This is the peshat.
However there is a certain strain in the Midrash - brought partially by Rashi - that takes a rather different vantage point. As I have presented things, the brothers are desperate and guilty. They must appeal to Joseph's compassion, his humanity, as they present him with an image of their aging and ailing father.
But the perspective from Midrash portrays the brothers as threatening; aggressive. In Rashi's words:
...and let your wrath not be kindled - From here you
learn that he (Yehudah) spoke to him (Joseph) harshly.
For you are like Pharaoh - This is its simple meaning. Its midrashic meaning is, however: You will ultimately be punished with Leprosy because of him, just as Pharaoh was punished because of my great-grandmother Sarah for the one night that he detained her (Gen. 12:17).
Another explanation: Just as Pharaoh issues decrees and does not carry them out, makes promises and does not fulfill them, so do you. Now, is this the “setting of an eye,” concerning which you said [that you wanted] “to set your eye upon him” ? [See verse 21.]
Another explanation: For like you, so is Pharaoh-if you provoke
me, I will kill you and your master. [From Gen. Rabbah 93:6]19.
My lord asked his servants - From the beginning, you came
upon us with a pretext. Why did you have to ask all these [questions]? Were we looking to [marry] your daughter, or were you looking to [marry] our sister? Nonetheless, “we said to my lord” (verse 20). We did not conceal anything. [From Gen. Rabbah 93:8]
If we adopt this reading as seen in these comments of Rashi, the brothers are talking tough with Joseph, threatening him and making all manner of accusation. They talk with a superior tone as if they are in control. Of course, from the vantage point of peshat, the circumstances hardly support the possibility of the brothers - themselves guilty of stealing Joseph's goblet - being in a position to bargain with, let alone threaten, Joseph. (...and see the Ramban who makes this point.)
so where does the Midrash come from?
In Bereshit Rabba there are some more extreme depictions:
"When Judah got angry his hairs stood on end and protruded, and he put ironDestroying all the men of Egypt? Grinding iron balls in your mouth. This is certainly entertaining. But what are Chazal trying to tell us?
balls into his mouth and they emerged as dust... Judah turned to Naftali and asked: 'How many marketplaces are there in Egypt?' 'Twelve,' He replied. 'Fine! I'll take three and you each take one, and we will destroy every man in Egypt.' The brothers
responded: "Egypt is not like Sh'chem...'"
Again. Why does the Midrash portray the brothers in this confident aggressive stance? Is it tenable with the text? and if not, what is the Midrash doing here? Of course I do know that Midrashim may be metaphorical or express a deeper philosophical idea. But this empowerment, the agression and defiance, is so disonant with the text that I am feeling rather stretched to suggest a reasonable rationale or explanation for this approach.
If you have any ideas or suggestions, please add them in the "comments".