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In the title-page of CORIOLANUS, it is said at the bottom of the Dramatis Personæ, “ The whole history exactly followed, and many of the principal speeches copied from the life of Coriolanus in Plutarch.” It will be interesting to our readers to see how far this is the case. Two of the principal scenes, those between Coriolanus and Aufidius and between Coriolanus and his mother, are thus given in Sir Thomas North’s translation of Plutarch, dedicated to Queen Elizabeth, 1759. The first is as follows:
« It was even twilight when he entered the city of Antium, and many people met him in the streets, but no man knew him. So he went directly to Tullus Aufidius' house, and when he came thither, he got him up straight to the chimney-hearth, and sat him down, and spake not a word to any man, his face all muffled over. They of the house spying him, wondered what he should be, and yet they durst not bid him rise. For ill-favoredly muffled and disguised as he was, yet there appeared a certain majesty in his countenance and in his silence : whereupon they went to Tullus, who was at supper, to tell of the strange disguising of this man. Tullus rose presently from the board, and coming towards him, asked him what he was, and wherefore he came. Then Martius unmuffled himself, and after he had paused awhile, making no answer, he said unto himself, If thou knowest me not yet, Tullus, and seeing me, dost not perhaps believe me to be the man I am indeed, I must of necessity discover myself to be that I am. 'I am Caius Martius, who hath done to thyself particularly, and to all the Volses generally, great hurt and mischief, which I cannot deny for my surname of Coriolanus that I bear. For I never had other benefit nor recom. pease of the true and painful service I have done, and the extreme dangers I have been in, but this only surname : a good memory and witness of the malice and displeasure thou shouldest bear me. Indeed the name only temaineth with me; for the rest, the envy and cruelty of the people of Rome have taken from me, by the sufferance of the dastardly nobility and magistrates, who have forsaken me, and let me be banished by the people. This extremity hath now driven me to come as a poor suitor, to take thy chimney-hearth, not of any hope I have to save my life thereby. For if I had feared death, I would not have come hither to put myself in hazard : bat pricked forward with desire to be revenged of them that thus have banisked me, which now I do begin, by putting my person into the hands of their enemies. Wherefore, if thou hast any heart to be wreked of the injuries sy enemies have done thee, speed thee now, and let my misery serve thy , and so use it as my service may be a benefit to ti. Polsces: promising thee, that I will fight with better good will for all you, than I did when I os against you, knowing that they fight more valiantly who know the force
me enemy, than such as have never proved it. And if it be so that thou tare not, and that thou art weary to prove fortune any more, then am I also weary to live any longer. And it were no wisdom in thee to save the life of him who hath been heretofore thy mortal enemy, and whose service now can nothing help, nor pleasure thee.' Tullus hearing what he said, was a marvellous glad man, and taking him by the hand, he said unto him : "Stand up, O Martius, and be of good cheer, for in proffering thyself unto us, thou doest as great honor: and by this means thou mayest hope also of greater things at all the Volsces hands.' So he feasted him for that time, and entertained him in the honorablest manner he could talking with him of no other matter at that present : but within few days after, they fell to consultation together in what sort they should begin their wars."
The meeting between Coriolanus and his mother is also nearly the same as in the play.
* Now was Martins set there in the chair of state, with all the honors of a general, and when he spied the women coming afar off, he marvelled what the matter meant: but afterwards knowing his wife which came foremost, he determined at the first to persist in his abstinate and inflexible rancor. But overcome in the end with natural affection, and being alto gether altered to see them, his heart would not serve him to tarry their coming to his chair, but coming down in haste, he went to meet them, and first he kissed his mother, and embraced her a pretty while, then his wife and little children. And nature so wrought with him, that the trans fell from his eyes, and he could not keep himself from making much of them, but yielded to the affection of his blood, as if he had been violently carried with the fury of a most swift-running stream. After he had thus lovingly received them, and perceiving that his mother Volumnia would begin to speak to him, he called the chiefest of the council of the Volsces to hear what she would say. Then she spake in this sort : • If we held our peace, my son, and determined not to speak, the state of our poor bodies, and pro. sent sight of our raiment, would easily betray to thee what life we have led at home, since thy exile and abode abroad; but think now with thywell, how much more unfortunate than all the women living, we are come huther, considering that the sight which should be most pleasant to all other to behold, spiteful fortune had made most fearful to us : making myself to see my son, and my daughter bere her husband, besteging the walls of his na tive country : so as that which is the only confort to all others, in their adversity and misery, to pray unto the Gods, and to call to them for aid, in the only thing which plungeth us into most deep perplexity. For we can not, alas, together pray, both for victory to our country, and for safety of the life also: but a world grievous cures, yes, more than any mortal enemy can heap upon us, are forcibly wrapped up in our prayers For the better sop of most hard choice as offered thy wife and children, to forego one of the ro: either to lose the person of thywels, or the nurse of thear native country. For myself, my son, I am determined not to tarry till fortune sa my lifetime do make an end of this war. For if I cannot persuade thee rather to do good unto both parties, than to overthrow and destroy the one, preferring love and nature before the malice and calamity of wars, thou shalt see, my son, and trust unto it, thou shalt no sooner march forward to assault thy country, but thy foot shall tread upon thy mother's womb, that brought thee first into this world, for I may not defer to see the day, either that my son be led prisoner in triumph by his natural countrymen, or that he himself do triumph of them, and of his natural country. For if it were so, that my request tended to save thy country, in destroying the Volsces, I must confess thou wouldest hardly and doubtfully resolve on' that. For as to destroy thy natural country, it is altogether unmeet and unlawful, so were it not just and less honorable to betray those that put their trust in thee. But my only demand consisteth, to make a gaol delivery of all evils, which delivereth equal benefit and safety, both to the one and the other, but most honorable for the Volsces. For it shall appear, that having victory in their hands, they have of special fayor granted us singular graces, peace and amity, albeit themselves have no less part of both than we. Of which good, if so it came to pass, thyself is the only author, and so hast thou the only honor. But if it fail, and fall out contrary, thyself alone deservedly shall carry the shameful reproach and burthen of either party. So, though the end of war be uncertain, yet this, notwithstanding, is most certain, that if it be thy chance to conquer, this benefit shalt thou reap of thy goodly conquest, to be chronicled the plague and destroyer of thy country. And if fortune overthrow thee, then the world will say, that through desire to revenge thy private injuries, thou hast for ever undone thy good friends, who did most lovingly and courteously receive thee.' Martius gave good ear unto his mother's words, without interrupting her speech at all, and after she had said what she would, he held his peace a pretty while, and answered not a word. Hereupon she began again to speak unto him, and said : “My son, why dost thou not answer me? Dost thou think it good altogether to give place unto thy choler and desire of revenge, and thinkest thou it not honesty for thee to grant thy mother's request in so weighty a cause? Dost thou take it honorable for a nobleman, to remember the wrongs and injuries done him, and dost not in like case think it an honest nobleman's part to be thankful for the goodness that parents do show to their children, acknowledging the duty and reverence they ought to bear anto them? No man living is more bound to show himself thankful in all parts and respects than thyself; who so universally showest all ingratitude. Moreover, my son, thou hast sorely taken of thy country, exacting grievous payments upon them, in revenge of the injuries offered thee; besides, thou hast not hitherto showed thy poor mother any courtesy. And therefore it is not only honest, but due unto me, that without compulsion I shouļd obtain my so just and reasonable request of thee. But since by reason I can. ut persuade thee to it, to what purpose do i defer my last hope ?' And with these words herself, his wife and childřen, fell down upon their knoes before him : Martius seeing that, could refrain no longer, but went straight
and lifted her up, crying out, Oh mother, what have you done to me? And holding her hard by the right hand, 'Oh mother,' said he, you have won a happy victory for your country, but mortal and unhappy for your son : for I see myself vanquished by you alone.' These words being spoken openly, he spake a little apart with his mother and wife, and then let them return again to Rome, for so they did request him; and so remaining in the camp that night, the next morning he dislodged, and marched homeward unto the Volsces' country again."
Shakspeare has, in giving a dramatic form to this passage, adhered very closely and properly to the text. He did not think it necessary to improve upon the truth of nature. Several of the scenes in Julius Cæsar, particularly Portia's appeal to the confidence of her husband by showing him the wound she had given herself, and the appearance of the ghost of Cæsar to Bru. tus, are, in like manner, taken from the history.
TROILUS AND CRESSIDA.
This is one of the most loose and desultory of our author's plays: it rambles on just as it happens, but it overtakes, together with some indifferent matter, a prodigious number of fine things in its way. Troilus himself is no character: he is merely a common lover; but Cressida and her uncle Pandarus are hit off with proverbial truth. By the speeches given to the leaders of the Grecian host, Nestor, Ulysses, Agamemnon, Achilles, Shakspeare seems to have known them as well as if he had been a spy sent by the Trojans into the enemy's camp-to say nothing of their being very lofty examples of didactic eloquence. The speech, for instance, commencing,
“ Troy, yet upon her basis, had been down," &c. is very stately and spirited declamation.
It cannot be said of Shakspeare, as was said of some one, that he was " without o'erflowing full." He was full, even to o'er. Blowing. He gave heaped measure, running over. This was his greatest fault. He was only in danger “of losing distinction in his thoughts” (to borrow his own expression)
“ As doth a battle when they charge on heaps
There is another passage, the speech of Ulysses to Achilles, skowing him the thankless nature of popularity, which has a saill greater depth of moral observation and richness of illustra. son than the former. It is long, but worth the quoting. The