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LITERARY AND HISTORICAL NOTICE.
THIS play, supposed to have been written in 1609, comprehends a period of five or six years. The plebeian citi zens of Rome, unable to pay their debts from poverty, consequent upon the long war against Tarquin and the Latins, and incensed by the supposed indifference of the senators and patricians, retired with the undisbanded troops of Valerius, to a mountain about three miles from Rome, afterwards called Mont Sacer. The city was thrown into great alarm by this defection, and Menenius, who is described as "a very discreet person, and a great orator," was sent with other commissioners, to bring about a reconciliation. Here he related to them the fable of the belly and its members; the application of which had such an effect, that they were about to follow him home, when Sicinius and Junius Brutus (two factious fellows) cuaningly demanding a guarantee for the people, were in the end appointed their tribunes, with very extraordinary power. In the year following, there was a severe famine; and Coriolanus (so called for his exploits at Corioli) with other young patricians, making excursions into the enemy's country, returned, laden with corn. Provisions also arriving from Sicily, the senate determined upon selling them at a cheap rate to the poor; but Coriolanus proposed the abolition of the tribuneship, and the retention of the corn, because the people had obstinately refused to join in the expedition sent out to obtain it. The exasperated populace would instantly have thrown him from the Tarpeian rock, but were repulsed by his friends. Being arraigned at the proper tribunal, he defended himself with so much grace and energy, that the people called out for his acquittal; whereupon one of the tribunes artfully and falsely accusing him of illegally appropriating the spoils of war, he was as suddenly sentenced to banishment. In a spirit of revenge, he offered his services to the Volscians, and carried destruction to the very gates of Rome. The city was on the point of being assaulted, when his mother, accompanied by his wife and children, threw herself at his feet, and worked so much upon the feelings of nature, that he granted a peace, and withdrew his troops. Ou returning to Antium, by the perfidious management of Tullus, he was cut in pieces ere he had time to defend his conduct; but the Volsci disapproved the assassination, buried him honourably, adorned his tomb with trophies, and the Roman women mourned for him twelve months. The poet has adhered very closely to historical facts. Mr. Pope remarks, that Shakspeare is found to be very know ing in the customs, rites, and manners of antiquity. In Coriolanus and Julius Caesar, not only the spirit, but the manners of the Romans are exactly drawn; and a still nicer distinction is shown between Roman mauners ia the time of the former and of the latter." Many of the principal speeches are copied from Plutarch's Life of Curiolanus, as translated by Sir Thomas North. There are some glaring anachronisms in this play, such as introducing our nicknames of Hob, Dick, &c. church-yards, knells, and particularly, theatres for the exhibition of plays, which did not exist until 250 years after the death of Coriolanus. Volumnia, also, was the name of his wife, not of his mother; and the good Menenius died three or four years before his revengeful expedition against Rome.---Dr. Johnson says: The tragedy of Coriolanus is one of the most amusing of our author's performances. The old man's merriment 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 insolence in Brutus and Sicinius make a very pleasing and interesting variety; and the various revolutions of the hero's fortune fill the mind with anxious curiosity. There is, perhaps, too much bustle in the first act, and too little in the last.
CAIUS MARCIUS CORIOLANUS, a noble Roman.
TITUS LARTIUS, } Generals against the Vol
MENENIUS AGRIPPA, Friend to Coriolanus.
Tribunes of the people.
YOUNG MARCIUS, Son to Coriolanus.
A ROMAN HERALD.
TULLUS AUFIDIUS, General of the Volscians.
CONSPIRATORS with Aufidius.
A CITIZEN of Antium.
Roman and Volscian Senators, Patricians,
SCENE: partly in Rome, and partly in the territories of the Volscians and Antiates.
1 Cit. Let us kill him, and we'll have corn at our own price. Is't a verdict?
Cit. No more talking on't; let it be done : away, away.
2 Cit. One word, good citizens.
1 Cit. We are accounted poor citizens; the patricians, good: What authority surfeits on, would relieve us; If they would yield us but the superfluity, while it were wholesome, we might guess they relieved us humanely; but they think we are too dear † the leanness that afflicts us, the object of our misery, is as an inventory to parti
cularize their abundance; our sufferance is a gain to them. Let us revenge this with our pikes, ere we become rakes: for the gods know, I speak this in hunger for bread, not in thirst for revenge. 1 Cit. Would you proceed especially against Caius Marcius?
Cit. Against him first: he's a very dog to the commonalty.
2 Cit. Consider you what services he has done for his country?
1 Cit. Very well; and could be content to give him good report for't, but that he pays himself with being proud.
12 Cit. Nay, but speak not maliciously.
1 Cit. I say unto you, what he hath done famously, he did it to that end; though soft-conscienc'd men can be content to say it was for his country, he did it to please his mother, and to be partly proud; which he is, even to the altitude of his virtue.
2 Cit. What he cannot help in his nature, you account a vice in him: You must in no way say he is covetous.
1 Cit. If I must not, I need not be barren of accusations; he hath faults, with surplus, to tire an repetition. [Shouts within.] What shouts are these? The other side o'the city is risen: Why stay we prating here? to the Capitol ! Cit. Come, come.
1 Cit. Soft; who comes here?
Enter MENENIUS AGRIPPA.
2 Cit. Worthy Menenius Agrippa: one that hath always loved the people.
1 Cit. He's one honest enough; 'Would, all the rest were so!
Men. What work's, my countrymen, in hand?
With bats and clubs? The matter? Speak, 1
Against the Roman state; whose course will on
You are transported by calamity
Men. Either you must Confess yourselves wondrous malicions, Or be accus'd of folly. I shall tell you A pretty tale; it may be, you have heard it: But, since it serves my purpose, I will venture To scale't I a little more.
1 Cit. Well, I'll hear it, Sir; yet you must not
*Thin as rakes. 1 A hint. ✰ Spread it.
Which ne'er came from the lungs, but even thus,
1 Cit. Your belly's answer: What!
'Fore me, this fellow speaks!-what then? what then?
1 Cit. Should by the cormorant belly be restrain'd,
Who is the sink o'the body,
Men. Well, what then?
1 Cit. The former agents, if they did complain, What could the belly answer?
Men. I will tell you;
If you'll bestow a small (of what you have little,) Patience, a while, you'll hear the belly's answer. 1 Cit. You are long about it.
Men. Note me this, good friend; Your most grave belly was deliberate, Not rash like his accusers, and thus answer'd. True is it, my incorporate friends, quoth he, That I receive the general food at first, Which you do live upon and fit it is; Because I am the store-house, and the shop Of the whole body: But if you do remember, I send it through the rivers of your blood, Even to the court, the heart,-to the seat o'the brain;
| And, through the cranks and offices of man, The strongest nerves, and small inferior veins, From me receive that natural competency Whereby they live And though that all at
You, my good friends, (this says the belly, mark mie,)
1 Cit. Ay, Sir; well, well.
Men. Though all at once cannot See what I do deliver out to each; Yet I can make my audit up, that all From me do back receive the flour of all, And leave me but the bran. What say you to't? 1 Cit. It was an answer: How apply you this? Men. The senators of Rome are this good - belly,
And you the mutinous members: For examine Their counsels and their cares; digest things rightly,
Touching the weal o'the common; you shall find No public benefit which you receive,
But it proceeds, or comes, from them to you, And no way from yourselves. What do you think?
You the great toe of this assembly?
1 Cit. I the great toe? Why the great toe? Men. For that, being one o'the lowest, basest, poorest,
Of this most wise rebellion, thou go'st foremost;
Enter CAIUS MARCIUS.
Mar. Thanks.-What's the matter, you dissen-
That rubbing the poor itch of your opinion,
1 Cit. We have ever your good word,
Beneath abhorring. What would you have, you
The rabble should have first unroof'd the city,
Men. This is strange.
Mar. Go, get you home, you fragments!
Mes. Where's Caius Marcins?
Our musty superfluity :-See, our best elders.
1 Sen. Marcius, 'tis true that you have lately
The Volsces are in arms.
Mar. They have a leader,
I sin in envying his nobility:
To make him worthy whose offence subdues him, Ad were I any thing but what I am,
Deserves your hate and your affections are
Which would increase his evil. He that depends
With every minute you do change a mind;
That in these several places of the city
Men. For corn at their own rates; whereof, they say,
The city is well stor❜d.
Mar. Hang 'em! They say?
and give out
Conjectural marriages; making parties strong,
Would the nobility lay aside their ruth,+
Men. Nay, these are almost thoroughly per-
For though abundantly they lack discretion,
Mar. They are dissolved: Hang 'em! They said they were an hungry sigh'd forth proverbs-
That hunger broke stone walls; that dogs nust
I would wish me only he.
Com. You have fought together.
Mar. Were half to half the world by the ears,
Upon my party, I'd revolt, to make
1 Sen. Then, worthy Marcius,
And I am constant.-Titus Lartius, thou
Tit. No, Caius Marcius;
I'll lean upon one crutch, and fight with the
1 Sen. Your company to the Capitol; where
Our greatest friends attend us.
Tit. Lead you on:
Right worthy you priority.
Com. Noble Lartius!
1 Sen. Hence! To your homes, be gone.
Your valour puts + well forth: pray follow.
[Exeunt SENATORS, COM. MAR. TIT. and
Sic. Was ever man so proud as is this Marcius ?
Bru. He has no equal.
Sic. When we were chosen tribunes for the people,
Bru. Mark'd you his lip, and eyes?
Sic. Nay, but his taunts.
Bru. Being mov'd, he will not spare to gird ‡
Sic. Be-mock the modest moon.
Bru. The present wars devour bim: he is Too proud to be so valiant.
Sic. Such a nature
Tickled with good success, disdains the shadow
Bru. Fame, at the which he aims,-
For insurgents to debate upon. + Shows itself
Will then cry out of Marcius, Oh! if he Had borne the business !
Sic. Besides, if things go well, Opinion, that so sticks on Marcius, shall Of his demerits rob Cominius.
Half all Cominius' honours are to Marcius, Though Marcius earn'd them not; and all his faults
To Marcius shall be honours, though, indeed,
Sic. Let's hence, and hear
bodied, and the only son of my womb: when youth with comeliness pluck'd all gaze his way ;* When, for a day of kings' eatreaties, a mother should not sell him an hour from her beholding; I,-considering how honour would become such a person; that it was no better than picture-like to hang by the wall, if renown made it not stir,was pleased to let him seek danger where he was like to find fame. To a cruel war I sent him; from whence he returned, his brows bound with oak.t I tell thee, daughter, I sprang not more in joy at first hearing he was a man-child, than
How the dispatch is made; and in what fashion, now in first seeing he had proved himself a
Bru. Let's along.
Vir. But had he died in the business, madam,
[Exeunt. how then?
What ever hath been thought on in this state, That could be brought to bodily act ere Rome Had circumvention ! ‡ 'Tis not four days gone, Since I heard thence-these are the words: 1 think
I have the letter here; yes, here it is [Reads. They have press'd a power, but it is not known
Whether for east or west: The dearth is great;
1 Sen. Our army's in the field:
We never yet made doubt but Rome was ready To answer us.
Auf. Nor did you think it folly,
To keep your great pretences veil'd, till when They needs must shew themselves; which in the hatching,
It seem'd, appear'd to Rome. By the discovery, We shall be shorten'd in our aim, which was, To take in many towns, ere, almost, Rome Should know we were afoot.
2 Sen. Noble Aufidius,
Take your commission; hie you to your bands:
If they set down before us, for the remove
Auf. Oh! doubt not that:
I speak from certainties. Nay, more-
All. The gods assist you!
Auf. And keep your honours safe!
1 Sen. Farewell.
2 Sen. Farewell. All. Farewell.
SCENE III-Rome.-An Apartment in MARCIUS' House
Vol. Then his good report should have been my son: I therein would have found issue. 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.
Enter a GENTLEWOMAN.
Gent. Madam, the lady Valeria is come to visit you.
Vir. 'Beseech you, give me leave to retire myself.
Vol. Indeed, you shall not. Methinks, I hear hither your husband's drum; See him pluck Aufidius down by the hair; As children from a bear the Volsces shunning him;
Methinks, I see him stamp thus, and call thus,Come on, you cowards, you were got in fear, Though you were born in Rome: His bloody
With his mail'd hand then wiping, forth he goes,
Vir. His bloody brow! O Jupiter, no blood!
Re-enter GENTLEWOMAN, with VALERIA and her USHER.
Val. My ladies both, good day to you.
Vir. I am glad to see your ladyship.
Vir. I thank your ladyship; well, good madam. Vol. He had rather see the swords, and hear a drum, than look upon his school-master. Val. O' my word, the father's son: I'll swear, 'tis a very pretty boy. O' my trotb, I looked upon him o'Wednesday half an hour together: he has such a confirmed countenance. I saw him run after a gilded butterfly; and when he caught it, he let it go again; and after it again; and over and over he comes, and up again; catched it again or whether his fall enraged him, or how 'twas, he did so set his teeth, and tear it: Oh! I warrant how he mammocked
Enter VOLUMNIA and VIRGILIA: They sit it!
• Demerits and merits had anciently the same mean-
Vol. One of his father's moods.
Val. Come, lay aside your stichery; I must have you play the idle huswife with me this af ternoon.
Vir. No, good madam; I will not out of doors.
Attracted universal attention. The most hon ourable crown of all-given to him who saved the life of a citizen. 1 Tore it. § Boy.