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some would call historical accuracy; had learnt that Plus tarch, in the story of Coriolanus, was probably dealing only with a legend; that, if the story is to be received as true, it belongs to a later period ; that in this later period there were very nice shades of difference between the classes composing the population of Rome; that the balance of power was a much more complex thing than he found in the narrative of Plutarch: further suppose that, proud of this learning, he had made the universal principle of the plebeian and patrician hostility subsidiary to an exact display of it, according to the conjectures which modern industry and acuteness have brought to bear on the subject. It is evident, we think, that he would have been betrayed into a false principle of art; and would necessarily have drawn Roman shadows, instead of vital and enduring men. As it is, he has drawn men so vividly – under such permanent relations to each other — with such universal manifestations of character, that some persons of strong political feelings have been ready to complain, according to their several creeds, either that his plebeians are too brutal, or his patricians too haughty. A polite democracy, a humane oligarchy, would be better. Johnson somewhat rejoices in the amusing exhibition of “plebeian malignity and tribunitian insolence.” Hazlitt, who is more than half angry on the other side of the question, says, “ The whole dramatic moral of Coriolanus is, that those who have little shall have less, and that those who have much shall take all that others have left." Let US see.

With his accustomed consummate judgment in his opening scenes, Shakspeare throws us at once into the centre of the contending classes of early Rome. We have no description of the nature of the factions; we behold them :

"1 Cit. You are all resolved rather to die than to famish

Cit. Resolved, resolved !

1 Cit. First, you know, Caius Marcius is chief enemy to the people.

Cit. We know't, we know't.

1 Cit. Let us kill him, and we'll have corn at our own price.

Cit. No more talking on't: let it be done."

The foundation of the violence is misery; - its great stimulant is ignorance. The people are famishing for want of corn; — they will kill one man, and that will give them corn at their own price : the murder will turn scarcity into plenty. Hazlitt says that Shakspeare "spared no occasion of baiting the rabble.” If to show that misery acting

. upon ignorance produces the same effects in all ages be “baiting the rabble," he has baited them. But he has not painted the “mutinous citizens" with an undiscriminating contempt. One that displays a higher power than his fellows of reasoning or remonstrance, and yet is zealous enough to resist what he thinks injustice, says of Caius Marcius,

“Consider you what services he has done for his country.”

The people are sometimes ungrateful; but Shakspeare chose to show that some amongst them could be just. The people have their favorites. “Worthy Menenius Agrippa” has the good word of the mutinous citizens. Shakspeare gave them no unworthy favorite. His rough humor, his true kindliness, his noble constancy, form a character that the people have always loved, even whilst they are rebuked and chastened. But if the poet has exhibited the democratic ignorance in pretty strong colors, has he shrunk from preser ting us a full-length portrait of patrician haughtiness? Caius Marcius in the first scene claims no sympathies :

“Would the nobility lay aside their ruth,

And let me use my sword, I'd make a quarry With thousands of these quartered slaves, as high As I could pick my


Till Caius Marcius has become Coriolanus, and we see that the popular violence is under the direction of demagogues - the same never-varying result of the same circumstances – we feel no love for him. It is under oppression and ingratitude that his pride becomes sublime. But he has previously deserved our homage, and in some sort our affection. The poet gradually wins us to an admiration of the hero by the most skilful management. First, through his

, i mother. What a glorious picture of an antique matron, from whom her son equally derived his pride and his heroism, is presented in the exquisite scene where Volumnia and Valeria talk of him they loved, according to their several natures! Who but Shakspeare could have seized upon the spirit of a Roman woman of the highest courage and mental power bursting out in words such as thesc ?

" Vol.

His bloody brow
With his mailed hand then wiping, forth he goes ;
Like to a harvest-man, that's tasked to mow
Or all, or lose his hire.

lir. His bloody brow! O, Jupiter, no blood !

Vol. Away, you fool! it more becomes a man
Than gilt his trophy. The brcasts of Hecuba,
When she did suckle Hector, looked not lovelier
Than Hector's forehead, when it spit forth blood
At Grecian swords' contending."

This is a noble preparation for the scenic exlibition of the deeds of Caius Marcius. Amidst the physical strength, and the mental energy, that make the triumphant warrior, the poet, by a few of his magical touches, has shown us the ever-present lostiness of mind that denotes qualities far beyond those which belong to mere animal courage. His contempt of the Romans who are “ beaten back," and the “Romans with spoils,” is equally withering. It is not sufficient for him to win one battle. The force of character through which he thinks that nothing is done whilst any thing remains to do, shows that Shakspeare understood the

His remonstrance

stuff of which a great general is mado. to Cuminius

“Where is the enemy? Are you lords o' the field?

If not, why cease you till you are so ?”

is not in Plutarch. It is supplied to us by a higher authority, — by the instinct by which Shakspeare knew the great secret of success in every enterprise, — the determination

to be successful. One example more of the skill with which Shakspeare makes Caius Marcius gradually obtain the uncontrolled homage of our hearts. The proud conqueror who rejects all gifts and honors, who has said,

“I have some wounds upon me, and they smart
To hear themselves remembered,"

asks a gift of his superior officer:

Cor. I sometime lay, here in Corioli,
At a poor man's house; he used me kindly :
He cried to me; I saw him prisoner;
But then Aufidius was within my view,
And wrath o'erwhelmed my pity: I request you
To give my poor host freedom."

We now see only the true hero. He realizes the noble description of the “Happy Warrior” which the great poet of our own days has drawn with so masterly a hand:

"Who, doomed to go in company with Pain,

And Fear, and Bloodshed, miserable train !
Turns his necessity to glorious gain ;
In face of these doth exercise a power
Which is our human nature's highest dower ;
Controls them and subducs, transmutes, bereaves
Of their bad influence, and their good receives,
By objects, which might force the soul to abate
Her feeling, rendered more compassionate."

We have forgotten the fierce patrician who would make a quarry of the Roman populace.

And this, we suppose, is what Hazlitt objects to in Shakspeare's conduct of this play. The character of Coriolanus rises upon us.

The sufferings and complaints of his enemies are merged in their factious hatred. “Poetry,” says the critic, “is right royal. It puts the individual for the species, the one above the infinite many, might before right." Now we apprehend that Shakspeare has not treated the subject of Coriolanus after this right royal fashion of poetry. He has dealt fairly with the vices as well as the virtues of his hero. The scene in the second act, in which Coriolanus stands for the consulship, is amongst the most remarkable examples of Shakspeare's insight into character. In Plutarch he found a simple fact related without any comment: “Now, Marcius, following this custom, showed many wounds and cuts upon his body, which he had received in seventeen years' service at the wars and in many sundry battles, being ever the foremost man that did set out feet to fight; so that there was not a man among the people but was ashamed of himself to refuse so valiant a man; and one of them said to another, We must needs choose him consul; there is no remedy." But in his representation of this fact Shakspeare had to create a character, and to make that character act and re-act upon the character of the people. Coriolanus was essentially and necessarily proud. His education, his social position, his individual supremacy made him so. He lives in a city of factions, and he dislikes, of course, the faction opposed to his order. The people represent the opinions that he dislikes, and he therefore dislikes the people. That he has pity and love for humanity, howerer humble, we have already seen. Coming into contact with the Roman populace for their suffrages, his uppermost thought is, “ bid them wash their faces and keep their teeth clean.” He outwardly despises that vanity of the people which will not reward desert unless it go hand in hand with solicitation. He betrays his contempt for the canvassed, eren whilst he is canvassing :

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