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} generals against the Volscians.


MENENIUS AGRIPPA, friend to Coriolanus.

tribunes of the people.
Young MARCIUS, son to Coriolanus.
A Roman Herald.
TULLUS AUFIDIUS, general of the Volscians.
Lieutenant to Aufidius.
Conspirators with Aufidius.
A Citizen of Antium.
Two Volscian Guards.

VOLUMNIA, mother to Coriolanus.
VIRGILIA, wife to Coriolanus.
VALERIA, friend to Virgilia.
Gentlewoman, attending on Virgilia.

Roman and Volscian Senators, Patricians, Ædiles, Lictors,

Soldiers, Citizens, Messengers, Servants to Aufidius, and other Attendants.

SCENE : Rome and the neighbourhood; Corioli and the

neighbourhood; Antium.



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CORIOLANUS was first published in the Folio of 1623. The First No quarto edition ever appeared, and the text, printed directly from a MS., abounds in inaccurate punctuation and blundering verse-division.

External evidence of date is wholly wanting. Date of There is no record of its performance, and the in- tion.

Composi. genuity of the 'Allusion' hunters has detected no further traces of its influence than an apparent reference in Fletcher's A King and No King (1611), and another in Jonson's Silent Woman (1609). But style and metre assign it clearly to the close of the tragic period, i.e. to the years 1608-10. The metrical innovation of weak endings,' first employed freely in Antony and Cleopatra, gains ground; extra syllables impede or complicate the flow of the line; melody is harsher and rarer; nowhere has Shakespeare's verse less of lyric manner. These changes were in part prompted by conscious art. But they were also symptoms of a decaying sense of form. Declining freshness of dramatic invention is betrayed too by the preponderance of typical traits in most of the characters. Volumnia is certainly not sufficiently defined as the typical ‘Roman mother, or even Virgilia as the

' devoted wife'; but the individual and personal traits of both are, for Shakespeare, slightly pronounced. Coriolanus alone among the Roman plays

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Source of the Plot.

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has affinities with the Roman tragedies of Jonson.
Its political animus is significantly easy to read: no
other work of Shakespeare can be so excusably mis-
taken for a treatise on government. Shakespearean
imagination triumphs less clearly over the raw material
of biography than either in Cæsar or in Antony. We
have to do with highly intellectualised prose breaking
fitfully into poetry of astonishing magnificence, rather
than with work fundamentally and securely poetical.
All these characteristics confirm the conclusion that
Coriolanus belongs to the closing years of the tragic

Shakespeare's sole source was Plutarch's Life of
Coriolanus, as translated by North (1579). Thus
Plutarch was here dealing with a story as legendary
as those of Hamlet or Macbeth, but steeped in senti-
ment quite foreign to Holinshed or Saxo. A blurred
picture of the early struggles of the Republic formed
the background of a patriotic myth, which represented
a Roman mother saving the State by an appeal to
the mercy of her son. Plutarch was the very man
to do justice to this triumph of humanity over brute-
force, of the tie of kinship over the passion for
vengeance; and he described the great scene in
Coriolanus' camp before Rome with a moving
eloquence to which Shakespeare himself added little.
But Volumnia's sway over Martius was purchased, in
Plutarch's view, by grave defects in his upbringing.
Martius is for him the type of 'a rare and excellent
wit untaught'; his 'natural wit and great heart did
marvellously stir up his courage to do and attempt notable
acts'; but for lack of education he was so choleric and
impatient that he would yield to no living creature ;
which made him churlish, uncivil and altogether unfit
for any man's conversation.' So, still more severely:
'He was too much given over to self-will and opinion,

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