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THE FABLE AND COMPOSITION
THE whole history is exactly followed, and many of the principal speeches exactly copied from the Life of Coriolanus in Plutarch.
POPE. Of this play there is no edition before that of the players, in folio, in 1623. JOHNSON.
The tragedy of Coriolanus is one of the most amusing of our author's performances. The old man's merriment in Menenius; the lofty lady's dignity in Volumnia; the bridal modesty in Virgilia; the patrician and military haughtiness in Coriolanus; the plebeian malignity and tribunitian insolence in Brutus and Sicinius, make a very pleasing and interesting variety; and the various revolutions of the hero's fortune fill the mind with anxious curiosity. There is, perhaps, too much bustle in the first act, and too little in the last. JOHNSON.
This play I conjecture to have been written in the year 1611. It comprehends a period of about four years, commencing with the secession to the Mons Sacer in the year of Rome 262, and ending with the death of Coriolanus, A.U.C. 266. MALONE.
ACT I. SCENE I.
ROME. A STREET.
Enter a Company of mutinous Citizens, with staves, clubs, and other weapons.
1 Cit. BEFORE we proceed any further, hear me speak.
Cit. Speak, speak.
[several speaking at once.
1 Cit. You are all resolv'd rather to die, than to famish?
Cit. Resolv'd, resolv'd.
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,
2 Cit. One word, good citizens.
1 Cit. 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 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.
Cit. Come, come.