Page images

misery serve thy turne, and so use it, as my service may be marvelous glad man, and taking him by the hand, he a benefit to the VOLSCES : promising thee, that I will fight sayed unto him ; Stand up, ô Martius, and be of good with better good will for all you, then ever I dyd when I cheare, for in profering thyselfe unto us, thou doest vs was against you, knowing that they fight more valiantly, great honour : and by this means thou maist hope also of who know the force of their enemy then such as have never greater things at all the VOLSCEs hands. So he feasted proved it. And if it be so that thou dare not, and that him for that time, and entertained him in the honourablest thou art wearie to prove fortune any more, then am I also manner he could, talking with him in no other matters at wearie to live any longer. And it were no wisedome in that present : but within few dayes after, they fell to conthee, to save the life of him, who hath bene heretofore thy sultation together, in what sort they should beginne their mortall enemy, and whose service now can nothing help nor pleasure thee. Tullus hearing what he sayed was a



O, my mother, mother! 0!
You have won a happy victory to Rome;
But, for your son,-believe it, 0, believe it,
Most dangerously you have with him prevaild,

If not most mortal to him.] This affecting interview is thus described in Plutarch :“Nowe was Martius set then in his chayer of state, with all the honours of a generall, and when he had spied the women coming afarre of, he marveled what the matter ment: but afterwardes knowing his wife which came foremest, he determined at the first to persist in his obstinate and inflexible rancker. But overcomen in the ende with natural affection, and being altogether altered to see them, his harte would not serve him to tarie their comming to his chayer, but comming downe in hast, he went to meete them, and first he kissed his mother, and imbraced her a pretie while, then his wife and litle children. And nature so wrought with him, that the teares fell from his eyes, and he coulde not keepe himselfe from making much of them, but yeelded to the affection of his bloude, as if he had bene violently caried with the furie of a most swift running streame. After he had thus lovingly received them, and perceiving that his mother Volumnia would beginne to speak to him, he called the chiefest of the counsell of the VOLSCES to heare what she would say. Then she spake in this sort : If we held our peace (my sonne) and determined not to speake, the state of our poore bodies, and present sight of our rayment, would easely bewray to thee what life we have led at home, since thy exile and abode abroad; but thinke now with thy selfe, howe much more unfortunatly then all the women livinge, we are come hether, considering that the sight which should be most pleasaunt to all other to beholde, spitefull fortune hath made most fearefull to us : making my selfe to see my sonne, and my daughter here her husband, besieging the walls of his native countrie : so as that which is thonely comforte to all other in their adversitie and miserie, to pray unto the goddes, and to call to them for aide, is the onely thinge which plongeth us into most deepe perplexitie. For we cannot (alas) together pray, both for victorie for our countrie, and for safety of thy life also : but a worlde of grievous curses, yea more then any mortall enemie can heape uppon us, are forcibly wrapt up in our prayers. For the bitter soppe of most harde choyse is offered thy wife and children, to forgoe the one of the two : either to lose the persone of thy selfe or the nurse of their native countrie. For my selfe (my sonne) I am determined not to tarie, till fortune in my life time doe make an end of this warre. For if I cannot perswade thee, rather to doe good unto both parties, then to overthrowe and destroye the one, preferring love and nature before the malice and calamitie of warres, thou shalt see, my sonne, and trust unto it, thou shalt no sooner march forward to assault thy countrie, but thy foot shall treade upon thy mothers wombe, that brought thee first into this world. And I maye not deferre to see the day, either that my gonne be led prisoner in triumphe by his naturall coun


trymen, or that he himselfe do triumphe of them, and of his naturall countrie. For if it were so, that my request tended to save thy countrie, in destroying the VOLSCES, I must confesse, thou wouldest hardly and doubtfully resolve on that. For as to destroie thy natural countrie, it is altogether unmeete and unlawfull, so were it not iust, and lesse honourable, to betraye those that put their trust in thee. But my onely demaund consisteth, to make a gaylo-deliverie of all evils, which delivereth equall benefite and safety, both to the one and the other, but most honourable for the VOLSCES. For it shall appeare, that having victorie in their hands, they have of speciall favour graunted us singular graces : peace, and amitie, albeit themselves have no lesse part of both, then we. Of which good, if it so come to passe, thy selfe is thonely author, and so hast thou thonely honour. But if it faile, and fall out contrarie, thy selfo alone deservedly shalt carie the shameful reproche and burden of either partie. So, though the end of warre be uncertaine, yet this notwithstanding is most certaine : that if it be thy chance to conquer, this benefite shalt thou reape of thy goodly conquest, to be chronicled the plague and destroyer of thy countrie. And if fortune also overthrowe thee, then the world will say that through desire to revenge thy private iniuries, thou hast for ever undone thy good friendes, who dyd most lovingly and curteously receive thee. Martius gave good eare unto his mothers wordes, without interrupting her speche at all, and after she had sayed what she would, he held his peace a prety while, and aunswered not a word. Hereupon she begane againe to speake unto him, and sayed: My sonne, why doest thou not aunswer me? doest thou thinke it good altogether to geve place unto thy choller and desire of revenge, and thinkest thou it not honestie for thee to graunt thy mother's request, in so weighty a cause ? doest thou take it honorable for a noble man, to remember the wronges and iniuries done him, and doest not in like case think it an honest noble mans parte to be thankefull for the goodnes that parents doe shewe to their children, acknowledging the dutie and reverence they ought to beare unto them? No man living is more bounde to shewe himselfe thankefull in all partes and respects then thy selfe : who so unnaturally shewest all ingratitude. Moreover (my sonne) thou hast sorely taken of thy countrie, exacting grievous payments upon them, in revenge of the iniuries offered thee : besides, thou hast not hitherto showed thy poore mother any curtesie. And therfore, it is not onely honest, but due unto me, that without compulsion I should obtaine my so iust and reasonable request of thee. But since by reason I cannot persuade thee to it, to what purpose doe I deferre my last hopo ? And with these wordes, herselfe, his wife, and children, fell down upon their knees before him : Martius seeing that, could refraine no longer, but went straight and lifte her up crying out : Oh mother, what have you done to me? Ånd holding her hard by the right hande, oh mother, said he, you have won a happy victorie for your countrie, but mortall and unhappy for your sonne : for I see my selfe vanquished by you alone."


joyced in peace, shewed by their countenaunce that they Ladies, you deserve

would heare him willingly, and iudge also according to To have a temple built you.]

their conscience. Whereupon Tullus fearing that if he dyd Which, according to Plutarch, they had : dedicated to

let him speake, he would prove his innocencie to the people, Fortuna muliebri :

because emongest other things he had an eloquent tongue; Whereupon the Senate ordeined, that the Magistrates

besides that the first good service he had done to thé to gratifie and honor these ladyes, should graunt them all

people of the VOLSCES, dyd winne him more favour, then

these last accusations could purchase him displeasure : that they would require. And they only requested that they would build a temple of Fortune of the women, unto

and furthermore, the offence they layed to his charge, was the building whereof they offered them selves to defraye the

a testimonie of the goodwill they ought him ; for they whole charge of the sacrifices, and other ceremonies belong

would never have thought he had done them wrong for ing to the service of the gods. Neverthelesse, the Senate

that they tooke not the cittie of ROME, if they had not bin commending their good-will and forwardnes, ordeined,

very neare taking of it, by meanes of his approche and

conduction. For these causes Tullus thought he might no that the temple and image should be made at the common charge of the cittie. Notwithstanding that, the ladyes

longer delaye his presence and enterprise, neither to tarie gathered money emong them, and made with the same a

for the mutining and rising of the common people against second image of Fortune, which the ROMAINES say dyd

him: wherefore, those that were of the conspiracie, began speake as they offred her up in the temple, and dyd set

to cry out that he was not to be heard, and that they her in her place.”

would not suffer a traitor to usurpetyranicall power over the

tribe of the VOLSCES, who would not yeld up his state (3) SCENE VI.-Hail, lords ! I am return'd your

and authority. And in saying these words, they all fell soldier.) "Nowe, when Martius was returned againe into

upon him, and killed him in the market place, none of the the citie of Antium from his voyage, Tullus, that hated

people once offering to rescue him. Howbeit' it is a clere and could no longer abide him for the fear he had of his

case, that this murder was not generally consented unto, authoritie, sought divers means to make him out of the way,

of the most parte of the VOLSCES : for men came out of thinking that if he let slippe that present time, he should

ail partes to honor his body, and dyd honourably bury him; never recover the like and fit occasion againe. Wherefore

setting up his tombe with great store of armour and Tullus, having procured manie other of his confederacy, re

spoiles, as the tombe of a worthy person and great capquired Martius might be deposed from his estate, to render

taine. The ROMAINES understanding of his death, shewed

no other honour or malice, saving that they graunted the up accomptt to the VOLSCES of his charge and government. Martius Tearing to become a private man againe under

ladyes the request they made : that they might mourne Tullus being Generall (whose authoritie was greater other

tenne moneths for him, and that was the full time they wise, then any other emong all the VOLSCES) answered :

used to weare blackes for the death of their fathers, He was willing to geve up his charge, and would resigne it

brethren, or husbands, according to Numa Pompilius into the hands of the lordes of the VOLSCES, if they dyd

order, who stablished the same, as we have enlarged more al command him, as by al their commandment he received

amplie in the description of his life. Now Martius being it. And moreover, that he would not refuse even at that

dead, the whole state of the VOLSCES harteily wished him present to geve up an accomptt unto the people, if they

alive againe. For, first of all they fell out with the ÆQUES would tarie the hearing of it. The people hereupon called a

who were their friends and confederates, touching precommon counsell, in which assembly there were certaine ora

heminence and place : and this quarrell grew on so farre tours appointed, that stirred up the common people against

betweene them, that fraies and murders fell out upon it him: and when they had tolde their tales, Martius rose up

one with another. After that the ROMAINES overcame to make them answer. Now, notwithstanding the mutinous

them in battell, in which Tullus was slaine in the field and people made a marvelous great noise, yet when they saw

the flower of all their force was put to the sword : so that him, for the reverence they bare unto his valiantnesse,

they were compelled to accept most shamefull conditions they quieted themselves, and gave him audience to alledge

of peace, in yelding themselves subject unto the conwith leysure what he could for his purgation. Moreover,

rs, and promising to be obedient at their commandethe honestest men of the ANTIATES, and who most re

ment."-NORTH's Plutarch.


“ In the three Roman pieces, ‘Coriolanus,'' Julius Cæsar,' and ' Antony and Cleopatra,' the moderation with which Shakspeare excludes foreign appendages and arbitrary suppositions, and yet fully satisfies the wants of the stage, is particularly deserving of admiration. These plays are the very thing itself; and under the apparent artlessness of adhering closely to history as he found it, an uncommon degree of art is concealed. Of every historical transaction Shakspeare knows how to seize the true poetical point of view, and to give unity and rounding to a series of events detached from the immeasurable extent of history without in any degree changing them. The public life of ancient Rome is called up from its grave, and exhibited before our eyes with the utmost grandeur and freedom of the dramatic form, and the heroes of Plutarch are ennobled by the most eloquent poetry.

“In ‘Coriolanus' we have more comic intermixtures than in the others, as the many-headed multitude plays here a considerable part; and when Shakspeare portrays the blind movements of the people in a mass, he almost always gives himself up to his merry humour. To the plebeians, whose folly is certainly sufficiently conspicuous already, the original old satirist Menenius is added by way of abundance. Droll scenes arise of a description altogether peculiar, and which are compatible only with such a political drama ; for instance, when Coriolanus, to obtain the consulate, must solicit the lower order of citizens, whom he holds in contempt for their cowardice in war, but cannot so far master bis haughty disposition as to assume the customary humility, and yet extorts from them their votes.”— SCHLEGEL.

**“The serious and elevated persons of this drama are delineated in colours of equal, if not superior strength. The unrivalled military prowess of Coriolanus, in whose nervous arm 'Death-that dark spirit'-dwelt; the severe sublimity of his character, his stern and unbending hauteur, and his undisguised contempt of all that is vulgar, pusillanimous, and base, are brought before us with a raciness and power of impression, and, notwithstanding a very liberal use both of the sentiments and language of his Plutarch, with a freedom of outline which, even in Shakspeare, may be allowed to excite our astonishment.

“ Among the female characters a very important part is necessarily attached to the person of Volumnia ; the fate of Rome itself depending upon her parental influence and authority. The poet has accordingly done full justice to the great qualities which the Cheronean sage has ascribed to this energetic woman; the daring loftiness of her spirit, her bold and masculine eloquence, and, above all, her patriotic devotion, being marked by the most spirited and vigorous touches of his pencil.

“The numerous vicissitudes in the story ; its rapidity of action ; its contrast of character ; the splendid vigour of its serious, and the satirical sharpness and relish of its more familiar scenes, together with the animation which prevails throughout all its parts, have conferred on this play, both in the closet and on the stage, a remarkable degree of attraction.”—DRAKE.

[ocr errors][graphic][subsumed][merged small][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »