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nobles and claimed a share in the management of the state which they had helped to create. At last their complaints were rendered so urgent and ominous by the pinch of famine that the nobles had to a certain extent to give way: officers, named tribunes, were created to watch over the interests of the common people, whose voice was also declared to be necessary before the consuls, the highest officers of state, could be duly elected. Of these changes Coriolanus is the bitter opponent; in him is concentrated the arrogant tradition of the aristrocracy. He hates the common people and ridicules their tribunes.
Shakspeare gives him full scope. Coriolanus calls the common people to their faces curs and geese, scabs and measles of the state ; they are “the mutable, rankscented many"; their tribunes are tritons among the minnows; when they are perishing of hunger, he dissents from the vote of the senate to give them free corn:
They say there's grain enough. Would the nobility lay aside their ruth And let me use my sword, I'd make a quarry With thousands of these quartered slaves, as high As I could pick my lance.
He argues with intense conviction that there cannot be two masters in the state :
My soul aches
The people, being by far the more numerous of the parties in the state, will have the bigger poll; and, if wisdom cannot act without waiting on the yea or nay of ignorance, it must omit real necessities, and nothing will be done to purpose.
But Shakspeare introduces a far keener reasoner on the same side in Menenius Agrippa. Menenius is as thorough an aristocrat as Coriolanus, but has far more coolness and shrewdness. Unlike Coriolanus, he has no dislike to mingle with common men, though he has quite as little faith in their virtues. He does not, like Coriolanus, denounce the tribunes, but unmercifully chaffs them-taking the coats of office, so to speak, off their backs and showing what mechanic souls are hidden within them. Here is Shakspeare's rendering of his famous fable of the Stomach and the Members : Menenius is surrounded by an angry mob of mutinous citizens, whom he is endeavouring to quiet; and he says:
I shall tell you
A pretty tale; it may be you have heard it;
A citizen interrupts: “Well, I'll hear it, sir; yet you
There was a time when all the body's members
Of the whole body. The belly answered“Well, sir," interrupts a too eager listener, “what answer made the belly?”
Menenius resumes :
Sir, I shall tell you.
With a kind of smile,
They are not such as you.
Your belly's answer? What!
Should by the cormorant belly be restrained,
they did complain What could the belly answer? Menenius replies:
I will tell you, If you'll bestow a small-of what you've littlePatience a while, you'll hear the belly's answer.
Ye're long about it," interjects a listener ; but Menenius proceeds :
Note me this, good friend, Your most grave belly was deliberate, Not rash like his accusers, and thus answered, True is it, my incorporate friends, quoth he, That I receive the general food at first, Which you do live upon; and fit it is, Because I am the storehouse and the shop Of the whole body; but, if you do remember, I send it through the rivers of your blood, Even to the court, the heart-to the seat o' the brain And, through the cranks and offices of man,
The strongest nerves and small inferior veins From me receive that natural competency Whereby they live: and, though that all at once,
You, my good friends—this says the belly, mark me, "Ay, sir,” interrupts an interested auditor. “well, well?”
Though all at once cannot
And leave me but the bran. What say you to't? " It was,” responds the citizen "an answer, how apply
you this "?
The senators of Rome are this good belly,
You, the great toe of this assembly(pointing to a loquacious citizen, who indignantly retorts :)
“I the great toe? why the great toe"? The orator replies: