise.
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?
No, Caius Martius,
I'll lean upon one crutch and fight with t'other
Ere stay behind this business.
O, true bred!
Your company to th' Capitol, where I know
Our greatest friends attend us.
Lead you on.
(to Martius) Follow Cominius. We must follow you.
Right worthy you priority.
(to the Citizens)
Hence to your homes; be gone!
Nay, let them follow.
The Volsces have much corn. Take these rats thither
To gnaw their garners. (Citizens steal away) Worshipful mutineers,
Your valour puts well forth. Pray follow.
Exeunt Patricians. Sicicnius and Brutus stay behind
Was ever man so proud as is this Martius?
He has no equal.
When we were chosen tribunes for the people –
Marked you his lip and eyes?
Nay, but his taunts.
Being moved, he will not spare to gird the gods.
Bemock the modest moon.
The present wars devour him; he is grown
Too proud to be so valiant.
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
Fame, at the which he aims –
In whom already he's well graced – cannot
Better be held nor more attained 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!’
Besides, if things go well,
Opinion that so sticks on Martius, shall
Of his demerits rob Cominius.
Half all Cominius' honours are to Martius,
Though Martius earned them not; and all his faults
To Martius shall be honours, though indeed
In aught he merit not.
Let's hence and hear
How the dispatch is made, and in what fashion,
More than his singularity, he goes
Upon this present action.