Scene IV. Miss C. Porter (First Folio Sh.): Scene iv. is in Rome again, and the audience may understand it to be so, not only from the reappearance of Menenius on the fore-stage, but from his words as to ‘yon'd Coin a'th Capitol.’ Whatever part of the wall at the back of the stage or column buttressing the side served to be pointed at thus, it was enough, apparently, imaginatively to reset the scene, while at the same time making more graphic the speech of Menenius.—Verity (Student's Sh.): Here again we have the ‘irony’ of misplaced assurance. And the scene illustrates the pleasant vanity of Menenius, who thinks that where he failed Coriolanus's wife and mother must fail too.
Mene. See you yon'd Coin, etc. Delius (Die Prosa in Sh's Dramen, Jahrbuch, v, p. 270): This conversation, where even in such an extremity Menenius is true to his peculiar character, is held in the familiar form of prose, which is here especially incisive. With the entrance of the Messenger, who brings terrible news, the blank-verse is resumed and then continues to the close of the play.
stay vppon Steevens: That is, stay but for it. So in Macbeth, ‘Worthy Macbeth, we stay upon your leisure,’ I, iii, 148. [W. A. Wright also compares ‘I thank you and will stay upon your leisure,’ All's Well, III, v, 48.]
differency Murray (N. E. D., s. v.) quotes the present line as the earliest example of this use of the word, and gives but three other examples ranging from 1640 to 1872.
then an eight yeare old horse Warburton: Subintellegitur remembers his dam. 17-24. The tartnesse of his face, etc.] E. Scherer (p. 48): The only thing which can be brought against Shakespeare is at times a too sharp change—one, so to speak, affected on the stage—in the sentiments of his characters. Aufidius, for example, passes too quickly from hatred to sorrow when he sees Coriolanus fall, and in Richard III. Anne accepts with too great ease the ring of the man on whom she has just spit in contempt; while Elizabeth is too quick in giving her daughter to the man who has massacred her sons. This is certainly turning the corner too sharply, and there is a want of truth in it. I think that something of the same kind may be said of Shakespeare's style. The language which he puts into the mouths of his characters is not always appropriate—is sometimes far from being appropriate—to the circumstances, even to the characters themselves. The poet delights too much in the expression for itself and its own sake. He dwells on it, he lingers over it, he plays with equivalents and synonyms. Menenius thus complains of the change which has occurred in Coriolanus, [ll. 17-24 here quoted]. I take this quotation at random to exemplify what I mean. This poet's form sometimes overruns in this fashion; the expression is redundant and out of proportion to the situation.
He sits in his State Johnson: In a foregoing passage he was said to sit in gold. The phrase ‘as a thing made for Alexander’ means ‘as one made to resemble Alexander.’—Malone: ‘His state’ means his chair of state as described by Plutarch, ‘he was set in his chaire of state, with a marvellous and unspeakable majestie.’—Leo (Coriolanus): In my opinion these are not Shakespeare's words. Perhaps he has written, . . . as a king, great as . . ., or something similar; but the words which stand in the text seem to me almost nonsense, because I cannot agree with Malone, who understands ‘state’ as ‘a chair of state,’ and consequently must refer ‘thing’ to ‘state,’ so that in this case the sense would be, ‘He sits in his state as in a thing . . .’ [The construction here would doubtless be puzzling to a foreigner, but scarcely any English reader could fail in understanding that ‘as a thing’ refers to Coriolanus and not to ‘his state.’—Ed.]
as a thing made for Alexander See note by Johnson, preceding line. Case (Arden Sh.): Mr Hart supplied the following from Holland's Plinie, 1634 ed., Bk xxxiv, ch. 8, pt ii, p. 499: ‘But above all, he (Lysippus) got the greatest name for making in brasse a chariot drawne with four steeds. . . . The personage of King Alexander the Great hee likewise expressed in brasse, and many images he made of him, beginning at the very childhood of the said Prince: and verily the Emperor Nero was so greatly enamoured of one state image of Alexander, that he commanded it to be gilded all over.’
Yes, mercy, if you report him truly At first sight it would seem that what Sicinius means is, that the attribute, mercy, which belongs to a god is lacking in Coriolanus, but from the reply of Menenius it is evident that he takes it as the reverse, that is, If one should speak the truth about Coriolanus he is merciful. ‘You report’ is, I think, here general, like the French ‘Si on voulait dire,’ but Menenius takes it in the particular perhaps with a strong emphasis on ‘I paint him,’ etc.—Birch (p. 499) says in regard to this passage: ‘Thus Shakespeare paints the characters of Coriolanus and the gods; and, whilst he thus represents them distinctly, points out the attribute of mercy wanting in them and existing in the man. Was not the mockery of religion partly the purpose of this play, its judgments and punishments, and its want of pity and benevolence? Pardon to the Romans is granted by the man, but none is provided for Coriolanus, who falls a sacrifice to his forgiveness of injuries, the triumph of love over hate.’ In the foregoing pages I have purposely omitted many of Birch's comments on passages in this play, which, as they bear witness to their author's utter lack of any dramatic perception, are calculated to make the judicious grieve. Wordsworth, in his Shakespeare's Knowledge and Use of the Bible, p. 114, says, in reference to this passage: ‘I am inclined to think that in Coriolanus it is purposely left a doubtful point whether mercy was an attribute of the Deity or no.’ But is not Shakespeare here referring to the gods of the Romans?—Ed.
the Character W. A. Wright: That is, in his true character. The definite article is here emphatic, as in V, ii, 110, 111. Compare King John, II, i, 396, ‘Smacks it not something of the policy?’
bring from him That is, evoke, call forth, as in the phrase ‘to bring tears to the eyes.’
long of you W. A. Wright: That is, owing to you. See Mid. N. Dream, III, ii, 339, ‘You mistress, all this coil is long of you’; that is, accompanies you as a consequence. [This is not, properly speaking, an abbreviation of along, but a separate word, and should not therefore be printed, as in many modern texts, 'long.—Ed.]
Plebeians Accented on the first syllable as almost always. See III, i, 125.
Is't most certaine Lettsom (ap. Walker, Sh's Versification, p. 285, note): Shakespeare could scarcely have jumbled the two phrases [It is certain, I am certain] together so awkwardly as he appears from the editions to have done [in this passage]. ‘Is't’ (as the old copies print it) is a misprint for I sir, i. e., Ay, sir, and here the Messenger begins his answer to Sicinius. The note of interrogation after ‘certaine’ first appeared in the Third Folio. ‘Thou,’ moreover, seems to have been inserted ob metrum, as in the old copies the verse begins with ‘Friend.’—Dyce But the absence of the interrogation point here in the Folio proves nothing, for the Folio frequently has a full stop at the end of an interrogative speech; so, a little after in the present dialogue, it gives the question of Sicinius thus: ‘They are near the City.’ Nor, considering how often the lines are wrongly divided in the Folio, is any stress to be laid on its arrangement here.—Ibid. (ed. ii.): In a letter with which he has lately favoured me Mr Lettsom adds: ‘It is not at all likely, or rather it is quite impossible, that a person would begin with “Art thou certain this is true?” and then go on, is it most certain? He would say “art thou most certain?”’—Schmidt (Coriolanus): If ‘certain’ is not to be accented on the second syllable, which is found in Shakespeare only as an intentional archaism, this line might be well amended to read, ‘Art certain this is true? is it most certain?’ [Reference to the Text. Notes will show that Schmidt has here reproduced the readings of Pope and his followers including the Variorum of 1773.—Ed.]
an Arch . . . the blowne Tide Malone: So in our Author's Lucrece, ‘As through an arch the violent roaring tide Out-runs the eye that doth behold his haste,’ [ll. 1667, 1668]. ‘Blown’ in the text is swell'd. So in Ant. & Cleo., ‘here on her breast There is a vent of blood, and something blown,’ [V, ii, 352]. The effect of a high, or spring tide, as it is called, is so much greater than that which the wind commonly produces that I am not convinced by the following note that my interpretation is erroneous. Water that is subject to tides, even when it is not accelerated by a spring tide, appears swoln, and to move with more than ordinary rapidity when passing through the narrow strait of an arch.—Steevens: The ‘blown tide’ is the tide blown, and consequently accelerated by the wind. So in another of our author's plays, ‘My boat sails swiftly both with wind and tide.’ [Steevens was trusting too much to his memory, which has here played him false—he not only did not remember the name of the play, but has grossly misquoted a line from Othello, ‘My boat sails freely both wind and stream,’ II, iii, 65. The adjectives swiftly and freely are quite different in signification.—Ed.]— Whitelaw agrees with Steevens that ‘blown’ means here the tide driven before the wind; but Schmidt both in his Lexicon and his edition of this play adopts Malone's interpretation swoln or swell'd, ‘since the wind would not have such an effect upon water retarded by the arch of a bridge; besides, if it be not taken in this sense, it must be readily admitted that the expression of augmented water is here otherwise not suitable.’—W. S. Walker (Criticisms, iii, 213): Not, I imagine, driven by wind, but swollen, as in Beaumont and Fletcher, Queen of Corinth, III, i, ‘—my blown billows must not Strive 'gainst the shore, that should confine me.’ So ‘blown ambition,’ King Lear, IV, iv, ; ‘our blown sails,’ Pericles, V, i, .— W. A. Wright: The swoln tide. Compare Lear, IV, iv, 27, ‘No blown ambition doth our arms incite.’ Shakespeare had frequently seen the tide rushing through the narrow arches of old London Bridge, the shooting of which by the boats was a difficult and often dangerous operation.
Hoboyes Naylor (p. 175): This is an important musical term and occurs about fourteen times in eight plays. It always implies a certain special importance in the music, and is generally connected with a Royal banquet, masque, or procession. In six cases at least the direction has some special qualification— e. g., Hautboys playing loud music; A lofty strain or two to the hautboys; Trumpets and hautboys sounded, and drums beaten all together. In Ant. & Cleo., IV, iii, 12, Hautboys supply the supposed ominous ‘music in the air.’ In the last of the above examples, from Coriolanus, we have the extreme limit of power of this time provided for—viz., trumpets and hautboys and drums, all together. It is interesting to notice the wording of Menenius's description of this stage music. ‘The trumpets, sackbuts, psalteries, and fifes, Tabors and cymbals.’ The ‘sackbut’ was merely our modern slide trombone, while the rest of these instruments were in common use in the 16th century, except the Psaltery, which Kircher (b. 1601) says is the same as the Nebel of the Bible. The picture he gives is remarkably like the dulcimers which may be seen and heard outside public houses to this very day, i. e., a small hollow chest with the strings stretched across it. An instrument of this kind could be played with the fingers, like a harp, or with a plectrum like a zither, or with two little knob-sticks, like the dulcimer. Marsennus (b. 1588) also identifies the Psaltery with the dulcimer.
The Trumpets . . . Psalteries . . . and Symboles W. A. Wright: Shakespeare probably had in his mind the list of musical instruments mentioned in Daniel, iii, 7. The word ‘psaltery’ comes to us from the translation of the Bible, where the Hebrew is also rendered ‘lute.’ The Greek psalterion was a stringed instrument played with both hands. ‘Every stringed instrument which was played upon with the fingers of both hands, instead of by one hand and a plectrum held in the other, came under the denomination of a psaltery’ (Chappell, History of Music, p. 307). In the Wicliffite Versions the word appears in the form psautrie, sautree or sawtree, and sautrie or sawtrye; and in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, 3213, we find that ‘hende Nicholas’ had ‘a gay sawtrye,
On which he made a-nightes melodye.’
[The passage in Daniel to which Wright refers is as follows: ‘Therefore at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the cornet, flute, harpe, sackbut, psalterie, and all kindes of musicke,’ etc.—Ed.]
Make the Sunne dance W. A. Wright and other commentators detect in this a reference to the popular superstition that the sun dances on Easter day; for my own part I may say that I think Shakespeare had no such stuff in his thoughts. It is manifestly the same kind of hyperbole as scarring the moon's face with the splinters of the spears. Wright's other reference from Twelfth Night is much more to the point, ‘But shall we make the welkin dance indeed?’ II, ii, 59.—Ed.
Volumnia For other examples wherein polysyllabic names often receive but one accent at the end of the line in pronunciation see Abbott, § 469.
at point See III, i, 233; and for this use of ‘at’ see, if needful, Abbott, § 143.