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ACT I SCENE I. Rome. A street.
[ Enter a company of mutinous Citizens, with staves, clubs, and other weapons ]
First CitizenBefore we proceed any further, hear me speak.
AllSpeak, speak.
First CitizenYou are all resolved rather to die than to famish?
AllResolved. resolved.
First CitizenFirst, you know Caius Marcius is chief enemy to the people.
AllWe know't, we know't.
First CitizenLet us kill him, and we'll have corn at our own price.
Is't a verdict?
AllNo more talking on't; let it be done: away, away!
Second CitizenOne word, good citizens.11
First CitizenWe 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.20
Second CitizenWould you proceed especially against Caius Marcius?
AllAgainst him first: he's a very dog to the commonalty.
Second CitizenConsider you what services he has done for his country?
First CitizenVery well; and could be content to give him good
report fort, but that he pays himself with being proud.
Second CitizenNay, but speak not maliciously.
First CitizenI 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 till the altitude of his virtue.
Second CitizenWhat he cannot help in his nature, you account a
vice in him. You must in no way say he is covetous.
First CitizenIf 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!
AllCome, come.40
First CitizenSoft! who comes here?
Second CitizenWorthy Menenius Agrippa; one that hath always loved
the people.
First CitizenHe's one honest enough: would all the rest were so!
MENENIUSWhat work's, my countrymen, in hand? where go you
With bats and clubs? The matter? speak, I pray you.
First CitizenOur 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.52
MENENIUSWhy, masters, my good friends, mine honest neighbours,
Will you undo yourselves?
First CitizenWe cannot, sir, we are undone already.
MENENIUSI 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 on60
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' the state, who care for you like fathers,
When you curse them as enemies.69
First CitizenCare 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.
MENENIUSEither 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;80
But, since it serves my purpose, I will venture
To stale 't a little more.
First CitizenWell, I'll hear it, sir: yet you must not think to
fob off our disgrace with a tale: but, an 't please
you, deliver.
MENENIUSThere was a time when all the body's members
Rebell'd against the belly, thus accused it:
That only like a gulf it did remain
I' the midst o' the body, idle and unactive,
Still cupboarding the viand, never bearing90
Like labour with the rest, where the 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 CitizenWell, sir, what answer made the belly?
MENENIUSSir, 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 replied100
To the 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 CitizenYour 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--
MENENIUSWhat then?
'Fore me, this fellow speaks! What then? what then?110
First CitizenShould by the cormorant belly be restrain'd,
Who is the sink o' the body,--
MENENIUSWell, what then?
First CitizenThe former agents, if they did complain,
What could the belly answer?
MENENIUSI will tell you
If you'll bestow a small--of what you have little--
Patience awhile, you'll hear the belly's answer.
First CitizenYe're long about it.
MENENIUSNote me this, good friend;
Your most grave belly was deliberate,
Not rash like his accusers, and thus answer'd:
'True is it, my incorporate friends,' quoth he,120
'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;
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,130
You, my good friends,'--this says the belly, mark me,--
First CitizenAy, sir; well, well.
MENENIUS'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 CitizenIt was an answer: how apply you this?
MENENIUSThe senators of Rome are this good belly,
And you the mutinous members; for examine
Their counsels and their cares, digest things rightly140
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 CitizenI the great toe! why the great toe?
MENENIUSFor that, being one o' the lowest, basest, poorest,
Of this most wise rebellion, thou go'st foremost:
Thou rascal, that art worst in blood to run,
Lead'st first to win some vantage.150
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.
Hail, noble Marcius!
MARCIUSThanks. What's the matter, you dissentious rogues,
That, rubbing the poor itch of your opinion,
Make yourselves scabs?
First CitizenWe have ever your good word.
MARCIUSHe 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,160
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 depends170
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?
MENENIUSFor corn at their own rates; whereof, they say,
The city is well stored.
MARCIUSHang 'em! They say!180
They'll sit by the fire, and presume to know
What's done i' the 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'll make a quarry
With thousands of these quarter'd slaves, as high
As I could pick my lance.190
MENENIUSNay, 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?
MARCIUSThey are dissolved: 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--200
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' the moon,
Shouting their emulation.
MENENIUSWhat is granted them?
MARCIUSFive 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 themes210
For insurrection's arguing.
MENENIUSThis is strange.
MARCIUSGo, get you home, you fragments!
[Enter a Messenger, hastily]
MessengerWhere's Caius Marcius?
MARCIUSHere: what's the matter?
MessengerThe news is, sir, the Volsces are in arms.
MARCIUSI am glad on 't: then we shall ha' means to vent
Our musty superfluity. See, our best elders.
First SenatorMarcius, 'tis true that you have lately told us;
The Volsces are in arms.
MARCIUSThey have a leader,
Tullus Aufidius, that will put you to 't.
I sin in envying his nobility,220
And were I any thing but what I am,
I would wish me only he.
COMINIUSYou have fought together.
MARCIUSWere half to half the world by the ears and he.
Upon my party, I'ld revolt to make
Only my wars with him: he is a lion
That I am proud to hunt.
First SenatorThen, worthy Marcius,
Attend upon Cominius to these wars.
COMINIUSIt is your former promise.
MARCIUSSir, it is;
And I am constant. Titus Lartius, thou
Shalt see me once more strike at Tullus' face.230
What, art thou stiff? stand'st out?
TITUSNo, Caius Marcius;
I'll lean upon one crutch and fight with t'other,
Ere stay behind this business.
MENENIUSO, true-bred!
First SenatorYour company to the Capitol; where, I know,
Our greatest friends attend us.
TITUS[To COMINIUS] Lead you on.
[To MARCIUS] Follow Cominius; we must follow you;
Right worthy you priority.
COMINIUSNoble Marcius!
First Senator[To the Citizens] Hence to your homes; be gone!
MARCIUSNay, let them follow:
The Volsces have much corn; take these rats thither
To gnaw their garners. Worshipful mutiners,240
Your valour puts well forth: pray, follow.
[ Citizens steal away. Exeunt all but SICINIUS and BRUTUS ]
SICINIUSWas ever man so proud as is this Marcius?
BRUTUSHe has no equal.
SICINIUSWhen we were chosen tribunes for the people,--
BRUTUSMark'd you his lip and eyes?
SICINIUSNay. but his taunts.
BRUTUSBeing moved, he will not spare to gird the gods.
SICINIUSBe-mock the modest moon.
BRUTUSThe present wars devour him: he is grown
Too proud to be so valiant.
SICINIUSSuch a nature,
Tickled with good success, disdains the shadow250
Which he treads on at noon: but I do wonder
His insolence can brook to be commanded
Under Cominius.
BRUTUSFame, at the which he aims,
In whom already he's well graced, can not
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 the utmost of a man, and giddy censure
Will then cry out of Marcius 'O if he
Had borne the business!'
SICINIUSBesides, if things go well,260
Opinion that so sticks on Marcius shall
Of his demerits rob Cominius.
Half all Cominius' honours are to Marcius.
Though Marcius earned them not, and all his faults
To Marcius shall be honours, though indeed
In aught he merit not.
SICINIUSLet's hence, and hear
How the dispatch is made, and in what fashion,
More than his singularity, he goes
Upon this present action.
BRUTUSLets along.

Next: Coriolanus, Act 1, Scene 2


Explanatory Notes for Act 1, Scene 1

From Coriolanus. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan.

1. proceed any further, take any further action in the matter.

3. to die ... famish? to die a violent death in combat rather than slowly perish of famine?

5, 6. Caius Marcius ... people, sc. in wishing that no consideration should be shown them in their distress; chief enemy, for the omission of the Article, see Abb. § 84.

8, 9. we'll have ... price, and, sure enough, we shall be able to buy com as cheaply as we could wish: Is't a verdict? have you made up your minds on that point?

13. good, sc. in point of wealth; cp. M. V. i. 3. 16, "my meaning in saying he is a good man is to have you understand me that he is sufficient": What authority ... us, that which is to those in authority, the patricians, something over and above what they can profitably use for their wants, would relieve our distress.

14. but the superfluity, merely that which they can make no use of themselves: while it were wholesome, before it should become so musty as to be useless for food; for the subjunctive used indefinitely after a relative conjunction, see Abb. § 367.

15. we might ... humanely, we might suppose that they were prompted by feelings of humanity in relieving us.

16. too dear, not worth the keeping alive at such a cost; cp. M. N. D. i. 1. 249, "If I have thanks, it is a dear expense."

16, 7. the object of our misery, the spectacle of our suffering.

17, 8. is as ... abundance, serves, by way of contrast, to make them mindful of their own well-fed condition: each particular of our want corresponding to some particular of their abundance.

18. our sufferance ... them, our miseiy adds something in the way of zest to their prosperity: for sufferance, = suffering, cp. Lear, iii. 6. 113, "But then the mind much sufferance doth o'erskip." Shakespeare also uses it for patience, pain, loss, and permission.

18, 9. Let us ... rakes. Warburton points out that pikes was an old term for forks, i.e. pitch-forks, the two-pronged instrument with which hay, straw, etc., was picked, or pitched, on to a heap. So, below, i. 1. 190, we have, "As I could pick my lance," i.e. pitch my lance. In rakes, the comparison is to the bones of an animal showing below the skin as distinctly as the teeth of a rake; a comparison made clear by a passage from A Pleasant Dispute between a Coach and a Sedan, 1636, quoted by Malone on Lear, iii. 6. 78, ..."The dogges are as lean as rakes; you may tell all their ribbes lying be the fire."

19, 20. for the gods ... revenge, I say ere we become rakes, for, as heaven is my witness, it is the dread of starvation, not the desire for vengeance, which prompts my angry words.

21. proceed ... against, take action against; not in the legal sense of the phrase, but by demanding that he should be given up to their vengeance.

23. he's a very ... commonalty, he worries us, the common people, with all the fierceness of a dog worrying sheep.

24. Consider you, do you bear in mind?

26, 7. Very well, I do bear it in mind: and could ... proud, and I should be quite ready to give him full credit for those services, if it were not that he finds his own recompense for them in the opportunity they afford him for treating us with such disdain; for report, cp. W. T. v. 2. 162, "I humbly beseech you, sir, to pardon me all the faults I have committed to your worship and to give me, your good report to the prince my master"; Cymb. ii. 3. 88, "There is gold for you; sell me your good report."

29, 30. what lie hath ... end, those famous actions he has performed, he performed only in order that he might be able to make them an excuse for indulging in his pride: what, Abbott (§ 252) remarks that this pronoun when used relatively "generally stands before its antecedent, ... thereby indicating its interrogative force, though the position of the verb is altered to suit a statement instead of a question."

30. soft-conscienced men, men who allow their feelings to prevail over their judgement.

31. it, sc. his behaving so bravely.

31, 2. he did it ... proud, his motives were partly to give pleasure to his mother by the reputation he thus gained, and partly to give pleasure to himself by being able to indulge his pride; for the transposition of partly, see Abb. § 420. Plutarch says, "As for the other, the only respect that made them valiant, was that they hoped to have honour; but touching Martius, the only thing that made him to love honour was the joy he saw his mother did take of him. For he thought, nothing made him so happy and honourable, as that his mother might hear everybody praise and commend him" (Skeat. Shakespeare's Plutarch, p. 4).

32, 3. even ... virtue, in no less degree than his valour; virtue, in the sense of the Lat. virtus, valour, manly excellence, from vir, a man.

34, 5. What lie ... him, that which, being constitutional with him, he cannot help, you impute to him as a vice; cp. Haml, i. 4. 24-6, "That for some vicious mole of nature in them, As, in their birth - wherein they are not guilty, Since nature cannot choose his origin."

35. You must ... covetous, it is impossible, with any justice, to accuse him, as you may justly accuse the rest of the patricians, of avarice.

36, 7. I need ... accusations, I still have plenty of other charges which I may justly bring against him.

37. lie hath ... repetition, he has more than enough faults for one to grow weary in enumerating them: for repetition, i.e. mention, not over and over again, but mention of each particular fault, cp. K. J. ii. i. 197, "It ill beseems their presence to cry aim To these ill-tuned repetitions."

38. The other side, "The people had by this time retired to the Mons Sacer, which was about three miles from the city along the Via Nomentana. The other side would therefore be the part beyond the Tiber. But in all probability Shakespeare had in his mmd the topography of London and not of Rome, and the Tower was to him the Capitol" (Wright).

39. is risen, is up in arms: prating, idly chattering: the Capitol, the temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus at Rome, said to have derived its name from a human head (caput) being discovered in digging its foundation. Begun by Tarquinius Priscus and finished by Tarquinius Superbus, it was three times burnt down and as often rebuilt. Here the consuls upon entering upon their office offered sacrifice and took their vows: and hither the victorious general, who entered the city in triumph, was carried in his triumphal car to return thanks to the Father of the gods.

41. Soft! wait awhile!

Stage Direction. Menenius Agrippa, consul, B.C. 503, conquered the Sabines. Plutarch speaks of him as among "the pleasantest old men, and the most acceptable to the people" sent as "chief man of the message from the Senate" to the plebeians on their retirement to Mons Sacer.

44. He's ... enough, though a patrician, he has plenty of honesty in him.

46. in hand? about to be undertaken?

47. bats, bludgeons, cudgels; The matter? what is the business you are engaged in?

49. inkling, hint, intimation; "a verbal substantive formed from the M. E. verb incle ... a frequentative verb from a base ink-, to murmur, mutter"... (Skeat, Ety. Dict.): this fortnight, for the whole of the two last weeks.

50. which now, and what those intentions were, we will now, etc.

51. strong, sc. in their offensiveness; cp. A. W. v. 2. 5, "but I am now, sir, muddied in fortune's mood, and smell somewhat strong of her strong displeasure."

53. masters, a term of respect, though frequently as a mere courtesy without any idea of inferiority in the speaker.

54. undo, ruin.

56. most charitable care, most anxious consideration for your welfare.

57. For, as regards.

58. Your suffering ... dearth, the misery you have been put to by this scarcity of corn.

60. the Roman state, the governing powers of Rome.

60-3. whose course ... impediment, whose course will go forward in the direction it has marked out for itself, easily breaking down all hindrances, though ten thousand times more stubborn than any you can place in its way: Of more strong link, more strongly linked together: asunder, literally on sunder, from A.S. sundor, adverb, asunder: your impediment, the impediment offered by you: your, used subjectively. Malone compares Oth. V. 2. 263, "I have made my way through more impediments Than twenty times your stop."

63-5. For the dearth ... help, as for the scarcity of which you complain, that is due to the will of the gods, not to the enmity of the Patricians, and for all help against it you must betake yourselves to your knees in prayer to the gods, not to your arms in defiance of the Patricians: Alack, alas; according to Skeat, probably from ah! lak! ah, a loss!

66, 7. You are ... you, your misery is only hurrying you, in behaving in this manner, into worse misfortune.

68. The helms o' the state, those who are guiding the vessel of state.

69. When you curse, in cursing.

70. True, indeed! that's a pretty tale to tell us.

71, 2. suffer us ... grain, they are content to see us starve while all the time their garners are bursting with superabundance; for and, used to give emphasis, cp. Haml, i. 3. 62, "Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried, Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel"; and see Abb. § 95.

72, 3. make edicts ... usurers, they frame resolutions in favour of usury, whereby the exorbitant money-lenders are enabled to flourish. An edict was a rule promulgated by magistrates, more especially the praetors, upon their entry into office at the beginning of the year; and when the custom of succeeding magistrates adopting the rules of their predecessors became common, these rules, or edicts, gradually constituted a large body of law. The edicts here complained of are such as gave the usurers greater facility of recovering their debts and imposing stringent terms upon borrowers.

73, 4. repeal ... rich, are day by day going further in repealing whatever acts serve as a protection against the rich; wholesome, salutary in curbing the power of the wealthier classes: more piercing statutes, statutes of a more rigorous and cruel character.

75. eat us not up, do not make an end of us, kill us all off.

76. and there's ... us, and that is about all the love they can boast of feeling for us.

77-9 Either ... folly, when you have heard what I have to say, you will either have to confess that your words are words of the merest malice, or that you have laid yourself open to the charge of folly: shall tell, am about to tell, mean to tell; the first person with shall denoting the determination of the speaker.

80. tale, fable.

82. To stale ... more, to make it a little more stale by repetition; stale is Theobald's correction of scale, the reading of the folios. Grant White compares Massinger, The Unnatural Combat, iv. 2. 19, 20, "I'll not stale the jest By my relation."

83, 4. think ... tale, fancy that by telling us a fable you will be able to cheat us out of a belief in the humiliations we have endured; fob, Ger. foppen, to jeer, banter, occurs in the form fub, in ii. H. IV. ii. 1. 37; Halliwell (Arch, and Prov. Dict.), gives to "fub, to put off, deceive. At marbles, an irregular mode of projecting the taw by an effort of the whole hand, instead of the thumb only." For disgrace, cp. H. VIII. iii. 2. 240, "How eagerly you follow my disgraces": for an, see Abb. § 101.

85. deliver, relate: as frequently in Shakespeare.

87. Rebell'd ... it, it is usual, as in the text, to put a comma or a semicolon after belly; but it seems probable that Rebell'd is used for rebelling or being in rebellion, and that we should regard the whole line as a single clause.

88, 9. That only ... body, that it did nothing but remain in the centre of the body like a whirlpool into which all nourishment was sucked; for the transposition of only, see Abb. § 420; for gulf, cp. Haml. iii. 3. 16, "but, like a gulf, doth draw what's near it with it": unactive, inactive; for the difference between un-, and in-, in composition, see Abb. § 442.

90. cupboarding, storing up as in a cupboard; a cupboard is properly a closet with shelves on which cups are ranged, then a closet in which anything is kept; viand, food; "the same as Ital. vivanda, victuals, food, eatables. - Lat. uiuenda, neuter plural, things to live on, provisions; considered as a feminine singular by a change common in Low Latin" (Skeat, Ety. Dict.): bearing, enduring, undergoing.

91. Where, whereas: instruments, including bodily and mental organs; cp. J. C. ii. 1. 66, "The genius and the mortal instruments Are then in council."

93. mutually participate, each sharing with the other in the common labour; the adjective participate is not elsewhere found in Shakespeare.

94. appetite, desires: affection common, inclinations shared by the whole body. For the transposition, see Abb. 419.

97. I shall tell you, I am about to tell you (and was about to tell you when you so rudely interrupted me).

98. Which ne'er ... lungs, with a bitter smile, not one that came freely like a hearty laugh from the lungs; Delius compares Cymb. i. 6. 68, "whiles the jolly Briton - Your lord, I mean - laughs from's free lungs, Cries 'O, can my sides hold."

99. 100. For ... speak, for, let me tell you, in a fable, there is no greater impropriety in representing the belly as smiling than in representing it as speaking.

102. envied his receipt, were jealous of its receiving all the nourishment taken into the body: for receipt, = thing received, cp. Lucr 703, "Drunken desire must vomit his receipt": his, its.

102-4. even so ... you, with no greater reason for their malignity than that which you bear towards our senators for being something different from yourselves.

104. Your belly's answer? come, don't delay, let us have this answer given by the belly of which you talk so much; for this colloquial use of Your, cp. Haml. iv. 3. 24, "Your worm is your only emperor for diet: your fat king and your lean beggar is but variable service"; and see Abb. § 221: here there is also the emphasis of scorn. What! are you going to be bold enough to tell us that the belly could possibly have any sufficient answer to give?

105. The kingly-crowned head, the head which is to the body what the crown is to the king, the emblem of supremacy.

106. The counsellor heart, the heart from which we receive the dictates of wisdom.

108. muniments, instruments with which the body is furnished and armed; Lat. munire, to fortify.

109. this our fabric, this frame-work of our body made up of all these several parts and organs: if that, for the conjunctional affile, see Abb. § 287.

110. 'Fore me ... speaks! my goodness! this is a fellow to talk! 'Fore me, i.e. before me, in my presence, a petty adjuration, used in order to avoid the penalties of profane swearing, an attenuated form of "fore God!" which we have in M. A. ii. 3. 192.

111. cormorant, voracious: properly a voracious sea-bird, the corvus marinus, sea-crow.

112. the sink o' the body, which serves the same purpose in the body that a sink serves in a kitchen, etc., the refuse water being allowed to drain off through it; originally a place into which filth sinks, or in which it collects.

113. agents, instruments, organs; cp. Macb. i. 7. 80, "I am settled, and bend up Each corporal agent to this terrible feat."

115, 6. If you'll ... awhile, if for a moment or two you will show me a small amount of that quality of which your store is but slight, viz. patience. Though Shakespeare often uses small where we should use little, it is probable that but for the parenthesis he would not have written a small Patience.

117. Note me, for this dative, see Abb. § 220.

118. Your, colloquially, as in 1. 104.

119. Not rash like his accusers, inferentially the rashness is attributed to the accusers of the senators.

120. incorporate, belonging to the same body as myself; cp. M. N. D. iii. 2. 208, "As if our hands, our sides, voices and minds, Had been incorporate": and incorpsed, Haml. iv. 7. 88, "As had he been incorpsed and demi-natured With the brave beast."

121. general, belonging equally to all parts of the body.

123. the store-house and the shop. Grant White points out that in modern English, as spoken in Great Britain, this expression sounds pleonastic, the two words being used in the same sense; whereas in America (as formerly in England) 'shop' means the place where a thing is made, 'store' or 'storehouse,' the place where a thing is kept for sale.

124. If you do remember, said with a sort of sarcastic politeness, if you will be so good as to bethink yourselves for a moment, you will recall what you seem to have forgotten.

126. Even ... brain. Malone seems to be right when he says that the seat o' the brain is in apposition with, and descriptive of, the heart. He quotes a similar apologue from Camden's Remains, 1600, in which the bodily organs, having mutinied against the belly, at length find themselves unable to perform their functions, and "all with one accord desire the advice of the heart. There Reason laid open before them," etc. That the heart was once believed to be the seat of the understanding, there can be no doubt; and just above we have it spoken of as the counsellor. Others take the heart and the seat o' the brain as the two points to which the blood conveys the nourishment; in either case, seat will mean royal seat, throne, as frequently in Shakespeare, e.g. H. V. i. 1. 88, Cymbl. i. 1. 142.

127-30. And, through ... live, and through the passages and chambers of the body the strongest nerves alike with the petty veins receive from me that adequate sustenance which gives them vigorous life: cranks are properly winding channels, ducts (cp. the verb in i. H. IV. iii. 1. 98), but here in connection with offices they represent the passages running through a house by which food is brought from the kitchen, larder, etc. Cp. Haml. i. 5. 67, "The natural gates and alleys of the body"; and for offices, R. II. i. 2. 69, "But empty lodgings and unfurnish'd walls, unpeopled offices, untrodden stones"; Tim. ii. 2. 167, "When all our offices have been oppress'd With riotous feeders." By Shakespeare nerve is always used as = sinew, in accordance with the Grk. origin; but he seems also to have thought that they had some structural affinity to veins and arteries; cp. Haml. i. 4. 82, 3, "And makes each petty artery in this body As hardy as the Nemean lion's nerve."

130. though that, for the conjunctional affix, see Abb. § 287.

131. this says ... me, - i.e. this is the important point for you to notice.

132. Ay, sir; well, well, said with impatience; get on with this answer that the belly made.

133. deliver out, distribute, apportioning to each its proper share.

134. Yet I can ... up, yet I can produce a balance sheet showing how my account stands and proving that all, etc.: audit, literally, the hearing of an account rendered by stewards, etc., to those whose property they have in trust; cp. Macb. i. 6. 27, "Your servants ever Have theirs, themselves, and what is theirs, in compt. To make their audit at your highness' pleasure, Still to return your own."

135. the flour, the finer part of meal; identical with flower.

136. the bran, the husk after the flour has been extracted.

137. It was ... this? it was a good answer, but how do you apply it to the circumstances?

140. Their ... cares, their wise deliberations and the concern they show for the people.

140, 1. digest ... common, with impartial consideration turn over in your mind how the public welfare stands: weal, "A.S. wela, from A.S. wel, well, adverb, the notion of condition being expressed by the nominal suffix -a" (Skeat, Ety. Dict.). For common, = the common people, cp. below, iii. 1. ,29, "Hath he not pass'd the noble and the common?" So, the general, Haml. ii. 2. 457, "'twas caviare to the general"; M. M. ii. 4, 27, "The general, subject to a well-wish'd king."

141. you shall find, you will necessarily find. We should now say either 'examine and you will find,' or 'if you examine, you will find.'

143. But it ... you, which does not either originate in them, or at all events is made yours by them.

144. no way, in no way; used adverbially; see Abb. § 202.

147, 8. For that, ... foremost, because while you are one of the lowest, basest, poorest, among those who with such great wisdom have broken out into mutiny, you, like the great toe of the foot, thrust yourself most forward; foremost is a double superlative, the O. E. original superlative of fore being forma: cp. aftermost, furthermost, etc.

149, 50. Thou rascal ... vantage, you worthless fellow, least fitted of all the herd to take the lead, put yourself at their head thinking to secure to yourself some personal advantage. Mason points out that rascal and in blood are terms of forestry, the former meaning a lean deer (and so one wanting in spirit), the latter full of animal vigour. Cp. i. H. VI. iv. 2. 48, 9, "If we be English deer, be then in blood; Not rascal-like, to fall down with a pinch," i.e. as soon as bitten by a dog.

151. make you ready, make ready for yourselves, for your defence.

152. Rome ... battle, Rome and the vermin, like you, that infest her will soon be engaged in deadly struggle.

153. The one ... bale, one side or other must perish in the conflict; bale, A.S. bealu, evil, misfortune; not elsewhere used by Shakespeare, though baleful occurs in R. J. ii. 3. 8, and repeatedly in H. VI. and Timon.

155, 6. That ... scabs? who in seeking to relieve the seditious irritation from which you are suffering, only make yourselves more loathsome objects than before? the poor ... opinion, this contemptible desire to make your miserable opinions heard; in T. N. ii. 5. 82, ii. H. IV. iii. 2. 296, T. C. ii. 1. 31, scab is used for scabby fellow, loathsome creature.

156. We have ... word, i.e. we might be sure beforehand of abuse from you.

158. Beneath abhorring, to a degree of baseness that no abhorrence could fitly express.

159, 60. That like ... proud, whom neither peace nor war satisfies, the latter terrifying you, the former only puffing you up with arrogance.

161. Where, in matters in which: lions, brave as lions: hares, timid as hares.

162. foxes, cunning as foxes: geese, stupid as geese.

162-4. no surer ... sun, of no more steadfastness, endurance, than a coal which quickly bums itself out if put upon ice, or than, etc.

164-6. Your virtue ... it, that in which you excel consists in exalting as a hero him whose vile actions have brought him to ruin, and in cursing that justice which has meted out his deserts to him; cp. Lear, ii. 2. 128, "got praises of the king For him attempting who was self-subdued." For the omission of the relative before did, see Abb. § 244.

166, 7. Who deserves ... hats, to deserve greatness is to deserve your hatred; the two things are identical. For Who, = he who, cp. Macb. i. 3. 109, "Who was the thane lives yet"; A. C. i. 2. 102, "Who tells me true, though in his tale lies death, I hear him as he flatter'd."

167-9. and your ... evil, and your inclinations are as the appetite of a sick man, who longs most for such food as would only make his malady worse; for affections, cp. ii. H. IV. ii. 3. 29, "In diet, in affections of delight."

170, 1. swims ... rushes, finds those favours to be leaden weights to drag him down instead of fins to bear him up in troubled waters, finds them as powerless to aid him in hewing his way through difficulties as rushes woidd be to cut down oaks.

171. Hang ye! Trust ye? curses on you I do you fancy that any one in his senses would trust you?

173. your hate, the object of your hatred.

174. your garland, your emblem of all that is glorious; cp. A. C. XV. 15. 64, "O, wither'd is the garland of the war," i.e. Antony is dead.

175. several, various; not here only, but all over the city.

177. Under the gods, next to the gods; as their vice-gerents on earth: keep you in awe, awe you into subjection: for which, less definite than who, see Abb. § 266.

178. What's their seeking, what is it they desire? seeking, a verbal noun.

179. For corn ... rates, their desire is to have corn supplied to them at such price as they may choose to fix: whereof, for with it; for of used of the instrument, see Abb. § 171.

180. They say! i.e. fancy paying any attention to what is said by creatures like them! with scornful emphasis on They.

181. 2. They'll sit ... Capitol, such fellows as they are sit at home by their own hearths and yet have the audacity to pretend a knowledge of the way in which state affairs are managed; fire, a dissyllable; like, likely.

183. declines, is falling from power: side factions, in their idle talk espouse one party or another; in iv. 2. 2, the verb is used intransitively: give out, proclaim as about to be made.

184. Conjectural, that have no other foundation than their own foolish guesses.

184-6. making ... shoes, imputing great power to those whom in their wonderful wisdom they are pleased to admire, and in equally wise imagmation treading beneath their clumsy shoes those who are not fortunate enough to find a place in their liking; for feebling, cp. K. J. v. 2. 146, "Shall that victorious hand be feebled here?"

186. They say ... enough! Fancy their taking upon themselves to say, etc. Who in the world would be foolish enough to pay any heed to what they say?

187. ruth, mercy, tenderness of heart; cp. to rue, to be sorry for.

188-90. And let me... lance, allow me to deal with them as they deserve to be dealt with and I'd butcher them till their mangled bodies made a pile as high as I could pitch my lance; quarry, a heap of slaughtered game. "Corrupted from O. F. coree, curee, the intestines of the slain animal; the part that was given to the hounds ... - Low Lat. corata, the intestines of the slain animal ... - Lat. cor, heart" ... (Skeat, Ety. Dict.); cp. Macb. iv. 3. 206, "the quarry of these murder'd deer"; quarter'd, hacked in pieces; used proleptically for which would then be hacked, etc., i.e. by his blows; pick, pitch; cp, H. VIII. V. 4. 94, "I'll peck you o'er the pales else."

191. Nay, these ... persuaded, nay, there is no need to thunder at them any further, for they have already seen enough to be pretty well convinced of the folly of their outbreak.

192. 3. For though ... cowardly, for though they are utterly destitute of that better part of valour, discretion, they have cowardice in abundance to teach them submission; for abundantly lack, cp. Haml. ii. 2. 202, "a plentiful lack of wisdom"; for passing, surpassingly, egregiously, cp. Oth. i. 3. 160, Haml. ii. 2. 427. In i. H. IV. v. 4. 121, Falstaff says, "The better part of valour is discretion"; a saying now proverbial.

193. I beseech you, be good enough to tell me; the phrase had not in Shakespeare's time the sense of urgent entreaty which it now carries.

194. troop, band; used contemptuously, as we should now say, crew.

195. an-hungry, here an- is a corruption of the A.S. intensive of; see Abb. 24: sigh'd forth, uttered in dismal accents.

196. That hunger ... walls, that nothing could restrain those who were starving: that dogs must eat, that even animals must have food, and will seize it if not given them.

198. shreds, fragments, odds and ends, of proverbial sayings; literally a piece roughly cut off. Cp. Haml. iii. 4. 102, "A king of shreds and patches."

200. a petition granted, a petition which they made being granted.

201. To break ... generosity, one calculated to humble the aristocracy to the dust; generosity, the abstract for the concrete; Lat. generosus, well-born; cp. M. M. iv. 6. 13, "The generous and gravest citizens"; Oth. iii. 3. 280, "The generous islanders By you invited, do attend your presence."

202. And make ... pale, and strike terror into the hearts of those who hitherto have boldly used the power entrusted to them: threw their caps, threw up their caps in exultation.

203. As they would hang, in such a manner as they would have done if they were about to, etc. "As, like an, appears to be (though it is not) used by Shakespeare for as if ... the if is implied in the subjunctive"... (Abb. § 107): the horns o' the moon, cp. A. C. iv. 12. 45 "Let me lodge Lichas ."

204. Shouting their emulation, each vieing with the other as to who should proclaim his satisfaction the louder. Schmidt and Wright take emulation as envious contention, rivalry in a bad sense; but it is the joy at their triumph that the plebeians are noisily expressing.

205. to defend ... wisdoms, for the protection of these boors in the exercise of that wisdom with which they credit themselves.

206. Of their own choice, those tribunes to be chosen by themselves. Originally two in number, the tribunes were afterwards increased to five, and later on to ten, two for each of the five classes of plebeians.

207. and I know not - who the others were I have forgotten: 's death, (by) God's death, i.e. the crucifixion of Christ; so, 's blood, by God's blood; 's life by God's life; 's wounds, or zounds, by God's wounds.

209. The rabble ... me, I would have let them destroy the whole city rather than have yielded them this privilege; for the ellipsis of they should have after ere, cp. i. 1. 233, "I'll lean upon one crutch and fight with t'other, Ere stay behind this business"; it, the rabble.

210. Win upon power, gradually make an inroad upon the power wielded by the nobles. Grant White thinks that the rhythm and the sense of the passage hardly leave a doubt that we should read win open power; but the text seems better to indicate the gradual process: throw ... themes, give birth to topics of larger importance. It seems tempting to read throe forth, as in A.C. iii. 7. 81, "With news the time's with labour, and throes forth, each minute, some."

211. For ... arguing, "for insurgents to debate upon" (Malone); the abstract for the concrete.

212. fragments, mere portions of men; none of you worthy to be called a man; cp. T. C. v. 1. 9, "From whence, fragment?", addressed to the miserable creature Thersites; also Petruchio's abuse of the tailor, T. S. iv. 3. 107-9, "Thou liest, thou thread, thou thimble, Thou yard, three-quarters, half-yard, quarter, nail!"

214. are in arms, have taken up arms.

215, 6. to vent ... superfluity, to get rid of the worthless fellows of whom we have such superabundance. To vent is to sell, and the idea is that of getting rid to foreigners of goods not fit for home consumption, here of course by getting them killed off. Skeat (Ety. Dict.) quotes Bacon, Life of Henry VII. "The merchant-adventurers likewise ... did hold out bravely; taking off the commodities ... though they lay dead upon their hands for want of vent"; and Burnet, Life of Hall, "when he found ill money had been put into his hands, he would never suffer it to be vented again."

216. our best elders, our noble senators; the patres, fathers of state.

217. 'tis true ... us, that which you lately told us (sc. that the Volscians are preparing to attack us) turns out to be true.

219. that will ... to 't, who will make it necessary for you to strain your efforts to the utmost; cp. W. T. i. 2. 16, "We are tougher, brother, Than you cau put us to 't"; M. M. iii. 2. 101, "he puts transgression to 't."

220. I sin ... nobility, if envy is a sin, then I am guilty of that sin, for I do envy his nobleness of character.

221. but what, except that which.

222. only he, none other than he is; he for him; cp. Haml. i. 2. 104, "From the first corse till he that died to-day."

223. half ... world, one half of the world to the other half; by the ears, quarrelling; the metaphor is that of dogs seizing each other by the ears. So, A. W. i. 2. 1, "The Florentines and Senoys are by the ears."

224. Upon my party, taking my side of the quarrel; belonging to my half of the world.

225. Only ... him, was with him alone for my antagonist; for the transposition of Only, see Abb. § 420.

227. Attend upon, accompany as one of his subordinates.

229. constant, faithful to my promise.

231. stiff, sc. with age; cp. Cymbl. iii. 3. 32, "well corresponding with your stiff age": stand'st out? do you stand aloof from this contest? Cp. T. N. iii. 3. 35, "only myself stood out."

232. I'll lean ... t' other, stiff as I am with age that I have to go on crutches, I will, etc.

233. Ere stay ... business, ere I will stay behind and not take my share in this business; see note on 1. 209, above.

234. true-bred, nobly bred; a true Roman.

235. Your company, give us your company, go with us to, etc.

236. attend, are already waiting for.

237. Right ... priority, you being well worthy of precedence; the accusative after worthy, and without the preposition of, is frequent in Shakespeare.

235. let them follow, said sarcastically, as though they were displaying great eagerness to show their valour in the war.

240. mutiners, a form similar to pioner, muleter, enginer, all of which Shakespeare uses. In K. J. ii. 1. 378, Haml. v. 2. 6, we have the substantive mutine, and the verb in Haml. iii. 4. 83; in Temp. iii. 2. 40, the form is mutineer.

241. puts well forth, shoots out, buds, abundantly; cp. W. T. i. 2. 254. "But that his negligence, his folly, fear ... Sometime puts forth"; and for the transitive verb, H. VIII. iii. 2. 352, "to-day he puts forth The tender leaves of hope."

243. no equal, sc. in pride.

245. his lip, the contempt with which his lip curled when speaking of us: Nay, but his taunts, you speak of his lip and eyes, but scornful as they were, they were nothing to his taunts.

246. Being moved ... gods, when provoked, he will not hesitate to gibe even at the gods; for gird, cp. ii. H. IV. i. 2. 7, "men of all sorts take a pride to gird at me"; and the substantive, T. S. V. 2. 48. The word is the same as to gride, to strike, pierce; used in its literal sense by Chaucer, Milton, and Spenser.

247. Be-mock, one of the forces of be- in composition is that of intensifying, as here; modest, because representing the chaste goddess Diana.

248. The present ... him! may the war now at hand swallow him up! an imprecation. The folios put a comma only after him, as though the words were a statement, and Malone thinks that Shakespeare uses 'the present wars' to express the pride of Coriolanus grounded on his military prowess; which kind of pride Brutus says devours him. To this Wright justly replies that "it is difficult to see how 'the present wars,' in which Coriolanus has not yet been engaged, can denote the military reputation derived from his past achievements."

248, 9. he is grown ... valiant, he is puffed up beyond all endurance by the consciousness of his own valour; for the infinitive in this indefinite sense, see Abb. § 356.

249, 51. Such ... noon, a man of his nature, when flattered by success, disdains even his own shadow as he treads upon it; success, meaning literally what follows, was in Shakespeare's day frequently used with such epithets as good, bad, best, and we still speak of ill, fair, success; at noon, the sun then being vertical, a man necessarily treads on his own shadow.

252, 3. His insolence ... Cominius, a man so arrogant as he is can endure to be a subordinate of Cominius; Schmidt and Wright take to be commanded Under, as to hold a command under; brook, endure; the original sense of the word was to use, to enjoy.

253. the which, "generally used either ... where the antecedent, or some word like the antecedent, is repeated, or else where such a repetition could be made if desired. In almost all cases there are two or more possible antecedents from which selection could be made" (Abb. § 270).

254. In whom ... graced, with whose favours he has already been plentifully decked; for who personifying irrational antecedents, see Abb. § 264.

254-6. can not ... first, cannot be more securely held, nor acquired in fuller measure, than by one who occupies a position subordinate to the chief command.

257. Shall be, is certain to be accounted as.

257, 8. though he ... man, though his performances be as complete as are possible to a man: giddy censure, the fickle opinion of the multitude; censure, originally meaning nothing more than opinion, later on came to mean blame, in consequence of the greater readiness of men to form an unfavourable than a favourable opinion of the actions of others; but in Shakespeare it is more frequently used in a neutral sense, implying neither a good nor a bad estimate.

259. of Marcius, regarding Marcius; cp. H. V. ii. 3. 29, "they say he cried out of sack."

259, 60. 'O, if ... business!' how different would the result have been, if he had had the management of the war!

261. Opinion ... Marcius, favourable opinion that cleaves so firmly to everything that Marcius does; for Opinion, cp. i. H. IV. iii. 2. 42, "Opinion, that did help me to the crown"; for sticks on, cp. Tim. iv. 3. 263, "The mouths, the tongues, the eyes and hearts of men ... That numberless upon me stuck as leaves Do on the oak"; and for the contrary sense of evil pertinacity, Oth. v. 2. 149, "The slime that sticks on filthy deeds."

How to cite the explanatory notes:

Shakespeare, William. Coriolanus. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan, 1900. Shakespeare Online. 20 Feb. 2010. (date when you accessed the information) < >.


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