Enter . . . with soldiers Miss C. Porter (First Folio Sh.): Scene vi. is marked by the entrance of Cominius as it were in retire, with soldiers. This appearance may have been given by a withdrawal as if with their faces still half turned whence they came from the side of the fore-stage. There later, scene x, it appears that some property-trees screened off the back of the stage, which Aufidius, who had been fighting with Cominius before then and afterwards with Martius, calls ‘the Cypress grove.’ If Cominius so entered at scene vi, the Messenger and, later, Martius may have entered toward him from the opposite side.
we are come off Case (Arden Sh.): That is, we quit the fight. The Romans temporarily retire, but this is not necessarily implied in ‘come off,’ which can be used by the side which has the advantage. See King John, V, v, 4, when Lewis speaks of the English as ‘In faint retire,’ and goes on: ‘O bravely came we off,
When with a volley of our needless shot,
After such bloody toil, we bid good night;
And wound our tattering colours clearly up
Last in the field, and almost lords of it!’
The Roman Gods Warburton: This is an address or invocation to them, therefore we should read, ‘Ye Roman gods!’—Heath (p. 412): It is so; but no reason requires that it should be a direct invocation rather than an oblique one in the third person, as in the common reading.—Dyce (Remarks, etc., p. 160): The word ‘you’ in l. 10 shows that ‘the Roman gods’ is wrong. Read ‘ye’; the original compositor mistook ‘ye’ for ‘ye’ (the).—Keightley (Expositor, p. 160): It is evident from the context that the poet wrote Ye, not ‘The,’ as in Ant. & Cleo., V, ii, 171, [‘The gods! it smites me Beneath the fall I have’].—W. A. Wright: This has usually been changed to ‘Ye Roman gods,’ but Shakespeare in other passages uses the definite article with the vocative in such a manner as to render the correction not absolutely certain. For instance, in II, iii, 55; IV, i, 44, and Lear, I, i, 271: ‘The jewels of our father, with wash'd eyes Cordelia leaves you.’ Jul. Cæs., V, iii, 99: ‘The last of all the Romans, fare thee well!’ In 1 Henry IV: I, ii, 177, the old copies read: ‘Farewell, the latter spring,’ and in 3 Henry VI: V, v, 38, the Folios have: ‘Take that, the likeness of this railer here.’ Again in Pericles, III, i, 1, the early copies read: ‘The god of this great vast, rebuke these surges.’ It may be said that all these instances are misprints, but the number of them is against such an explanation.—Beeching (Henry Irving Sh.): For the definite article, where we should rather use the pronoun ye, compare IV, i, 44. The awkwardness in the present passage is that there is nothing until the pronoun ‘you’ in l. 10 to decide whether ‘the Roman gods’ is the second or third person; where there is no ambiguity, as in Jul. Cæs., V, iii, 99, ‘The last of all the Romans, fare thee well!’ the difference from modern usage hardly attracts attention.
speakest W. A. Wright: So printed in the Folios, which have ‘speak'st’ in the next line. There is nothing in the metre to necessitate the abbreviation to ‘speak'st’ in the first instance, for in these broken lines it is not uncommon to have a redundant syllable.
briefely Abbott (§ 35): That is, a short time ago, instead of (as with us) in a short space of time. Similarly we use the Saxon equivalent shortly to signify futurity.
confound Malone: ‘Confound’ is here used not in its common acceptation, but in the sense of to expend. Conterere tempus.—Steevens: So, in 1 Henry IV: I, iii, 100, ‘He did confound the best part of an hour In changing hardiment with great Glendower.’
Held me in chace Madden (p. 54, foot-note): To ‘hold in chase’ was a phrase in common use—King John, I, i, 223; Lucrece, l. 1736; Sonnet cxliii; [also the present line cited]. that For other examples of ‘that’ equivalent to so that, see, if needful, Abbott, § 283.
Mar. Beeching (Falcon Sh.): Notice how much the scene is improved [by Dyce's stage-direction (within]. Cominius's beautiful lines become a soliloquy. 32, 33. The Shepherd . . . Martius Tongue] Theobald: This has the air of an imitation, whether Shakespeare really borrow'd it or no, from the original. I mean what Ulysses says in the Greek poet of being able to distinguish Minerva's voice, tho' he did not see her. Sophocles in Ajace, [ll. 14-16, Theobald gives the Greek original, which is thus rendered in the Oxford translation: ‘O voice of Minerva, my best beloved of deities, how well known do I hear, and grasp with my mind, even though thou be unseen, thy voice like that of the brazen-throated Tuscan trump!’—Ed.].
From euery meaner man Malone: That is, from that of every meaner man. This kind of phraseology is found in many places in these plays; and as the peculiarities of our author, or rather the language of his age, ought to be scrupulously attended to, Hanmer and the subsequent editors who read here ‘every meaner man's’ ought not, in my apprehension, to be followed, though we should now write so. So in Cymbeline: ‘Thersites body is as good as Ajax, When neither are alive,’ [IV, ii, 252]. Again in Timon, ‘Friend or brother, He forfeits his own life that spills another,’ [III, v, 88].—Steevens: When I am certified that this, and many corresponding offences against grammar, were common to the writers of our author's age, I shall not persevere in correcting them. But while I suspect (as in the present instance) that such irregularities were the gibberish of a theatre, or the blunders of a transcriber, I shall forbear to set nonsense before my readers, especially when it can be avoided by the insertion of a single letter, which, indeed, might have dropped out at the press.—Dyce (ed. ii.): Who does not see that in the first of the passages [quoted by Malone] we ought to print Ajax,’ just as in a passage of Tro. & Cress., “were your days As green as Ajax,’ and your brain so temper'd,” &c., [II, iii, 265]? And with respect to the passage of Timon, ‘He forfeits his own blood (M. misquotes it life） that spills another,’ it need not be defended on the plea that the necessity of a rhyme occasioned an offence against grammar, for ‘another blood’ may certainly mean another blood than his own.— W. A. Wright: The idiom is not peculiar to English. For instance, in Psalm xviii, 33, ‘He maketh my feet like hinds' feet,’ the translators have supplied the word ‘feet’ in italic to show that it is not in the original. Similarly in Psalm xcii, 10, ‘But my horn thou shalt exalt like the horn of an unicorn,’ where the italic words have nothing corresponding to them in the Hebrew. See also Esther, iii, 8, ‘And their laws are diverse from all people.’—Verity (Student's Sh.): The change to man's, corresponding with Marcius', is certainly wrong; such uniformity is not Shakespearian at all. Compare Macbeth, III, i, 55-57: ‘Under him My Genius is rebuked; as, it is said, Mark Antony's was by Cæsar,’ i. e., Cæsar's.
as when I woo'd in heart; Theobald: Dr Thirlby advised the different regulation in the pointing of this passage [see Text. Notes], which I have embraced, as I think it much improves the sense and spirit, and conveys, too, the Poet's thought that Marcius was as sound in limb as when he went a wooing; and as merry in heart as when going to bed to his bride.—Capell (vol. I, pt i, p. 83): The semicolon at ‘woo'd’ in this line is very foolishly put after ‘heart’ in all editions preceding the third modern [Theobald]; as the speech is now regulated no reader can be at a loss for its sense, though the expression be somewhat clouded by the improper application of ‘clip’ to the latter member of it, [ll. 40, 41].
to Bedward Steevens: So, in Albumazar, 1615: ‘Sweats hourly for a dry brown crust to bedward,’ [Hazlitt's Dodsley, xi, 333].—Malone: Again, in Peacham's Compleat Gentleman, 1627, ‘Leaping . . . Upon a full stomacke or to bedward . . . is very dangerous, and in no wise to be exercised,’ [ed. 1634, p. 216.—Ed.]— W. A. Wright: That is, towards bedtime. In the Authorised Version we have many instances of this splitting up of the preposition ‘to-ward.’ For example, ‘to us-ward’ (Psalm xl, 5), ‘to thee-ward’ (1 Sam., xix, 4), ‘to you-ward’ (Eph., iii, 2), ‘to the mercy seat-ward’ (Exod., xxxvii, 9), ‘to God-ward’ (2 Cor., iii, 4). Compare 1 Henry VI: III, iii, 20: ‘Their powers are marching unto Paris-ward.’ See also Chaucer, Knight's Tale, l. 882: ‘To Thebes-ward with olde walles wyde.’
exile W. A. Wright: In Shakespeare the accent on this word is variable. See V, iii, 106. In The Passionate Pilgrim, Two Gentlemen, As You Like It, and Richard II. it is always on the first syllable. In 2 Henry VI: III, ii, 382, it is on the last; in Rom. & Jul. it is three times on the last and twice on the first; while in Cymb. it is once only on the last and twice on the first.
Ransoming him Johnson: That is, remitting his ransom. [For this use of ‘ransom’ in the sense of release, Deighton compares, Love's Labour's, I, ii, 65: ‘I would take Desire prisoner and ransom him to any French courtier for a new devised courtesy’; for ‘him,’ thus used indefinitely, Abbott (§ 217) compares Macbeth, IV, iii, 80: ‘Desire his jewels and this other's house’; also Sonnet xxix, 6: ‘Featured like him, like him with friends possessed.’]
Grey-hound . . . Leash . . . slip W. A. Wright: Shakespeare has observed minute accuracy in his use of this hunting language. In the Gentleman's Recreation (1721), p. 11, among the ‘Different Terms for Hounds and GreyHounds’ we read: ‘We let slip a Grey-Hound, and cast off a hound. The string wherewith we lead a Grey-Hound is called a Lease; and for a Hound, a Lyome.’ Compare 1 Henry IV: I, iii, 278: ‘Before the game is afoot, thou still let'st slip.’
but for our Gentlemen W. A. Wright: That is, had it not been for our gentlemen. With characteristic impetuosity Coriolanus does not finish his sentence. —Miss C. Porter (First Folio Sh.): Although the speech is impatient, reckless of formal words as the speaker is of details, we think Martius is less apt to be disjointed than to be at once swift and compact. For this reason it seems to us more in keeping with the whole to heed the sharp pelt of the reply closed with the colon after ‘truth.’ He exonerates the Messenger at once, whom Cominius has just called ‘that Slave’ and was going to reprimand for bringing false news. Then Martius goes on naturally in thought to the action that did in truth turn the tide from retreat to victory. Instead of telling this, however, which would amount to praising himself as one equal to the desperate situation, he blames with scorn and irony those who were not, namely, the would-be Gentlemen, who, in his sense of what nobility exacts, showed they were unworthy to be trusted. As for this gentry, they ran like the mouse from the cat.
a plague-Tribunes for them Miss C. Porter (First Folio Sh.): Rowe's arrangement is objectionable because it makes a halting instead of a swift parentheses [see Text. Notes]. Martius, in character and speech alike, is a flame. This side flare of imprecation suffers, also, in the modernised text from being taken out of the parentheses. His thought recurs to the battle-charge, when he stemmed the flight of the ‘common file,’ cursing them as ‘you heard of Byles and Plagues.’ So here, between breaths, as it were, he wishes these unworthy clamorers for the privileges of the worthy Tribunes bringing down a plague. He says it in the quickest way possible—‘(a plague-Tribunes for them).’ The play shows, of course, that the ‘Tribunes for them’ did, indeed, bring down ‘a plague’ in a peculiar sense when they caused the people to banish Valor in his person later. Surely the formalisms of the eighteenth century have not so deadened the minds of this century that they cannot see how feeble in comparison is the modernised text: ‘a plague! Tribunes for them!’ Martius, as his poet makes him talk, hated the small words carrying no weight in the sentence as he hated the mob of weak men making up the ‘common file’ in number, not in valor.
budge That is, give way, flee. Compare ‘Here pitch our battle; hence we will not budge,’ 3 Henry VI: V, iv, 66; also Mer. of Ven., II, ii, 20.—W. A. Wright: Coriolanus puts all his contempt for the mob into this colloquial word.
I do not thinke Dyce (ed. ii.): If right, this means ‘I do not think the time will serve to tell.’ Mr W. N. Lettsom proposes ‘—think so.’—Abbott (§ 64) quotes the present line in illustration of the omission of so after ‘I think,’ and as another instance, Meas. for Meas., I, ii, 24: ‘G. What in metre? Luc. In any proportion or language. G. I think, or in any religion.’—Miss C. Porter (First Folio Sh.): This is an example of his swift, compressed, but not disjointed diction. He does not break off. . . . The words he has already used serve to complete his sentence, which if fully expanded will run thus: Will the time serve to tell, I do not think the time will serve to tell, what Cominius asks—how they prevail'd. So he turns to the next business.
Know you . . . the Antients Steevens: So, in the old translation of Plutarch: ‘Martius asked him howe the order of the enemies battell was, and on which side they had placed their best fighting men. The consul made him aunswer that he thought the bandes which were in the vaward of their battell, were those of the Antiates,’ etc. The old copy reads ‘Antients,’ which might mean veterans; but a following line, [l. 74], as well as this quotation, seems to prove Antiates to be the proper reading. Our Author employs Antiates as a trisyllable, as if it had been written Antiats.
Vaward That is, the advance guard, the Vanguard.—Case compares Henry V: IV, iii, 130: ‘My lord, most humbly on my knee I beg The leading of the vaward.’
heart of Hope Malone: The same expression is found in Marlowe's Lust's Dominion: ‘Your desperate arm Hath almost thrust quite through the heart of hope.’ [Wright, who furnishes the missing reference for this line, IV, ii, and Case, who gives its further location as in Hazlitt's Dodsley, xiv, p. 151, both call attention to Malone's wrong assignment of the play to Marlowe; but Malone was doubtless influenced by the fact that the earliest printed copy of the play, 1657, bore Marlowe's name upon the title-page. It has been shown, however, that the play is first mentioned several years subsequent to Marlowe's death. Collier tentatively ascribes it to Dekker, Haughton, and Day. Wright compares Ant. & Cleo., IV, ii, 29, ‘Beguiled me to the very heart of loss.’ Also, Timon, I, i, 286, ‘He outgoes The very heart of kindness.’ ‘In the same sense,’ adds Wright, ‘of that which is the essential principle of anything “soul” is also used. See 1 Henry IV: IV, i, 50: ‘For therein should we read The very bottom and the soul of hope.’—Ed.]
By th'Blood . . . Antiats W. A. Wright: [With Pope's arrangement of these lines] the metre is not perfect, and the advantage of substituting for halting lines others which are irregular is very doubtful. Probably the two short lines (71, 72) are to be read as one.
delay Warburton interprets ‘delay’ here in the sense let slip, but Murray (N. E. D.) does not include such among the various meanings of this verb. Under 1. trans., ‘To put off to a later time; to defer, postpone,’ Murray quotes: 1489, Caxton Faytes of A., I, xxii, 68, ‘To delaye the batayle vnto another day’; 1586, B. Young, Guazzo's Civ. Conv., IV. 181b, ‘Delaie the sentence no longer.’—Ed. (For other examples of the omission of the auxiliary do before ‘not’ with certain verbs, see Abbott, § 305.)
if any feare Schmidt (Coriolanus): ‘Fear’ is here used in its two meanings—to be afraid of, and to fear for. That is, If any man thinks less of his person than he fears evil report, let him, etc. [Thus also W. A. Wright. Although Malone did not refer to this use of the word ‘fear’ in two senses, it will be seen that Schmidt's paraphrase is almost identical with Malone's.—Ed.]
Lessen . . . an ill report Malone (Variorum, 1785): I suspect the author wrote, ‘Less in his person than in ill report.’ That is, if anyone here esteems his reputation above his life. So, in Tro. & Cress., ‘If there be one among the fair'st of Greece That holds his honour higher than his ease,’ [I, iii, 265]. If lesser be admitted, regard or some synonymous word is required instead of ‘fear’ to make the passage sense. [In his own edition five years later Malone adopts the reading of the Third Folio, which he strangely ascribes to Steevens, and thus paraphrases, ‘If this reading be right, his person must mean his personal danger. If anyone less fears personal danger, than an ill name, &c. If the fears of any man are less for his person than they are from an apprehension of being esteemed a coward, &c.’ To the lines from Tro. & Cress., which he again gives in illustration, Malone adds from 3 Henry VI: ‘But thou prefer'st thy life before thine honour’ (I, i, 246). ‘In this play,’ he concludes, ‘we have already had, sc. iv, l. 26, “lesser” for less.’ Since Malone does not repeat this conjecture in his own edition and as it does not appear in the Variorum of 1821, it may be considered withdrawn.—Ed.]
thinke . . . And that For other examples where ‘that’ conjunctional is omitted and then inserted, see Abbott, § 285.
Oh me alone, . . . a sword of me Heath (p. 412): This is undoubtedly nonsense. I conceive we should read, ‘Let me alone; make you a sword of me?’ —Capell (vol. i, pt i, p. 83): The first part of this line should be utter'd in a tone of surprise expressive of the speaker's taking shame upon himself for having thought that but one man might offer; the latter part of it changes to another of pleasantry, and is address'd to the soldiers who have got him up in their arms and are shouting; neither of these meanings are visible in the punctuation of former copies, to wit, a colon at ‘me’ and a comma after ‘alone.’—Singer (ed. ii.): The old copy misprints ‘Oh me alone’ for O, come along! So Brutus says in the first scene, ‘Let's along,’ and the poet's frequent use of the word in the same manner confirms this reading. [Through inadvertence, possibly, Singer's text reads ‘Come! along!’ and not as he asserts it should read in his note.—Ed.]—C. & M. Cowden Clarke (Shakespeare): Marcius has said, ‘Let him alone, or so many so minded, wave thus’; and, seeing them all wave their swords in reply and then take himself up in their arms, which leaves him solely waving his sword, he rapturously exclaims, ‘Oh take me alone for weapon among you all! make yourselves a sword of me!’—Whitelaw (p. 23): The reading of the Folios has been explained: (1) Let me alone. Set me down. (2) Oh me! that I should have said ‘alone!’ Both explanations seem inadmissible. Two emendations deserve notice: (1) that proposed by Collier ‘of me alone?’—adopting which it would be better to punctuate ‘O' me alone make you a sword? O' me?’ (When everyone of you is as good as four Volscians, why am I your only sword? What so great need have you of me?); that of Singer, ‘O come along’ (more Shakespearian would be ‘Go we along’). The sense is then—connecting ‘Make you a sword of me’ with what follows—‘Use me for your sword, as now you use me’ (in a literal sense they had taken him in their arms), ‘and every man of you (such men with such a leader) will be worth four Volscians.’— Schmidt (Coriolanus, p. 71): Both Collier's emendation (‘Of me alone’) and Singer's (‘O come along’) are of slight probability, since according to the former we do not understand why Coriolanus finds so strange what has happened to him when it should occur to any other; according to the latter the order ‘go we along’ has no agreement with the rest of the sentence. Perhaps the verse runs thus: ‘Oh me! all one; make you a sword of me,’ i. e., ‘What are you doing?’ (since oh me is always an exclamation of painful or at least unpleasant surprise). ‘Yet it is all one to me; make a sword of me and wave me as I order you to wave your swords.’ Make is thus the imperative, and the pointing of the Folio correct.— W. A. Wright: I do not think any of the proposed emendations is less obscure than the original reading. Coriolanus is taken by surprise at the eagerness with which the soldiers rush forward in answer to his appeal. Instead of waving their swords in the air as he had directed, they make a sword of him. Instead of volunteers coming forward singly the whole mass would follow Coriolanus only; none would stay behind. When he saw this he exclaimed, ‘Oh, me alone!’ and then when they raised him aloft, ‘make you a sword of me? brandish me as if I were a sword?’—Rolfe: Of the various conjectures, that of Collier seems most probable, especially if we put it ‘O' me alone!’ but possibly we might get the same meaning out of the original reading: ‘What, me alone! do you make me your sword?’ Any interpretation of the first clause which makes it independent of the second seems to us inadmissible.—Hudson (ed. ii.): [The reading suggested by Whitelaw] gives about the same meaning as Singer's, and is, I think, more in the Poet's manner. That meaning is, of course, ‘Let us proceed to the work; use me as your sword’; and, as they already have the speaker in their arms, the language is not strained. We have repeated instances of me and we confounded, and also of along misprinted alone.—Perring (p. 293): I take these words to be partly a sort of gentle protest against the hero-worship which they were paying him, partly a preface to the remarks which immediately after he addresses to them. Who were these men who were now so eager for the fray? They were the very men who under Cominius had failed to beat the enemy; yet now that Coriolanus was to captain them, they made sure that they had a very engine of war, a talisman of victory— they made a sword of him—they regarded him as their sword, him as their confidence —him and him alone. Coriolanus says not a word to damp this newly kindled ardour; he credits them with it, and shifts the power from himself to them; or rather he shares it with them; if they were the men inwardly which they showed outwardly, no need to set their hopes on him, and him alone; they themselves were equally with him swords—terrors to the foe; not one but could be a match for four Volsci; not one but could front the redoubtable Aufidius himself, and push his shield with shield as hard.—Beeching (Falcon Sh.): The first words have been variously amended, best by Collier, ‘Of me alone,’ from which Whitelaw, ‘O' me alone,’ i. e., ‘Am I your only sword?’ The comma may be placed either after ‘alone’ or after ‘sword.’ [Beeching accordingly adopts Whitelaw's conjectural reading both in the Falcon and Henry Irving editions.—Ed.]— Page: The reading and meaning of this line are very uncertain. We print it as it stands in the old copies. We think it may give words supposed to be shouted by the soldiers: ‘Take me if you take no one else’; make me one of your soldiers. Only ‘a certain number’ are to be selected. In the next line Coriolanus goes on with his speech. [Such an arrangement as this is credited to Style by the Cam. Edd. in the ed. ii.; and Tucker Brooke (Yale Sh.) apparently independently arrives at the same conclusion. In his text he assigns this line to Soldiers and gives the next and following lines to Marcius, offering as the reason that ‘The Folio prints the line without indication of speaker, but it is difficult to explain it as part of Martius's speech.’ This is, I think, hardly a sufficient reason for an alteration so drastic; when a stage-direction interrupts a speech the name of the original speaker is rarely if ever repeated in the Folio; see, for example, the next scene, ll. 17-20, where Aufidius's speech is broken by the entrance of the Volces; l. 20 is addressed to them by Aufidius without a repetition of his name. Also scene iv, ll. 60-64. Case, however, regards such a distribution as possible, since ‘Marcius had spoken of “filling the air with swords advanc'd,” and had said “Let him, alone.”’—Ed.] —Herford (Eversley Sh.): The soldiers, called upon to ‘wave’ their swords, have proceeded to ‘wave’ him. He plays on the fact. ‘Yes, make me your weapon indeed! Follow me up as strenuously as the hand the sword!’ This is more in keeping with the situation than to put a (?) at ‘me,’ as if he jocularly asked whether they took him for a sword.—E. K. Chambers (Warwick Sh.): All emendations are quite unnecessary. Coriolanus protests good-humouredly against his ‘chairing.’ He says: ‘Is it me alone you “advance”? Advance your swords rather.’—Verity (Student's Sh.): Where a line is taken in several ways it is seldom that any one is convincing; and that is the case here. First, why ‘alone’? It must, I think, imply, ‘Why not Cominius also?’ As an old comrade in arms, Coriolanus deprecates the enthusiasm shown for himself at the expense of his superior officer. Then, what does he mean by their ‘making a sword’ of him? He refers, of course, to the fact that the soldiers are holding him aloft—‘advancing’ him—as if he were a sword; and, on the whole, I think that his remark has no underlying reference, but is simply a light way of dismissing the incident and cutting short the situation. Such renderings [as those of Clarke and Herford] convey a note of selfassertion, almost of pomposity, inconsistent with Coriolanus's soldierly modesty. The pronoun me in ‘O, me alone!’ may surely be referred to a verb easily understood from the whole context as defined by the preceding stage-direction. Constructions ‘according to the sense,’ especially where the sense may be eked out by a gesture, are an essential part of elliptical dramatic utterance. And we must always remember that Shakespeare's plays were written to be acted.—Miss C. Porter (First Folio Sh.): This line has had a hard fate in tame minds. Martius is enraptured when he finds picked men willing to be served by their leader instead of needing to be goaded by him. Finding men with mettle like his own, he offers himself as their sole weapon to use—himself bodily to make a sword out of. As the rest of the excited speech goes, hurried with business, too, as to the selection out of these picked men of a smaller guard to go with him, he imagines them as forming a shield, as he himself will be a sword against Auffidius. This almost poetic battleecstasy in a man whose eminence in daring has made him know loneliness is excited by a feeling, for once, of peership in the fellows who are his companions at arms. The speech is completely Shakespearian, owing nothing to Plutarch. The text [of the Folio] best expresses it without any change, even of punctuation. —Gordon: The meaning is, What are you for me alone? is it me alone that you will follow? And do you drop your swords to make me your sword instead, that you lift me thus in the air?—Sherman (Tudor Sh.): Many editors have considered this line obscure and in need of emendation. It makes, however, excellent and spirited sense as it stands in the Folio: Oh me alone, make you a sword of me; with a sense of exaltation excited by the instant response of the soldiers to his personal appeal, Coriolanus thinks of himself, borne on the shoulders of the troops, as an animated blade, singly invincible against the enemy. ‘Take me alone,’ the line means as printed in the Folio, ‘and use me like a sword.’ The introduction of the interrogation mark, proposed by Capell, slightly alters the mood, but not the meaning.—Deighton: I have followed Singer in reading Of for ‘Oh,’ though to give a stronger emphasis I have put a note of interrogation after ‘sword’ and repeated it after ‘me.’ The meaning seems to be: Do you by thus raising me in your arms, brandish me as it were your sword, the only sword you would use?—Case (Arden Sh.): If we accept Capell's note of interrogation at the end of this line it would appear that the soldiers' answer to ‘Wave thus’ was to uplift Marcius, leading him to say: ‘What, you wave me only? You make me your sword?’ There is one objection, perhaps, in the fact that the stage-direction is old and shows that the stage-practice was to wave swords as well as to shout and take up the leader.
Though thankes . . . The rest Abbott (§ 499) includes this among other examples of apparent Alexandrines wherein ‘regular verses of five accents are sometimes followed by a foot, more or less isolated, containing one accent’; Abbott has failed to note the fact that in the present case Boswell, and not Shakespeare, is responsible for the extra foot.—Ed.
As cause . . . best inclin'd Johnson: I cannot but suspect this passage of corruption. Why should they march that four might select those that were best inclined? How would their inclinations be known? Who were the four that should select them? Perhaps we may read, ‘And fear shall quickly draw out of my command Which men are least inclin'd.’ It is easy to conceive that by a little negligence fear might be changed to ‘four’ and least to ‘best.’ Let us march, and that fear which incites desertion will free my army from cowards. [This is Johnson's note as in his own edition and Variorums 1773, '78, '85. In the Variorum of 1821 it is evidently misprinted, as Johnson's conjectural of is there omitted.—Ed.]—Capell (vol. I, pt i, p. 84): ‘Cause’ is us'd here for contingency, a contingency of moment, such as must be look'd after; ‘my command’ is the party I would command, namely, such as are ‘best inclin'd’ to be under it, most dispos'd to go with me; and ‘four’ in that line is made to stand for four men, four of my officers, by a license that is not commendable, and which might have been avoided by putting I in its stead.—Heath (p. 412): What sense the word ‘four’ can have here is difficult to guess. Perhaps the poet wrote, ‘And so I shall quickly draw out,’ etc. That is, As the troops march by I shall readily draw out such as are fittest to make up the party which is to act under my command, according as I shall find them most eager to be employed in this service. —Steevens: Coriolanus may mean as all the soldiers have offered to attend him on this expedition, and he wants only a part of them, he will submit the selection to four indifferent persons that he himself may escape the charge of partiality. If this be the drift of Shakespeare, he has expressed it with uncommon obscurity. The old translation of Plutarch only says: ‘Wherefore, with those that willingly offered themselves to followe him, he went out of the cittie.’—M. Mason (Comments, etc., p. 248): Coriolanus means only to say that he would appoint four persons to select for his particular command or party those who were best inclined; and in order to save time he proposes to have this choice made while the army is marching forward. They all march towards the enemy, and on the way he chooses those who are to go on that particular service.—J. Mitford (Gentleman's Maga., Nov., 1844, p. 48): The word ‘four’ under all explanation appears to us, as it did to Johnson, to be corrupt. We therefore, with attention equally devoted to the sense and to the form of the word we propose to alter, read, ‘An hour shall quickly draw out my command.’ So Marcius in his preceding speech said, ‘Filling the air with swords advanced, and darts We prove this very hour.’—Collier (Notes & Emend., etc., p. 349): Here a difficulty has arisen why ‘four’ were to draw out his command. We print the passage as we find it amended, which shows that the scribe or the compositor (most likely the former in this instance) was to blame: ‘Please you march before, And I shall quickly draw out my command,’ etc. Whoever made the copy for the printer must have understood before as by four, and put it in the wrong place, curing the defect in the metre of the first line by arbitrarily inserting to. Nothing could be more natural than for Marcius to direct the soldiers to march in front of him that he might himself make the selection of such as he was to lead. [This reading Collier adopts in both his 2nd ed. and his 3d. —Ed.]—Singer (Sh. Vindicated, &c., p. 211): To say the least of it, this is a very unlikely conjecture indeed. That ‘And foure’ should not only have been misprinted for before but also have jumped out of its place; that to should have been inserted without reason in the first line; and I omitted in the second, what an accumulation of errors!—Anon. (Blackwood's Maga., Sep., 1853, p. 320): But why ‘four’? Surely four men would not be sufficient for the force which he meditated. The second line [l. 103, as given by the MS. Corrector] is unintelligible, and not to be construed on any known principles of grammar. We would suggest, ‘And those shall quickly draw out,’ etc.; that is, And my command shall quickly draw out, or select, those men which (men) are best inclined to be of service to me. The construction here is awkward, but less awkward, we think, than that of the other emendations.—Leo (Coriolanus, p. 120): Generally it was the word ‘four’ [in this passage] which puzzled the critics. And indeed, when Steevens says, ‘he will submit the election to four indifferent persons,’ it is a poor and rather indifferent sense, and not at all Shakespeare-like. But there is one word more, which must be regarded otherwise than it has been hitherto, if we want to understand it—the word ‘command.’ It is impossible for Coriolanus to ‘command which men are best inclin'd,’ for inclination does not depend upon command; it acts without external influence. But if we understand ‘command’ as subject, and change ‘and four’ into before, the sense of the phrase seems very clear: ‘Before you march my command shall quickly draw out those which are best inclined.’—[Since Leo does not refer to Collier's MS. Corrector it is to be presumed that he was unaware that he is anticipated in a portion of his emendation. Ulrici, in his Notes on Herwegh's translation, wherein the translator adopts Leo's reading, speaks in commendation of the change since it departs so little from the original text, although the words ‘Please you march before’ seem to be in slight agreement with what follows. Ulrici is therefore in favor of Johnson's reading in spite of its divergence, since the order for them to march is in strict accord with the reason as given by Johnson.—Ed.]—Keightley (Expositor, p. 361) reads with Tollet forth for ‘four,’ taking the word ‘command’ as the subject of the verb ‘draw.’—Lettsom (ap. Dyce ii.): Qu. we [instead of ‘four’], i. e., Cominius and I. ‘Four’ may have been derived from the sixth line above.—Grant White: Why four? The number is a strange one, considering the object in view. The integrity of the passage has been long suspected, but no emendation worthy of notice has been proposed unless ‘foure’ is a misprint for ſome, as Singer conjectured.—Hudson (ed. i.): [Singer's change] is indeed plausible; but the passage, though something awkward, seems intelligible enough as it stands. Of course the meaning is, that Marcius, in order to save time, will delegate to certain men the office of selecting, for the body he is to command, such as have most heart for a post of special danger.—[In his 2nd ed. Hudson is apparently not so sure as to the meaning of this line. He says, ‘I cannot imagine—it seems that nobody can—what business “four” has there.’ In regard to Singer's substitution Hudson declares that it is ‘better than “four,” but far from satisfactory’; and of Lettsom's proposal we that it is ‘better than some,’ yet, on the whole, he prefers I, which was proposed by Capell.—Ed.] —Bailey (ii, 51): Dr Johnson saw clearly enough that ‘four’ in l. 103 was an intruder, and he proposed fear in its place, which, in my opinion, makes the matter worse. The next line  can hardly be correct, since all the soldiers had just enthusiastically expressed their eagerness to go on the required service. There could consequently be no question raised by the general as to which men were ‘best inclin'd.’ A suggestion that occurred to me, after a long pause on these difficulties, presents, if I mistake not, an easy solution of the puzzle. I propose to read: ‘Fortune shall quickly draw out my command Which men are best included.’ By these alterations, with what goes before, Martius in fact says: ‘I must select a certain number; but as all are equally willing, it would be invidious in me to make a personal choice, and I therefore commit the affair to fortune, who shall decide which troops it will be best to include in my command. The matter shall be quickly determined by lot.’ It may be added that the first emendation is not at all dependent on the second (which I conceive is more doubtful), but may be adopted without it. The latter, indeed, is scarcely superior to several others, especially to this: ‘Which men she best inclines to.’ A passage in King John, which has nothing, however, to do with drawing lots, is worth citing for the similar cast of expression: ‘Then in a moment fortune shall call forth
Out of one side her happy minion,
To whom in favour, she shall give the day.’—II, i, 391-393.
Here we have fortune similarly selecting and favouring.—Schmidt (Coriolanus, p. 72): That the selection may proceed quickly several must undertake it, and wherefore not four? These four are not named, but Coriolanus, on account of the foregoing demonstration and the nature of their friendly acclamations, submits all to the free choice: ‘which men are best inclined’ (to refer it to four, not to the command). ‘Command’ here means the company who shall be under the command of Coriolanus.—W. A. Wright: It has been generally assumed that this line is corrupt and many efforts have been made to emend it. But is it so certain that there is a corruption? Coriolanus deputes to four officers the task of selecting the men who are to go with him. And why four? To which question the only answer is, why not? ‘Four’ is elsewhere used of an indefinite small number. See Hamlet, II, ii, 160: ‘You know sometimes he walks four hours together Here in the lobby.’ It is hardly likely that Coriolanus would leave to volunteers the selection of the picked men [as suggested by Schmidt].—Wordsworth (Historical Plays, i, 118) omits these lines, from ‘Please you to march’ to ‘best inclin'd,’ as ‘no good explanation of them has been given, the text being probably corrupt.’ Wordsworth in quoting the lines introduces, however, a new reading, ‘And force shall quickly draw out my command,’ an expression for which, indeed, no good explanation could be given.—Ed.—Kinnear (p. 305): The speech of Marcius ends with ‘obey'd.’ ‘Please you,’ &c., is addressed solely to Cominius, who, as general, best knew who were the fittest men. Marcius acts also with propriety, for he had no command. He had previously addressed Cominius, l. 69: ‘I do beseech you’ . . . ‘that you directly set me,’ etc. [Kinnear accordingly reads l. 103, ‘And you shall quickly,’ etc.]—Perring (p. 294): I rather look for an explanation of the difficulty [as regards the word ‘four’] in the notion which Shakespeare entertained of the organization of the army. He speaks of the ‘centuries’—the ‘centurions’ —of the Volsci; there cannot be a doubt that he conceived the Roman army as similarly divided; the number ‘four’ indicates with sufficient exactness the modest number that Coriolanus was content should accompany him on his errand of danger—four hundred men and their four officers—Voilà tout, Soldiers would understand, if scholars cannot.—Page: That is, four officers appointed by me. Those who object to the particular number four might with equal reason object to any other Coriolanus thought fit to name. To save time the men are to be selected as they march along.—E. K. Chambers (Warwick Sh.): There seems no reason for altering the Folio text. The ‘four’ are the subordinate officers to whom Coriolanus assigns the duty of picking out his command.—[The majority of modern editors follow Mason's interpretation as regards the meaning of l. 103, i. e., that Marcius will depute to four men the selection of those fittest to accompany him. At first sight this would seem the simplest interpretation of the words as they stand in the Folio text—as regards the many emendations we need not concern ourselves at present—but if it be the simplest is it of necessity the best? To me, at least, it is quite out of character with the speaker. Why should he leave to others a task which he has just announced that he himself would undertake? ‘A certain number must I select from all’ are the words preceding this announcement. In making ‘command’ and not ‘four’ the subject to the verb ‘draw’ Keightley and Leo were, I think, nearer a correct interpretation: that is, My command will quickly draw out four of those who are best suited to the purpose—or rather: March past; and four of those best fitted to my purpose will very quickly determine my choice. The certain number which he needed was but four men. With this interpretation there is no need of any change of the text.—Ed.]
you shall . . . with vs Beeching (Falcon Sh.): Cominius, who is less of an idealist than Coriolanus, and knows the men better, adds a promise of spoil. Compare Cassius in Jul. Cæs., III, i, 177.