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Caius Marcius Coriolanus, a noble Roman.
generals against the Volscians. Menenius Agrippa, friend to Coriolanus. Junius Brutus,
tribunes of the people.
Volumnia, mother to Coriolanus.
Roman and Volscian senators, patricians, ædiles, lictors,
soldiers, citizens, messengers, servants to Aufidius, and other attendants.
SCENE, Partly in Rome; and partly in the territories of the Vol
scians and Antiates.
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.
i 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 it.
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 patricians, good:2 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;
1 This play I conjecture to have been written in the year 1609. 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.
The whole history is exactly followed, and many of the principal speeches exactly copied, from the Life of Coriolanus in Plutarch. Pope.
2 1 Cit. We are accounted poor citizens; the patricians, good:] Good is here used in the mercantile sense. So, Touchstone in Eastward Hoe:
known good men, well monied.” Farmer. Again, in The Merchant of Venice:
• Antonio 's a good man." Malone.
but they think, we are too dear:3 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,4 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 ;5 he's a very dog to the commonalty.
but they think, we are too dear:] They think that the charge of maintaining us is more than we are worth. Johnson.
* Let us revenge this with our pikes, ere we become rakes:] It was Shakspeare's design to make this fellow quibble all the way. But time, who has done greater things, has here stifled a miserable joke; which was then the same as if it had been now wrote, Let us now revenge this with forks, ere we become rakes: for pikes then signified the same as forks do now. So, Jewel in his own translation of his Apology, turns Christianos ad furcas condemnare, to-To condemn christians to the pikes. But the Oxford editor, without knowing any thing of this, has with great sagacity found out the joke, and reads on his own authority, pitch-forks. Warburton.
It is plain that, in our author's time, we had the proverb, as lean as a rake. Of this proverb the original is obscure. Rake now signifies a dissolute man, a man worn out with disease and debauchery. But the signification is, I think, much more modern than the proverb. Řækel, in Islandick, is said to mean a cur-dog, and this was probably the first use among us of the word rake; as lean as a rake is, therefore, as lean as a dog too worthless to be fed. Johnson.
It may be so: and yet I believe the proverb, as lean as a rake, owes its origin simply to the thin taper form of the instrument made use of by hay-makers. Chaucer has this simile in his description of the clerk's horse in the prologue to the Canterbury Tales, Mr. Tyrwhitt's edit. v. 288:
“ As lene was his hors as is a rake." Spenser introduces it in the second Book of his Fairy Queen, Canto II:
“ His body lean and meagre as a rake.” As thin as a whipping-post, is another proverb of the same kind.
Stanyhurst, in his translation of the third Book of Virgil, 1582, describing Achæmenides, says:
“ A meigre leane rake," &c. This passage, however, seems to countenance Dr. Johnson's supposition; as also does the following from Churchyard's Tragicall Discourse of the Haplesse Man's Life, 1593:
And though as leane as rake in every rib.” Steevens.