Page images
PDF
EPUB

popular with the common people in Rome in consequence of his unbending austerity; he has, however, many firm friends, and is appointed Consul; the appointment, however, is revoked by the people, who are stirred up against Coriolanus by the tribunes Sicinius Velutus and Junius Brutus, who cause him to be banished from Rome. Indignant at the ingratitude of his countrymen, he joins the Volscians, and is received with open arms by their general, Tullus Aufidius, who divides his command with him. His countrymen, alarmed at the invasion of the Volscians, send to him to sue for peace, but he refuses to listen to them, till at length he is melted by the solicitations of his wife Virgilia and his mother Volumnia. Tullus Aufidius, jealous of the fame and influence which Coriolanus has obtained amongst the Volscians, conspires, with others against him, and he is assassinated by Aufidius and the conspirators. Dr. Johnson pronounces this to be "one of Shakspere's most amusing performances. The old man's bluntness," says he, "in Menenius; the lofty lady's dignity in Volumnia; the bridal modesty in Virgilia; the patrician and military haughtiness in Coriolanus; the plebeian malignity and tribunitian haughtiness in Brutus aud Sicinius, make a very pleasing and interesting variety."

Аст І.

Description of a Mob.

WHAT Would you have, you curs,

That like nor peace nor war? the one affrights you,
The other makes you proud. He that trusts you,
Where he should find you lions, finds you hares;
Where foxes, geese; you are no surer, no,
Than is the coal of fire upon the ice,
Or hailstone in the sun. Your virtue is

To make him worthy whose offence subdues him,
And curse that justice did it. Who deserves greatness,
Deserves your hate: and your affections are
A sick man's appetite, who desires most that

Which would increase his evil. He that depends

Upon your favours swims with fins of lead,

And hews down oaks with rushes. Hang ye! Trust ye?

!

With every minute you do change a mind;
And call him noble that was now your hate.
Him vile, that was your garland.

Volumnia's Patriotism.

Hear me profess sincerely :—had I a dozen sons,— each in my love alike, and none less dear than thine and my good Marcius,-I had rather had eleven die nobly for their country, than one voluptuously surfeit out of action.

Aufidius's Hate of Coriolanus.

Nor sleep, nor sanctuary,

Being naked, sick; nor fane, nor Capitol,
The prayers of priests, nor times of sacrifice,
Embarquements* all of fury, shall lift up
Their rotten privilege and custom 'gainst
My hate to Marcius: where I find him, were it
At home, upon my brother's guard,† even there,
Against the hospitable canon, would I
Wash my fierce hand in his heart.

ACT II.

Prowess of Coriolanus.

Before him

He carries noise, and behind him he leaves tears;
Death, that dark spirit, in's nervy‡ arm doth lie;
Which being advanc'd, declines; and then men die.

* Embargoes.

+ My brother being his protector. Nervous, vigorous.

Cominius's Praise of Coriolanus to the Senators.

I shall lack voice: the deeds of Coriolanus
Should not be utter'd feebly.—It is held
That valour is the chiefest virtue, and
Most dignifies the haver:* if it be,
The man I speak of cannot in the world
Be singly counterpois'd. At sixteen years,
When Tarquin made a head for Rome, he fought
Beyond the mark of others: our then dictator,
Whom with all praise I point at, saw him fight,
When with his Amazonian chint he drove
The bristled lips before him: he bestrid
An o'erpress'd Roman, and i' th' consul's view
Slew three opposers: Tarquin's self he met,
And struck him on his knee ;‡ in that day's feats,
When he might act the woman in the scene,§
He proved best man i' the field, and for his meed
Was brow-bound with the oak. His pupil age
Man-enter'd thus, he waxed like a sea;

And, in the brunt of seventeen battles since,
He lurch'd|| all swords o' the garland. For this last,
Before and in Corioli, let me say,

1 cannot speak him home: he stopp'd the fliers And by his rare example made the coward

Turn terror into sport; as waves before
A vessel under sail, so men obey'd

And fell below his stem: his sword (death's stamp)
Where it did mark, it took; from face to foot
He was a thing of blood, whose every motion

* Possessor. ‡ Struck him down on his knee.

+ Beardless chin.

§ On account of his youth

|| Won easily

Was timed with dying cries: alone he enter'd
The mortal gate o' the city, which he painted
With shunless destiny, aidless came off,
And with a sudden reinforcement struck
Corioli like a planet: now all's his :
When by and by the din of war 'gan pierce
His ready sense: then straight his doubled spirit
Requicken'd what in flesh was fatigate,†

And to the battle came he: where he did
Run reeking o'er the lives of men, as if
"Twere a perpetual spoil: and, till we call'd
Both field and city ours, he never stood
To ease his breast with panting.

Popularity of Coriolanus.

I have seen

The dumb men throng to see him, and the blind
To hear him speak: the matrons flung their gloves,
Ladies and maids their scarfs and handkerchiefs,
Upon him as he pass'd: the nobles bended,
As to Jove's statue; and the commons made

A shower, and thunder, with their caps and shouts ; I never saw the like.

ACT III.

Character of Coriolanus.

His nature is too noble for the world:
He would not flatter Neptune for his trident,
Or Jove for his power to thunder.

His heart's his

mouth;

What his breast forges, that his tongue must vent;

* Every blow he struck was followed by dying cries.
+ Fatigued.

And being angry, does forget that ever
He heard the name of death.

Coriolanus's Contempt for the Mob.

You common cry of curs! whose breath I hate As reek* o' the rotten fens, whose loves I prize As the dead carcases of unburied men

That do corrupt my air, I banish you ;
And here remain with your uncertainty!
Let every feeble rumour shake your hearts!
Your enemies, with nodding of their plumes,
Fan you into despair! Have the power still
To banish your defenders; till, at length,
Your ignorance (which finds not till it feels),
Making not reservation of yourselves
(Still your own foes), deliver you, as most
Abated+ captives, to some nation

That won you without blows. Despising
For you, the city, thus I turn my back:
There is a world elsewhere.

AcT IV.

Fickleness of Friendship.

O world, thy slippery turns!

sworn,

Whose double bosoms seem to wear one heart,
Whose hours, whose bed, whose meal, and exercise,
Are still together, who twin, as 't were, in love
Unseparable, shall, within this hour,

On a dissension of a doit, break out
To bitterest enmity: so, fellest foes,

Friends now fast

* Exhalation,

+ Vanquished.

« PreviousContinue »