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SCENE I. Rome. A Street.
Enter a Company of mutinous Citizens, with Staves,
Clubs, and other Weapons.
1 Citizen. 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 tricians, good ?: What authority surfeits on, would relieve ys; If they would yield us but the superfuity, while it were wholesome, we might guess, i Good, in a commercial sense. As in Eastward Hoe ;
known good men, well monied.' Again in the Merchant of Venice :
Antonio's a good man,'
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.
2 Cit. Would you proceed especially against Caius Marcius?
Cit. 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.
2 It should be remembered thatas lean as a rake' is an old proverbial expression. There is, as Warburton observes, a miserable joke intended:- Let us now revenge this with forks, before we become rakes;' a pike, or pike-fork, being the ancient term for a pitchfork. The origin of the proverb is doubtless 'as lean as a rache or ræcc (pronounced rake), and signifying a greyhound. See vol. iii. p. 344, note 7.
Cit. Come, come.
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 ! Men. What work's, my countrymen, in hand ?
Where go you With bats and elubs? The matter? Speak, I pray you.
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 ho
nest neighbours, Will you undo yourselves ?
1 Cit. We cannot, sir, we are undone already.
Men. 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 3: 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 The helms o'the state,
like fathers, When you curse them as enemies. 3 Thus in Othello:
• I have made my way through more impediments
1 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: 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
1 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
4 • The old copies have “ scale't a little more;" for which Theobald judiciously proposed stale. To this Warburton objects petulantly enough, it must be confessed, because to scale signifies to weigh; so indeed it does, and many other things; none of which, however, bear any relation to the text. Steevens too prefers scale, which he proves from a variety of authorities to mean scatter, disperse, spread:' to make any of them, however, suit his purpose, he is obliged to give an unfaithful version of the text. Though some of you have heard the story, I will spread it yet wider, and diffuse it among the rest." There is nothing of this in Shakspeare; and indeed I cannot avoid looking upon the whole of his long note as a feeble attempt to justify a palpable error of the press, at the cost of taste and sense.'
Gifford's Massinger, vol. i. p, 204, ed. 1813. In confirmation of Mr. Gifford's opinion it may be observed that to stale is used in the same sense in Julius Cæsar, Act i. Sc.ii. :
Were I a common laugher, or did use
To stale with ordinary oaths my love,' 5 Disgraces are hardships, injuries,
Still cupboarding the viand, never bearing
1 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 thus (For, look you, I may make the belly smile?, As well as speak), it tauntingly replied To the discontented members, the mutinous parts That envied his receipt; even so most fitly 8 As you malign our senators, for that They are not such as you. 1 Cit.
Your belly's answer: What? Men. The kingly-crowned head, the vigilant eye, The counsellor heart9, the arm our soldier, Our steed the leg, the tongue our trumpeter, With other muniments and petty helps In this our fabrick, if that they1 Cit.
What then? Men. 'Fore me, this fellow speaks !—what then?
what then? Should by the cormorant belly be restrain’d, Who is the sink o'the body,
6 Where for whereas.
7. And so the belly, all this notwithstanding, laughed at their folly and sayed,' &c.--North’s Plutarch, p. 240, ed. 1579.
8 i.e. exactly.
9 The heart was anciently esteemed the seat of the understanding. See the next note. There has been strange confusion in the appropriation of some parts of this dialogue in all editions, even to the last by Mr. Boswell. Not to encumber the page, I must request the reader to compare this with the former editions, and have no doubt he will approve the transposition of names which has been here made.