Page images
PDF
EPUB

should, for certain days before, be in the market-place, only with a poor gown on their backs, and without any coat underneath, to pray the citizens to remember them at the day of election ; which was thus devised, either to move the people the more by requesting them in such mean apparel, or else because they might show them their wounds they had gotten in the wars in the service of the commonwealth, as manifest marks and testimonies of their valiantness.

Now, Martius, following this custom, showed many wounds and cuts upon his body, which he had received in sev. enteen years' service at the wars, and in many sundry battles, being ever the foremost man that did set out feet to fight; so that there was not a man among the people but was ashamed of himself to refuse so valiant a man; and one of them said to another, We must needs choose him consul; there is no remedy."

shich is more specially introduced by a later writer, leaveland:

Her cheeks
Where roses mix: no civil war

Between her York and Lancaster.
NAPLESS vesture”-i. e. Threadbare.

- as our good wills”—The passage may be either aken to mean that the purpose of Coriolanus will be to uim a sure destruction, in the same way as the good

wills" (ironically) of the tribunes; or as our good, jur advantage, “wills” (a verb.)

" — Matrons flung gloves"-Shakespeare here attribates some of the customs of his own times to a people who were wholly unacquainted with them. This was exactly what occurred at tiltings and tournaments when a combatant had distinguished himself.

SCENE II. " — courteous to the people, BONNETED"—This word seems to be here used, in a careless confusion of old Roman and later Italian customs, for putting on the cap of office and patrician dignity, as was the mode in Venice. Some annotators take it in another sense, for taking off the cap in humility; or, as Malone explains, “They humbly took off their caps without further deed.“

Rather our state's defective for requital”-i. e. “Rather say that our means are too defective to afford an adequate reward, than our inclinations defective to extend it toward him."

That's OFF”-i. e. That is nothing to the matter; it is quite “off” from it.

He Lunch'd all swords o'the garland"—We have a similar expression in Ben Jonson's "Silent Woman:""You have lurched your friends of the better half of the garland." The term is, or was, used in some game of cards, in which a complete and easy victory is called a lurch. Coles (Dict., 1677) explains, “ Lurch, facilis victoria."

“ – as WEEDS before A vessel under sail,etc. The second folio changed this word to waves; and Stevens adopting it, this reading is the common one. Malone supports the original ; of the correctness of which we think there can be no doubt. “Waves falling before the stem of a vessel under sail, is an image which conveys no adequate notion of a triumph over petty obstacles. A ship cuts the waves as a bird the air: there is opposition to the progress, but each moves in its element. But take the image of weeds encumbering the progress of a vessel under sail, but with a favouring wind dashing them aside ; and we have a distinct and beautiful illustration of the prowess of Coriolanus. Stevens says, “Weeds, instead of falling below a vessel under sail, cling fast about the stem of it. But Shakespeare was not thinking of the weed floating on the billow: the Avon or the Thames supplied him with the image of weeds rooted at the bottom."

Thus Knight; and the weeds of the flats of the HudBon, and the inlets of Long Island Sound, have so often furnished the American editor with a practical illustration of this image, that he has no hesitation in adopting this as the true reading.

" It then remains That you do speak to the people." The circumstance of Coriolanus standing for the consulship, which Shakespeare has painted with such wonderful dramatic power, is told briefly in “Plutarch:”

"Shortly after this, Martius stood for the consulship, and the common people favoured his suit, thinking it would be a shame to them to deny and refuse the chiefest noble man of blood, and most worthy person of Rome, and specially him that had done so great service and good to the commonwealth ; for the custom of Rome was at that time that such as did sue for any office

[graphic][merged small]

SCENE III. Once”-i. e. Once for all; I have but one word to say on the matter.

- like the virtues Which our divines lose by 'em.” “I wish they would forget me, as they do the moral teachings of our divines." This (repeat a dozen critics) is an amusing instance of anachronism." I do not see why the priestly teachers of morals in a heathen land may not well be termed "divines," by an English poet, without implying that he supposed them to be doctors of divinity of Oxford or Geneva.

“ — in this woLFISH GOWN”—The reading of the first folio is woolvish tongue; of the second, woolvish gowne. We believe the correction of tongue to gown” is right. Some of the commentators think that the original word was toge. It is difficult to say whether woolvish means a gown made of wool, or a gown resembling a wolf, or "wolfish.” We adopt the latter opinion; for it is no proper description of the napless gown of humility to call it woollen. By “wolfish,” Coriolanus probably meant to express something hateful.-KNIGHT.

Stevens, I think, is right in interpreting it as deceitful, in allusion to the familiar phrase of “a wolf in sheep's clothing." "Why should I make myself like the wolf, affecting a humility I have not ?"

arriving A place of potency,” etc. Arrive was anciently often used for arrive at; as in the Third Part of Henry VI., (act v. scene 2:)“Arriv'd our coast.”

[ocr errors]

[" And Censorinus, darling of the people"]-The and reverend Cominius. Coriolanus is standing apert line in brackets is not in the original. but was supplied in proud and sullen rage; and yet the modern sdien by Pope. Something is clearly wanting to connect put these four lines in his mouth, as if it was any pert with "twice being censor;" and Plutarch tells us who of his character to argue with the people about the pos was “nobly named :"_"Censorinus also came of that dence of their conduct. The editors continue this family, that was so surnamed because the people had change in the persons to whom the speeches are : chosen him censor twice."

signed, without the slightest regard, as it appears to u But Warburton and other critics remark, that the first to the exquisite characterization of the Poet Amics censor was created in the year of Rome 314, whilst Co all this tumult the first words which Coriolanus utters, riolanus was banished about fifty years before, accord according to the original copy, are, “No, I'll die bere." ing to the received chronology of Livy and the Latin He again continues silent; but the modern editors 13 historians. The error of the Poet was a natural one, in have him talking; and so they put in his mouth the calfollowing North's “ Plutarch,” where it is said, “ of the culating sentence, “We have as many friends as ese same house with Coriolanus were Publius and Quintus, | mies," and the equally characteristic talk of Veneta, who brought to Rome the best water. Censorinus also “I would they were barbarians." We have left all the came of that familie, that was so surnamed because the passages precisely as they are in the original.-Ksiger. people had chosen him censor twice." Shakespeare

One time will owe another"-I think Menenta misunderstood the biographer, and supposed that he meant to give the genealogy of his hero, when he in

means to say, " Another time will offer when you try

be quits with him." There is a common provertal tended merely to speak of the illustrious men who had at different times sprung from the Marcian family, some

phrase, “ One good turn deserves another." hefore Coriolanus, and the last named long after him. " This is clean KAM”-i. e. Crooked. “ Clean ons Yet it is a singular circumstance, which shows the little trarie, quite kamme, a contrepoil,” says Cotgrave; and real value of such minute criticism, that Neibuhr and the same old lexicographer explains, a recers, cross, the modern school of critical Roman historians, while cleane kamme." they allow the story of Coriolanus to be substantially true, yet maintain that he must have lived much later

SCENE II. than the date assigned to him by the popular histories. If they are correct in this theory, the Poet is accident

words that are but Roted"-The old copy reads ally much nearer to the chronological truth than many

roated. Mr. Boswell says, perhaps it should be rooted of the learned critics who have been so precise in mark

We have no example of roted for got by role ; but it is ing the number of years he has gone astray.

much in Shakespeare's manner of forming expressions.

Which often--thus,-correcting thy stout Seart" ACT III.-SCENE I.

This passage has been a stumbling-block to the com

mentators. She is explaining her meaning by her :the noble and the COMMON”—These words are

tion :-Waving thy head, which often wave-thasused not as substantives, but adjectively. All the old editions have “noble” and “common;" but Stevens,

(and she then waves her head several times.) Sbe

adds, “correcting thy stout heart," be “ humble as the and those who follow his text, have changed this read

ripest mulberry. We owe this interpretation to s ing of the original to "the nobles and the commons."

pamphlet printed at Edinburgh, in 1814:—** Explans Have you informed them sitHENCE"-i. e. Sincc. tions and Emendations of some Passages in the Text of You are like to do such business”—This interposi

Shakespeare." tion of Cominius is according to the old copy. The

SCENE III. modern editors give the words to Coriolanus, as a continuation of his dialogue with Brutus. The words are

" — can show for Rome"— The old copies, followed not characteristic of Coriolanus; whilst the interruption by many later editors, have "from Rome;" which (says of Cominius gives spirit and variety to the scene.

Collier) is an instance of the licentions use of prepo KNIGHT.

sitions, instead of for Rome;" while Malone explain

that “the wounds were got out of Rome, or else were The COCKLE of rebellion"_“Cockle" is a weed

derived from Rome by his acting in comformity with which grows up with and chokes the grain. The her orders.” But, in fact, the misprint of from for for thought is from North’s “ Plutarch:"-" Moreover, he

is one of the commonest errors of the press, in old books, said, that they nourished against themselves the naughty and such it is here. For there is no evidence of any seed and cockle of insolency and sedition, which had such “licentious use of these prepositions" for one anbeen sowed and scattered abroad among the people," etc. other, while the phrase "for Rome" occurs in the very

against those MEAZELS”—“Meazel" originally sense here clearly intended, four times in this very signified leper, and is here taken in that sense, (from the play :—"The wounds that he doth bear for Rome." (act old French mesel, a leper; or meselle, leprosy.) Modern iv. scene 2;) “struck more blows for Rome,” (ibid. ;) use has transferred it, since the gradual extinction, in

" he hath served well for Rome;" “when Marcius stood civilized nations, of the more terrible disease, to the

for Rome." milder distemper common in childhood. The only vestige of the ancient use is found in the term of “mea

ACT IV.-SCENE I. sled hogs, or pork,” (i. e. scurvied or leproused meat.)

" - the beast ''Twas from the canon"—i. e. Contrary to rule and

With many heads butts me away." right; an unauthorised use of language.

I cannot say whether this phrase, so characteristic in " — Vail your ignorance"-i. e. Bow down.

the mouth of the proud patrician, was original with the

Poet, and merely an accidental coincidence with a simi- THREAD the gates"—i. e. Pass them; as we yet

lar epithet of Horace, or was suggested by the Roman say, thread an alley.”—Johnson. ,

satirist's sneer at the Roman populace :" — JUMP a body with a dangerous physic"—i. e.

Bellua est multorum capitum ;-
Risk. Phil. Holland, the contemporary translator of which Pope has imitated thus :-
Pliny, uses and explains this word in his translation;

Well, if a king's a monster, at the least, where he says, "ellebore putteth the patient to a jump,

The people is a many-headed beast or great hazard.”

" A noble CUNNING"-. e. When fortune strikes her And bury all which yet distinctly ranges, hardest blows, to be wounded, and yet continue calm, In heaps and piles of ruin."

requires a noble wisdom. "Cunning" is often used in We give ihis speech, as in the originul, to the calm this sense by Shakespeare.

16

PEARE.

or pay.

that his FEN"-The “ fen" is the pestilential imous to be free from the malignant desire of revenging bode of the “ lonely dragon," which he makes “ feared himself upon his rival for that very superiority. nd talked of more than seen.

As is the osprey to the fish, who takes it My first son"-In the sense of a general superla

By sovereignty of nature." ive; * first” in all things.

This image, frequent in old English poetry, will be "-friends of noble touch"—i. e. Of true and noble best understood from the following extract from Drayretal; a mets drawn from the touchstone applied ton's “ Polyolbion,” (Song xxv.:)o the trial of metals—a frequent allusion in SHAKE The osprey, ost here seen, though seldom here it breeds,

Which over them the fish no sooner doth espy,

But, betwixt him and them by an antipathy,
SCENE II.

Turning their bellies up, as though their death they saw,

They at his pleasure lie to stuff his gluttonous maw. “ Are you MANKIND"-Sicinius asks insultingly wheth The commentators quote a similar passage from a play ir Volumnia is “mankind”—a woman with the rough- || of Peele's. less of a man. Shakespeare, in a Winter's Tale, uses he term " mankind witch."

From the CASQUE to the cushion"-Aufidius assigns

three probable reasons for the miscarriage of CoriolaSCENE III.

nus--pride, which easily follows an uninterrupted train

of success; unskilfulness to regulate the consequences “ — your favour is WELL-APPEARED"-. e. Rendered of his own victories; a stubborn uniformity of nature, ipparent, which does not seem to need comment or which could not make the proper transition from the mendation; but Stevens would read approved, and casque" to the “cushion," or chair of civil authority; singer proposes the old word appayed, (i. e. satisfied.) but acted with the same despotism in peace as in

war.- Johnson. "— in the entertainment"-i. e. Under engagement

But he has a merit

To choke it in the utterance."
SCENE V.

This Johnson explains as meaning, “ He has a merit [Beats him away."]-Shakespeare has, in this rough

for no other purpose but to destroy it by boasting it." I

cannot so understand the words, which seem on the brawl with the servants, deviated from Plutarch, and lessened the grand, simple effect of the original story,

contrary to say-Some one of his faults made him

feared, but such is his merit that it ought to choke and which Thomson, in his “ Coriolanus,” had the good taste to preserve, by making his hero silently and quietly

stifle the proclaiming his fault, whatever it was. place himself muffled up upon

And power, unto it self most commendable,
the sacred hearth,

Hath not a tomb so evident as a chair
Beneath the dread protection of its Lares,

To extol what it hath done."
And sit majestic there.

This is the reading of all the older printed copies, In the rest of the scene, Shakespeare works up the story of the old Greek biographer with equal spirit and

which is retained in the present edition; not because it fidelity

is satisfactorily explained, or likely to be the true text,

but because I do not see any probable emendation or " A heart of WREAK”-i. e. Revenge; an old word solution of the passage. It seems to me one continuous in constant use, in this sense, until Charles II. ; since and inexplicable misprint. Singer would read, “as a which it is obsolete.

hair,” and explains the lines thus:-“So our virtues be

at the mercy of the time's interpretation, and power, "all the UNDER fiends”-i. e. Fiends below.

which esteems itself while living so highly, hath not, " Here I CLIP

when defunct, the least particle of praise allotted to it.” The anvil of my sword,” etc.

This is not easily extracted even from the lines when

amended as the critic proposes. To "clip" is to embrace. He calls Coriolanus the " anvil of his sword,” because he had formerly laid as

Rights by rights FOULER"-So the original. Maheavy blows on him as a smith strikes on his anvil. lone substitutes founder; and the emendation has pro

voked pages of controversy. We may understand the "beat me out”-i. e. Complete.

meaning of the original expression if we substitute the - and sowLE the porter"-A provincial word for opposite epithet, fairer. As it is, the lesser rights drive pull, or drag out. “Sowle by the ears" occurs often out the greater-the fairer rights fail through the in old writers.

“ fouler." and leave his passage PoLLED"—i. e. Cleared.

ACT V.-SCENE I. To poll meant to crop close.

" — and KNEE SCENE VI.

The way into his mercy." " — no more atONE"-i. e. Be reconciled, (at one.)

So the original. The second folio, which has been " Atone" and atonement are thus often used by Shake

followed in all the editions until Knight's, has the less

expressive verb kneel. Shakespeare uses “knee" as a speare and his contemporaries, and Coleridge has some

verb in LEAR:times renewed this sense in our days.

To knee his throne. “ – the voice of occUPATION”-i. e. Of the working.

He would not seem to know me." men; a phrase of contempt in the mouth of a military aristocrat.

“So they all agreed together to send ambassadors

unto him, to let him understand how his countrymen SCENE VII.

did call him home again, and restored him to all his

goods, and besought him to deliver them from this war. "All places yield to him ere he sits down," etc. The ambassadors that were sent were Martius's familiar Coleridge remarks, that he always thought “ this in friends and acquaintance, who looked at the least for a itself so beautiful speech, the least explicable, from the courteous welcome of him, as of their familiar friend mnood and full intention of the speaker, of any in the and kinsman. Howbeit they found nothing less ; for, whole works of Shakespeare." I cannot perceive the at their coming, they were brought through the camp difficulty—the speech corresponds with the mixed char to the place where he was set in his chair of state, with acter of the speaker, too generous not to see and ac a marvellous and an unspeakable majesty, having the knowledge his rival's merit, yet not sufficiently magvan chiefest men of the Volces about him : 80 he commanded

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

them to declare openly the canse of their coming, which had spied the women coming afar off, bars they delivered in the most humble and lowly words they what the matter meant; but afterwards, bow possibly could devise, and with all modest countenance wife which came foremost, he determined a and behaviour agreeable to the same. When they had persist in his obstinate and inflexible raport done their message, for the injury they had done him he overcome in the end with natural affection, ax answered them very hotly and in great choler; but as altogether altered to see them, his heart general of the Volces, he willed them to restore unto serve him to tarry their coming to his chair, bem the Volces all their lands and cities they had taken from down in haste, he went to meet them, and tirsbe them in former wars; and, moreover, that they should ed his mother, and embraced her a pretty 22 give them the like honour and freedom of Rome as they his wife and little children; and nature so wo had before given to the Latins. For otherwise they had him that the tears fell from his eyes, and be one no other inean to end this wars if they did not grant keep himself from making much of them, bet these honest and just conditions of peace.”—North's to the affection of his blood, as if he had been a Plutarch.

carried with the fury of a most swift rumac

After he had thus lovingly received them, and “A pair of tribunes, that have wreck'd for Rome,

ing that his mother Volumnia would begin to see To make coals cheap, a noble memory!

him, he called the chiefest of the council of T That is, a pair of magistrates who have wrecked, or to hear what she would say. Then she spake : destroyed, the noble reputation of Coriolanus, (now be- || sort:— If we held our peace (my son), and detail come “nothing, titleless,") which once belonged to not to speak, the state of our poor bodies, and Rome; and all this only to make coals cheap in the sight of our raiment, would easily betray to these burning city. The old copies have“ wrack'd for Rome," we have led at home, since thy exile and abode an which is the common spelling of Ben Jonson and his but think now with thyself, how much more and contemporaries, for “ wreck’d." But the more common nate than all the women living we are come hits reading of modern editions is thus :

sidering that the sight which should be most plesa A pair of tribunes, that have rack'd for Rome,

all other to behold, spiteful Fortune hath made the To make coals cheap. A noble memory!

fearful to us; making myself to see my son, sze: The annotators explain rack’d, “who have harassed by daughter here her husband, besieging the wailed exaction;" from which I can extract no satisfactory native country; so as that which is the only contato meaning, in this connexion.

all other in their adversity and misery, to so never-NEEDED help"— This is the original text,

the gods, and to call to them for aid, is the only us. which has the clear meaning of “help never so much

which plungeth us into most deep perplexity. Fu* wanted.” There is, therefore, no propriety in the com

cannot (alas !) together pray both for victory w * mon editorial alteration of " never-heeded help."

country, and for the safety of thy life also; bat 3 s.

of grievous curses, yea, more than any mortal care Bound with an oath to yield to his conditions," etc.

can heap upon us, are forcibly wrapped up in 73 Coriolanus sends his ultimatum (to use the language

ers. For the bitter sop of most hard choice is oteca of diplomacy) in writing, stating both what he would

wife and children, to forego one of the two i and what he would not consent to, and binding all with

lose the person of thyself, or the nurse of their means an oath that these are the conditions to which Rome

For myself, my son, I am determined st? must yield. The last line is elliptically expressed, yet

tarry till fortune in my lifetime do make an end of 5 the sense is sufficiently explicit. But the editors have

war. For if I cannot persuade thee rather to do not been satisfied, and propose various emendations, of

unto both parties, than to overthrow and destros which “ to yield to no conditions” is far the most prob- calamity of wars, thou shalt see, my son, and trust the

one, preferring love and nature before the malice er able.

it, thou shalt no sooner march forward to assent “UNLESS his noble mother"_"Unless" is here used

country, but thy foot shall tread upon thy mother in the sense of except : we have no hope except his womb, that brought thee first into this world. Andi noble mother, etc. It is according to the primitive may not defer to see the day, either that my son bele sense of the word “unless,” (i. e. Anglo-Saxon onless ; prisoner in triumph by his natural countryinen, or is "send away, dismiss.”)

he himself do triumph of them and of his natural cov

try. For if it were so that my request tended to stop SCENE II.

thy country in destroying the volces, I must contesa

thou wouldst hardly and doubtfully resolve on the “ – it is Lots to BLANKS”—“Lots" are the whole Lumber of tickets in a lottery; blanks, a proportion of

For as to destroy thy natural country, it is altogether

unmeet and unlawful; so were it not just, and less hatthe whole number.

ourable, to betray those that put their trust in the upon a SUBTLE ground”—“Subtle" here means But my only demand consisteth to make a smooth, level.“ Tityus's breast is counted the subtiest of all evils, which delivereth equal benefit and safety bowling-ground in all Tartary.”—Ben Jonson's Chlo- both to the one and the other, but most honourable time rida.

the Volces. For it shall appear that, having victory i almost stamp'd the LEASING"—“ Leasing" is the gular graces, peace, and amity, albeit themselves barn

their hands, they have of special favour granted us s2 old word for lying. Menenius, by “ almost stamp'd the leasing," means, have almost given the stamp of currency

no less part of both than we; of which good, if so t and truth to the falsehood.

come to pass, thyself is the only author, and so bast thou

the only honour. But if it fail, and fall out contrary, - how we are shent"-i. e. Rebuked.

thyself alone deservedly shalt carry the shameful

proach and burden of either party ; '80, thongh the end SCENE III.

of war be uncertain, yet this notwithstanding is Dart My wife comes foremost," ctc.

certain, -that, if it be thy chance to conquer, this benef! shalt thou

reap

of “She took her daughter-in-law, and Martius's chil- the plague and destroyer of thy country. And if fortur

thy goodly conquest, to be chronicky dren, with her, and, being accompanied with all the other Roman ladies, they went in troop together unto

overthrow thee, then the world will say, that through

desire to revenge thy private injuries, thou hast for ever the Volces' camp; whom, when they saw, they of undone thy good friends, who did 'most lovingly and themselves did both pity and reverence her, and there courteously receive thee.' Martius gave good ear user was not a man among them that once durst say a word his mother's words, without interrupting her special unto her. Now was Martius set then in his chair of all

, and, after she liad said what she would, he held bis state, with all the honours of a general, and when he peace a pretty while, and answered not a word. Het

country.

gaol-lelivery

: she began again to speak unto him, and said — My The tragedy of Coriolanus is one of the most amuswhy dost thou not answer me? dost thou think it ing of our author's performances. The old man's merrialtogether to give place unto thy choler and desire ment in Menenius; the lofty lady's dignity in Volumnia; renge, and thinkest thou it not honesty for thee to the bridal modesty in Virgilia; the patrician and mili

thy mother's request in so weighty a cause? dost tary haughtiness in Coriolanus; the plebeian malignity cake it honourable for a noble man to remember the and tribunitian insolence in Brutus and Sicinius, make gs and injuries done him, and dost not, in like a very pleasing and interesting variety ;—and the various think it an honest noble man's part to be thankful revolutions of the hero's fortune fill the mind with e goodness that parents do show to their children, anxious curiosity. There is, perhaps, too much bustle Jwledging the duty and reverence they ought to in the first act, and too little in the last.-JOHNSON. anto them? No man living is more bound to show alf thankful in all parts and respects than thyself, Shakespeare has, in this play, shown himself well so universally showest all ingratitude. Moreover, versed in history and state affairs. Coriolanus is a storeon, thou hast sorely taken of thy country, exacting | house of political common-places. Any one who studies ous payments upon them in revenge of the injuries it may save himself the trouble of reading Burke's “ Reed thee; besides, thou hast not hitherto showed thy flections on Paine's Rights of Man," or the Debates in

mother any courtesy, and therefore it is not only Parliament since the French Revolution, or our own. st, but due unto me, that, without compulsion, I The arguments for and against aristocracy and democld obtain my so just and reasonable request of thee. racy, on the privileges of the few and the claims of the since by reason I cannot persuade thee to it, to many, on liberty and slavery, power and the abuse of t purpose do I defer my last hope ?' And with it, peace and war, are here very ably handled, with the è words, herself, his wife and children, fell down spirit of a poet and the acuteness of a philosopher.a their knees before him. Martins, seeing that, Hazlitt. d refrain no longer, but went straight and lift her crying out, “Oh, mother, what have you done to Mr. Hallam remarks that in the other Roman dramas ? And, holding her hard by the right hand, “Oh, Shakespeare “has followed Plutarch too closely," and her,' said he, “you have won a happy victory for then adus :-“ This fault is by no means discerned in r country, but mortal and unhappy for your son ; the third Roman tragedy of Shakespeare, CORIOLANUS. I see myself vanquished by you alone.' These He luckily found an intrinsic historical unity which he cds being spoken openly, he spake a little apart with could not have destroyed, and which his magnificent demother and wife, and then let them return again to lineation of the chief personage has thoroughly mainme, for so they did request him; and so, remaining tained. Coriolanus himself has the grandeur of sculpcamp that night, the next morning he dislodged, and ture; his proportions are colossal, nor would less than rched homeward into the Volces' country again.”- this transcendent superiority by which he towers over RTH's Plutarch.

his fellow-citizens, warrant, or seem for the moment to

warrant, his haughtiness and their pusillanimity. The "I purpose not to wait on fortune”—Instead of the dy Roman coolness with which the resolved matron

surprising judgment of Shakespeare is visible in this.

A dramatist of the second class, a Corneille, a Schiller, mmunicates her intention, Thomson, in his tragedy,

or an Alfieri, would not have lost the occasion of repres substituted the very common-place and melodra

senting the plebeian form of courage and patriotism. atic incident of making his heroine "draw a dagger

A tribune would have been made to utter noble speeches, om under her robe," and attempt to stab herself be

and some critics would have extolled the balance and re her son and the Romans and Volcians; and the dia

contrast of the antagonist principles. And this might gue runs thus :

have degenerated into the general saws of ethics and Vol. So thy first return

politics which philosophical tragedians love to pour Cor. Ha! (seizing her hand.) What dost thou mean?

forth. But Shakespeare instinctively perceived that to Vol. To die while Rome is free, etc,

render the arrogance of Coriolanus endurable to the all this is interpolated into Shakespeare's tragedy, in

spectator, or dramatically probable, he must abase the he acted drama of CORIOLANUS.

plebeians to a contemptible populace. The sacrifice of historic truth is often necessary for the truth of poetry.

The citizens of early Rome, 'rusticorum mascula miliSCENE V.

tum proles,' are indeed calumniated in his scenes, and He wag'd me with his countenance"-The verb to

might almost pass for burgesses of Stratford ; but the roage was formerly in general use for to stipend, to re

unity of emotion is not dissipated by contradictory enerward. The meaning is, “ The countenance he gave me

gies. Coriolanus is less rich in poetical style than the was a kind of wages."

other two, but the coinic parts are full of humour. In

the three Roman tragedies it is manifest that Roman For his defence great store of men I wag'd. Mirror for Magistrates.

character, and still more Roman manners, are not ex

hibited with the precision of a scholar; yet there is · Boy! O slave"-It is bnt justice to Thomson to something that distinguishes them from the rest, someobserve, that he has here a thought worthy of Shake- thing of a grandiosity in the sentiments and language, speare, and embodied in language not unworthy to be which shows us that Shakespeare had not read that hismixed with his. Instead of the hero's being exhibited tory without entering into its spirit.” as provoked to violent language, by an insult personal to himself

, he is inade to tire up by Tullus's invective In Volumnia, Shakespeare has given us the portrait against his countrymen :-

of a Roman matron, conceived in the true antique spirit,

and finished in every part. Although Coriolanus is the The seed of outlaws and of robbers.

hero of the play, yet much of the interest of the action Cor. The seed of gods !_"Tis not for thee, vain boaster- and the final catastrophe turn upon the character of his 'Tis not for such as those, so often spar'd

mother Volumnia, and the power she exercised over By her victorious sword, to talk of Rome But with respect and awful veneration.

his mind, by which, according to the story," she saved Whate'er her blots, whate'er her giddy factions,

Rome and lost her son.” Her lofty patriotism, her paThere is more virtue in one single year

trician haughtiness ; her maternal pride, her eloquence, of Roman story, than your Volcian annals Can boast through all your creeping, dark duration,

and her towering spirit, are exhibited with the utmost

power of effect, yet the truth of female nature is beautiThis passage was retained by John Kemble, in his revi- fully preserved, and the portrait, with all its vigour, is sion of the stage edition; and as he declaimed the lines. without harshness. none but the most exclusive Shakespearian could wish

The resemblance of temper in the mother and the

the Roman nobles,

them away.

« PreviousContinue »