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The expulsion of the Tarquins from Rome is succeeded by a famine, during which the plebeians extort from the weakness of the nobility a gratuitous distribution of corn, together with the appointment of two popular officers called tribunes to protect their interests from the alleged oppression of the patricians. The haughty Coriolanus, by his opposition to these concessions, renders himself highly unpopular : his civil defects are however soon after effaced by the splendor of his military achievements, which are rewarded by his appointment to the consulate by the senate, whose choice is about to be ratified by the suffrages of the people, when the powerful influence of the two tribunes procures his rejection. The violence of temper displayed by Coriolanus at this disappointment affords matter of triumph to his crafty adversaries, who condemn him to perpetual banishment, by a decree of the people. Exasperated at this insult, the illustrious exile repairs to the capital of the Volscians, who gladly aid him in his schemes of revenge by investing him and their own general Aufidius with a joint command, which speedily overcomes all opposition; and the hostile occupation of Rome is expected with terror by its affrighted citizens. The conqueror, in the mean time, refuses to listen to the most solemn embassies of his countrymen, until his mother and wife, accompanied by a deputation of eminent Roman matrons, at length prevail on him to raise the siege. The Volscian army soon after returns home, where Coriolanus, while justifying his conduct to the senate, is assassinated by a band of conspirators in the interest of his colleague Aufidius.
TULLUS AUFIDIUS, general of the Volscians.
LIEUTENANT to Aufidius.
CONSPIRATORS with Aufidius.
CITIZEN of Antium.
Two VOLSCIAN GUARDS.
VOLUMNIA, mother to Coriolanus.
VIRGILIA, wife to Coriolanus.
VALERIA, friend to Virgilia.
GENTLEWOMAN, attending Virgilia.
Roman and Volscian Senators, Patricians, Ediles, Lictors, Soldiers, Citizens, Messengers, Servants to Aufidius, and other Attendants.
SCENE, partly in Rome, and partly in the territories of the Volscians and Antiates.
Rome. A street.
Enter a company of CITIZENS, with staves, clubs, and other weapons.
1 Cit. Before we proceed any farther, 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 pa
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: 2 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-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.
2 Cit. What he cannot help in his nature you
1 i. e. rich. Good is here used in the mercantile sense. 2 Thin as rakes.
account a vice in him.
he is covetous.
You must in no way say
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.
Cit. Come, come.
1 Cit. Soft; who comes here?
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 clubs? The matter? Speak, I pray
1 Cit. Our business is not unknown to the senate; they have had inkling,1 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 honest neighbors,
Will you undo yourselves?
1 Cit. We cannot, sir; we are undone already.