Coriolanus

by: William Shakespeare

  Act 1 Scene 1

page Act 1 Scene 1 Page 7

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MENENIUS

The senators of Rome are this good belly,
And you the mutinous members; for examine
Their counsels and their cares, digest things rightly
145Touching 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?

MENENIUS

The senators of Rome are this good belly, and you are the unhappy parts. Examine their decisions and their responsibilities, see how they relate to the common good, and you’ll find that there is no public benefit that you receive that doesn’t come from them to you. Nothing is being taken from you. What do you think, you, the great toe of this assembly?

FIRST CITIZEN

150I the great toe! why the great toe?

FIRST CITIZEN

I am the great toe? Why the great toe?

MENENIUS

For 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.
155But make you ready your stiff bats and clubs:
Rome and her rats are at the point of battle;
The one side must have bale.

MENENIUS

For the fact that you’re the leader of these ignorant rebels who are the lowest, basest, poorest of men. You’re like a stray dog that runs after whatever it can catch first. But prepare your sturdy bats and clubs: Rome and you, her rats, are at the point of battle. One side is going to lose.
Enter CAIUS MARTIUS
CAIUS MARTIUS enters.
Hail, noble Martius!
Hail, noble Martius!

MARTIUS

Thanks. What’s the matter, you dissentious rogues,
160That, rubbing the poor itch of your opinion,
Make yourselves scabs?

MARTIUS

Thanks. What’s the matter, you dissenting rebels? Are you make yourselves miserable by rubbing the minor itch of your opinion?

FIRST CITIZEN

We have ever your good word.

FIRST CITIZEN

You always speak kindly to us.

MARTIUS

He that will give good words to thee will flatter
Beneath abhorring. What would you have, you curs,
165That 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,
170Or 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
175A 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,
180And 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
185Would feed on one another? What’s their seeking?

MARTIUS

Whoever speaks kindly to you flatters you undeservingly. What do you want, you dogs, who are satisfied by neither peace nor war? The one frightens you, and the other makes you self-righteous. Whoever trusts you sees you as lions, though he should see you as hares, and sees you as foxes, though he should see you as geese. You’re as unstable as a burning coal on ice or a hailstone in the sun. Your nature is to honor those who should be punished for their crimes and then to curse the justice that punishes him. He who deserves greatness deserves your scorn. Your instincts are perverted: you most desire the things that will make you sicker. He who depends on your approval swims with fins of lead and cuts down oaks with blades of grass. You should be hanged! Trust you? You change your mind every minute. You call the man you hated a moment ago “noble,” and you call the one you used to praise “vile.” Why do you cry against the noble Senate all around the city? Second only to the gods, they take care of you, you who would otherwise eat each other. What do the people want?