Enter Martius and Auffidius Verity (Student's Sh.): This scene of personal encounter recalls the meeting of Macbeth and Macduff in the last scene in Macbeth and the single combats between the heroic figures of epic poetry, especially of the Iliad and Æneid. In epic pictures of battle the dominating element is the personal, the individual, prowess of leaders. The germ of the present scene lies in Plutarch's bare reference to (not description of) the encounters and personal rivalry of Coriolanus and Aufidius.
Affricke W. A. Wright: This form of the word occurs three times in Shakespeare, while ‘Africa’ is found but once—in 2 Henry IV: V, iii, 104. The two forms were used interchangeably. Compare Shakespeare's Plutarch (ed. Skeat), p. 69: ‘For he had two provinces, all Spain and Affrick, the which he governed by his lieutenants.’ And Holland's Pliny, viii, 16: ‘From hence it is also, that the Greekes have this common proverbe, That Affricke evermore bringeth forth some new and strange thing or other.’ For Africa as the country of serpents see Heywood's Silver Age (Works, iii, 125): ‘Fly unto Affricke, from the mountains there Chuse me two venemous serpents.’—Case (Arden Sh.): The reason why Africa (Lybya) so teemed with serpents is given in Golding's Ovid, Metam., iv, ll. 756763 (Danter's 1593 ed., sig. H 4): ‘And Persey bearing in his hand the monster Gorgons head, . . .
Doth beat the aire with waning wings. And as he overflew
The Lybicke sandes the drops of bloud that from the head did sew
Of Gorgon being new cut off, vpon the ground did fall,
Which taking them (and as it were conceiuing therewithall),
Engendred sundry snakes and worms: by means whereof that clime
Did swarme with serpents euer since, to this same present time.’
More then thy Fame and Enuy Capell (vol. I, pt i, p. 84): Meaning the envy excited by it; thy envy'd fame; the fame which all other men by myself view with envy; the expression is figurative and of the same nature with one in Ant. & Cleo., [IV, ii, 44, ‘Where rather I'll expect victorious life Than death and honour.’ Where ‘death and honour’ is equivalent to honourable death.]— Malone: ‘Envy’ here, as in many other places, means malice.—Steevens: The phrase death and honour being allowed, in our author's language, to signify no more than honourable death, so ‘fame and envy’ may only mean detested or odious fame. The verb ‘to envy,’ in ancient language, signifies to hate. Or the construction may be, ‘Not Africk owns a serpent I more abhor and envy than thy ſame.’ —Collier (Notes & Emend., etc., p. 350): This cannot be right, inasmuch as, taking ‘envy’ even in the sense of hate, Aufidius could hardly mean that he abhorred the fame and the hate of Marcius; the printer made a slight error by mistaking the pronoun I for the contraction of the conjunction; therefore the MS. Corrector reads, ‘More than thy fame I envy.’—Singer (Sh. Vindicated, etc., p. 212) thus comments on the foregoing remark by Collier: ‘All that is required, without interpolation, is to understand the passage properly as an inversion: Not Afric owns a serpent I abhor—More than thy fame—and envy. Afric owns not a serpent I abhor and hate more than thy fame. Shakespeare's meaning of “envy” may be understood from Baret, who explains “to envie, to have spite at another man's prosperitie.” From the tenour of the dialogue the speech requires an expression of more than “envy”—fierce hatred.’ [It will be noticed that this is substantially Steevens's explanation, whose note on this Singer prints, without acknowledgement, in his editions.—Ed.]—Staunton: There is probably some corruption in this line, which would better read, ‘More than thy fame I hate and envy.’ So, in Plutarch, ‘Martius knew very well that Tullus did more malice and envy him than he did all the Romans besides.’—Dyce (ed. ii.): Collier is probably right in observing that ‘the compositor mistook I for the contraction for “and.”’ Whether Malone's or Steevens's explanation of the Folio reading be the most ridiculous is doubtful. Staunton's suggestion would make the line over-measure. Here ‘envy’ means hate, bear ill will to.—Hudson: The construction commonly put upon the passage is: ‘Not Afric owns a serpent that I more abhor and envy than I do thy fame, ‘envy’ being interpreted in the old sense of hate. But why should Aufidius profess to abhor and hate the fame of Marcius? when the plain truth is that he desires or covets his fame, and therefore envies him the possession of it. We adopt, with little hesitation, a correction from Collier's second folio.—C. & M. Cowden Clarke (Shakespeare): It appears to us that the sentence means ‘Not Africa owns a serpent I abhor more than thy fame and hatred of me’—that hatred which Marcius has just professed.—Rev. John Hunter: Thy renown in connection with thy malice towards me.—Schmidt (Coriolanus, p. 73) asks what could have forced the poet to adopt any such construction as that suggested by Steevens in his alternative explanation, and therefore considers that the proper view of the case is that ‘fame and envy’ here mean odious fame.—W. A. Wright: Steevens rightly explains this as an instance of the grammatical figure, hendiadys, in which one idea is expressed by two different words. His second thoughts are not best. The First Folio prints ‘fame’ and ‘envy’ with initial capitals to show that they were both regarded as substantives.—Miss C. Porter (First Folio Sh.): That is, thy fame and envy of mine. Each being fixed by the consciousness that the other was the most valiant leader on his side must hate both this eminence and its discount of his own supremacy. Hence the double expression.—Beeching (Henry Irving Sh.) quotes Steevens's explanation, but adds that ‘more probably “envy” is a verb parallel to “abhor.”’ Beeching does not repeat this alternative explanation in his later edition (The Falcon Sh.).—Ed.—Deighton follows Collier's MS. correction, I envy, since ‘Marcius says of Aufidius, “I sin in envying his nobility,” I, i, 245; and it is not so much his hatred as his jealousy that he here expresses.’
Let the first . . . doome him after Steevens: So, in Macbeth, ‘And damn'd be him who first cries, Hold, Enough!’—V, viii, 34.
Corioles walles Compare II, i, 162, and, for other examples of like construction, Abbott, § 430.
Wer't thou the Hector . . . bragg'd Progeny Johnson: The Romans boasted themselves descended from the Trojans; how then was Hector the whip of their progeny? It must mean the whip with which the Trojans scourged the Greeks, which cannot be but by a very unusual construction, or the author must have forgotten the original of the Romans; unless ‘whip’ has some meaning which includes advantage or superiority, as we say ‘he has the whip hand’ for ‘he has the advantage.’—Malone: Dr Johnson considers this as a very unusual construction, but it appears to me only such as every page of these plays furnishes; and the foregoing interpretation is undoubtedly the true one. An anonymous correspondent justly observes that the words mean, ‘the whip that your bragg'd progeny was possessed of.’—Steevens: ‘Whip’ might anciently be used, as crack is now, to denote anything peculiarly boasted of, as the crack house in the county, the crack boy of a school, &c. Modern phraseology, perhaps, has only passed from the whip to the crack of it. [The foregoing is, I think, an instance of Steevens's love of mischief, and is hardly to be taken as meant seriously. In the Variorum editions of '78 and '85 Malone's only note on this passage is: ‘Schoolboys at this day use a similar expression, “He is the crack of the school.”’ It is not repeated in any subsequent edition; and Steevens is thus, with mock seriousness, supplying a derivation for Malone's inappropriate illustration.—Ed.]—Mason (Comments, etc., p. 248): The whip is a New-Market phrase. I am not much versed in sporting terms, but I believe the owner of the best horse of his year is said to hold the whip, and has actually a whip consigned to his keeping. [It is somewhat unusual for Mason to display such a complete lack of sagacity as in the foregoing. The use of ‘whip’ in any such sense as he suggests is utterly unknown before the end of the eighteenth century.—Ed.]—Keightley (Expositor, p. 361): Here ‘bragg'd’ is bragged of, that you brag of; ‘progeny,’ progenitors; and ‘whip,’ the implement with which they scourged their foes.—Ulrici (Zusätze und Berichtigungen): Shakespeare assuredly well knew that the Romans boasted their descent from the Trojans, therefore ‘whip’ can here be meant only in the same sense as in Love's Labour's Lost, ‘love's whip’ (III, i, 176), and in All's Well, ‘his presence must be the whip of the other’ (IV, iii, 42); that is, Aufidius calls Hector the scourge with which the Trojans lashed the Greeks.—W. A. Wright: This must mean, unless Shakespeare had entirely forgotten about Hector, the whip with which the Trojans flogged the Greeks. ‘Progeny’ is used for race generally, as in 1 Henry VI: V, iv, 48: ‘Not one begotten of a shepherd swain, But issued of a progeny of kings.’ —E. K. Chambers (Warwick Sh.): The ‘bragg'd progeny’ is, of course, the Trojans, from whom the Romans claimed descent. Hector was the Trojan ‘whip’ or champion. But the taunt would be more effective if Aufidius swore ‘by him who whipped your ancestors.’ Has he confused Hector and Achilles?—Kinnear (p. 306) reads hope instead of ‘whip,’ furnishing several examples from other plays wherein Hector and others are spoken of as the hope of their country or party. Kinnear boldly maintains that the Folio reading is a misprint which must mean here ‘the whipper of,’ as in 1 Henry VI: I, ii, 129: ‘Assign'd am I to be the English scourge.’ Again, Ibid., II, iii, 15: ‘Is this the scourge of France, Is this the Talbot?’ ‘The exception is,’ he adds, ‘when applied to heaven. So Timon, V, i, 64, “all the whips of heaven”; or to deities and personified powers, as Hamlet, III, i, 70, “the whips and scorns of time.” So Attila is “The Scourge of God,” but Edward I, “Malleus Scotorum.”’—Verity (Student' Sh.): The natural sense would be ‘the scourge of your progeny’ (i. e., he by whom they were scourged), but here the meaning must be either ‘the whip possessed by your ancestors’ or (less precisely) ‘the champion of.’ It is very improbable that Shakespeare confused Hector with any Greek hero such as Achilles; for Tro. & Cress., without doubt, preceded Coriolanus, and in Tro. & Cress. all the great figures of the Trojan War, on either side, are introduced—Achilles, Hector, Agamemnon, and other of the Homeric heroes. The story of the Fall of Troy was the most popular of all classical legends, and had called into being a vast cycle of mediæval poems, romances, and ‘histories’ such as the 12th century Roman de Troyes and its English counterparts the TroyBook of Lydgate and Caxton's Destruction of Troy. No tolerably educated Elizabethan (and the old conception of Shakespeare as an inspired ignoramus is surely extinct) could possibly have mixed up Hector and Achilles.—Deighton: This must mean, as Johnson says, ‘the whip with which the Trojans scourged the Greeks.’ But the expression is a very strange one; and it looks, if one dared to say so, as though Shakespeare had confounded Hector and Achilles, for Aufidius would hardly compliment Coriolanus on the prowess of his ancestor.—Case (Arden Sh.): The sense must be as Johnson put it, ‘the whip with which the Trojans scourged the Greeks’ or, the primitive weapon of your boasted forefathers. Chambers's remark [as to greater effectiveness in the taunt] is beside the mark. Aufidius does not swear by anybody; he says, If you were the most famous and formidable warrior of the race you brag of you should not escape me now. [I do not believe that Shakespeare was in the least confused as to the identity of Hector; have we not sufficient proof of his complete understanding on this point in the fact that in scene iii. he puts into the mouth of Volumnia the reference to Hector's contending against Grecian swords? That the word ‘contending’ has been questioned is not to the purpose here; it is the word ‘Grecian’ that shows that Shakespeare recognised Hector as one of the Trojan warriors.—Ed.]
Heere they fight . . . in breathles There is here that confusion in stage direction which so often appears in the Folio, when a prolonged action is indicated, due possibly to the fact that the compositor is working from a play-house copy interlined with descriptive directions. The word ‘they’ in l. 19 must refer to Aufidius and his aiders, but if they be ‘driven in breathles,’ how is Aufidius to make his final remark? and where is Martius while this is being spoken; there is no direction for his exit.—Ed.
condemned Johnson: For ‘condemned’ we may read contemned. You have, to my shame, sent me help which I despise.—Steevens: Why may we not as well be contented with the old reading, and explain it, ‘You have to my shame sent me help, which I must condemn as intrusive, instead of applauding it as necessary’? So, in Lear, ‘No seconds? all myself,’ IV, vi, 198.—Malone: We have had the same phrase in sc. iv. of this play, ‘Now prove good seconds,’ [l. 63].