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Chapter 2
Parallels and Contrasts with Plutarch

The first impression produced by a comparison of the biography and the play is that the latter is little more than a scenic replica of the former. Shakespeare has indeed absorbed so many suggestions from the translation that it is difficult to realise how much he has modified them, or to avoid reading these modifications into his authority when we try to distinguish what he has received from what he has supplied. And the illusion is confirmed by the frequency with which we light on familiar words, familiar traits, familiar incidents. For the similarity seems at first to pervade the language, the characterisation, and the action.1

In the language it is most marked. Nowhere has Shakespeare borrowed so much through so great a number of lines as in Volumnia's appeal to the piety of her son. This passage, even if it stood alone, would serve to make the play a notable example of Shakespeare's indebtedness to North.2 But it does not stand alone. Somewhat shorter, but still longer than any loan in the other plays, is Coriolanus' announcement of himself to Aufidius, and in it [p. 485] Shakespeare follows North even more closely than in the former instance.

If thou knowest me not yet, Tullus, and seeing me, dost not perhappes beleeve me to be the man I am in dede, I must of necessitie bewraye my selfe to be that I am. I am that Caius Martius, who hath done to thy self particularly, and to all the Volsces generally, great hurte and mischief, which I cannot denie for my surname of Coriolanus that I beare. For I never had other benefit nor recompence, of all the true and paynefull service I have done, and the extreme daungers I have bene in, but this only surname: a good memorie and witnes, of the malice and displeasure thou showldest beare me. In deede the name only remaineth with me: for the rest, the envie and crueltie of the people of Rome have taken from me, by the sufference of the dastardlie nobilitie and magistrates, who have forsaken me, and let me be banished by the people. This extremitie hath now driven me to come as a poore suter, to take thy chimney harthe, not of any hope I have to save my life thereby. For if I had feared death, I would not have come hither to have put my life in hazard: but prickt forward with strife and desire I have to be revenged of them that thus have banished me, whom now I beginne to be avenged on, putting my persone betweene their enemies. Wherefore, if thou hast any harte to be wrecked 3 of the injuries thy enemies have done thee, spede thee now, and let my miserie serve thy turne, and so use it, as my service maye be a benefit to the Volsces: promising thee, that I will fight with better good will for all you, then ever I dyd when I was against you, knowing that they fight more valliantly, who know the force of their enemie, then such as have never proved it. And if it be so that thou dare not, and that thou art wearye to prove fortune any more; then am I also weary to live any lenger. And it were no wisedome in thee, to save the life of him, who hath bene heretofore thy mortall enemie, and whose service now can nothing helpe nor pleasure thee.

Shakespeare gives little else than a transcript, though, of course, a poetical and dramatic transcript, of this splendid piece of forthright prose.

If, Tullus,
Not yet thou knowest me, and, seeing me, dost not
Think me for the man I am, necessity
Commands me name myself. [p. 486]

What is thy name?

A name unmusical to the Volscians' ears,
And harsh in sound to thine.

Say, what's thy name?
Thou hast a grim appearance, and thy face
Bears a command in't: though thy tackle's torn,
Thou show'st a noble vessel: what's thy name?

Prepare thy brow to frown; know'st thou me yet?

I know thee not: thy name?

My name is Caius Marcius, who hath done
To thee particularly, and to all the Volsces
Great hurt and mischief: thereto witness may
My surname, Coriolanus: the painful service,
The extreme dangers, and the drops of blood
Shed for my thankless country are requited
But with that surname; a good memory,
And witness of the malice and displeasure
Which thou should'st bear me: only that name remains;
The cruelty and envy of the people,
Permitted by our dastard nobles, who
Have all forsook me, hath devoured the rest:
And suffer'd me by the voice of slaves to be
Whoop'd out of Rome. Now this extremity
Hath brought me to thy hearth; not out of hope-
Mistake me not--to save my life, for if
I had fear'd death, of all men i‘ the world
I would have ‘voided thee, but in mere spite,
To be full quit of those my banishers,
Stand I before thee now. Then if thou hast
A heart of wreak in thee, that wilt revenge
Thine own particular wrongs and stop those maims
Of shame seen through thy country, speed thee straight,
And make my misery serve thy turn: so use it
That my revengeful services may prove
As benefits to thee. for I will fight
Against my canker'd country with the spleen
Of all the under fiends. But if so be
Thou darest riot this and that to prove more fortunes
Thou'rt tired, then, in a word, I also am
Longer to live most weary, and present
My throat to thee and to thy ancient malice;
Which not to cut would show thee but a fool,
Since I have ever follow'd thee with hate,
Drawn tuns of blood out of thy country's breast
And cannot live but to thy shame, unless
It be to do thee service.

[p. 487] As much material, though it is amplified and rearranged, has been incorporated, as we shall have to point out, in Coriolanus' invective against the tribunate and the distribution of corn. Within a narrower compass we see the same adherence to North's phraseology in Brutus' instructions to the people, where, very notably, Shakespeare's fidelity to his author has made it possible to supply an omission in the text with absolute certainty as to the sense and great probability as to the wording. The opening sentences of the Life run as follows:

The house of the Martians at Rome was of the number of the patricians, out of the which hath sprong many noble personages: whereof Ancus Martius was one, King Numaes daughters sonne, who was king of Rome after Tullus Hostilius. Of the same house were Publius, and Quintus, who brought Rome their best water they had by conducts. Censorinus also came of that familie, that was so surnamed, bicause the people had chosen him Censor twise.
Shakespeare puts the notifications in the Tribune's mouth:

Say we read lectures to you,
How youngly he began to serve his country,
How long continued, and what stock he springs of,
The noble house o‘ the Marcians, from whence came
That Ancus Martius, Numa's daughter's son,
Who, after great Hostilius, here was king:
Of the same house Publius and Quintus were,
That our best water brought by conduits hither:
And Nobly nam'd, so twice being Censor,
Was his great Ancestor.

Many editors saw that something had dropped out, but no attempt to fill the gap was satisfactory, till Delius, having recourse to North, supplemented,
[And Censorinus, that was so surnamed]
And nobly named so, twice being censor.
4 [p. 488]

These lines also show how Shakespeare reproduces Plutarch's statement even when they are for him not quite in keeping. Plutarch, writing in the second century, could instance Publius, Quintus and Censorinus as ornaments of the Marcian gens; but Brutus' reference to them is an anachronism as they come after the supposed date of the play. So too Plutarch says of the attack on the Romans before Corioli:

But Martius being there at that time, ronning out of the campe with a fewe men with him, he slue the first enemies he met withall, and made the rest of them staye upon a sodaine, crying out to the Romaines that had turned their backes, and calling them againe to fight with a lowde voyce. For he was even such another, as Cato would have a souldier and a captaine to be: not only terrible, and fierce to laye about him, but to make the enemie afeard with the sounde of his voyce, and grimnes of his countenaunce.
Shakespeare makes short work of chronology by putting this allusion into the mouth of Titus Lartius:

Thou wast a soldier
Even to Cato's 5wish, not fierce and terrible
Only in strokes; but, with thy grim looks, and
The thunder-like percussion of thy sounds,
Thou madest thine enemies shake, as if the world
Were feverous and did tremble.

Occasionally even mistakes in North's text or marginal notes, or in Shakespeare's interpretation or recollection of what he had read, have passed into the play. Thus it has been shown6 that North, owing to.a small typographical error in the French, misunderstood the scope of Cominius' offer to Marcius. Amyot says: [p. 489]
Et en fin lui dit, que de tous les cheveaux prisonniers, et autres biens qui avoient esté pris et gaignés en grande quantité, il en choisist dix de chaque sorte à sa volonté, avant que rien en fust distributé, ni desparti aux autres.

There should be a comma after cheveaux, as appears on reference to the Greek,7 and Marcius is told to select ten of the horses, prisoners, and other chattels; but North took the prisonniers as used adjectivally in agreement with the preceding noun and translated:
So in the ende he willed Martius, he should choose out of all the horses they had taken of their enemies, and of all the goodes they had wonne (whereof there was great store) tenne of every sorte which he liked best, before any distribution should be made to other.

Further there is the quite incorrect abridgment in the margin:
The tenth parte of the enemies goods offered Martius for rewarde of his service by Cominius the Consul.

Shakespeare combines these misstatements:

Of all the horses,
Whereof we have ta'en good and good store, of all
The treasure in this field achieved and city,
We render you the tenth, to be ta'en forth,
Before the common distribution, at
Your only choice.

Of great frequency are the short sentences from North that are embedded in Shakespeare's dialogue. Thus, the preliminary announcement of Marcius' hardihood is introduced with the remark:

Now in those dayes, valliantnes was honoured in Rome above all the other vertues.
Cominius begins his panegyric:

It is held
That valour is the chiefest virtue, and
Most dignifies the haver.

[p. 490] When Marcius drives the Volscians back to Corioli and the Romans hesitate to pursue, we are told:

He dyd encorage his fellowes with wordes and deedes, crying out to them, that fortune had opened the gates of the cittie more for the followers, then for the flyers. Compare his exhortation:

So, now the gates are ope: now prove good seconds:
‘Tis for the followers fortune widens them,
Not for the fliers.

When the proposal to distribute the corn is being discussed, many senators are in favour of it:

But Martius standing up on his feete, dyd somewhat sharpely take up those, who went about to gratifie the people therein, and called them people pleasers and traitours to the nobilitie. Brutus charges him with this in the play:

When corn was given them gratis, you repined;
Scandal'd the suppliants for the people, call'd them
Time-pleasers, flatterers, foes to nobleness.

Sometimes the debt is confined to a single phrase or word and yet is unmistakable. When Coriolanus has reached Antium, Plutarch quotes Homer on Ulysses:
So dyd he enter into the enemies towne.

In the play Coriolanus before the house of Aufidius soliloquises:

My love's upon
This enemy town. I'll enter.

Now and then some apparently haphazard detail can be explained if we trace it to its source. Thus, Cominius talks of the “seventeen battles” which the hero had fought since his first exploit. Why seventeen? Doubtless Shakespeare had in his mind the account of the candidature, when Marcius showed the wounds “which he had receyved in seventeene [p. 491] yeres service at the warres, and in many sundrie battells.” In Plutarch the number of years is prescribed by his mythical chronology, for he dates the beginning of Marcius' career from the wars with the Tarquins, which were supposed to have broken out in 245 A.U.C., while Corioli was taken in 262: but when transferred to the battles it becomes a mere survival which serves at most to give apparent definiteness.

But occasionally such survivals have a higher value. It is instructive, for example, to notice how Shakespeare utilises the tradition dear to Plutarch's antiquarian tastes but not very interesting to an Elizabethan audience of the acknowledgment made to the goddess, Fortuna Muliebris, after the withdrawal of Coriolanus from Rome.

The Senate ordeined, that the magistrates to gratifie and honour these ladyes, should graunte them all that they would require. And they only requested that they would build a temple of Fortune of the women, for the building whereof they offered them selves to defraye the whole charge of the sacrifices, and other ceremonies belonging to the service of the goddes. Nevertheles, the Senate commending their good will and forwardnes, ordeined, that the temple and image should be made at the common charge of the cittie.
And the marginal note sums up: “The temple of Fortune built for the women.” This seems to be the archaeological ore from which is forged Coriolanus' gallant hyperbole:

Ladies, you deserve
To have a temple built you.

From the worshippers they become the worshipped.

Sometimes in the survival the fact is transformed to figure, the prose to poetry. After Marcius' miracles of valour at Corioli, Cominius gives him, “in testimonie that he had wonne that day the price of prowes above all other, a goodly horse with a [p. 492] capparison, and all furniture to him.” This Shakespeare does not omit. Cominius declares:

Caius Marcius
Wears this war's garland: in token of the which
My noble steed,8 known to the camp, I give him
With all his trim belonging.

But the same episode furnishes Titus Lartius with his imagery as he points to the wounded and victorious hero:

O general,
Here is the steed, we the caparison!

This illustrates the sort of sea-change that always takes place in the language of North under the hands of the magician, though it may not always be equally perceptible. But it is never entirely lacking, even where we are at first more struck by the amount that Shakespeare has retained without alteration. The Life, for instance, describes what takes place after Marcius has joined Cominius, before they hurry off to the second fight.
Martius asked him howe the order of their 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 voward of their battell, were those of the Antiates, whom they esteemed to be the war-likest men, and which for valliant corage would give no place, to any of the hoste of their enemies. Then prayed Martius to be set directly against them.

Here is what Shakespeare makes of this:

How lies their battle? Know you on which side
They have placed their men of trust?

As I guess, Marcius,
Their bands in the vaward are the Antiates,
Of their best trust; o‘er them Aufidius,
Their very heart of hope. [p. 493]

I do beseech you,
By all the battles wherein we have fought,
By the blood we have shed together, by the vows
We have made to endure friends, that you directly
Set me against Aufidius and his Antiates;
And that you not delay the present, but,
Filling the air with swords advanced and darts,
We prove this very hour.

Here to begin with Shakespeare hardly does more than change the indirect to the direct narrative and condense a little, but presently he adds picturesqueness, passion, and, by the introduction of Aufidius, dramatic significance. And this is invariably his method. It is unfair to quote the parallel passages without the context, for, apart from the subtle transmutation they have undergone, they are preludes to original utterance and almost every one of them is a starting point rather than the goal. Shakespeare's normal practice is illustrated in the fable of Menenius, in which, with every allowance made for possible assistance from Camden, the words of his authority or authorities are only so many spurpricks that set his own imagination at a gallop. And what goes before and comes after is pure Shakespeare.

And it should be noticed that his textual appropriations from North, long or short, obvious or covert, never clash with his more personal contributions, which in bulk are far more important. They are all subdued to the tone that the purpose of the dramatist imposes. Delius says with absolute truth: “This harmonious colouring would make it impossible for us, in respect of style, to discover real or supposititious loans from Plutarch in Shakespeare's drama, and definitely identify them as such, if by chance North's translation were inaccessible.” Yet this harmonious colouring, that has its source in the author's mind and that is required by the theme, does not prevent an individualisation in the utterance, whether wholly original or partly [p. 494] borrowed, that fits it for the lips of the particular speaker. The language, even when it is suggested by North, is not only spontaneous and consistent, it is dramatic as well, and apposite to the strongly marked characters of whom the story is told.

To these characters, and their development by Shakespeare, we now turn. It may be remarked that all of them, except the quite episodical Adrian and Nicanor, are nominally to be found in Plutarch, by whom the hero himself is drawn at full length and in great detail. For his delineation then there was a great deal to borrow and Shakespeare has borrowed a great deal. In his general bearing and in many of his features the Coriolanus of the play is the Coriolanus of the Life, though of course imagined with far more firmness and comprehension. Only on very close scrutiny do we see that each has a physiognomy of his own, and that the difference in the impressions they produce is due not merely to the execution but to the conception. This will become clear as the general discussion proceeds and will incidentally occupy our attention from time to time. Meanwhile it should be noticed that, Coriolanus excepted, Plutarch's persons are very shadowy and vague. If we compare this biography with those that Shakespeare had used for his earlier Roman plays, it is obvious that it is much more of a monograph. In the others room is found for sketches of many subordinate figures in connection with the titular subject, but Marcius stands out alone and the remaining personages are scarcely more than names. In the tragedy, too, he is in possession of the scene, but his relatives, his friends, and his enemies are also full of interest and life; and for their portraiture Shakespeare had to depend almost entirely on himself.

Next to the hero, for example, it is his mother who is most conspicuous in the play; and how much [p. 495] did Plutarch contribute to the conception of her concrete personality? He supplies only one or two hints, some of which Shakespeare disregards or contradicts. They both attribute to her the sole training of the boy, but Plutarch implies that her discipline was slack and her instruction insufficient, while in Shakespeare she incurs no such blame except in so far as we infer a certain lack of judiciousness from her peculiar attitude to her grandson and from her son's exaggeration of some of her own traits. But injudiciousness is not quite the same as the laxity that Plutarch's apologetic paragraph would insinuate:

Caius Martius, whose life we intend now to write, being left an orphan by his father, was brought up under his mother a widowe, who taught us by experience, that orphanage bringeth many discommodities to a childe, but doth not hinder him to become an honest man, and to excell in vertue above the common sorte; as they, are meanely borne, wrongfully doe complayne, that it is the occasion of their casting awaye, for that no man in their youth taketh any care of them to see them well brought up, and taught that were meete. This man is also a good proofe to confirme some mens opinions, that a rare and excellent witte untaught, doth bring forth many good and evill things together; like as a fat soile bringeth forth herbes and weedes, that lieth unmanured. 9, from manoeuvrer. For this Martius naturell wit and great harte dyd marvelously sturre up his corage, to doe and attempt notable actes. But on the other side for lacke of education, he was so chollericke and impacient, that he would yeld to no living creature; which made him churlishe, uncivill, and altogether unfit for any mans conversation.

Again, in reference to Marcius' strenuous career, Plutarch writes:
The only thing that made him to love honour, was the joye he sawe his mother dyd take of him. For he thought nothing made him so happie and honorable, as that his mother might heare every bodie praise and commend him, that she might allwayes see him returne with a crowne upon his head, and that she might still embrace him with teares ronning downe her cheekes for joye.

[p. 496] In the play, it is not with tears of joy that Volumnia welcomes her warrior home.

Here is another instance of piety that Plutarch cites:

Martius thinking all due to his mother, that had bene also due to his father if he had lived; dyd not only content him selfe to rejoyce and honour her, but at her desire tooke a wife also, by whom he had two children, and yet never left his mothers house therefore.

In Shakespeare there is no word of Marcius' marrying at his mother's desire, and though she apparently lives with him, it is in his, not in her house.

All these notices occur in the first pages of the Life. Thenceforward till her intervention at the close there is only a passing mention of her affliction at her son's banishment.

When he was come home to his house againe, and had taken his leave of his mother and wife, finding them weeping, and shreeking out for sorrowe, and had also comforted and persuaded them to be content with his chaunce; he immediately went to the gate of the cittie.
Even in regard to the intercession, where Shakespeare follows Plutarch most closely, he makes one significant omission. In the original, it is the suggestion of Valeria “through the inspiration of some god above,” that the women should sue for peace, and she visits Marcius' kinswoman to secure their help: by the suppression of this circumstance, the prominent place is left to Volumnia. And in the appeal itself Shakespeare, besides the various vivifying and personal touches, makes one important addition. In Plutarch her words are throughout forcible and impassioned, but they do not burst into the wrathful indignation of the close, which alone is sufficient to break down Coriolanus' resolution.

Now it is clear that the presence of Volumnia does not pervade the Life as it does the play, and she has not nearly so much to do. Moreover, besides being [p. 497] less important, she is less masculine and masterful. Indeed, from Plutarch's hints it would be possible to construct for her a character that differed widely from that of Shakespeare's heroine. She is like the latter in her patriotism, her love for and delight in her son, and, at the critical moment, in her influence over him. But even her influence is less constant, and seems to be stronger in the way of unconscious inspiration than of positive direction. It would be quite legitimate to picture her as an essentially womanly woman, high-souled and dutiful, but finding her chosen sphere in the home, overflowing with sympathy and affection, and failing in her obligations as widowed mother only by a lack of sternness.

And if Shakespeare has given features to Volumnia, much more has he done so to Virgilia and young Marcius. Both, of course, are presented in the merest outline, but in Plutarch the wife is only once named and the children are not named at all. Shakespeare's Virgilia, on the other hand, by the few words she speaks and the few words spoken to her, by her very restraint from speech and the atmosphere in which she moves, produces a very definite as well as a very pleasing impression. Ruskin, after enumerating some other of Shakespeare's female characters, concludes that they “and last and perhaps loveliest, Virgilia, are all faultless; conceived in the highest heroic type of humanity.” This enthusiasm may be, as Ruskin's enthusiasms sometimes were, exaggerated and misplaced, but it could not be roused by a nonentity; and a nonentity Plutarch's Virgilia is.

Young Marcius, again, is not merely one of the two children mentioned in the Life. As Mr. Verity remarks,10 in this case “the half is certainly better [p. 498] than the whole”; and the named half has a wholeness of his own that the anonymous brace can lay no claim to. He is a thorough boy, and an attractive though boisterous one. If he is cruel to winged things, he is brave .and circumspect withal. He has a natural objection to be trodden on even for a patriotic cause; if the risk is too great, “he'll run away till he's bigger, but then he'll fight.”

Passing from Coriolanus' kinsfolk to his friends, we meet with very similar results. Titus Lartius is sketched very slightly in Shakespeare, but a good deal more visually than in Plutarch, who says of him in two sentences that he was “one of the valliantest men the Romaines had at that time,” and that, having entered Corioli with Marcius, he, “when he was gotten out, had some leysure to bring the Romaines with more safetie into the cittie.” Cominius is hardly more distinct. As Consul he conducts the campaign against Corioli; welcomes Marcius from his first exploit, and gives him the opportunity for his second, in the double engagement that then took place; thereafter officially rewards and eulogises his gallantry, which “he commended beyond the moone”; and that is practically all that is said about him. In the play, though in it too his part was a small one, he has characteristics of his own which Shakespeare has created for him without much help from these vague suggestions. Nor has Marcius, in the original story, any intimate association with either of his fellow soldiers. It is stated that at first he is in Lartius' division of the army, and afterwards joins Cominius and wins his praises, but it is onlyin the affair of Corioli that their names are mentioned together.

In the drama, however, Menenius is undoubtedly the chief of the young man's friends as well as one of the most prominent persons; and what has Plutarch to say about him? He is introduced only in connection with the fable which he tells the seceders [p. 499] to the Holy Hill, and, apart from the fable, all that we hear of him is confined to the following few sentences:

The Senate being afeard of their departure, dyd send unto them certaine of the pleasauntest olde men, and the most acceptable to the people among them. Of those, Menenius Agrippa was he, who was sent for chief man of the message from the Senate. He, after many good persuasions and gentle requestes made to the people, on the behalfe of the Senate, knit up his oration in the ende, with a notable tale. . . .These persuasions pacified the people, conditionally, that the Senate would graunte there should be yerely chosen five magistrates, which they now call Tribuni Plebis.

Even the few particulars given in this passage Shakespeare alters or neglects. It is not to the secessionists on the Mons Sacer, but to a street mob in Rome, that the fable is told. It not merely serves to lubricate in advance the negotiations that result in the tribunate, but effectually discomfits the murmurers, and Menenius learns only subsequently and to his surprise that the Senate has meanwhile conceded the political innovation. There is no hint in Plutarch of his being himself one of the patricians, and if Shakespeare glanced at Holland's Livy he would see that in point of fact tradition assigned to him a plebeian origin.11 Above all he has no dealings whatever with Marcius, and, according to Livy, died a year before his banishment. Plutarch thus furnishes hardly anything for the portrait of the man, and nothing at all for his relations with the hero.

And it is the same, or nearly the same, if we turn from Marcius' friends to his enemies.

The tribunes, for example, are comparatively colourless. On the institution of the new magistracy,

Junius Brutus, and Sicinius Vellutus were the first tribunes of the people that were chosen, who had only bene the causes and procurers of this sedition.

[p. 500] Then we hear of their opposition to the colonisation of Velitrae because it was infected with the plague, and to a new war with the Volscians, because it was in the interest only of the rich; but they have nothing to do with the rejection of Marcius when he is candidate for the consulship. Only at a later time, when he inveighs against the relief of the people and the tribunitian power, do they stir up a popular tumult and insist that he shall answer their charges, adopting tactics not unlike those that are attributed to them in the play.
All this was spoken to one of these two endes, either that Martius against his nature should be constrained to humble him selfe, and to abase his hawty and fierce minde: or els if he continued still in his stowtnes, he should incurre the peoples displeasure and ill will so farre, that he should never possibly winne them againe. Which they hoped would rather fall out so, then otherwise; as in deede they gest unhappely, considering Martius nature and disposition.

He answers not only with his wonted boldness, but “gave him selfe in his wordes to thunder and looke therewithall so grimly as though he made no reckoning of the matter.” This affords his opponents their chance:
Whereupon Sicinius, the cruellest and stowtest of the

Tribunes, after he had whispered a little with his companions, dyd openly pronounce in the face of all the people, Martius as condemned by the Tribunes to dye.

Matters do not end here. A formal trial is agreed to, at which the resourceful magistrates procure the sentence of banishment, partly by arranging that the votes shall be taken not by centuries but by tribes, so that “the poore needy people” and the rabble may be in the majority, partly by eking out the indictments to which they are pledged to confine themselves, with other accusations. Then they drop out.

It may be observed that Brutus is only once [p. 501] named, and nothing is said of his disposition or ways. Even of Sicinius, who is more conspicuous, we only read that he was “the cruellest and stowtest” of the two. But it is less their character than their policy that occupies Plutarch, and even their policy is presented in an ambiguous light. They are described as the only authors of the rising which culminated in the exodus from the city; but with that exodus Plutarch on the whole seems to sympathise. They are described as “seditious tribunes” when they oppose the colonisation of Velitrae and the renewal of the war; but Plutarch shows they had good grounds for doing so. Even their action against Coriolanus for opposing the grant of corn and advocating the abolition of their office, was from their own point of view, and perhaps from any point of view, perfectly legitimate. We can only say that in the measures they took they were violent and unscrupulous. Yet when we consider the bitterness of party feeling and the exigencies of public life. they seem no worse than many statesmen who have been accounted great. Even their overt policy then is more respectable than that of Shakespeare's pair of demagogues, and of course it is Shakespeare who has created, or all but created, for them their vulgar but life-like characters.

Nor are things greatly different in the case of the third of Marcius' enemies, Tullus Aufidius, though Plutarch tells us somewhat more about him, and Shakespeare in the main fills in rather than alters Plutarch's sketch. The first mention of him occurs when the exile determines on his revenge.

Now in the cittie of Antium, there was one called Tullus Aufidius, who for his riches, as also for his nobilitie and valliantnes, was honoured emong the Volsces as a king. Martius knewe very well that Tullus dyd more malice and envie him, then he dyd all the Romaines besides: bicause that many times in battells where they met, they were ever at the encounter one against another, like lustie coragious [p. 502] youthes, striving in all emulation of honour, and had encountered many times together. In so muche, as besides the common quarrell betweene them, there was bred a marvelous private hate one against another. Yet notwithstanding, considering that Tullus Aufidius was a man of a greate minde. and that he above all other of the Volsces, most desired revenge of the Romaines, for the injuries they had done unto them; he dyd an act that confirmed the true wordes of an auncient Poet, who sayed:

It is a thing full harde, mans anger to withstand.

After the welcome at Antium, Tullus and Coriolanus combine to bring on the war and are entrusted with the joint command; but Tullus chooses to remain at home to defend his country, while Coriolanus conducts the operations abroad, in which he is wonderfully successful. A truce he grants the Romans is however the occasion for a rift in their alliance.
This was the first matter wherewith the Volsces (that most envied Martius glorie and authoritie) dyd charge Martius with. Among those, Tullus was chief: who though he had receyved no private injurie or displeasure of Martius, yet the common faulte and imperfection of mans nature wrought in him, and it grieved him to see his owne reputation bleamished, through Martius great fame and honour, and so him selfe to be lesse esteemed of the Volsces, then he was before.

We do not hear of him after this till Coriolanus has come back from the siege of Rome.
Now when Martius was returned againe into the cittie of Antium from his voyage, Tullus that hated him and could no lenger abide him for the feare he had of his authoritie; sought divers meanes to make him out of the waye, thinking that if he let slippe that present time, he should never recover the like and fit occasion againe.
So he contrives and effects the assassination of his rival.

Thus the chief features of Aufidius' character and the story of its development, the emulation that is dislodged by generosity, the generosity that is submerged in envy, were already supplied for [p. 503] Shakespeare's use. But the darker hues are lacking in the earlier picture. There is neither the unscrupulous rancour in his initial relations with Marcius that Shakespeare attributes to them, nor the hypocritical pretence at the close. Plutarch does not bring the contrast with Coriolanus to a head. And in connection with this it should be observed that Tullus appears late and intervenes only incidentally. Less than a sentence is spared to his earlier antagonism with Coriolanus, nor is he present in the march on Rome or during the siege. And this is typical of Plutarch's treatment of all the subordinate persons. They enter for a moment, and are dismissed. But in Shakespeare they accompany the action throughout, and do this in such a way that they illustrate and influence the character and career of the hero, and have their own characters and careers illustrated and influenced by him. They are all, even young Marcius by description, introduced in the first four scenes, with an indication of their general peculiarities and functions, and with the single exception of Titus Lartius, they continue to reappear almost to the end.

The recurrent presence of the agents of itself involves considerable modification in the conduct of the plot, but in this respect too we are at first more struck by the resemblances than the differences between the two versions; and it is possible to exhibit the story in such a manner that its main lines seem the same in both.

The setting is furnished by the primitive Roman state when it has newly assumed its republican form. Less than a score of years before, it passed through its first great crisis in its successful rejection of the kingship, and ever since has been engaged in a life-and-death struggle with representatives of the exiled dynasty and with jealous neighbours somewhat similar in power and character to itself. It [p. 504] has made good its position under the direction of a proud and valiant aristocracy, but not without paying the price. The constant wars have resulted in widespread poverty and distress among the lower classes till they can bear it no longer and demand constitutional changes by which, as they think, their misery may be redressed. Rome is thus confronted with the internal peril of revolution as well as the foreign peril of invasion, and the future mistress of the world runs the risk of being cut off at the outset of her career by tribal broils and domestic quarrels. It is this that gives the legend a certain grandeur of import. The Senate, finding itself and its partisans in the minority, concedes to the commons rights which have the effect of weakening its old authority, and for that reason are bitterly resented by upholders of the old order. Meanwhile, however, Rome is able to take the field against the Volscians and gains a decisive victory over them, mainly owing to the soldiership of the young patrician, Marcius, who wins for himself in the campaign the name of Coriolanus. The ability he has shown, the glory he has achieved, the gratitude that is his due, seem to mark him out for a leading role. He almost deserves, and almost attains, the highest dignity the little state has to confer: but he has already given proof of his scorn for popular demands and opposition to the recent innovations, and at the last moment he is set aside. Not only that, but the new magistrates, in dread of his influence, incite the people against him and procure his condemnation to death, which, however, is afterwards mitigated to banishment. His friends of the nobility dare not or cannot interpose, and he departs into exile. Then his civic virtue breaks beneath the strain, and, reconciling himself with the Volscians, he leads them against his country. Nothing can stay his advance, and he is on the [p. 505] point of reducing the city, when, yielding to filial affection what he had refused to patriotic obligation, he relinquishes his revenge when he has it within his grasp. But this gives a pretext to those among his new allies who envy his greatness, and soon afterwards he is treacherously slain.

This general scheme is common to the biography and the play, and many of the details, whether presented or recounted, are derived from the former by the latter. Such, in addition to those already mentioned in another connection, are Marcius' first exploit in the battle with Tarquin, when he bestrides a citizen, avenges his injury, and is crowned with the garland of oak; the dispersion of the soldiers to take spoil in Corioli, and Marcius' consequent indignation; the response to his call for volunteers; his petition on behalf of his former host; the initial approval of his candidature by the plebs from a feeling of shame; the custom of candidates wearing the humble gown and showing their old wounds at an election; the popular joy at his banishment; the muster of nobles to see him to the gates; his popularity with the Volscian soldiery and their eagerness to serve under him; the perturbation and mutual recriminations in Rome at his approach; his reception of former friends when they petition him for mercy; the device of interrupting his speech in Antium lest his words should secure his acquittal.

To this extent Shakespeare and Plutarch agree, and the agreement is important and far-reaching. Has the dramatist then, been content to embellish and supplement the diction of the story, and give new life to the characters, while leaving the fable unchanged except in so far as these other modifications may indirectly affect it? On the contrary we shall see that the design is thoroughly recast, that each of the borrowed details receives a new interpretation or a heightened colouring, that [p. 506] significant insertions and no less significant omissions concur to alter the effect of the whole.

Sometimes Shakespeare's innovations followed almost necessarily and without any remoter result from the greater fullness and concreteness of his picture, and the care with which he grouped the persons round his hero. Such are many of the conversations and subordinate scenes, by means of which the story is conveyed to us in all its reality and movement; the episode of Valeria's call, the description and words of Marcius' little son, Aufidius' self-disclosure to his soldiers and his lieutenant, even the interview between the Volscian scout and the Roman informer.

Still in this class, but more important, are the inventions that have no authority in Plutarch, but that are not opposed to and may even have been suggested by some of his hints. Thus in the Life, Volumnia's interposition is not required to make Marcius submit himself to the judgment of the people, and in this connection she is not mentioned at all; but at any rate her action in Shakespeare does not belie the influence that Plutarch ascribes to her.

Occasionally, again, the deviation from and observance of the biographer's statements follow each other so fast, and are both so dominated by truth to his spirit, that it needs some vigilance to note all the points where the routes diverge or coincide. Take, for example, the account of the candidature:

Shortely after this, Martius stoode for the Consulshippe; and the common people favored his sute, thinking it would be a shame to denie, and refuse, the chiefest noble man of bloude, and most worthie persone of Rome, and specially him that had done so great service and good to the common wealth. For the custome of Rome was at that time, that such as dyd sue for any office, should for certen dayes before be in the market place, only with a poore gowne on their backes, and without any coate underneath, to praye the [p. 507] cittizens to remember them at the daye of election: which was thus devised, either to move the people the more, by requesting them in suche meane apparell, or els bicause they might shewe them their woundes they had gotten in the warres in the service of the common wealth, as manifest markes and testimonie of their valliantnes . . . Now Martius following this custome, shewed many woundes and cuttes upon his bodie, which he had receyved in seventeene yeres service at the warres, and in many sundrie battells, being ever the formest man that dyd set out feete to fight. So that there was not a man emong the people, but was ashamed of him selfe, to refuse so valliant a man: and one of them sayed to another, “We must needes chuse him Consul, there is no remedie.” But when the daye of election was come, and that Martius came to the market place with great pompe, accompanied with all the Senate, and the whole Nobilitie of the cittie about him, who sought to make him Consul, with the greatest instance and intreatie they could, or ever attempted for any man or matter: then the love and good will of the common people, turned straight to an hate and envie toward him, fearing to put this office of soveraine authoritie into his handes, being a man somewhat partiall toward the nobilitie, and of great credit and authoritie amongest the Patricians, and as one they might doubt would take away alltogether the libertie from the people.

Now Shakespeare borrows from Plutarch the explanation of the rather remarkable circumstance that the people at first gave Martius their support, and, like Plutarch, he emphasises it by giving it twice over, though he avoids the dullness of repetition by making one of the statements serious and one humorous. The first is put in the mouth of the official of the Capitol:

He hath so planted his honours in their eyes, and his actions in their hearts, that for their tongues to be silent, and not confess so much, were a kind of ingrateful injury: to report otherwise, were a malice, that giving itself the lie, would pluck reproof and rebuke from every ear that heard it.

The second is given in the language of the plebeians themselves:

First Citizen.
Once, if he do require our voices, we ought not to deny him. [p. 508]

Second Citizen.
We may, sir, if we will.

Third Citizen.
We have power in ourselves to do it, but it is a power that we have no power to do: for if he show us his wounds and tell us his deeds, we are to put our tongues into those wounds and speak for them; so, if he tell us his noble deeds, we must also tell him our noble acceptance of them. Ingratitude is monstrous, and for the multitude to be ingrateful, were to make a monster of the multitude: of the which we being members, should bring ourselves to be monstrous members.

But this is only before he wears the candidate's gown, for, otherwise than in Plutarch, he does not show his wounds-“No man saw them,” say the citizens (III. iii. 173)--and gives such offence by his contumacy that it is on this the tribunes are able to take further action. In the biography he is rejected only because the indiscreet advocacy of the nobles makes the plebeians fear that he will be too much of a partizan. He shows no reluctance either to stand or to comply with the conditions. All these things are the inventions of Shakespeare, and are made to bring about the catastrophe which in his authority was due to very different causes. Nevertheless, they are suggested by Plutarch in so far as they are merely additional illustrations of that excess of aristocratic pride, on which Plutarch, too, insists as the source of Marcius' offences and misfortunes.

But this example merges into another kind of alteration which may primarily have been due to the need of greater economy and dramatic condensation, but which in its results involves a great deal more. In Plutarch, Coriolanus' unsuccessful candidature has, except as it adds to his private irritation, no immediate result; and only some time later does his banishment follow on quite another occasion. Corn had come from Sicily, and in the dearth it was proposed to distribute it gratis: but Marcius inveighed against such a course and urged that the time was opportune for the abolition of the Tribunate, [p. 509] in a speech which, in the play, he “speaks again” when his election is challenged. But the Life reports it only as delivered in the Senate; and the tribunes, who are present, at once leave and raise a tumult, attempt to arrest him and are resisted. The senators, to allay the commotion, resolve to sell the corn cheap, and thus end the discontent against themselves, but the tribunes persist in their attack on the ringleader, hoping, as we have seen, that he will prove refractory and give a handle against himself. When he does this and the death-sentence is pronounced, there is still so much feeling of fairness that a legal trial is demanded, which the tribunes consent to grant him, and to which he consents to submit on the stipulation that he shall be charged only on the one count of aspiring to make himself king. But when the assembly is held the tribunes break their promise and accuse him of seeking to withhold the corn and abolish the Tribunate, and of distributing the spoils of the Antiates only among his own followers. For shortly after the fall of Corioli, the people had refused to march against the Volsces, and Coriolanus, organising a private expedition, had won a victory, taken great booty, and given it to all those who had been of the party. So the unexpectedness and injustice of this last indictment throws him out.

This matter was most straunge of all to Martius, looking least to have been burdened with that, as with any matter of offence. Whereupon being burdened on the sodaine, and having no ready excuse to make even at that instant: he beganne to fall a praising of the souldiers that had served with him in that jorney. But those that were not with him, being the greater number, cried out so lowde, and made such a noyse, that he could not be heard. To conclude, when they came to tell the voyces of the Tribes, there were three voyces odde, which condemned him to be banished for life.

Now there are several things to notice in Shakespeare's very different version. The first is the tact [p. 510] with which he compresses a great many remotely connected incidents into one. He antedates the affair about the corn with Marcius' speech against the distribution and the Tribunate, and only brings it in as a supplementary circumstance in the prosecution. The real centre of the situation is Coriolanus' behaviour when a candidate, and round this all else is grouped: and this behaviour, it will be remembered, is altogether a fabrication on Shakespeare's part. Two other things follow from this.

In the first place, the unreasonableness of the Romans as a whole is considerably mitigated. More prominence, indeed, is given to the machinations of the tribunes, but on the other hand the body of electors is not only acting less on its own initiative than on the prompting of its guides, but it proceeds quite properly to avenge grievances that do exist and avert dangers that do threaten. And this excuse is to some extent valid for the leaders too. In Plutarch, the Senate has come to terms on the question of the corn, yet Coriolanus is hounded down for an opposition which has turned out to be futile. In the play, though he has met with a check, both he and his friends hope that even now he may win the election, and the evils that would result to the people from his consulship are still to be feared.

Again, Plutarch dwells on the unfairness of the arrangements for taking the votes, which has the effect of packing the jury:

And first of all the Tribunes would in any case (whatsoever became of it) that the people would proceede to geve their voyces by Tribes, and not by hundreds: for by this meanes the multitude of the poore needy people (and all such rabble as had nothing to lose, and had lesse regard of honestie before their eyes) came to be of greater force (bicause their voyces were numbered by the polle) then the noble honest cittizens: whose persones and purse dyd duetifully serve the common wealth in their warres.

[p. 511]

This is not exactly omitted in the drama, but it is slurred over, and Plutarch's clear explanation is entirely suppressed, so that few of Shakespeare's readers and still fewer of his hearers could possibly suspect the significance.

Have you a catalogue
Of all the voices that we have procured
Set down by the poll?

I have; ‘tis ready.

Have you collected them by tribes?

I have.

Above all, the accusations brought against Coriolanus, in Shakespeare, are substantially just. He may not seek to wind himself into a power tyrannical, if we take tyrant, as Plutarch certainly did but as Shakespeare probably did not, in the strict classical sense of tyrannus, but with his disregard of aged custom and his avowed opinions of the people, there can be no doubt that he would have wielded the consular powers tyrannically, in the ordinary acceptation of the word. For there can be as little doubt about his ill--will to the masses and his abhorrence of the tribunitian system. And it is on these grounds that he is condemned. It is very noticeable that the division of the Antiate spoil, which in Plutarch is the most decisive and unwarrantable allegation against him, is mentioned by Shakespeare only in advance as a subordinate point that may be brought forward, but, as a matter of fact, it is never urged.

In this point charge him home, that he affects
Tyrannical power: if he evade us there,
Enforce him with his envy to the people,
And that the spoil got on the Antiates
Was ne'er distributed.

Shakespeare makes no further use of a circumstance to which Plutarch attaches so great importance that he dwells on it twice over and gives it the prominent place in the narrative of the trial. This piece of [p. 512] sharp practice becomes quite negligible in the play, and the only chicanery of which the tribunes are guilty in the whole transaction is that, as in the Life, but more explicitly, they goad Coriolanus to a fit of rage in which he avows his real sentiments-a tactical expedient that many politicians would consider perfectly permissible. Shakespeare, as has often been pointed out, in some ways shows even less appreciation than Plutarch of the merits of the people; so it is all the more significant that, at the crisis of the play, he softens down and obliterates the worst traits in their proceedings against their enemy.

And the second thing we observe is that by all this Shakespeare emphasises the insolence and truculence of the hero. It is Coriolanus' pride that turns his candidature, which begins under the happiest auspices, to a snare. It is still his pride that plays into the tribunes' hands and makes him repeat in mere defiance his offensive speech. It is again his pride, not any calumny about his misapplying the profits of his raid, that gives the signal for the adverse sentence. Just as in this respect the plebs is represented as on the whole less ignoble than Plutarch makes it, so Coriolanus' conduct is portrayed as more insensate. And this two-fold tendency, to palliate the guilt of Rome and to stress the violence that provoked it, appears in the more conspicuous of Shakespeare's subsequent deviations from his authority.

In Plutarch, Tullus and Aufidius have great difficulty in persuading the magnates of Antium to renew the war, and only succeed when the Romans expel the Volscian residents from their midst.

On a holy daye common playes being kept in Rome, apon some suspition, or false reporte, they made proclamation by sound of trumpet, that all the Volsces should avoyde out of Rome before sunne set. Some thincke this was a crafte and deceipt of Martius, who sent one to Rome to the Consuls, [p. 513] to accuse the Volsces falsely, advertising them howe they had made a conspiracie to set upon them, whilest they were busie in seeing these games, and also to sette their cittie a fyre.

At any rate, the proclamation brings about a declaration of hostilities, and war speedily follows.

Now in Shakespeare, Lartius, for fear of attack, has to surrender Corioli even before Coriolanus meets with his rebuff.

Tullus Aufidius then had made new head?

He had, my lord, and that it was which caused Our swifter composition.

Moreover, all the preparations of the Volsces are complete for a new incursion. Cominius, indeed, cannot believe that they will again tempt fortune so soon.

They are worn, lord consul, so
That we shall hardly in our ages see
Their banners wave again.

But Cominius is wrong. In the little intercalated scene between the Roman and the Volsce, we learn that they have mustered an army which the latter thus describes:
A most royal one; the centurions and their charges, distinctly billeted, already in the entertainment, and to be on foot at an hour's warning. (IV. iii. 47.)
And Aufidius welcomes Coriolanus to the feast with the words:

O, come, go in,
And take our friendly senators by the hands:
Who now are here, taking their leaves of me,
Who am prepared against your territories,
Though not for Rome itself.

The arrival of such an auxiliary, however, at once alters that plan, and we presently learn that they are now going to make direct for the city:

To-morrow; to-day; presently; you shall have the drum struck up this afternoon: ‘tis, as it were, a parcel of their feast, and to be executed ere they wipe their lips.

[p. 514] Now in Plutarch we cannot but be struck by the pusillanimous part the Romans play when menaced by their great peril. They answer the declaration of war with a bravado which events quite fail to justify, but, despite the warning they have received, they make no resistance and do not even prepare for it. In Shakespeare there is more excuse for them. They are taken completely by surprise. Their foe has almost been their match before, when they were equipped to meet him, and had their champion on their side. Now that champion is not only gone. but is at the head of the invading army.

Nor is this all. In Plutarch, Coriolanus begins operations by making a raid on the Roman territories with light-armed troops, retiring again with his plunder. Still the Romans do not take any precautions. In a second campaign he gets within five miles of the city, and still they do nothing but send an embassage. Even when, at the peril of his popularity, he grants them a truce of thirty days, they make no use of it for defence, but only continue to transmit arrogant or abject messages. This further opportunity, too, which they so strangely neglect, is wisely omitted by Shakespeare. With him the irruption is swift and sudden beyond the grasp of human thought. Coriolanus breaks across the border and strikes straight for Rome. There is no time for defensive measures, no possibility of aid. Even so, the part the Romans play is not so heroic as might be expected, but it is at least intelligible and much less dastardly than in the history.

Or take another instance. In describing the first inroad of Coriolanus, Plutarch writes:

His chiefest purpose was, to increase still the malice and dissention betweene the nobilitie, and the communaltie: and to drawe that on, he was very carefull to keepe the noble mens landes and goods safe from harme and burning, but spoyled all the whole countrie besides, and would suffer no [p. 515] man to take or hurte any thing of the noble mens. This made greater sturre and broyle betweene the nobilitie and people, then was before. For the noble men fell out with the people, bicause they had so unjustly banished a man of so great valure and power. The people on thother side, accused the nobilitie, how they had procured Martius to make these warres, to be revenged of them: bicause it pleased them to see their goodes burnt and spoyled before their eyes, whilest them selves were well at ease, and dyd behold the peoples losses and misfortunes, and knowing their owne goods safe and out of daunger: and howe the warre was not made against the noble men, that had the enemie abroad, to keepe that they had in safety.

In Shakespeare there is no word of Coriolanus making any such distinction either from policy or partisanship: he is incensed against all the inhabitants of Rome, “the dastard nobles” quite as much as the offending plebeians. And, on the other hand, though the patricians revile the populace and its leaders, there is no division between the orders, and they show no inclination to disregard the solidarity of their interests. This contrast becomes more marked in the sequel. According to Plutarch, the people in panic desire to recall the exile; but the
Senate assembled upon it, would in no case yeld to that. Who either dyd it of a selfe will to be contrarie to the peoples desire: or bicause Martius should not returne through the grace and favour of the people.

Afterwards, however, when he encamps so near Rome, the majority has its way:
For there was no Consul, Senatour, nor Magistrate, that durst once contrarie the opinion of the people, for the calling home againe of Martius.

Accordingly, the first envoys are instructed to announce to him his re-instatement in all his rights.

In Shakespeare's account the actio of Rome becomes much more dignified. In none of the negociations, in no chance word of citizen, tribune or senator, is there any hint of the sentence on [p. 516] Coriolanus being revoked. Only when peace is concluded does his recall follow quite naturally, as an act of gratitude, in the burst of jubilant relief:

Unshout the shout that banish'd Marcius,
Repeal him with the welcome of his mother.

This, too, is one of the indications of Shakespeare's feeling for Roman greatness, that we should bear in mind when elsewhere he seems to show less sense even than Plutarch of her civic virtue.

The last notable deviation of the play from the biography occurs in the passage which deals with the murder of Coriolanus, and the difference is such as to make the victim far more responsible for the crime.

In Plutarch, after his return to Antium, Tullus, wishing to make away with him, demands that he should be deposed from his authority and taken to task. Marcius replies that he is willing to resign, if this be required by all the lords, and also to give account to the people if they will hear him. Thereupon a common council is called, at which proceedings begin by certain orators inciting popular feeling against him.

When they had tolde their tales, Martius rose up to make them aunswer. Now, notwithstanding the mutinous people made a marvelous great noyse, yet when they sawe him, for the reverence they bare unto his valliantnes, they quieted them selves, and gave still audience to alledge with leysure what he could for his purgation. Moreover, the honestest men of the Antiates, and who most rejoyced in peace, shewed by their countenaunce that they would heare him willingly, and judge also according to their conscience. Whereupon Tullus fearing that if he dyd let him speake, he would prove his innocencie to the people, bicause emongest other things he had an eloquent tongue, besides that the first good service he had done to the people of the Volsces, dyd winne him more favour, then these last accusations could purchase him displeasure: and furthermore, the offence they layed to his charge, was a testimonie of the good will they ought him, for they would never have thought he had done [p. 517] them wrong for that they tooke not the cittie of Rome, if they had not bene very neare taking of it, by meanes of his approche and conduction. For these causes Tullus thought he might no lenger delaye his pretence and enterprise, neither to tarie for the mutining and rising of the common people against him: wherefore those that were of the conspiracie, beganne to crie out that he was not to be heard, nor that they would not suffer a traytour to usurpe tyrannicall power over the tribe of the Volsces, who would not yeld up his estate and authoritie. And in saying these wordes, they all fell upon him, and killed him in the market place, none of the people once offering to rescue him. Howbeit it is a clear case, that this murder was not generally consented unto, of the most parte of the Volsces: for men came out of all partes to honour his bodie, and dyd honorablie burie him, setting out his tombe with great store of armour and spoyles, as the tombe of a worthie persone and great captaine.

Here the conspirators do not give him a chance, but kill him before a word passes his lips. In the tragedy, on the contrary, all might have been well, if in his rage of offended pride at Tullus' insults and taunts, he had not been carried away with his vaunts and reminders to excite and excuse the passions of his hearers. And thus with Shakespeare his ungovernable insolence is now made the cause of his death, just as before it has been accentuated as the cause of his banishment.

Still, though the exasperation against Coriolanus in Rome as in Corioli is thus in a measure justified, his own violence also receives its apology. In the latter case it is the provocation of Aufidius that rouses him to frenzy. In the former, it is the ineptitude of the citizens that fills him with scorn for their claims. And it is with reference to this and his whole conception of the Roman plebs that Shakespeare. has made the most momentous and remarkable change in his story, the consideration of which we have purposely left to the last. The discussion of the difference in Plutarch's and in Shakespeare's attitude to the people will show us some of the most important aspects of the play. [p. 518]

1 A good many of the parallels and contrasts noted in this chapter are to be found in the excellent paper by Delius already cited.

2 See Appendix B.

3 wreaked, avenged

4 This seems preferable to the reading of the Cambridge Editors

And [Censorinus,] nobly named so,
Twice being [by the people chosen] censor.
In the first place it is closer to North, and agrees with Shakespeare's usual practice of keeping to North's words so far as possible. In the second place, it is closer to the Folio text, involving only the displacement of a comma. In the third place, it is simpler to suppose that a whole single line has been missed out than that parts of two have been amputated, and the remainders run together.

5 Here again Plutarch has furnished an emendation: Folio, Calues

6 By Büttner, Zu Coriolan und seiner Quelle (Jhrbch. der D.-Sh. Gesellschaft, Bd. xli. 1905).

7πολλῶν χρημάτων καὶ ἵππων γεγονότων αἰχμαλώτων καὶ ἀνθρώπων, ἐκέλευσεν αὐτὸν ἐξελέσθαι δέκα πρὸ τοῦ νέμειν τοῖς πολλοῖς. ἄνευ δὲ ἐκείνων ἀριστεῖον αὐτῷ κεκοσμημένον ἵπον ἐδωρήσατο. (Life of Coriolanus, 27)

8 Shakespeare, following North (“Martius accepted the gift of his horse”) makes it, instead of a horse, Cominius' own horse, which would be a violation of antique usage. See Büttner as above.

9 Unworked, untilled

10 Coriolanus. (The Students' Shakespeare, Cambridge University Press.) Volumnia indeed refers to “children” in her petition (V. iii. 118), but this seems merely a reminiscence of Plutarch's language, for everywhere else young Marcius is treated as an only child.

11 Placuit igitur oratorem ad plebem mitti Menenium Agrippam, facundum virum et, quod inde oriundus erat, plebi carum. (II. 32 Weissenborn & Müller's edition.)

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    • William Shakespeare, Coriolanus, 3.3
    • William Shakespeare, Coriolanus, 5.5
  • Cross-references in notes from this page (2):
    • William Shakespeare, Coriolanus, 5.3
    • Plutarch, Caius Marcius Coriolanus, 27
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