Page images

and abstinence, when they saw so litle covetousnesse in him, then they were that highly praised and extolled his valiantnesse.

* After this shout and noise of the assembly was somewhat appeased, the Consul Cominius began to speake in this sort : We cannot compell Martius to take these gifts we offer him if he will not receive them, but we will give him such a reward for the noble service he hath done, as he cannot refuse. Therefore we do order and decree, that henceforth he be called Coriolanus, unlesse his valiant acts have wonne him that name before our nomination. And so ever since, he still bare the third name of Coriolanus."


(1) SCENE IIJ.-(And Censorinus, darling of the people.] This line in brackets was supplied by Pope; the original, which mentioned Censorinus, having been accidentally left out, as will at once be seen from the parallel passage in Shakespeare's authority:“ The house of the Martians at Rome was of the number of the Patricians, out of the which hath sprong many noble personages: whereof Ancus Martius was one, King * Numaes daughters sonne, who was King of Rome after Tullus Hostilius. Of the same house were Publius, and Quintus, who brought to Rome their best water they had by conducts. Censorinus also came of that familie, that was so surnamed bicause the people had chosen him Censor twise."-NORTH's Plutarch, p. 237.


uhich will in time break ope The locks o' the senate, and bring in the crows

To peck the eagles.] Compare Plutarch:-“But Martins standing up on his feete, dyd somewhat sharpely take up those, who went about to gratifie the people therin: and called them people pleasers, and traitours to the nobilitie. Moreover he sayed they nourished against themselves the naughtie seede and cockle of insolencie and sedition, which had bene sowed and scattered abroade emongest the people, whom they should have cut off, if they had been wise, and have prevented their greatnes : and not (to their owne destruction) to have suffered the people to stablish a magistrate for themselves, of so great power and authority as that man had, to whom they had graunted it. Who was also to be feared, bicause he obtained what he would, and did nothing but what he listed, neither passed for any obedience to the Consuls, but lived in all liberty, acknowledging no superiour to command him, saving the only heads and authours of their faction, whom he called his magistrats. Therefore sayed he, they that gave counsell, and per. swaded that the corne should

be geven out to the common people gratis, as they used to doe in the cities of Græce, where the people had more absolute power, dyd but only nourishe their disobedience, which would breake out in the ende to the utter ruine and overthrowe of the whole state. For they will not thineke it is done in reeompence of their service past, sithence they know well enough they have so oft refused to go to the warres, when they were com maunded: neither for their mutinies when they went with us, whereby they have rebelled and forsaken their countrie: neither for their accusations which their tatterers have preferred unto them, and they have received, and made good against the Senate: but they will rather judge, we give and grant them this, as abasing our selves, and standing in feare of them, and glad to flatter them every way. By this means their disobedience will still grow worse and worse: and they will never leave to practise new sedition and uprores. Therfore it were a great folly for us, me thinks to do it: yea, shall I say more? we should if we were wise, take from them the Tribuneship, which most manifestly is the embasing of the Consulship, and the cause of the division of their city. The state whereof as it standeth, is not now as it was wont to be, but becometh dismembred in two factions, which maintaines alwaies civill dissention and discord between us, and will never suffer us againe to be united into one




I'd not believe them more

Than thee, all-noble Marcius.] Here, as in many other scenes in the play, the poet has followed the historian almost literally :

“It was even twylight when he entred the cittie of ANTIUM, and many people met him in the streetes, but no man knewe him. So he went directly to Tullus Aufidius house, and when he came thither, he got him up straight to the chimney harthe, and sat him downe, and spake not a worde to any man, his face all muffled over. They of the house spying him, wondered what he should be, and yet they durst not byd him rise. For ill favouredly mufled and disguised as he was, yet there appeared a certaine maiestie in his countenance, and in his silence: whereupon they went to Tullus who was at supper, to tell him of the straunge disguising of this man. Tullus rose presently from the borde, and comming towards him, asked him what he was, and wherfore he came. Then Martius unmuffled himselfe, and after he had paused a while, making no aunswer, he sayed unto him: If thou knowest me not yet, Tullus, and seeing me, dost not perhappes beleeve me to be the man I am indede, I must of necessitie bewraye my selfe to be that I am. I am Caius Martius, who hath done to thy self particularly, and to all the VOLSCEs generally, great hurte and mischief, which I cannot denie for my surname of Coriolanus that I beare. For I never had other benefit nor recompence, of all the true and paynefull service I have done, and the extreme daungers I have bene in, but this only surname: a good memorie and witnes of the malice and displeasure thou showldest beare me. In deede the name only remaineth with me: for the rest, the envie and crueltie of the people of ROME have taken from me, by the sufferance of the darstardly nobilitie and magistrates, who have forsaken me, and let me be banished by the people. This extremitie hath now driven me to come as a poore suter, to take thy chimney harthe, not of any hope I have to save my life thereby. For if I had feared death, I would not have come hither to have put my life in hazard: but prickt forward with spite and desire I have to be revenged of them that thus have banished me, whom now I beginne to be avenged on, putting my persone into the hands of their enemies. Wherfore, if thou hast any heart to be wrecked of the iniuries thy enemies have done thee, speed thee now, and let my misery serve thy turne, and so use it, as my service may be a benefit to the VOLSCES : promising thee, that I will fight with better good will for all you, then ever I dyd when I was against you, knowing that they fight more valiantly, who know the force of their enemy then such as have never proved it. And if it be so that thou dare not, and that thou art wearie to prove fortune any more, then am I also wearie to live any longer. And it were no wisedome in thee, to save the life of him, who hath bene heretofore thy mortall enemy, and whose service now can nothing help nor pleasure thee. Tullus hearing what he sayed was a marvelous glad man, and taking him by the hand, he sayed unto him: Stand up, 0 Martius, and be of good cheare, for in profering thyselfe unto us, thou doest us great honour : and by this means thou maist hope also of greater things at all the VOLSCES hands. So he feasted him for that time, and entertained him in the honourablest manner he could, talking with him in no other matters at that present: but within few dayes after, they fell to consultation together, in what sort they should beginne their wars."


O, my mother, mother! O!
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


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

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 the 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 wartes, 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 sonne be led prisoner in triumphe by his naturall countrymen, 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 gayle-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 50 come to passe, thy selfe is thonely author, and so hast thou thonely honour. But if it faile, and fall out contrarie, thy selfe 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 goodness 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 80 unnaturally shewest all ingratitude. Moreover (my sonne) thou has', sorely taken of thy countrie, exacting grievous payments upon them, in revenge of the iniuries offered thee: besides, thou hast not hitherto shewed 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 hope? And with these wordes, herselfe, his wife, and children, fell down upon their knees before him : Martins seeing that, could refraine no longer, but went straight and lifte her up crying out : Oh mother, what have you done to me? And 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."


Ladies, you deserve

To have a temple built you.]
Which, according to Plutarch, they had : dedicated to Fortuna muliebri :-

“Whereupon the Senate ordeined, that the Magistrates to gratifie and honor these ladyes, should graunt them all that they would require. And they only requested that they would build a temple of Fortune of the women, unto the building whereof they offered them selves to defraye the whole charge of the sacrifices, and other ceremonies belonging to the service of the gods. Neverthelesse, the Senate commending their good-will and forwardnes, ordeined, that the temple and image should be made at the common charge of the cittie. Notwithstanding that, the ladyes gathered money emong them, and made with the same a second image of Fortune, which the ROMAINES say dyd speake as they offred her up in the temple, and dyd set her in her place.”

(3) SCENE VI.--Hail, lords ! I am return'd your soldier.] “Nowe, when Martius was returned againe into the citie of Antium from his voyage, Tullus, that hated and could no longer abide him for the fear he had of his authoritie, sought 'divers means to make him out of the way, thinking that if he let slippe that present time, he should never recover the like and fit occasion againe. Wherefore Tullus, having procured manie other of his confederacy, required Martius might be deposed from his estate, to render up accomptt to the VOLSCES of his charge and government. Martius fearing to become a private man againe under Tullus being Generall (whose authoritie was greater otherwise, then any other emong all the VOLSCES) answered: He was willing to geve up his charge, and would resigne it into the hands of the lordes of the VOLSCES, if they dyd al command him, as by al their commandment he received it. And moreover, that he would not refuse even at that present to gere up an accomptt unto the people, if they would tarie the hearing of it. The people hereupon called a common counsell, in which assembly there were certaine oratours appointed, that stirred up the common people against him: and when they had tolde their tales, Martius rose up to make them answer. Now, notwithstanding the mutinous people made a marvelous great noise, yet when they saw him, for the reverence they bare unto his valiantnesse, they quieted themselves, and gave him audience to alledge with leysure what he could for his purgation. Moreover, the honestest men of the ANTIATES, and who most rejoyced in peace, shewed by their countenaunce that they would heare him willingly, and iudge asso according to their conscience. Whereupon Tullus fearing that if he dyd let him speake, he would prove his innocencie to the people, because emongest other things he had an eloquent tongue; besides that the first good service he had done to the people of the VOLSCES, dyd winne him more favour, then these last accusations could purchase him displeasure : and furthermore, the offence they layed to his charge, was a testimonie of the goodwill they ought him; for they would never have thought he had done them wrong for that they tooke not the cittie of Rome, if they had not bin very neare taking of it, by meanes of his approche and couduction. For these causes Tullus thought he might no longer delaye his presence and enterprise, neither to tarie for the mutining and rising of the common people against him : wherefore, those that were of the conspiracie, began to cry out that he was not to be heard, and that they would not suffer a traitor to usurpe tyranicall power over the tribe of the Volsces, who would not yeld up his state and authority. And in saying these words, they all fell upon him, and killed him in the market place, none of the people once offering to rescue him. Howbeit it is a clere case, that this murder was not generally consented unto, of the most parte of the VOLSCES: for men came out of all partes to honor his body, and dyd honourably bury him; setting up his tombe with great store of armour and spoiles, as the tombe of a worthy person and great captaine. The ROMAINES understanding of his death, shewed no other honour or malice, saving that they graunted the ladges the request they made : that they might mourne tenne moneths for him, and that was the full time they used to weare blackes for the death of their fathers, brethren, or husbands, according to Numa Pompilius order, who stablished the same, as we have enlarged more amplie in the description of his life. Now Martius being dead, the whole state of the VOLSCEs harteily wished him alive againe. For, first of all they fell out with the ÆQUES who were their friends and confederates, touching preheminence and place: and this quarrell grew on so farre betweene them, that fraies and murders fell out upon it one with another. After that the ROMAINES overcame them in battell, in which Tullus was slaine in the field and the flower of all their force was put to the sword: so that they were compelled to accept most shamefull conditions of peace, in yelding themselves subject unto the conquerers, and promising to be obedient at their commandement.”-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 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 se far master his 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.

« PreviousContinue »