Gary Taylor, John Jowett, Terri Bourus, and Gabriel Egan (eds), The New Oxford Shakespeare: Modern Critical Edition

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Editor’s Note1Enter a company of mutinous citizens, with staves, clubs, and other weapons
Editor’s Note1

first citizen Before we proceed any further, hear me speak!

Editor’s Note2

all citizens Speak, speak!


first citizen You are all resolved rather to die than to famish?


all citizens Resolved, resolved!


first citizen First, you know Caius Martius is chief enemy to the



any citizens We know't, we know't!

Editor’s Note8

first citizen Let us kill him, and we'll have corn at our own price. Is't

9a verdict?


any citizens No more talking on't! Let it be done, away, away!


second citizen One word, good citizens.

pg 2728 Editor’s Note12

first citizen We are accounted poor citizens, the patricians good. Editor’s Note13What authority surfeits on would relieve us. If they would yield us but Editor’s Note14the superfluity while it were wholesome, we might guess they relieved Editor’s Note15us humanely. But they think we are too dear. The leanness that afflicts Editor’s Note16us, the object of our misery, is as an inventory to particularize their 17abundance; our sufferance is a gain to them. Let us revenge this with Editor’s Note18our pikes ere we become rakes. For the gods know I speak this in 19hunger for bread, not in thirst for revenge.

Editor’s Note20

second citizen Would you proceed especially against Caius Martius?

Editor’s Note21

a citizen Against him first! He's a very dog to the commonality.

Editor’s Note22

second citizen Consider you what services he has done for his country?


first citizen Very well, and could be content to give him good report

24for't, but that he pays himself with being proud.


any citizens Nay, but speak not maliciously.

Editor’s Note26

first citizen I say unto you, what he hath done famously, he did it to

Editor’s Note27that end. Though soft-conscienced men can be content to say it was for

Editor’s Note28his country, he did it to please his mother, and to be partly proud—

Editor’s Note29which he is, even to the altitude of his virtue.


second citizen What he cannot help in his nature, you account a

31vice in him. You must in no way say he is covetous.


first citizen If I must not, I need not be barren of accusations; he

Editor’s Note33hath faults—with surplus—to tire in repetition.

Shouts within

34What shouts are these? The other side o'th' city is risen! Why stay we

35prating here? To th' Capitol!


all citizens Come, come!

Editor’s Note37

first citizen Soft, who comes here?

Enter Menenius Agrippa

second citizen Worthy Menenius Agrippa, one that hath always

39loved the people.


first citizen He's one honest enough. Would all the rest were so!

Editor’s Note41

menenius What work's, my countrymen, in hand? Where go you

42With bats and clubs? The matter, speak, I pray you.


second citizen Our business is not unknown to th' senate. They

44have had inkling this fortnight what we intend to do, which now we'll

Editor’s Note45show 'em in deeds. They say poor suitors have strong breaths; they shall

46know we have strong arms too!


menenius Why, masters, my good friends, mine honest neighbours,

48Will you undo yourselves?

Editor’s Note49

second citizen We cannot, sir. We are undone already.


menenius I tell you, friends, most charitable care

51Have the patricians of you. For your wants,

52Your suffering in this dearth, you may as well

pg 272953Strike at the heaven with your staves as lift them

Editor’s Note54Against the Roman state, whose course will on

Editor’s Note55The way it takes, cracking ten thousand curbs

56Of more strong link asunder than can ever

57Appear in your impediment. For the dearth,

58The gods, not the patricians, make it, and

59Your knees to them—not arms—must help. Alack,

Editor’s Note60You are transported by calamity

Editor’s Note61Thither where more attends you, and you slander

62The helms o'th' state, who care for you like fathers,

63When you curse them as enemies.


second citizen Care for us? True indeed, they ne'er cared for us yet! 65Suffer us to famish, and their storehouses crammed with grain! Make 66edicts for usury, to support usurers; repeal daily any wholesome act Editor’s Note67established against the rich, and provide more piercing statutes daily 68to chain up and restrain the poor! If the wars eat us not up, they 69will. And there's all the love they bear us.


menenius Either you must

71Confess yourselves wondrous malicious,

72Or be accused of folly. I shall tell you

Editor’s Note73A pretty tale—it may be you have heard it,

74But since it serves my purpose, I will venture

Editor’s Note75To stale't a little more.

Editor’s Note76

second citizen Well, I'll hear it, sir. Yet you must not think to fob off

Editor’s Note77our disgrace with a tale. But an't please you, deliver.


menenius There was a time when all the body's members,

79Rebelled against the belly, thus accused it:

Link 80That only like a gulf it did remain

Editor’s Note81I'th' midst o'th' body, idle and unactive,

Editor’s Note82Still cupboarding the viand, never bearing

Editor’s Note83Like labour with the rest; where th'other instruments

Editor’s Note84Did see, and hear, devise, instruct, walk, feel,

Editor’s Note85And, mutually participate, did minister

Editor’s Note86Unto the appetite and affection common

Editor’s Note87Of the whole body. The belly answered—


second citizen Well, sir, what answer made the belly?


menenius Sir, I shall tell you. With a kind of smile

Editor’s Note90Which ne'er came from the lungs, but even thus—

91For, look you, I may make the belly smile

92As well as speak—it tauntingly replied

93To'th' discontented members, the mutinous parts

Editor’s Note94That envied his receipt; even so most fitly,

95As you malign our senators, for that

96They are not such as you.

second citizen Your belly's answer—what?

pg 273097The kingly-crownèd head, the vigilant eye,

98The counsellor heart, the arm our soldier,

99Our steed the leg, the tongue our trumpeter,

Editor’s Note100With other muniments and petty helps

Editor’s Note101In this our fabric, if that they—

menenius What then?

Editor’s Note102'Fore me, this fellow speaks! What then? What then?

Editor’s Note103

second citizen Should by the cormorant belly be restrained,

Editor’s Note104Who is the sink o'th' body—

menenius Well, what then?

Editor’s Note105

second citizen The former agents, if they did complain,

106What could the belly answer?

menenius I will tell you,

107If you'll bestow a small of what you have little—

108Patience—a while; you'st hear the belly's answer.


second citizen You're long about it.

menenius Note me this, good friend:

110Your most grave belly was deliberate,

111Not rash like his accusers, and thus answered:

Editor’s Note112'True is it, my incorporate friends', quoth he,

Editor’s Note113'That I receive the general food at first

114Which you do live upon; and fit it is,

115Because I am the storehouse and the shop

116Of the whole body. But, if you do remember,

117I send it through the rivers of your blood

Editor’s Note118Even to the court—the heart—to th' seat o'th' brain;

Editor’s Note119And through the cranks and offices of man,

Editor’s Note120The strongest nerves, and small inferior veins

Editor’s Note121From me receive that natural competency

122Whereby they live. And though that all at once'—

Editor’s Note123You, my good friends, this says the belly—mark me!


second citizen Ay, sir, well, well.

menenius 'Though all at once cannot

125See what I do deliver out to each,

126Yet I can make my audit up, that all

Editor’s Note127From me do back receive the flour of all,

Editor’s Note128And leave me but the bran.' What say you to't?


second citizen It was an answer. How apply you this?


menenius The senators of Rome are this good belly,

131And you the mutinous members. For examine

132Their counsels and their cares; digest things rightly

Editor’s Note133Touching the weal o'th' common, you shall find

134No public benefit which you receive

135But it proceeds or comes from them to you,

136And no way from yourselves. What do you think?

137You, the great toe of this assembly?

pg 2731 138

second citizen I, the great toe? Why the great toe?


menenius For that being one o'th' lowest, basest, poorest

140Of this most wise rebellion, thou goest foremost:

Editor’s Note141Thou rascal, that art worst in blood to run,

142Lead'st first to win some vantage.

143But make you ready your stiff bats and clubs.

144Rome, and her rats, are at the point of battle.

Editor’s Note145The one side must have bale.

Enter Caius Martius

Hail, noble Martius.


caius martius Thanks. What's the matter, you dissentious rogues,

147That, rubbing the poor itch of your opinion,

148Make yourselves scabs?

second citizen We have ever your good word.


caius martius He that will give good words to thee will flatter

150Beneath abhorring. What would you have, you curs,

151That like nor peace, nor war? The one affrights you,

152The other makes you proud. He that trusts to you,

153Where he should find you lions finds you hares;

154Where foxes, geese. You are no surer, no,

155Than is the coal of fire upon the ice,

156Or hailstone in the sun. Your virtue is

Editor’s Note157To make him worthy whose offence subdues him,

158And curse that justice did it. Who deserves greatness

Editor’s Note159Deserves your hate, and your affections are

160A sick man's appetite, who desires most that

161Which would increase his evil. He that depends

162Upon your favours swims with fins of lead

Editor’s Note163And hews down oaks with rushes. Hang ye! Trust ye?

164With every minute you do change a mind

165And call him noble that was now your hate,

Editor’s Note166Him vile that was your garland. What's the matter,

167That in these several places of the city

168You cry against the noble Senate, who,

Editor’s Note169Under the gods, keep you in awe, which else

170Would feed on one another? [To Menenius] What's their seeking?


menenius For corn at their own rates, whereof they say

172The city is well stored.

caius martius Hang 'em! They say?

173They'll sit by th' fire and presume to know

174What's done i'th' Capitol: who's like to rise,

Editor’s Note175Who thrives, and who declines; side factions, and give out

Editor’s Note176Conjectural marriages, making parties strong,

Editor’s Note177And feebling such as stand not in their liking

Editor’s Note178Below their cobbled shoes. They say there's grain enough?

Editor’s Note179Would the nobility lay aside their ruth

pg 2732180And let me use my sword, I'd make a quarry

181With thousands of these quartered slaves, as high

182As I could pitch my lance.


menenius Nay, these are all most thoroughly persuaded,

184For, though abundantly they lack discretion,

Editor’s Note185Yet are they passing cowardly. But I beseech you,

Editor’s Note186What says the other troop?

caius martius They are dissolved. Hang 'em!

Editor’s Note187They said they were an-hungry, sighed forth proverbs:

Editor’s Note188That 'hunger broke stone walls', that 'dogs must eat',

Editor’s Note189That 'meat was made for mouths', that 'the gods sent not

Editor’s Note190Corn for the rich men only'. With these shreds

191They vented their complainings, which being answered

192And a petition granted them—a strange one,

Editor’s Note193To break the heart of generosity,

194And make bold power look pale—they threw their caps

195As they would hang them on the horns o'th' moon,

Editor’s Note196Shouting their emulation.

menenius What is granted them?

Editor’s Note197

caius martius Five tribunes to defend their vulgar wisdoms

198Of their own choice. One's Junius Brutus,

Editor’s Note Link 199Sicinius Velutus, and I know not. 'Sdeath,

200The rabble should have first unroofed the city

201Ere so prevailed with me! It will in time

Editor’s Note202Win upon power, and throw forth greater themes

203For insurrection's arguing.


menenius This is strange.

Editor’s Note205

caius martius [to the citizens] Go, get you home you fragments.

Enter a Messenger hastily

messenger Where's Caius Martius?


caius martius Here. What's the matter?


messenger The news is, sir, the Volsces are in arms.

Editor’s Note209

caius martius I am glad on't, then we shall ha' means to vent

Editor’s Note210Our musty superfluity. See, our best elders.

Enter Sicinius, Brutus, Cominius, Lartius, with other Senators
Editor’s Note211

first senator Martius, 'tis true that you have lately told us:

212The Volsces are in arms.

caius martius They have a leader,

Editor’s Note213Tullus Aufidius, that will put you to't.

214I sin in envying his nobility,

215And were I anything but what I am,

pg 2733 216I would wish me only he.

cominius You have fought together!

Editor’s Note217

caius martius Were half to half the world by th' ears, and he

218Upon my party, I'd revolt to make

219Only my wars with him. He is a lion

220That I am proud to hunt.

first senator Then, worthy Martius,

221Attend upon Cominius to these wars.


cominius [to Martius] It is your former promise.

caius martius Sir, it is,

223And I am constant. Titus Lartius, thou

224Shalt see me once more strike at Tullus' face.

Editor’s Note225What, art thou stiff? Stand'st out?

lartius No, Caius Martius,

226I'll lean upon one crutch, and fight with th' other,

227Ere stay behind this business.

menenius O, true bred!


senator Your company to th' Capitol, where I know

229Our greatest friends attend us.

lartius [to Cominius] Lead you on.

[To Martius]

230Follow Cominius; we must follow you,

Editor’s Note231Right worthy your priority.

cominius Noble Martius.


senator [to the Citizens] Hence to your homes, be gone.

caius martius Nay, let them follow.

233The Volsces have much corn; take these rats thither,

Editor’s Note234To gnaw their garners. Worshipful mutineers,

Editor’s Note235Your valour puts well forth. [To the Senators] Pray follow.

Editor’s NoteExeunt [Martius, Messenger, and Senators] Citizens steal away. Sicinius and Brutus remain

sicinius Was ever man so proud as is this Martius?


brutus He has no equal.


sicinius When we were chosen tribunes for the people—


brutus Marked you his lip and eyes?

sicinius Nay, but his taunts.

Editor’s Note240

brutus Being moved, he will not spare to gird the gods.

Editor’s Note241

sicinius Bemock the modest moon.


brutus The present wars devour him; he is grown

243Too proud to be so valiant.

sicinius Such a nature,

Editor’s Note244Tickled with good success, disdains the shadow

245Which he treads on at noon; but I do wonder

Editor’s Note246His insolence can brook to be commanded

247Under Cominius?.

brutus Fame, at the which he aims,

Editor’s Note248In whom already he's well graced, cannot

249Better be held, nor more attained than by

pg 2734Editor’s Note250A place below the first; for what miscarries

251Shall be the general's fault, though he perform

Editor’s Note252To th' utmost of a man, and giddy censure

253Will then cry out of Martius, 'O, if he

254Had borne the business!'

sicinius Besides, if things go well,

Editor’s Note255Opinion that so sticks on Martius shall

Editor’s Note256Of his demerits rob Cominius.

brutus Come,

Editor’s Note257Half all Cominius' honours are to Martius—

258Though Martius earned them not—and all his faults

259To Martius shall be honours, though indeed

Editor’s Note260In aught he merit not.

sicinius Let's hence, and hear

Editor’s Note261How the dispatch is made, and in what fashion

Editor’s Note262More than his singularity, he goes

263Upon this present action.

brutus Let's along.


Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
1.1.1 staves wooden or iron poles
Editor’s Note
1.1.1 Performances often begin by emphasizing unrest, such as protesters holding signs and shouting.
Editor’s Note
1.1.1 proceed move forward; also suggests legal proceedings, as do 'hear', 'resolved' (line 1.1.4), 'verdict' (line 1.1.9)
Editor’s Note
1.1.1 First Citizen While some critics have argued that some citizens are individual characters, directors may take liberties with distributing individual lines.
Editor’s Note
1.1.2 All Citizens Such cues may indicate general noise and shouting by the actors onstage rather than lines for individual actors.
Editor’s Note
1.1.8 corn … price corn = wheat or grain as well as corn. The citizens are protesting high food costs.
Editor’s Note
1.1.12 poor impoverished; bad
Editor’s Note
1.1.13 authority those in authority; the patricians
Editor’s Note
1.1.14 superfluity excess food (i.e. food the patricians do not eat)
Editor’s Note
1.1.14 wholesome fresh, not spoiled
Editor’s Note
1.1.14 guess think, conclude
Editor’s Note
1.1.15 dear costly
Editor’s Note
1.1.16–17 inventory … abundance an account of their wealth
Editor’s Note
1.1.18 ere … rakes before we are as thin as rakes (referencing a proverbial expression, 'lean as a rake')
Editor’s Note
1.1.20 second citizen Some critics consider the second citizen a distinct character sceptical of the citizen's proposals, but the speech prefixes allow several citizens to speak in counterprotest.
Editor’s Note
1.1.21 very dog pitiless, ruthless
Editor’s Note
1.1.21 commonality commonwealth; common people
Editor’s Note
1.1.22 Consider you have you considered?
Editor’s Note
1.1.26 famously openly; excellently
Editor’s Note
1.1.26–7 to that end with that purpose in mind
Editor’s Note
1.1.27 soft-conscienced inclined to kindness, tender
Editor’s Note
1.1.28 partly proud in part, to be proud; partially out of pride
Editor’s Note
1.1.29 altitude height; maximum amount
Editor’s Note
1.1.33 tire in repetition exhaust someone in retelling [his faults]
Editor’s Note
1.1.33 within from offstage
Editor’s Note
1.1.37 Soft wait
Editor’s Note
1.1.41 work's either 'work is' (what work is in hand, my countrymen); or 'work has' (what work has my countrymen)
Editor’s Note
1.1.45 suitors petitioners, plaintiffs
Editor’s Note
1.1.45 strong breaths literally 'bad breath', but figurative connotations as well
Editor’s Note
1.1.49 undo undermine; ruin (through their show of force)
Editor’s Note
1.1.54 on continue on
Editor’s Note
1.1.55 curbs chinstrap on a horse's bridle, used for restraint
Editor’s Note
1.1.60–1 transported … Thither the famine ('calamity') has carried you away towards insurrection ('thither')
Editor’s Note
1.1.61 more attends i.e. more calamities await
Editor’s Note
1.1.67 piercing oppressive, severe
Editor’s Note
1.1.73 pretty clever
Editor’s Note
1.1.75 stale't make stale by repetition
Editor’s Note
1.1.76 fob off dismiss or evade by means of deceit or trickery
Editor’s Note
1.1.77 an't 'an it' = if it
Editor’s Note
1.1.81 unactive indisposed to act
Editor’s Note
1.1.82 cupboarding hoarding
Editor’s Note
1.1.82 viand food
Editor’s Note
1.1.83 Like equal
Editor’s Note
1.1.83 instruments bodily organs
Editor’s Note
1.1.84 devise think, plan
Editor’s Note
1.1.85 participate participating
Editor’s Note
1.1.86 affection desires, inclinations
Editor’s Note
1.1.87 answered Menenius may pause dramatically, or a citizen may interrupt.
Editor’s Note
1.1.90 thus Menenius may imitate the 'smile', perhaps by grabbing his belly or belching.
Editor’s Note
1.1.94 receipt i.e. the food
Editor’s Note
1.1.100 muniments fortifications
Editor’s Note
1.1.101 fabric body
Editor’s Note
1.1.102 'Fore me 'Upon my soul!'
Editor’s Note
1.1.103 cormorant greedy, like the identically named seabird
Editor’s Note
1.1.104 sink organs governing digestion and excretion
Editor’s Note
1.1.105 agents i.e. the active organs, in contrast to the belly
Editor’s Note
1.1.112 incorporate legally united in one body (used here punningly)
Editor’s Note
1.1.113 general entirety of
Editor’s Note
1.1.118 court i.e. place where the monarch resides
Editor’s Note
1.1.119 cranks winding passages
Editor’s Note
1.1.119 offices rooms for labourers (i.e. the organs)
Editor’s Note
1.1.120 nerves sinews
Editor’s Note
1.1.121 natural competency supply suitable for their nature
Editor’s Note
1.1.123 You … me! Menenius may be drawing out his story, or catching the attention of an insufficiently appreciative audience.
Editor’s Note
1.1.127 flour the useable part of grain, with pun on 'flower'
Editor’s Note
1.1.128 bran discarded husk of wheat
Editor’s Note
1.1.133 weal o'th'common commonwealth; the general welfare
Editor’s Note
1.1.141 rascal person of low social standing; an inferior animal
Editor’s Note
1.1.145 bale injury, sadness
Editor’s Note
1.1.157 To … him to honour him who has been punished for the wrongs he has committed
Editor’s Note
1.1.159 affections inclinations, desires
Editor’s Note
1.1.163 rushes plant stems
Editor’s Note
1.1.166 garland champion
Editor’s Note
1.1.169 which else who otherwise
Editor’s Note
1.1.175 side side with
Editor’s Note
1.1.175 give out report
Editor’s Note
1.1.176 Conjectural marriages possible (politically motivated) unions
Editor’s Note
1.1.177 feebling weakening
Editor’s Note
1.1.178 cobbled clumsily mended
Editor’s Note
1.1.179 ruth compassion
Editor’s Note
1.1.185 passing beyond, exceedingly
Editor’s Note
1.1.186 other troop the citizens on the other side of the city (1.1.34)
Editor’s Note
1.1.187 an-hungry hungry (Marcus uses the archaic prefix 'an' to mock the citizens' speech)
Editor’s Note
1.1.188–9 hunger … mouths (examples of proverbs)
Editor’s Note
1.1.189–90 gods … only (not a proverb, probably a slogan the citizens have been using)
Editor’s Note
1.1.190 shreds scraps, fragments
Editor’s Note
1.1.193 To … generosity to crush the spirit (poss. 'end the life') of the nobility ('generosity')
Editor’s Note
1.1.196 emulation grudges against their superiors; each trying to shout louder than the others
Editor’s Note
1.1.197 tribunes tribunes of the people (tribunus plebis), appointed to protect the rights of citizens. Martius names the two he knows.
Editor’s Note
1.1.199 'Sdeath 'God's death', an oath.
Editor’s Note
1.1.202 Win upon power prevail over those in authority
Editor’s Note
1.1.202 throw … themes establish more justifications
Editor’s Note
1.1.205 fragments food scraps
Editor’s Note
1.1.209 on't about it
Editor’s Note
1.1.209 vent discharge, get rid of; vend, sell
Editor’s Note
1.1.210 musty superfluity excess food that is rotting
Editor’s Note
1.1.211 that that which
Editor’s Note
1.1.211 lately recently
Editor’s Note
1.1.213 put you to't challenge you
Editor’s Note
1.1.217 half … ears half the world fighting ('by th' ears') the other half
Editor’s Note
1.1.225 stiff too old (poss. wounded) to fight
Editor’s Note
1.1.225 Stand'st out are you sitting out [the war]?
Editor’s Note
1.1.225 stiff Lartius can be on crutches, which Martius may call attention to here.
Editor’s Note
1.1.231 Right … priority you have earned the right to go first
Editor’s Note
1.1.234 garners granaries
Editor’s Note
1.1.235 puts well forth grows well, like a plant bud
Editor’s Note steal away Perhaps leaving gradually beginning at 'Worshipful mutineers'; Martius' lines would be directed at them as they leave.
Editor’s Note
1.1.240 moved i.e. to anger
Editor’s Note
1.1.240 gird sneer at
Editor’s Note
1.1.241 modest moon chaste moon, referring to the virgin goddess Diana
Editor’s Note
1.1.244 Tickled moved, stirred up
Editor’s Note
1.1.246 brook put up with
Editor’s Note
1.1.248 whom i.e. Fame (personified here)
Editor’s Note
1.1.250 miscarries goes wrong
Editor’s Note
1.1.252 giddy censure foolish criticism
Editor’s Note
1.1.255 Opinion reputation; public opinion
Editor’s Note
1.1.256 demerits merits
Editor’s Note
1.1.257 are to are credited to
Editor’s Note
1.1.260 aught anything
Editor’s Note
1.1.261 dispatch is made business (i.e. the battle) is settled
Editor’s Note
1.1.262 singularity distinct self; self-importance
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