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The political reasoning, and still more, the political painting, with which Coriolanus abounds, appears to me to offer some good grounds for conjecture as to its date, which have not attracted the notice of former commentators.
With the exception of two or three transient risings of the people against the insufferable oppression of the nobles, there had never been in England any thing like a political struggle for popular rights until the last year of the parliament dissolved by King James in 1610, nor any thing like an election into which political principles were openly carried, as between the people and the prerogative of government, until that of the parliament of 1614. The former divisions of the English nation had turned either upon personal parties, like the wars of York and Lan caster, or upon the religious questions and collisions following or just preceding the Reformation. But from 1610, and especially about the time of the election of the second short-lived parliament of James I., and during its single session-for it presented the remarkable contrast to our modern legislation of not having passed a single law, having been dissolved in its first year—the rights of the commons were boldly and eloquently asserted, and the great writers and events of ancient liberty quoted and appealed to. The elections, too, had been held with unusual excitement; and great efforts had been made by the court, without success, to carry its candidates and defeat the champions of English liberty. Now, without at all supposing that Shakespeare meant to influence the public mind through the drama, it yet appears natural that his own mind should now for the first time have been directed to those topics that agitated the nation ; while he was equally sure that his audience, whatever their political bias might be, would now find interest in political subjects and scenes to which, but a few years before, they would have been quite indifferent.
His own observation, too, of electioneering movements might well have furnished him with much of that living truth in the exhibition of popular feeling, which could hardly have been drawn from books alone or general speculation without personal knowledge, and which gives a reality to his scenes of this kind, such as we look for in vain in the splendid dramas of Corneille or Voltaire, on the same or similar subjects.
At least it is certain that, wide as had previously been the Poet's range of observation and exhibition of man individually and socially, it is only in the plays that may have been written after 1608 we perceive that the great topics of human rights and political policy had been much in his thoughts. In these, and especially in CORIOLANUS, (as Hazlitt remarks,)“ the arguments for and against aristocracy or democracy, or the privileges of the few and the claims of the many, on liberty and slavery, power and the abuse of it, are ably handled, with the spirit of a poet and the acuteness of a philosopher.” Whether Hazlitt's inference be also true, that the Poet “had a leaning to the arbitrary side of the question,” can be considered better by placing Coriolanus side by side with Brutus. (See Julius Cæsar, Introductory Remarks.)
The text of the original edition is in the main accurately printed, but here and there it appears as if printed from a manuscript with accidental omissions or obliterations. The text is, therefore, generally clear enough; but in four or five passages we must rely upon conjectural insertions or corrections, and in at least two of them, these are not at all satisfactory. Many of the editors, from Pope to Malone, have varied boldly from the old edition in altering the assignment of the dialogue to the several persons. Stevens, and those of his school, have laboured to regulate the dramatic freedom of the verse into the regular heroic measure of the epic. The present edition, like those of the last two English editors, has returned to the older readings, in both respects, with a few slight exceptions, where the correction seemed incontrovertibly right.
CAIUS MARCIUS CORIOLANUS, & noble Roman. TITUS LARTIUS,
Generals against the Volciang
Tribunes of the People
VOLUMNIA, Mother to CORIOLANUS,
Roman and Volcian Senators, Patricians, wailes,
Lictors, Soldiers, Citizens, Messengers, Servanta to AUTIDIUS, and other Attendants
SOENE-Partly in ROME; and partly in the Territories
of the Volcians and Antiateg.
SCENE I.—Rome. A Street.
All. Resolved, resolved.
1 Cit. First you know, Caius Marcius is chief Enter a company of mutinous Citizens, with staves, clubs, and other weapons.
enemy to the people.
All. We know't, we know't. 1 Cit. Before we proceed any further, hear me i Cit. Let us kill him, and we'll have corn at speak.
our own price. Is't'a verdict ? AU. Speak, speak.
All. No more talking on't; let it be done. Away, i Cit. You are all resolved rather to die, than to | away! famish?
2 Cit. One word, good citizens.
1 Cit. We are accounted poor citizens; the pa- cared for us yet. Suffer us to famish, and the: tricians good. What authority surfeits on, would store-houses crammed with grain; make edicts to relieve us : if they would yield us but the superflu- usury, to support usurers; repeal daily any whole ity, while it were wholesome, we might guess they some act established against the rich, and provis relieved us humanely; but they think, we are too more piercing statutes daily to chain up and restri dear: the leanness that afflicts us, the object of the poor. If the wars eat us not up, they wi. our misery, is as an inventory to particularize their and there's all the love they bear us. abundance; our sufferance is a gain to them.-Let Men. Either you must us revenge this with our pikes, ere we become Confess yourselves wondrous malicious, rakes: for the gods know, I speak this in hunger Or be accus'd of folly. I shall tell you for bread, not in thirst for revenge.
A pretty tale: it may be, you have heard it; 2 Cit. Would you proceed especially against But, since it serves my purpose, I will venture Caius Marcius?
To stale 't a little more. All. Against him first: he's a very dog to the 2 Cit. Well, I'll hear it, sir: yet you must commonalty.
think to fob off our disgrace with a tale; but, ses 2 Cit. Consider you what services he has done | please you, deliver. for his country?
Men. There was a time, when all the body's 1 Cit. Very well; and could be content to give
members him good report for't, but that he pays himself with Rebell'd against the belly ; thus accus'd it :being proud.
That only like a gulf it did remain 2 Cit. Nay, but speak not maliciously.
I' the midst o' the body, idle and unactive, 1 Cit. I say unto you, what he hath done fa- Still cupboarding the viand, never bearing mously, he did it to that end : though soft-con- Like labour with the rest; where th' other instruscienced men can be content to say it was for his
ments country, he did it to please his mother, and to be Did see, and hear, devise, instruct, walk, feel, partly proud; which he is, even to the altitude of And, mutually participate ;—did minister his virtue.
Unto the appetite, and affection common 2 Cit. What he cannot help in his nature, you Of the whole body. The belly answered, account a vice in him. You must in no way say
2 Cit. Well, sir, what answer made the belly! he is covetous.
Men. Sir, I shall tell you.—With a kind of smile, 1 Cit. If I must not, I need not be barren of ac- Which ne'er came from the lungs, but even thus, cusations : he hath faults, with surplus, to tire in (For, look you, I may make the belly smile, repetition. [Shouts within.] What shouts are these? As well as speak,) it tauntingly replied The other side o' the city is risen: why stay we To the discontented members, the mutinous parts prating here? to the Capitol!
That envied his receipt ; even so most fitly All. Come, come.
As you malign our senators, for that 1 Cit. Soft! who comes here?
They are not such as you.
Your belly's answer? What!
The kingly crowned head, the vigilant eye, 2 Cit. Worthy Menenius Agrippa ; one that hath The counsellor heart, the arm our soldier, always loved the people.
Our steed the leg, the tongue our trumpeter, i Cil. He's one honest enough: would, all the With other muniments and petty helps rest were so !
In this our fabric, if that theyMen. What work's, my countrymen, in hand ? Men.
Fore me, this fellow speaks !—what then? what With bats and clubs? The matter? Speak, I pray
then ? you.
2 Cit. Should by the cormorant belly be restrain d. 2 Cit. Our business is not unknown to the senate : Who is the sink o' the body,they have had inkling this fortnight what we intend Men.
Well, what then? to do, which now we'll show 'em in deeds. They 2 Cit. The former agents, if they did complain, say, poor suitors have strong breaths: they shall What could the belly answer ? know, we have strong arms too.
I will tell you, Men. Why, masters, my good friends, mine Ify
f you'll bestow a small (of what you have little) honest neighbours,
Patience a while, you'll hear the belly's answer. Will you undo yourselves ?
2 Cit. Y'are long about it. 2 Cit. We cannot, sir; we are undone already. Men.
Note me this, good friend; Men. I tell you, friends, most charitable care Your most grave belly was deliberate, Have the patricians of you. For your wants,
Not rash like bis accusers, and thus answer'd:Your suffering in this dearth, you may as well “True is it, my incorporate friends," quoth he, Strike at the heaven with your staves, as lift them " That I receive the general food at first, Against the Roman state ; whose course will on Which you do live upon; and fit it is, The way it takes, cracking ten thousand curbs Because I am the store-house, and the shop Of more strong link asunder, than can ever Of the whole body: but if you do remember, Appear in your impediment. For the dearth, I send it through the rivers of your blood, The gods, not the patricians, make it; and
Even to the court, the heart, to the seat o' the brain ; Your knees to them, not arms, must help. Alack ! And through the cranks and offices of man, You are transported by calamity
The strongest nerves, and small inferior veins, Thither where more attends you; and you slander From me receive that natural competency The helms o'the state, who care for you like fathers, Whereby they live. And though that all at once, When you curse them as enemies.
You, my good friends," this says the belly, mark 2 Cit. Care for us — True, indeed!—They ne'er
Where go you
2 Cit. Ay, sir; well, well.
Below their cobbled shoes. They say, there's Men.
Though all at once cannot grain enough? See what I do deliver out to each,
Would the nobility lay aside their ruth, Yet I can make my audit up, that all
And let me use my sword, I'd make a quarry From me do back receive the flour of all,
With thousands of these quarter'd slaves, as high And leave me but the bran." What say you to't ? As I could pick my lance.
2 Cit. It was an answer. How apply you this ? Men. Nay, these are almost thoroughly perMen. The senators of Rome are this good belly,
suaded ; And you the mutinous members : for examine For though abundantly they lack discretion, Their counsels, and their cares; digest things Yet are they passing cowardly. But, I beseech you, rightly,
What says the other troop? Touching the weal o' the common, you shall find, Mar.
They are dissolved. Hang 'em! No public benefit which you receive,
They said, they were an-hungry; sigh'd forth But it proceeds, or comes, from them to you,
proverbs,And no way from yourselves.—What do you think? That hunger broke stone walls; that dogs must eat; You, the great toe of this assembly ?
That meat was made for mouths; that the gods 2 Cit. I the great toe? Why the great toe?
sent not Men. For that being one o' the lowest, basest, Corn for the rich men only:— With these shreds poorest,
They vented their complainings; which being Of this most wise rebellion, thou go'st foremost :
answer'd, Thou rascal, that art worst in blood to run,
And a petition granted them, a strange one, Lead'st first to win some vantage.
(To break the heart of generosity, But make you ready your stiff bats and clubs, And make bold power look pale,) they threw their Rome and her rats are at the point of battle ;
caps The one side must have bale.-Hail, noble Marcius ! As they would hang them on the horns o' the
moon, Enter Caius Marcius.
Shouting their emulation. Mar. Thanks.-What's the matter, you dissen
What is granted them ? tious rogues,
Mar. Five tribunes, to defend their vulgar That rubbing the poor itch of your opinion,
wisdoms, Make yourselves scabs ?
Of their own choice: one's Junius Brutus, 2 Cit.
We have ever your good word. Sicinius Velutus, and I know not—'Sdeath! Mar. He that will give good words to thee, will The rabble should have first unroof'd the city, flatter
Ere so prevailid with me: it will in time Beneath abhorring.–What would you have, you Win upon power, and throw forth greater themes
For insurrection's arguing. That like nor peace, nor war ? the one affrights
This is strange. you;
Mar. Go; get you home, you fragments !
Enter a Messenger.
Mess. Where's Caius Marcius ?
Here. What's the matter? Or hailstone in the sun. Your virtue is
Mess. The news is, sir, the Volsces are in arms. To make him worthy, whose offence subdues him, Mar. I am glad on't: then, we shall have means And curse that justice did it. Who deserves
to vent greatness,
Our musty superfluity.-See, our best elders. Deserves your hate; and your affections are
Enter Cominius, Titus LARTius, and other SenaA sick man's appetite, who desires most that Which would increase his evil. He that depends
tors; Junius Brutus, and Sicinius VELUTUS. Upon your favours, swims with fins of lead,
1 Sen. Marcius, 'tis true, that you have lately And hews down oaks with rushes. Hang ye! Trust ye?
The Volsces are in arms. With every minute you do change a mind,
They have a leader, And call him noble, that was now your hate, Tullus Aufidius, that will put you to't. Him vile, that was your garland. What's the I sin in envying his nobility; matter,
And were I any thing but what I am, That in these several places of the city
I would wish me only he. You cry against the noble senate, who,
You have fought together. Under the gods, keep you in awe, which else
Mar. Were half to half the world by th' ears, Would feed one another ?-What's their
and he seeking ?
Upon my party, I'd revolt, to make Men. For corn at their own rates; whereof, | Only my wars with him: he is a lion
That I am proud to hunt. The city is well stor’d.
Then, worthy Marcius, Mar.
Hang 'em! They say? Attend upon Cominius to these wars. They'll sit by the fire, and presume to know
Com. It is your former promise. What's done i' the Capitol; who's like to rise,
Sir, it is; Who thrives, and who declines; side factions, and And I am constant.—Titus Lartius, thou give out
Shalt see me once more strike at Tullus' face. Conjectural marriages; making parties strong, What! art thou stiff? stand'st out! And feebling such as stand not in their liking
No, Caius Marcius;