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“ The Tragedy of Coriolanus” was first printed in the folio of 1623, where it occupies thirty pages, viz. from p. 1 to p. 30 inclusive, a new pagination commencing with that drama. In the folio of 1632 the new pagination begins with “ Troilus and Cressida," and in the folios of 1664 and 1685 “ Coriolanus" is inserted in the same order.
NOTHING has yet been discovered to lead to the belief that there was a play on the story of Coriolanus anterior to Shakespeare's tragedy. Henslowe's Diary contains no hint of the kind.
The materials for this drama appear to have been derived exclusively from “the Life of Caius Martins Coriolanus," in the early translation of Plutarch by Sir Thomas North. That translation came from the press in folio in 1579, with the following title: “ The Lives of the noble Grecians and Romanes, compared together by that grave learned Philosopher and Historiographer, Plutarke of Chæronea." It was avowedly made from the French of Amiot, Bishop of Auxerre, and appears to have been very popular : though published at a high price (equal to about 51. of our present money), it was several times reprinted; and we may, perhaps, presume that our great dramatist made use of an impression nearer his own time, possibly that of 1595. In many of the principal speeches he has followed this authority with verbal exactness; and he was indebted to it for the whole conduct of his plot. The action occupies less than four years, for it commences subsequent to the retirement of the people to Mons Sacer in 262, after the fourdation of Rome, and terminates with the death of Coriolanus in A. U. C. 266.
66 The Tragedy of Coriolanus" originally appeared in the folio of 1623, where it is divided into acts but not into scenes; and it was registered at Stationers' Hall by Blount and Jaggard on the 8th of November of that year, as one of the i copies" which had not been “entered to other inen." Hence we infer that there had been no previous edition of it in quarto. Malone supposed that “Coriolanus" was written in 1610; but we are destitute of all evidence on the point, beyond what may be derived from the style of composition: this would certainly induce us to tix it somewhat late in the career of our great dramatist.
It is on the whole well printed for the time in the folio of 1623; but in Act ii. sc. 3, either the transcriber of the manuscript or the compositor nust have omitted a line, which Pope supplied from conjecture (with the aid of North's Plutarch), and which has ever since been received into the text, because it is absolutely necessary to the intelligibility of the passage. For the sake of greater distinction, we have printed the line within brackets, besides pointing out the circumstance in a note.
CAIUs MARCrus CoRIolanus, a noble Roman.
Generals against the Volscians.
TULLUs AUFIDIUs, General of the Volscians.
VolumniA, Mother to Coriolanus.
Roman and Volscian Senators, Patricians, AEdiles, Lictors, Soldiers, Citizens, Messengers, Servants to Aufidius, and other Attendants.
SCENE, partly in Rome; and partly in the Territories of the Wolscians and Antiates.
ACT I. SCENE I.-Roine. A Street. Enter a Company of mutinous Citizens, with Staves,
Clubs, and other Weapons. 1 Cit. Before we proceed any farther, hear me speak. All. Speak, speak. 1 Cit. You are all resolved rather to die, than to famish? All. Resolved, resolved.
1 Cit. First you know, Caius Marcius is chief enemy to the people.
All. We know't, we know 't.
i Cit. Let us kill him, and we'll have corn at our own price. Is 't a verdict ?
All. 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 patri. cians 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 abjectness of our misery, is as an inventory to particularize their abundance ; our sufferance is a gain to them.-Let us revenge this with our pikes, ere we become rakés : for the gods know, I speak this in hunger for bread, not in thirst for revenge.
2 Cit. Would you proceed especially against Caius Marcius ?
All. 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
1 object: in f. e. 9 All.: in folio. Vol. VI.-10
good report for’t, but that he pays himself with being proud. 2 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-conscienced men can be content to say it was for his country, he did it to please his mother, and partly to be 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 in repetition. [Shouts within..] What shouts are these?. The other side o' the city is risen: why stay we prating here? to the Capitol All. Come, come. 1 Cit. Soft who comes here 2 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? Where go you With bats and clubs? The matter? Speak, I pray you. 2 Cit. Our business is not unknown to the senate: they have had inkling this fortnight what we intend to do, which now we’ll show'em in deeds. They say, poor suitors have strong breaths: they shall know, we have strong arms too. Men. Why, masters, my good friends, mine honest neighbours, Will you undo yourselves? 2 Cit. We cannot, sir; we are undone already. Men. I tell you, friends, most charitable care Have the patricians of you. For your wants, Your suffering in this dearth, you may as well Strike at the heaven with your staves, as lift them Against the Roman state; whose course will on The way it takes, cracking ten thousand curbs Of more strong link asunder, than can ever Appear in your impediment. For the dearth, The gods, not the patricians, make it; and Your knees to them, not arms, must help. Alack