Actus Quintus. [Scene I.] Miss C. Porter (First Folio Sh.): The part of the Act now marked Scene I. was shown on the fore-stage, and, as we may guess, the entry of the group was made from the end of the outer-stage (either right or left of the rear-stage compartment). This entrance stands all through the play for most of the Roman localities, as the ‘Cyprus grove’ side, opposite, stood, all through, for the open country and the out-of-Rome localities. When Menenius goes on his errand (l. 73) perhaps he made his exit through the ‘Cyprus grove.’ The dialogue, after he leaves, gives space of time enough for the audience to suppose him on his way, and when the Roman group goes off (l. 86) as it had entered, then, at the point marked now as Scene II, Menenius appeared again from the ‘Cyprus grove’ side, and, approaching the rear-stage or tent of Coriolanus, held his parley with the two men on guard who barred his progress (see Folio stage-direction II, i.).
Which was Collier (ed. ii.): That is, ‘You hear what he hath said, who was formerly general to Coriolanus.’ The old annotator of the Folio, 1632, did not understand the passage when he altered it, ‘To one sometime his general’; ‘he’ refers to Cominius, not to Coriolanus.
In a most deere particular W. A. Wright: That is, with the strongest private friendship. Cominius loved him not only as his general for his soldierly qualities, but with the most affectionate personal regard. The use of the word ‘particular’ is suggested by the word ‘general’ in the line before; and the two are frequently contrasted. Compare IV, vii, 16.—Case (Arden Sh.): The N. E. D. gives an excellent instance of ‘particular’ under ‘personal relation, . . . personal interest, regard or favour,’ from Weever, Ancient Funeral Monuments, 1631, p. 797, ‘Out of his particular to their Towne, hee procured of Queene Elizabeth a Charter of Incorporation.’
knee W. A. Wright: That is, go on your knees. The later folios have corrupted it to ‘kneel.’ In a slightly different sense the word occurs in Lear, II, iv, 217, ‘I could as well be brought To knee his throne.’ Similarly Shakespeare uses the verbs ‘to lip,’ ‘to mouth,’ ‘to tongue,’ ‘to nose,’ ‘to foot,’ ‘to arm’ = to take into the arms.
if he coy'd W. A. Wright: That is, if he disdained. The adjective is used by Shakespeare more in the sense of disdainful, scornful, than in that of shy, which it has at present. Compare Venus & Adonis, 112, ‘Yet was he servile to my coy disdain.’ And Two Gentlemen, I, i, 30, ‘To be in love, where scorn is bought with groans; Coy looks with heart-sore sighs.’ Cotgrave has: ‘Mespriseresse: f. A coy, a squeamish or scornfull dame.’ [The N. E. D. quotes the present line as the sole example of the verb to coy in the sense of to disdain.—Ed.]—Case prefers to interpret ‘coy'd’ here, as if he showed reluctance rather than disdained, since ‘we know from what follows that Coriolanus both heard Cominius speak and answered him.’
that haue wrack'd for Rome Warburton: We should read reck'd, i. e., been careful, provident for. In this insinuation of their only minding trifles he satirises them for their injustice to Coriolanus, which was like to end in the ruin of their country. [Theobald, in a letter to Warburton dated Sep. 26, 1726 (Nichols, ii, 616), proposed this reading and interpretation, though he did not adopt it in either of his editions. Warburton has appropriated it without the slightest acknowledgment.—Ed.]—Heath (p. 426): Why is not the ancient reading [sic] ‘rack'd for Rome’ full as good [as Warburton's]? That is, A pair of Tribunes, that have tortured their brains for Rome's welfare, only to fall the price of coals; insinuating that the citizens would soon have an opportunity to warm themselves by the fire of their own houses.—Steevens: ‘Rack'd for Rome’ is surely the right reading. To rack means to harass by exactions, and in this sense the poet uses it in other places. ‘The commons hast thou rack'd; the clergy's bags Are lank and lean with thy extortions,’ [2 Henry VI: I, iii, 131]. I believe it here means in general, You that have been such good stewards for the Roman people, as to get their houses burned over their heads, to save them the expense of coals.— Monck Mason (Additional Comments, etc., p. 48): I cannot understand this passage notwithstanding Mr Steevens's explanation of it, which appears to me to be forced and unnatural. I should read it thus, ‘—that have wreck'd fair Rome.’ It has been supposed that Shakespeare dictated some parts of his plays to an amanuensis; in that case the words wreck and rack might easily have been mistaken for each other, as they agree precisely in sound. [W. W. Williams, in The Parthenon, May 3, 1862, p. 19, makes the same suggestion, though he does not offer the like fanciful reason for the supposed error, and is quite unaware that he was anticipated in this emendation. Dyce, in his ed. ii, and the Cambridge Editors in both editions assign the reading ‘fair Rome’ to Williams.—Ed.]— Collier: The meaning of this passage seems to have been hitherto mistaken, and therefore always printed ‘A pair of tribunes that have rack'd for Rome.’ Menenius intends to say that the tribunes have wrecked a noble memory for Rome by occasioning its destruction. Mr Amyot concurs in this new interpretation. In the old copies it is printed ‘wrack'd,’ the old orthography of the time for wreck'd, and not for rack'd. [Mr Amyot was the erudite antiquarian, founder of the Camden Society, who, according to the D. N. B., ‘largely aided the Percy, the Shakespeare, and other literary Societies.’—Ed.]—Dyce (Remarks, etc., p. 163): In spite of Mr Amyot's approbation I cannot but think that Mr Collier has pointed and interpreted this passage most erroneously. The First Folio gives it literatim thus, ‘A paire of Tribunes, that have wrack'd for Rome’ where (as the other modern editors rightly understand the word) ‘wrack'd’ is merely the old (and not very unusual) spelling of ‘rack'd’; so in Lear, V, iii, 313, ‘he hates him That would upon the wracke of this tough world Stretch him out longer.’ In Beaumont and Fletcher's Faithful Friends, I, i, according to the MS. (now before me) from which Weber published that play, ‘My Soules wrackt,’ i. e., ‘My soul is rack'd’; and in the 4to, 1640, of Fletcher's Bloody Brother, I, i, ‘—and I Not set upon the wracks?’ where the 4to, 1639, and the Folio, 1679, have ‘rack.’ . . . ‘A noble memory!’ is spoken ironically, ‘memory’ meaning here memorial, as in IV, v, 73 of the present play, and in innumerable passages of early writers besides the following one, ‘Turn all the stories over in the world yet, And search through all the memories of mankind,’ Fletcher, Mad Lover, V, iv. Besides, is not Mr Collier's ‘new interpretation’ inconsistent with the feelings of an ancient Roman, who would have scorned the very idea of Rome's ‘memory’ being ‘wreck'd,’ even if the Volscians had burned the city to the ground? [For ‘memory’ in the sense of memorial see also V, vi, 188, ‘Yet he shall haue a noble memory.’—Ed.]— Badham (The Text of Sh., p. 290): Mr Dyce has very properly objected to the alteration by which ‘a noble memory’ is made the case after ‘wracked.’ There is so much propriety in the exclamation, and so very little in the expression of wracking a noble memory, that the punctuation must not be disturbed. But Mr Dyce is not so successful in defending the old reading, nor, as I think, in interpreting ‘wracked’ as equivalent to racked in our modern orthography; for though his note is conclusive as to the old practice of confounding the spelling of the two words, it is impossible to attach any sense to the expression, who have racked for Rome. A transposition restores the only meaning which Menenius can be conceived to intend, ‘A pair of tribunes that have wracked Rome, for To make coals cheap.’—Verplanck: That is, a pair of magistrates who have wrecked, or destroyed, the noble reputation of Coriolanus (now become ‘nothing, titleless’) which once belonged to Rome; and all this only to make coals cheap in the burning city. The annotators explain [the more common reading] rack'd, ‘who have harassed by exaction’; from which I can extract no satisfactory meaning in this connexion.—Leo (Coriolanus): Perhaps we should read work'd, for that is the sense: The Tribunes have won a noble memory (ironically) by caring for the public interest (as they ought to do as tribunes), and making coals cheap, just as Publius and Quintus had the merit to have brought the best water by conduits to Rome.— Hudson (ed. i.) characterizes Steevens's explanation of rack'd as ‘very obscure and far-fetched.’ He adds: ‘It is true, as alleged in favour of the common reading, that rack also was often spelt wrack; but this does not shake us from that given by Mr Collier.’—[Dyce, as usual, caused Hudson to waver in his faith, see Text. Notes.—Ed.]—W. A. Wright: That is, that have strained every effort, exerted yourselves to the utmost, for Rome. To ‘rack’ as a transitive verb signifies to strain, or stretch, as in Much Ado, IV, i, 122, ‘That which we have we prize not to the worth, . . . but being lack'd and lost, Why then we rack the value.’ And Mer. of Ven., I, i, 181, ‘Try what my credit can in Venice do: That shall be rack'd even to the uttermost.’—Beeching (Henry Irving Sh.): It is not at all impossible that Steevens may be right in taking the metaphor from a ‘racking steward.’ That expression occurs in a passage of Sidney's Arcadia, quoted by Richardson, ‘The court of affection, held by that racking steward, remembrance’; we still speak of ‘rack-rents.’—Perring: ‘Wracked’ is the word which is set down in the Folios, and, inasmuch as our word ‘wrecked,’ wherever it occurs, is almost invariably spelt in the original copies with an ‘a’ and not with an ‘e,’ the presumption is that ‘wrecked’ is the word which is here authorized by the Folios. The meaning would be that the tribunes had (to borrow words from Macbeth) ‘laboured in their country's wreck.’ The preposition ‘for,’ coming after ‘wreck,’ would be abnormal, but not necessarily un-Shakespearian. It might be illustrated by such expressions as the following: ‘Revenge the heavens for old Andronicus,’ Titus And., IV, i, 129; ‘How unluckily it happened, that I should purchase the day before for a little part, and undo a great deal of honour!’ Timon, III, ii, 52; ‘Spare for no faggots,’ 1 Henry VI: V, iv, 56. [Perring mentions with scant respect the two emendations ‘Recked for’ and ‘Racked for,’ giving as a third ‘wreaked for,’ which may be shrewdly suspected to be his own contribution, as he takes pains to elucidate this new reading thus: ‘They had wreaked their vengeance on Coriolanus by expatriating him, under colour that it was for the public good; but what had they effected? They had cheapened coals! and cheap enough they would be when the city was, as it were, the colliery to supply the fuel for its own conflagration; the allusion, of course, is to Coriolanus having refused to be called by any title, “Till he had forged himself a name o'the fire Of burning Rome.”’—Ed.—Verity (Student's Sh.): That is, striven, strained. Menenius ridicules the net result of their strenuous efforts on behalf of the common weal, viz., a fall in the price of coals. The metaphor is ‘to strain, wrest,’ as by means of a rack or instrument.—Miss C. Porter (First Folio Sh.): That is, wrought vengeance for themselves on Coriolanus's name, as her representative, with ruinous results, to make charcoal cheap when Rome is burned. Menenius makes words suit his meaning in their suggestive sense. Here in ‘wrack'd’ he seems to have combined the sense of wrought ruin, and wreaked vengeance in a way according with the usage of ‘wrecked’ and ‘wreake’ (see IV, vi, 90). And the words used by Plutarch at this stage of the story are again in point here, ‘In this while, all went still to wrack at Rome.’ As before explained by editors, merely in the sense of ‘laboured’ or ‘wrought’ the entire meaning conveyed by the passage seems not to be covered.—Deighton: No instance has been cited of the verb [to rack] in the neuter sense [strained for], or of its being coupled with for. I have therefore followed Dyce in accepting Williams's conjecture wrccked fair.
a bare petition Warburton: ‘Bare,’ for mean, beggarly.—Johnson: I believe rather, a petition unsupported, unaided by names that might give it influence.—Steevens: ‘A bare petition,’ I believe, means only a mere petition. Coriolanus weighs the consequence of verbal supplication against that of actual punishment.—Monck Mason (Comments, etc., p. 260): I have no doubt but we should read ‘a base petition,’ meaning that it was unworthy the dignity of a state to petition a man whom they had banished. [Sir William Blackstone (Shakespeare Society Papers, 1844, p. 99) makes the same suggestion, but without further comment.—Ed.]—Malone: In 1 Henry IV: [I, iii, 108], and in Timon, [IV, iii, 229], the word ‘bare’ is used in the sense of thin, easily seen through, having only a slight superficial covering. Yet, I confess, this interpretation will hardly apply here. In the former of the passages alluded to the editor of the First Folio substituted base for bare improperly. In the passage before us perhaps base was the author's word.—Delius: Coriolanus, in the report of Cominius, elucidates that however royal an unexpected pardon may be, it amounts to no more than a bald request, a naked petition of a state, extended to one whom the state had punished. ‘Bare’ expresses the disregard such a request deserves.—W. W. Williams (The Parthenon, 3 May, 1862, p. 19): I hope I may be excused for suspecting that Coriolanus had replied scornfully to Cominius that ‘It was a rare petition of a state.’ ‘Rare’ and ‘strange’ were used by Shakespeare interchangeably in the sense of extraordinary—as indeed they still are; and, in the first scene of this drama, Coriolanus had displayed similar temper and in similar terms when describing the exultation of the mob at having ‘a petition granted them a strange one.’ In the present passage he appears to have remarked sarcastically that it was a rare (i. e., strange or extraordinary) proceeding that a banished man should be petitioned for mercy by the very men who had banished him.—Keightley (Expositor, p. 371): I do not well understand ‘bare’ here. Mason's reading is not quite satisfactory.—Bulloch (p. 188): In I, ix. the speech of Cominius, beginning at l. 66, gives the history of the hero being named Coriolanus. His after banishment and what followed explain the passage and emendation, ‘It was a rebaptizing of estate To one whom they had punish'd.’—Chambers (Warwick Sh.): That is, a bare-faced petition. Rome had not pardoned Coriolanus; yet Rome had the face to ask pardon from him.—Orson: That is, a petition made by one who comes bare-headed, cap in hand. Compare Dekker's Gull's Hornbook, ch. i, ‘Antiquity puts off his cap, and makes a bare oration in praise of the virtues of it.’—[The explanation given by Steevens is, to me at least, quite sufficient. For this figurative use of ‘bare’ compare ‘uttering bare truth,’ Sonnet lxix, l. 4; ‘they live by your bare words,’ Two Gentlemen, II, iv, 46.—Ed.]
I offered W. A. Wright: That is, I attempted, endeavored. So in Mid. N. Dream, IV, i, 216, ‘But a man is but a patched fool, if he will offer to say what methought I had.’ And Pericles, IV, ii, 116, ‘Ay, he: he offered to cut a caper at the proclamation; but he made a groan at it.’ [This sense of the word still survives, as many others also, in the current speech of Ireland, for example, ‘Don't offer to do it,’ which is either a warning or a piece of advice.—Ed.]
to leaue vnburnt P. A. Daniel: Qy. read, ‘leave 't unburnt,’ i. e., the pile of musty chaff. You may ‘nose’ an offence, but you can only burn that which produces it.
to nose Compare Hamlet, IV, iii, 38, ‘You shall nose him as you go up the stairs.’
Aboue the Moone Delius calls attention to a like hyperbole in Hamlet, III, iii, 36, ‘O, my offence is rank, it smells to heaven.’ [Compare also, ‘There were no living near her; she would infect to the north-star,’ Much Ado, II, i, 258.—Ed.]
so neuer-needed helpe Verplanck: This is the original text, which has the clear meaning of ‘help never so much wanted.’ There is, therefore, no propriety in the alteration of ‘never-heeded help.’ For other examples wherein short phrases, mostly containing participles, are compounded into epithets see Abbott, § 434.
Well, and . . . Say't be so Badham (Criticism Applied to Sh., p. 16): There are several reasons for doubting the soundness of this passage. The halfline by itself would excite no suspicion, for there is a natural pause after the words ‘what then?’ [This half-line, ‘Unheard; what then?’ is due to Pope, see Text. Notes.] When, however, we find the next line beginning with ‘but,’ a conjunction which has nothing to do with the preceding clause, we cannot help suspecting that there is an hiatus to be supplied with some such words as these, ‘not as a joyful herald, But as a discontented friend,’ &c. If this be thought too bold, ‘But’ must be at once discarded; and we are the more inclined to adopt this alternative because it will also enable us to change the expression of ‘discontented friend,’ which is somewhat unusual in the sense of a friend who has had his request denied, and to get rid of the Alexandrine in the following line. We propose, therefore, to read: ‘As a discountenanc'd friend grief-shot with his
Sic. Say't be so; yet your good will,’ &c.
[Ten years later, that is, in 1856, Badham returns to the question of the proper arrangement of these lines. In that interval he has evidently repaired his omission of consulting either an original folio, or Vernor and Hood's reprint of 1807, since he transcribes the lines as there given, and so makes no mention of the half-line due to Pope. He likewise discards his emendation for ‘discontented.’ Of the passage as a whole he says: ‘“Say't be so” ought to be given to Sicinius; as for the metre, it might be safely left to the ear of any judicious reader. But there is a special reason for arranging the passage as it ought to stand: “Men. Well and say that Marcius
Return me, as Cominius is return'd,
Unheard; what then?—but as
A discontented friend, grief-shot with his
The verse of six syllables [l. 51] may be thought by some to be purposely defective; but, in the first place, there is no pause in the sense after the word “as,” and pauses of this kind are generally catalectic, or ending in the middle of a foot; and, in the second place, the sense is as defective as the metre, for, as the words now stand, Menenius is made to suppose that Marcius may return him unheard, but as a discontented friend—that is, without listening to him, but without granting his request. Read “Unheard, what then? or not unheard, but as
A discontented friend,” &c.’
returne mee W. A. Wright: That is, send me back. In this transitive sense ‘return’ is now used of things, but not of persons. Compare Timon, III, vi, 40, ‘I hope it remains not unkindly with your lordship that I returned you an empty messenger.’
vnheard: what then? Keightley (Expositor, p. 372): I would supply, How, then, should I return? [As before noted, in the case of Badham, Keightley is here supplying words to round out a half-line for which Pope is responsible.—Ed.]
that thankes . . . As you intended For other examples of this construction, wherein ‘as’ approaches the meaning of a relative pronoun, see Abbott, § 280.
humme at good Cominius Beeching (Henry Irving Sh.): Compare Macbeth, II, vi, 41, ‘The cloudy messenger turns me his back And hums’; also, 1 Henry IV: III, i, 158, ‘I cried “hum,” and “well, go to,” But mark'd him not a word.’ Palsgrave has, ‘I humme, I make a noyse like one that lysteth not speake, je fays de muet.’
He was not taken well, he had not din'd Warburton: This observation is not only from nature, and finely expressed, but admirably befits the mouth of one who in the beginning of the play had told us that he loved convivial doings.— Steevens: Mr Pope seems to have borrowed this idea. See Epist., I, ver. 127, ‘Perhaps was sick, in love, or had not din'd.’ He was not taken well W. A. Wright: That is, the time for the interview with him was not chosen wisely. Compare Mid. N. Dream, III, ii, 16, ‘Where I did him at this advantage take.’ So Hamlet, III, iii, 80, ‘He took my father grossly, full of bread.’
The Veines vnfill'd, our blood is cold Theobald: Lord Bacon somewhere in his Essays makes this very remark concerning the Seasons of Sollicitation. [A diligent reading of all of Bacon's Essays has been unproductive in identifying this vague reference by Theobald. The Essay Of Negotiating gives various methods of approaching the person solicited, but there is not any reference to a propitious season. Spedding's exhaustive Index to the Works of Bacon does not contain any reference to seasonable solicitation. Menenius is evidently familiar with the offices of the veins; see his reference to them and the function of the Belly in his apologue, I, i, 136-142.—Ed.]
these Conueyances W. S. Walker (Vers., p. 243) has collected a large number of examples wherein ‘the plurals of Substantives ending in s, in certain instances; in se, ss, ce, and sometimes ge; . . . are found without the usual addition of s or es—in pronunciation at least, although in many instances the plural affix is added in printing, where the metre shows that it is not to be pronounced.’ Walker, on p. 259, quotes the present line as an example. See also Abbott, § 471; compare III, i, 46 supra.—Ed.
our Priest-like Fasts Steevens: I am afraid that when Shakespeare introduced this comparison the religious abstinence of modern, not ancient, Rome was in his thoughts.—C. (ap. Steevens, 1793): Priests are forbid, by the discipline of the church of Rome, to break their fast before the celebration of mass, which must take place after sun-rise and before mid-day. [This note, without further identification than the single letter C. as here given, is repeated in the subsequent Variorum editions. As the information imparted is not of great intrinsic value, let us be content, and allow the modest commentator to retain his anonymity.—Ed.] Ile watch him W. A. Wright: The figure is taken from the language of falconry, although the treatment prescribed by Menenius is different from that practised by Petruchio. See Tam. of Shr., IV, i, 206-210: ‘Another way I have to man my haggard,
To make her come and know her keeper's call,
That is, to watch her, as we watch these kites
That bate and beat and will not be obedient.’—
Rolfe: ‘Watch’ in that technical sense means to keep one from sleep (see Othello, III, iii, 23), while here all that Menenius intends to say is that he will watch for the opportunity of making his appeal to Coriolanus when he is dieted to it, that is, put in good humour for it by a good dinner.—Deighton: Wait for the moment when he will be in the mood to listen to my request. [Deighton likewise suggests that ‘watch’ is here used in its technical sense as in falconry.—Ed.]— Case: Observe him or wait for him. Either of these Shakespearian uses gives sound sense here. Those who suspect an allusion to falconry in which hawks were watched are going out of their way, and also suggesting the very opposite of Menenius's methods. [Which is also the opinion of the present Ed.]
I shall ere long Malone: That Menenius at some time would have knowledge of his success is certain; but what he asserts is that he would ere long have that knowledge.—Steevens: All Menenius designs to say may be, ‘I shall not be kept long in suspense as to the result of my embassy.’ [For this use of ‘success’ in the indeterminate sense of fortune, result, compare I, vi, 9 supra. Malone appears to have taken it in the more restricted sense of prosperous termination.—Ed.]—Beeching (Henry Irving Sh.) for the thought here compares Jul. Cæs., V, i, 123-126: ‘O that a man might know
The end of this day's business ere it come!
But it sufficeth that the day will end
And then the end is known.’
he doe's sit in Gold Johnson: He is enthroned in all the pomp and pride of imperial splendor—χπυσόθπονος Ἥπη, Homer.—Heath (p. 427): What can possibly be meant by sitting in gold which is pertinent to the present circumstances of Coriolanus? I conceive the poet probably might have written, ‘he does sit engoal'd’; that is, He is surrounded by the Volscian chiefs, as if he were their prisoner, so that there is no getting at any private conference with him. This agrees very well with what is said just afterwards, that he had sent in writing after Cominius the conditions on which alone he would condescend to treat with Rome, which seems to imply that he had first taken the opinion of the Volscians after Cominius had left him. So Aufidius testifies for him that he had ‘Never admitted private whisper, no Not with such friends that thought them sure of him.’— [‘Engoal'd’ is a word of Heath's own coinage, and therefore its interpretation is quite as fanciful as its origin. The substantive goal if made into a verb could by no possibility be interpreted as surrounded, imprisoned. The only meaning of the word is the terminus or end of a race or contest. It is just possible that Heath's word has been misprinted and that it should be engaol'd, since he interprets his suggestion as imprisoned. Note also, that in l. 78 ‘Gaoler’ was misprinted goaler by Pope, and passed several successive editors without correction.—Ed.]—Capell: That is, sit enthron'd in pomp and in the terror of majesty; the expression is doubly figurative, for we are only to understand by it that his approach was as difficult as a king's, and his presence as awful.—Steevens: So, in the old translation of Plutarch, ‘—he was set in his chaire of state, with a marvellous and unspeakable majestie.’ Shakespeare has a somewhat similar idea in Henry VIII: I, i, 19, ‘All clinquant, all in gold, like heathen gods.’ The idea expressed by Cominius occurs also in the Iliad, bk viii, l. 442, in the translation of which passage Mr Pope was perhaps indebted to Shakespeare, ‘Th’ eternal Thunderer sat throned in gold.’—Keightley (Expositor, p. 372): For ‘in gold’ we might read a god, ‘He sits amongst men, like a descended god,’ Cymbeline, I, vi, 169. But it may be his chair of state that is meant.
Bound with an Oath to yeeld to his conditions Heath (p. 427): As specious as the emendation of Sir Thomas Hanmer appears [see Text. Notes], it cannot possibly be right unless we suppose Coriolanus to have violated his oath out of regard for the old Menenius. For he himself afterwards (V, iii, 17-19) expressly tells us that he had yielded to new conditions. I conjecture the poet might possibly have written, ‘Bound with an oath, if you yield to his conditions,’ that is, To remove the apprehension and terror the city might be under from his resentment he declared what he would not do, and bound himself to it by an oath if it accepted the conditions he had offered.—Capell: To make any sense at all of these lines [82-84] it was necessary to adopt the word ‘from’ [in l. 83]; and that done, the hemistich became necessary likewise; but what to do with the lines that precede it the editor could not see at that time; all he then saw was an appearance of meaning that pleas'd him better than any change he had seen of them; but coming now to put thoughts upon paper, he perceiv'd they were wrong, and a little further reflection discover'd the true seat of this error, the hemistich guiding him to it. Other words besides ‘from’ have slip'd through the compositor's fingers, and we must read the lines thus, ‘What he would do, | He sent in writing after me; what he would not, | Except we yield to his conditions, | Bound with an oath. So that,’ &c. Here were conditions offered and conditions refused; it is useless to guess at the first, 'tis sufficient that we suppose them humiliating enough; the latter, it is probable, were a cessation of arms in the country, and a removal of his siege from the town; for he does these things afterwards, and is made to break his ‘oath’ by his mother.—Johnson: The whole speech is in confusion, and I suspect something out. I should read: ‘—What he would do,
He sent in writing after; what he would not,
Bound with an oath. To yield to his conditions.’
Here is, I think, a chasm. The speaker's purpose seems to be this: ‘To yield to his conditions is ruin, and better cannot be obtained, so that all hope is vain.’— Farmer: I suppose Coriolanus means that he had sworn to give way to the conditions into which the ingratitude of his country had forced him.—Monck Mason (Comments, etc.): This passage as it stands is evidently wrong, for it is absolutely unintelligible, and the question is how to amend it; none of the amendments hitherto suggested appear satisfactory; that which I have to propose is a very slight deviation from the text—the reading ‘in his conditions’ instead of ‘to his conditions.’ To ‘yield,’ in this place, means to relax, and is used in the same sense in scene iii. by Coriolanus in speaking of Menenius: ‘—to grace him only
That thought he could do more, a very little
I have yielded to.’
What Cominius means to say is ‘That Coriolanus sent in writing after him the conditions on which he would agree to make a peace, and bound himself by an oath not to depart from them. The additional negative which Hanmer and Warburton wish to introduce is not only unnecessary, but would destroy the sense; for the thing which Coriolanus had sworn not to do was to yield in his conditions.— Henley: ‘What he would do,’ i. e., the conditions on which he offered to return, he sent in writing after Cominius, intending that he should carry them to Menenius. ‘What he would not,’ i. e., his resolution of neither dismissing his soldiers nor capitulating with Rome's mechanics in case the terms he prescribed should be refused, he bound himself by an oath to maintain. If these conditions were admitted the oath, of course, being grounded on that proviso, must yield to them and be cancelled. That this is the proper sense of the passage is obvious from what follows in V, iii: ‘—if you'ld aske, remember this before;
The thing I have forsworne to graunt may neuer
Be held by you denials. Do not bid me
Dismisse my soldiers, or capitulate
Again, with Romes mechanickes,’ [ll. 89-93].—
Malone: I believe two half lines have been lost; that ‘Bound with an oath’ was the beginning of one line, and ‘to yield to his conditions’ the conclusion of the next. Perhaps, however, ‘to yield to his conditions’ means to yield only to his condi tions, referring these words to ‘oath’; that his oath was irrevocable, and should yield to nothing but such a reverse of fortune as he could not resist.—Singer (ed. i.): None of the explanations or proposed emendations satisfy me. Perhaps we might read, ‘to yield to no conditions.’ The sense of the passage would then be: ‘What he would do he sent in writing after me; the things he would not do, he bound himself with an oath to yield to no conditions that might be proposed.’ It afterwards appears what these were (see V, iii, 89-93).—Knight: The commentators suspect some omission here, but it appears to us that they have mistaken the passage. They conceive that ‘what he would not’ is the matter especially ‘bound with an oath.’ Coriolanus sends ‘in writing’ both ‘what he would do’ and ‘what he would not’; and in justification of the harshness of his demands he adds that he is ‘bound with an oath to yield to his conditions,’ that is, to make his sole law the ‘conditions’ in which he had become placed—his duty to the Volcians; to yield himself up entirely to the guidance of those ‘conditions.’—Collier: The meaning appears to be that Coriolanus bound himself by an oath that Rome should yield to his conditions. Various changes of the text have been proposed, but none seems absolutely necessary.—Verplanck: Coriolanus sends his ultimatum (to use the language of diplomacy) in writing, stating both what he would and what he would not consent to, and binding all with an oath that these are the conditions to which Rome must yield. This line  is elliptically expressed, but the sense is sufficiently explicit. But the editors have not been satisfied, and propose various emendations, of which ‘to yield to no conditions’ is far the most probable.—Delius: It has been thought that there is here an omission of either a half or a whole line. Such an ellipsis and anacoluthon is, however, quite in Shakespeare's style. The sense is: He sent after me in writing what he would do, what he would not do (i. e., what he would grant to us and what not); he bound me with an oath to submit to his conditions. ‘Bound,’ which the editors take for a participle, is rather of the same order as ‘sent,’ and out of ‘after me’ me is to be supplied. We may construe this, without ellipsis: he sent in writing after me what he would do (and) what he would not; and bound me with an oath to yield to his conditions. Cominius is thus made ambassador to the Romans.—Staunton: The sense of this passage we conjecture to have been destroyed by the misprint ‘his’ for no; ‘his’ being inadvertantly caught by the transcriber from the next line. If we read ‘Bound with an oath to yield to no conditions’ the meaning is clear enough—what he would consent to he sent in writing; what he would not, he bound himself by oath to yield on no conditions.—R. G. White: This passage is incomprehensible. None of the many explanations or emendations proposed for it (the more important of which are to be found in the Variorum of 1821) appear worthy of attention. I believe that a line has been lost, or perhaps two, after ‘what he would not.’—Leo (Coriolanus): In his writing he said what he would do, and what not; and that an oath given to the Volscians bound him in this way. The First Guard says, ‘you are condemned, our general has sworn you out of reprieve and pardon,’ [ll. 51, 52], and Coriolanus himself says, ‘my remission lies in Volscian breasts,’ [ll. 85, 86], and ‘the thing I have forsworn to grant.’ Just before going to press Professor Solly suggested to me as a new reading hold for ‘yield.’—Hudson (ed. ii.): I more than suspect this latter to be the true reading.—C. & M. Cowden Clarke: We think this passage condensedly expresses the stipulations made by Coriolanus and the proposals made by the Romans as stated more fully in North's Plutarch; and that here ‘what he would do’ refers to what Coriolanus would grant as expressed in the articles ‘sent in writing after’ Cominius; while ‘what he would not’ refers to the proposals made by the Romans, which Coriolanus would not grant unless under certain conditions that he bound himself by oath to make them yield to. In the text the concise phraseology scarcely makes evident that there are two sets of articles, one drawn up by Coriolanus and sent in writing, the other submitted by the Romans to him, which he vows to grant only upon his own conditions; but that so it is clearly intended we think is shown by the account of the incident in Plutarch as well as by the expression ‘it was a bare petition of a state’ in the present scene, indicating a proposal made on their part.—Hudson (ed. i.): A passage hard to be understood at best, and still more obscure as commonly pointed, thus: ‘What he would do, he sent in writing after me; what he would not, bound with an oath, to yield to his conditions’; which is severing ‘what he would do’ from ‘bound with an oath,’ and ‘what he would not’ from ‘he sent in writing after me.’ As now given the sense may be rendered thus: ‘He sent in writing after me both what he would do, and what he would not; binding the whole with an oath that we should yield to his conditions.’— Keightley indicates in his text that a line is lost between ll. 81 and 82.—Daniel (p. 65): Query read: ‘What he would do,
What he would not, he'd send in writing after me:
He was bound with an oath to yield to no conditions.’—
Rev. John Hunter: His conditions were expressed in the writing previously referred to, and ‘what he would not’ he ‘bound with an oath’ to be determined by those conditions. The meaning simply is that he wrote conditions, and swore to allow nothing but what was expressed therein. The phrase ‘to his conditions’ has been suspected by the commentators, but no alteration is wanted. Shakespeare judiciously avoids specifying the conditions stated in Plutarch.—Whitelaw: Sent after me, in writing, what he would, what he would not, consent to do; confirming this with an oath which only our acceptance of his terms can cancel. With the construction ‘an oath to yield’ compare ‘a merit, to choke it,’ ‘a chair to extol.’—Schmidt (Coriolanus): There is ample foundation for suspecting that there is some corruption between the words ‘What he would do’ and ‘his conditions,’ and the most probable explanation is that something has been omitted (which is corroborated by the incomplete line ‘So that all hope is vain’), [due, however, to Johnson, not Shakespeare.—Ed.], wherein the conditions of Coriolanus would be demonstrated as unacceptable. If all is, however, in proper order this line can only be well interpreted thus: that he was bound by an oath to submit to his conditions, that is, the conditions which he made in the name of the Volscians, to make them as his own, according as they were decided on in war-council.— W. A. Wright: Unless this line is corrupt, or something has fallen out of the text, it can only mean that Coriolanus was bound by an oath to the Volscians to adhere to the conditions which he imposed; but this is very forced. Many emendations have been suggested, only showing that the text is probably corrupt, as it certainly is obscure.—Rolfe: A perplexing passage, perhaps corrupt or incomplete. As it stands it appears to mean that Coriolanus was bound by an oath as to what he would not, unless the Romans should yield to his conditions, whatever those may have been. Whitelaw's interpretation is not perfectly satisfactory, but, to our thinking, it is the best that has been offered.—Kinnear (p. 330): ‘What he would He sent in writing after me: he would not, Bound with an oath, aught yield to his conditions.’ ‘What’ in l. 81, as both the sense and metre indicate, being caught from ‘what’ just above in the preceding line. The folio has ‘to yeeld to,’ the compositor being confused by ‘to’ which follows, ‘to his conditions,’ i. e., in addition to, as in II, i, 163, ‘With fame a name to Caius Martius.’ Compare further V, vi, 83, ‘—making a treaty where There was a yielding, this admits no excuse.’—Perring (p. 310): I can see no corruption, no obscurity in this line. Coriolanus specified in his written despatch what concessions he was willing to make, adding, as a proviso, that in everything else Cominius should bind himself by oath to submit to his (Coriolanus') conditions. In the last clause the subject is changed from Coriolanus to Cominius. The grammar may lack completeness, but it should be remembered that here we have a brief and hurried summary of a short and curt interview—a sort of running conversational comment; say there is a little looseness, there is no obscurity; the Romans who heard would not be slow to apprehend what was meant; their fears had already anticipated the sinister tidings. Brevity here is surely a merit.—Beeching (Henry Irving Sh.): The desired meaning is that Coriolanus was bound by an oath to the Volscians to impose certain conditions, or to make the Romans yield to his conditions; but it must be confessed that the text does not say this. Or the meaning may be that the message was affirmed by an oath, viz., that his conditions must be yielded to. Various punctuations have been proposed, and numerous emendations, none of them satisfactory. [Beeching, a few years later in the Falcon Sh., says: ‘His declaration was confirmed with an oath to yield only to his conditions, to retire from Rome only if his conditions were complied with.’ He compares for this V, iii, 15-17, ‘I have . . . once more offered The first conditions which they did refuse And cannot now accept.’—Ed.]—E. K. Chambers (Warwick Sh.): I have put a comma for the colon after ‘me,’ and explain: ‘He sent me an offer of concessions, strictly limited, and dependent on an oath to observe the conditions laid down.’ Coriolanus has already begun to waver. He repeats to Menenius in V, ii, 91 the offer made to Cominius.—Cholmeley: The text is corrupt, but can be made tolerable by transposing the two parts of l. 81; ‘his conditions’ are the terms of his service with the Volscians, and the words ‘Bound with an oath,’ etc., give the cause of his behaviour; he had sworn not to discuss the situation.—Herford (Eversley Sh.): The transaction is obscurely described. Apparently it is thus: Coriolanus indicates what he will concede, and binds himself by oath to concede nothing more.—Verity (Student's Sh.): The passage is undoubtedly corrupt. The difficulty is this: Two later passages (V, ii, 50-52; V, iii, 89-91) show that ‘bound with an oath’ refers to Coriolanus and qualifies ‘what he would not’ (do). Coriolanus would not do certain things (V, iii, 92, 93) because he had sworn not to. But ‘to yield to his conditions’ ought to refer to the Romans; that is the natural interpretation, and it is substantiated by the parallel passage in Plutarch. Coriolanus told the Roman Ambassadors that ‘they had no other means to end this war, if they did not grant these honest and just conditions of peace,’ which he had just laid before them. Through some omission in l. 82 the words in l. 81 which refer to Coriolanus have got tacked on to the words which refer to the Romans. Johnson's is clearly the right method of interpretation; the assumption being that l. 82 commenced with some such words as Were utter shame. The simplest emendation is hold for ‘yield’—Coriolanus had sworn to hold to, not to relax, the terms he had offered. But hold could hardly be corrupted into ‘yield’; moreover, yield occurs twice in North's Plutarch in a later paragraph referring to the same ‘articles’ and ‘conditions’ of peace. Of the passage as it stands the best paraphrase seems [to be that by Beeching in Falcon Sh.]. But to speak of a man ‘yielding’ to his own terms is obviously forced. It simplifies the text to substitute a comma for the semicolon after ‘me’ in l. 81.—Miss C. Porter (First Folio Sh.) does not refer to the interpretation by Delius, and thus evidently arrived at the same conclusion independently that if he be understood before ‘Bound’ and me after ‘Bound’ the sense is clear. Of Henley's paraphrase Miss Porter remarks: ‘To prove that “this is the proper sense of the passage” Henley cites the words of Coriolanus to his mother latèr as to “the things he has forsworne to grant.” But the text reads “the thing,” not “the things,” as Henley quotes it, nor does it there appear that the two things designated as by treaty forsworn are so exactly specified. He seems rather to be thinking of what he has forsworn to the Volscians, to show the Romans no favor. Nor does he speak to his mother of any formal treaty. Instead of binding himself with an oath to yield anything to the Romans, he has bound the Romans to yield him beforehand, as the very ground of any agreement, their acceptance of what he would not do, making what he would do entirely conditional. That is, he bases any concessions upon their sworn agreement to his conditions. He will not treat with them, will not agree under such or such conditions to lay down arms, until they have sworn beforehand to yield these preliminaries. What he would not do, being Bound with or safeguarded by an Oath from them to yeeld to his conditions. This accords with what Plutarch states to be his answer to the ambassadors of Rome.’ [See Appendix: Source of Plot, ad loc.] Later Plutarch shows again that these preliminary conditions were exactly the bone of contention, balking any treaty to follow, for ‘another ambassade’ proposed ‘the remove of the Volsces . . . that afterward they might with better leisure fall to such agreements together, as should be thought most meete and necessary . . . all the [Volsces] would reasonably aske should be graunted unto by the Romaines, who would willingly yield to reason, conditionally, that they did lay downe armes.’ This was precisely what Marcius would not do until they had bound themselves as already stipulated, delivering up the articles agreed upon which he had first delivered them. Or otherwise, that he would not assure their safe-conduct ‘againe to his campe with such vaine and frivolous messages.’ These much disputed lines of Shakespeare's are obviously based on these facts.—Gordon: What he would not do he bound with an oath that we must yield to his conditions. Cominius had come as an ambassador from Rome to plead for terms. Coriolanus refused to treat with him. The conditions he offered (‘what he would do’) were final; to discuss them was useless; they should be sent after in writing. Cominius's proposals (‘what he would not’) he refused, and clinched his refusal with an oath that we must yield to his conditions. It was to be his conditions or nothing.— Deighton: If genuine, this passage may mean he would send in writing after I had been dismissed a statement of what he would do, and what he would not do, he being bound by an oath to fulfil the terms on which he had made alliance with the Volscians. ‘Bound’ seems to be an instance of the participle with the pronoun implied.—Case (Arden Sh.): This passage readily suggests a meaning most probably intended, but its precise difficulties are insoluble because something appears to be lost, perhaps after ‘conditions’ (as Johnson supposed) or perhaps after ‘oath’ (as Malone), and also, possibly, after ‘country,’ [l. 85]. The tinkering of the passage . . . serves no useful purpose, the only tolerable suggestion being Solly's, to alter the word ‘yield’ to hold. With this change the passage affords a grudging sense as it stands: What he would do he sent in writing after me, [and] what he would not, [being] bound by an oath to hold to his conditions. So that all hope is vain unless [i. e., if we except] his noble mother and his wife, who, etc. I cite Mr Chambers' view with much sympathy with his desire to avoid assumptions and alterations; but as we know Coriolanus was bound by an oath (V, iii, 91) it is as difficult to turn this phrase over to the Romans and their acceptance of the conditions as it is to deprive them of ‘yield’ by substituting hold as above.— G. Joicey (Notes & Queries, 28 Nov., 1891, p. 423): It is most likely that, either in transcribing or printing, ‘he would’ immediately under the same words in the line above has led to the insertion of a second ‘what,’ and that ‘yield’ has by some mischance fallen into the line below. If these emendations are made the passage becomes quite clear, seeing that, according to V, iii, 16, conditions were offered to the Romans. ‘What he would He sent in writing after me; yield he would not; Bound with an oath to his conditions.’—Tucker Brooke (Yale Sh.): He sent a written statement of what he would and would not do, requiring an oath of unconditional acceptance of these conditions.
vnlesse his Noble Mother . . . to his Countrey Warburton: Unless his mother and wife—do what? The sentence is imperfect. We should read, ‘Force mercy to his country’—and then all is right.—Heath (p. 428) rationally objects to Warburton's unnecessary change, remarking: ‘The ancient reading certainly ought not to have been altered, since both the sense and construction might be much easier and better restored by the following slight correction, “So that all hope is vain, unless in his mother And wife,”’ etc.—Steevens: Dr Warburton's emendation is surely harsh, and may be rendered unnecessary by printing the passage thus, ‘—mean to solicit him For mercy to his country—Therefore,’ &c. This liberty is the more justifiable, because, as soon as the remaining hope crosses the imagination of Cominius, he might suppress what he was going to add through haste to try the success of a last expedient. It has been proposed to me to read ‘Unless in his noble mother,’ &c. In his, abbreviated in's, might have been easily mistaken by such inaccurate printers.—Monck Mason: No amendment is wanting, the sense of the passage being complete without it. We say every day in conversation: You are my only hope—He is my only hope, instead of—My only hope is in you, or in him. The same mode of expression occurs in this sentence, and occasions the obscurity of it.—Malone: That this passage has been considered as difficult surprises me. Many passages in these plays have been suspected to be corrupt merely because the language was peculiar to Shakespeare, or the phraseology of that age, and not of the present; and this is surely one of them. Had he written, his noble mother and his wife are our only hope, his meaning could not have been doubted; and is not this precisely what Cominius says? So that we have now no other hope, nothing to rely upon but his mother and his wife, who, as I am told, mean, &c. ‘Unless’ is here used for except.— Dyce (ed. i.): Such an explanation [of ‘unless’ used for except as by Mason and Malone] to me is far from satisfactory, and I think it very probable that (as some one suggested to Steevens) our author wrote ‘Unless in's noble mother,’ etc.; in the present play contractions of that kind are frequent.—R. G. White: The folio reading has been hitherto retained, with the explanation that ‘unless’ here means except in. But such a use of ‘unless’ is unparalleled, and, what is of more consequence, absurd. [The reading in's] is so appropriate and so natural, the contraction is so much in the style of this play, and the supposed misprint so easy, that I accept it with little doubt.—Verplanck: ‘Unless’ is here used in the sense of except—we have no hope except his noble mother, etc.—Hudson: That is, ‘unless there be hope in his noble mother and his wife,’ or perhaps the construction should be thus, ‘Unless his noble mother and his wife solicit him for mercy to his country; who, as I hear, mean to do so.’—Leo includes the words ‘Who as I hear’ in a parenthesis, remarking thus the sense is, ‘Unless his noble mother and his wife mean—as I hear they intend—to solicit,’ etc.—C. & M. Cowden Clarke (Shakespeare): Here in is elliptically understood between ‘unless’ and ‘his.’— Rolfe: That is, unless it be his mother, etc. If any change is necessary ‘unless in's’ is to be preferred; but as the passage stands it is no unnatural inversion of ‘His mother and wife are our only hope.’ [Rolfe adds that if there is any corruption it is probably in the imperfect line ‘So that all hope is vain,’ possibly therein misled by Schmidt, who makes the same observation, unaware that this half line is due to Johnson, and for which Shakespeare, at least, is not responsible.—Ed.]— Cholmeley: ‘Unless’ sc. can do anything. Better put a comma after ‘wife,’ and break off the sentence at ‘country.’—G. Joicey (Notes & Queries, 28 Nov., 1891, p. 423): Should not these lines be punctuated so as to bring the nominative ‘mother and his wife’ into closer relation to the verb ‘solicit’? ‘Who as I hear mean to (do so)’ seems to be a parenthesis: ‘Unless his noble mother and his wife—
Who as I hear mean to—solicit him
For mercy,’ etc.—
R. M. Spence (Notes & Queries, 6 Feb., 1892, p. 104): Can Mr Joicey seriously think that this abominable Yankeeism, ‘mean to,’ new to this country even in our day, had already crossed the Atlantic in Shakespeare's time? Better accept any ellipsis than accept this. [Spence accordingly proposes that this passage read, ‘Unless his noble mother and his wife prevail Who, as I hear, mean to solicit him,’ etc.—Ed.]—Verity (Student's Sh.): An obvious simplification would be: ‘Unless his noble mother and his wife,
Who, as I hear, mean to, solicit him,’ etc.
[Of the proposals by Leo, Joicey, and Verity to remedy these lines, that by Joicey— as it is the simplest—is to be preferred. Spence's objection is trifling; in fact, that the phrase ‘I mean to’ is an Americanism at all is quite open to question.— Ed.]—Miss C. Porter (First Folio Sh.): This is a colloquial, unbookish expression natural to a speaker, and a slight transposition will make this clear enough. Cominius declares that unless his Noble Mother solicit him, and his wife, who (as I hear) means to, all hope is vain.—Deighton: This is probably elliptical for, unless we may consider the intended intercession of his mother and his wife in the light of hope.—Perring (p. 312): Where, it has been asked, is the verb that should follow ‘unless’? To which I reply, where is it in Richard II: V, iii, 32, ‘My tongue cleave to my roof within my mouth, Unless a pardon ere I rise or speak’? Where is it in All's Well, IV, i, 5, ‘We must not seem to understand him, unless some one among us whom we must produce for an interpreter’? Where is it in Othello, I, i, 23, 24, ‘Nor the division of the battle knows More than a spinster, unless the bookish theorie’? It may be an open question with some whether in the above passages ‘unless’ should be parsed as a conjunction or should be held to partake rather of the nature of a preposition; but none can fail to be struck with the remarkableness of the coincidence that in all the passages the same particle is found without a finite verb actually following it. For my own part I hold that in the passage before us it is most certainly a conjunction, and that in all probability the verb that belongs to it, and that should be mentally supplied after it, is the verb that occurs in the relative clause which follows—yes, the same verb, but not used in exactly the same sense; for, whereas in the relative clause ‘solicit’ means ‘to earnestly entreat,’ in the principal clause, where we say ‘that’ is understood, it can only mean ‘to prevail by entreaty,’ one verb (as is not uncommon) serving for two clauses, which in its strict acceptation suits only one of them. There is surely no maze here to hinder us from treading out the way readily.
therefore let's hence Bayfield (p. 190): ‘Let's’ occurs as a false form with considerable frequency throughout the plays. [In the present line] ‘Therefore’ is undesirably stressed. If we restore let us and a divided quadrisyllabic we get a rhythm at once Shakespearian and much superior to that of the Folio's line: ‘For | mercy | to his | country. Therefore, | let us | hence.’