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SCENE W. Before the Walls of Athens.
Trumpets sound. Enter ALCIBLADEs, and Forces.
Alcib. Sound to this coward and lascivious town
Our terrible approach. [A parley sounded.
Enter Senators on the walls.
Till now you have gone on, and filled the time
1 Sen. Noble and young,
2 Sen. So did we woo
1 Sen. These walls of ours Were not erected by their hands, from whom
1 Traversed arms are arms crossed.
* Flush is mature, ripe, or come to full perfection.
3 Crouching marrow. The marrow was supposed to be the original of strength. The image is from a camel kneeling to take up his load, who rises when he finds he has as much laid on him as he can bear.
4 Their refers to griefs. “To give thy rages balm,” must be considered as parenthetical.
You have received your griefs; nor are they such, That these great towers, trophies, and schools should fall
For private faults in them.
2 Sen. Nor are they living,
1 Sen. All have not offended ;
2 Sen. What thou wilt, Thou rather shalt enforce it with thy smile, Than hew to't with thy sword.
1 Sen. Set but thy foot
2 Sen. Throw thy glove
Or any token of thine honor else,
l i. e. those who made the motion for your exile.
2 Cunning is used in its old sense of skill or wisdom: extremity of shame that they wanted wisdom in procuring your banishment hath broke their hearts. Theobald had nearly thus interpreted the passage; and Johnson thought he could improve it by reading—
“Shame that they wanted, coming in excess
3 i. e. not regular.
That thou wilt use the wars as thy redress,
Alcib. Then there's my glove;
Both. 'Tis most nobly spoken.
Alcib. Descend, and keep your words.
The Senators descend, and open the gates.
Sol. My noble general, Timon is dead;
Interprets for my poor ignorance.
Alcib. [Reads.] Here lies a wretched corse, of wretched soul bereft ; Seek not my name. A plague consume you wicked
caitiffs left / Here lie I, Timon ; who, alive, all living men did hate. Pass by, and curse thy fill; but pass, and stay not here thy gait."
l i. e. whattacked gates. According to Johnson, unguarded.
2 i. e. to reconcile them to it.
3 All attempts to extract a meaning from this passage, as it stands, must be vain. We should, perhaps, read:—
“But shall be remitted to your public laws
It is evident that the context requires a word of this import: remunded
These well express in thee thy latter spirits.
tarch. The first couplet is there said to have been composed by Timon himself; the second by the poet Callimachus. The epithet caitiffs was probably suggested by another epitaph, to be found in Kendal's Flowers of Epigrammes, 1577, and in the Palace of Pleasure, vol. i. Nov. 28. ! So in Drayton's Miracles of Moses:— “But he from rocks that fountains can command Cannot yet stay the fountains of his brain.” 2 Stop.
THE play of Timon is a domestic tragedy, and therefore strongly fastens on the attention of the reader. In the plan there is not much art, but the incidents are natural, and the characters various and exact. The catastrophe affords a very powerful warning against that ostentatious liberality, which scatters bounty, but confers no benefits; and buys flattery, but not friendship.
In this tragedy are many passages perplexed, obscure, and probably corrupt, which I have endeavored to rectify or explain with due diligence; but, having only one copy, cannot promise myself that my endeavors shall be much applauded. Johnson
C O R. I O L A N U S .
PR. E LIM IN A R Y R. E M A. R. K. S.
IN this play, the narration of Plutarch, in the Life of Coriolanus, is very
exactly followed; and it has been observed that the Poet shows consummate skill in knowing how to seize the true poetical point of view of the historical circumstances, without changing them in the least degree. His noble Roman is indeed worthy of the name, and his mob such as a Roman mob doubtless were ; such as every great city has possessed, from the time of the polished Athenians to that of modern Paris, where such scenes have been exhibited by a people collectively considered the politest on earth, as shows that “the many-headed multitude" have the same turbulent spirit, when there is an exciting cause, in all ages.
Shakspeare has extracted amusement from this popular humor, and, with the aid of the pleasant satirical vein of Menenius, has relieved the serious part of the play with some mirthful scenes, in which it is certain the people's folly is not spared.
The character of Coriolanus, as drawn by Plutarch, was happily suited to the drama, and in the hands of Shakspeare could not fail of exciting the highest interest and sympathy in the spectator. He is made of that stern, unbending stuff, which usually enters into the composition of a hero. Accustomed to conquest and triumph, his inflexible spirit could not stoop to solicit, by flattering condescension, what it felt that its worthy services ought to command:—
66 —— he was
A noble servant to them; but he could not
He hated flattery; and his sovereign contempt for the people arose from having witnessed their pusillanimity: though he loved “the bubble reputation,” and would have grappled with fate for honor, he hated the breath of vulgar applause as “the reek o’ the rotten fens.”