From Coriolanus. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan.
1. proceed any further, take any further action in the matter.
3. to die ... famish? to die a violent death in combat rather
than slowly perish of famine?
5, 6. Caius Marcius ... people, sc. in wishing that no consideration should be shown them in their distress; chief enemy, for the
omission of the Article, see Abb. § 84.
8, 9. we'll have ... price, and, sure enough, we shall be able
to buy com as cheaply as we could wish: Is't a verdict? have
you made up your minds on that point?
13. good, sc. in point of wealth; cp. M. V. i. 3. 16, "my
meaning in saying he is a good man is to have you understand
me that he is sufficient": What authority ... us, that which is to
those in authority, the patricians, something over and above
what they can profitably use for their wants, would relieve our
14. but the superfluity, merely that which they can make no
use of themselves: while it were wholesome, before it should
become so musty as to be useless for food; for the subjunctive
used indefinitely after a relative conjunction, see Abb. § 367.
15. we might ... humanely, we might suppose that they were
prompted by feelings of humanity in relieving us.
16. too dear, not worth the keeping alive at such a cost; cp.
M. N. D. i. 1. 249, "If I have thanks, it is a dear expense."
16, 7. the object of our misery, the spectacle of our suffering.
17, 8. is as ... abundance, serves, by way of contrast, to make
them mindful of their own well-fed condition: each particular of
our want corresponding to some particular of their abundance.
18. our sufferance ... them, our miseiy adds something in the
way of zest to their prosperity: for sufferance, = suffering, cp.
Lear, iii. 6. 113, "But then the mind much sufferance doth
o'erskip." Shakespeare also uses it for patience, pain, loss, and
18, 9. Let us ... rakes. Warburton points out that pikes was
an old term for forks, i.e. pitch-forks, the two-pronged instrument with which hay, straw, etc., was picked, or pitched, on to
a heap. So, below, i. 1. 190, we have, "As I could pick my
lance," i.e. pitch my lance. In rakes, the comparison is to the
bones of an animal showing below the skin as distinctly as the teeth of a rake; a comparison made clear by a passage from A
Pleasant Dispute between a Coach and a Sedan, 1636, quoted by Malone on Lear, iii. 6. 78, ..."The dogges are as lean as rakes;
you may tell all their ribbes lying be the fire."
19, 20. for the gods ... revenge, I say ere we become rakes, for,
as heaven is my witness, it is the dread of starvation, not the
desire for vengeance, which prompts my angry words.
21. proceed ... against, take action against; not in the legal
sense of the phrase, but by demanding that he should be given
up to their vengeance.
23. he's a very ... commonalty, he worries us, the common
people, with all the fierceness of a dog worrying sheep.
24. Consider you, do you bear in mind?
26, 7. Very well, I do bear it in mind: and could ... proud, and
I should be quite ready to give him full credit for those services,
if it were not that he finds his own recompense for them in the
opportunity they afford him for treating us with such disdain;
for report, cp. W. T. v. 2. 162, "I humbly beseech you, sir, to
pardon me all the faults I have committed to your worship and
to give me, your good report to the prince my master"; Cymb. ii. 3. 88, "There is gold for you; sell me your good report."
29, 30. what lie hath ... end, those famous actions he has performed, he performed only in order that he might be able to make
them an excuse for indulging in his pride: what, Abbott (§ 252)
remarks that this pronoun when used relatively "generally
stands before its antecedent, ... thereby indicating its interrogative force, though the position of the verb is altered to suit a
statement instead of a question."
30. soft-conscienced men, men who allow their feelings to prevail over their judgement.
31. it, sc. his behaving so bravely.
31, 2. he did it ... proud, his motives were partly to give
pleasure to his mother by the reputation he thus gained, and
partly to give pleasure to himself by being able to indulge his
pride; for the transposition of partly, see Abb. § 420. Plutarch
says, "As for the other, the only respect that made them valiant,
was that they hoped to have honour; but touching Martius, the
only thing that made him to love honour was the joy he saw his
mother did take of him. For he thought, nothing made him so
happy and honourable, as that his mother might hear everybody
praise and commend him" (Skeat. Shakespeare's Plutarch, p. 4).
32, 3. even ... virtue, in no less degree than his valour; virtue,
in the sense of the Lat. virtus, valour, manly excellence, from
vir, a man.
34, 5. What lie ... him, that which, being constitutional with him, he cannot help, you impute to him as a vice; cp. Haml, i.
4. 24-6, "That for some vicious mole of nature in them, As, in
their birth - wherein they are not guilty, Since nature cannot
choose his origin."
35. You must ... covetous, it is impossible, with any justice, to
accuse him, as you may justly accuse the rest of the patricians,
36, 7. I need ... accusations, I still have plenty of other charges
which I may justly bring against him.
37. lie hath ... repetition, he has more than enough faults for
one to grow weary in enumerating them: for repetition, i.e.
mention, not over and over again, but mention of each particular
fault, cp. K. J. ii. i. 197, "It ill beseems their presence to
cry aim To these ill-tuned repetitions."
38. The other side, "The people had by this time retired to
the Mons Sacer, which was about three miles from the city
along the Via Nomentana. The other side would therefore be
the part beyond the Tiber. But in all probability Shakespeare
had in his mmd the topography of London and not of Rome,
and the Tower was to him the Capitol" (Wright).
39. is risen, is up in arms: prating, idly chattering: the
Capitol, the temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus at Rome, said
to have derived its name from a human head (caput) being
discovered in digging its foundation. Begun by Tarquinius
Priscus and finished by Tarquinius Superbus, it was three times burnt down and as often rebuilt. Here the consuls upon entering
upon their office offered sacrifice and took their vows: and
hither the victorious general, who entered the city in triumph,
was carried in his triumphal car to return thanks to the Father
of the gods.
41. Soft! wait awhile!
Stage Direction.Menenius Agrippa, consul, B.C. 503, conquered the Sabines. Plutarch speaks of him as among "the
pleasantest old men, and the most acceptable to the people" sent
as "chief man of the message from the Senate" to the plebeians
on their retirement to Mons Sacer.
44. He's ... enough, though a patrician, he has plenty of honesty
46. in hand? about to be undertaken?
47. bats, bludgeons, cudgels; The matter? what is the business you are engaged in?
49. inkling, hint, intimation; "a verbal substantive formed
from the M. E. verb incle ... a frequentative verb from a base ink-,
to murmur, mutter"... (Skeat, Ety. Dict.): this fortnight, for the
whole of the two last weeks.
50. which now, and what those intentions were, we will now,
51. strong, sc. in their offensiveness; cp. A. W. v. 2. 5, "but I am now, sir, muddied in fortune's mood, and smell somewhat
strong of her strong displeasure."
53. masters, a term of respect, though frequently as a mere courtesy without any idea of inferiority in the speaker.
54. undo, ruin.
56. most charitable care, most anxious consideration for your
57. For, as regards.
58. Your suffering ... dearth, the misery you have been put to
by this scarcity of corn.
60. the Roman state, the governing powers of Rome.
60-3. whose course ... impediment, whose course will go forward in the direction it has marked out for itself, easily breaking
down all hindrances, though ten thousand times more stubborn than any you can place in its way: Of more strong link, more
strongly linked together: asunder, literally on sunder, from A.S.
sundor, adverb, asunder: your impediment, the impediment
offered by you: your, used subjectively. Malone compares Oth. V. 2. 263, "I have made my way through more impediments Than
twenty times your stop."
63-5. For the dearth ... help, as for the scarcity of which you
complain, that is due to the will of the gods, not to the enmity
of the Patricians, and for all help against it you must betake
yourselves to your knees in prayer to the gods, not to your arms
in defiance of the Patricians: Alack, alas; according to Skeat,
probably from ah! lak! ah, a loss!
66, 7. You are ... you, your misery is only hurrying you, in
behaving in this manner, into worse misfortune.
68. The helms o' the state, those who are guiding the vessel
69. When you curse, in cursing.
70. True, indeed! that's a pretty tale to tell us.
71, 2. suffer us ... grain, they are content to see us starve while all the time their garners are bursting with superabundance; for and, used to give emphasis, cp. Haml, i. 3. 62, "Those
friends thou hast, and their adoption tried, Grapple them to thy
soul with hoops of steel"; and see Abb. § 95.
72, 3. make edicts ... usurers, they frame resolutions in favour
of usury, whereby the exorbitant money-lenders are enabled to
flourish. An edict was a rule promulgated by magistrates, more especially the praetors, upon their entry into office at the
beginning of the year; and when the custom of succeeding magistrates adopting the rules of their predecessors became common,
these rules, or edicts, gradually constituted a large body of law.
The edicts here complained of are such as gave the usurers greater
facility of recovering their debts and imposing stringent terms
73, 4. repeal ... rich, are day by day going further in repealing
whatever acts serve as a protection against the rich; wholesome,
salutary in curbing the power of the wealthier classes: more
piercing statutes, statutes of a more rigorous and cruel character.
75. eat us not up, do not make an end of us, kill us all off.
76. and there's ... us, and that is about all the love they can
boast of feeling for us.
77-9 Either ... folly, when you have heard what I have to say,
you will either have to confess that your words are words of the
merest malice, or that you have laid yourself open to the charge
of folly: shall tell, am about to tell, mean to tell; the first
person with shall denoting the determination of the speaker.
80. tale, fable.
82. To stale ... more, to make it a little more stale by repetition; stale is Theobald's correction of scale, the reading of the
folios. Grant White compares Massinger, The Unnatural Combat, iv. 2. 19, 20, "I'll not stale the jest By my relation."
83, 4. think ... tale, fancy that by telling us a fable you will be
able to cheat us out of a belief in the humiliations we have
endured; fob, Ger. foppen, to jeer, banter, occurs in the
form fub, in ii. H. IV. ii. 1. 37; Halliwell (Arch, and Prov. Dict.), gives to "fub, to put off, deceive. At marbles, an
irregular mode of projecting the taw by an effort of the whole
hand, instead of the thumb only." For disgrace, cp. H. VIII.
iii. 2. 240, "How eagerly you follow my disgraces": for an, see
Abb. § 101.
85. deliver, relate: as frequently in Shakespeare.
87. Rebell'd ... it, it is usual, as in the text, to put a comma or
a semicolon after belly; but it seems probable that Rebell'd is used for rebelling or being in rebellion, and that we should regard
the whole line as a single clause.
88, 9. That only ... body, that it did nothing but remain in the
centre of the body like a whirlpool into which all nourishment was
sucked; for the transposition of only, see Abb. § 420; for gulf,
cp. Haml. iii. 3. 16, "but, like a gulf, doth draw what's near it
with it": unactive, inactive; for the difference between un-, and
in-, in composition, see Abb. § 442.
90. cupboarding, storing up as in a cupboard; a cupboard
is properly a closet with shelves on which cups are ranged, then
a closet in which anything is kept; viand, food; "the same as
Ital. vivanda, victuals, food, eatables. - Lat. uiuenda, neuter
plural, things to live on, provisions; considered as a feminine
singular by a change common in Low Latin" (Skeat, Ety. Dict.):
bearing, enduring, undergoing.
91. Where, whereas: instruments, including bodily and mental organs; cp. J. C. ii. 1. 66, "The genius and the mortal instruments Are then in council."
93. mutually participate, each sharing with the other in the
common labour; the adjective participate is not elsewhere found
94. appetite, desires: affection common, inclinations shared
by the whole body. For the transposition, see Abb. 419.
97. I shall tell you, I am about to tell you (and was about
to tell you when you so rudely interrupted me).
98. Which ne'er ... lungs, with a bitter smile, not one that
came freely like a hearty laugh from the lungs; Delius compares Cymb. i. 6. 68, "whiles the jolly Briton - Your lord,
I mean - laughs from's free lungs, Cries 'O, can my sides
99. 100. For ... speak, for, let me tell you, in a fable, there is
no greater impropriety in representing the belly as smiling than
in representing it as speaking.
102. envied his receipt, were jealous of its receiving all the nourishment taken into the body: for receipt, = thing
received, cp. Lucr 703, "Drunken desire must vomit his
receipt": his, its.
102-4. even so ... you, with no greater reason for their malignity than that which you bear towards our senators for being
something different from yourselves.
104. Your belly's answer? come, don't delay, let us have
this answer given by the belly of which you talk so much;
for this colloquial use of Your, cp. Haml. iv. 3. 24, "Your worm
is your only emperor for diet: your fat king and your lean
beggar is but variable service"; and see Abb. § 221: here there is also the emphasis of scorn. What! are you going to be bold
enough to tell us that the belly could possibly have any sufficient answer to give?
105. The kingly-crowned head, the head which is to the body
what the crown is to the king, the emblem of supremacy.
106. The counsellor heart, the heart from which we receive the dictates of wisdom.
108. muniments, instruments with which the body is furnished
and armed; Lat. munire, to fortify.
109. this our fabric, this frame-work of our body made up of all these several parts and organs: if that, for the conjunctional affile, see Abb. § 287.
110. 'Fore me ... speaks! my goodness! this is a fellow to
talk! 'Fore me, i.e. before me, in my presence, a petty adjuration, used in order to avoid the penalties of profane swearing,
an attenuated form of "fore God!" which we have in M. A. ii. 3. 192.
111. cormorant, voracious: properly a voracious sea-bird, the
corvus marinus, sea-crow.
112. the sink o' the body, which serves the same purpose
in the body that a sink serves in a kitchen, etc., the refuse water
being allowed to drain off through it; originally a place into
which filth sinks, or in which it collects.
113. agents, instruments, organs; cp. Macb. i. 7. 80, "I am
settled, and bend up Each corporal agent to this terrible feat."
115, 6. If you'll ... awhile, if for a moment or two you will show me a small amount of that quality of which your store is
but slight, viz. patience. Though Shakespeare often uses small where we should use little, it is probable that but for the parenthesis he would not have written a small Patience.
117. Note me, for this dative, see Abb. § 220.
118. Your, colloquially, as in 1. 104.
119. Not rash like his accusers, inferentially the rashness is
attributed to the accusers of the senators.
120. incorporate, belonging to the same body as myself; cp.
M. N. D. iii. 2. 208, "As if our hands, our sides, voices and minds, Had been incorporate": and incorpsed, Haml. iv. 7. 88,
"As had he been incorpsed and demi-natured With the brave
121. general, belonging equally to all parts of the body.
123. the store-house and the shop. Grant White points out
that in modern English, as spoken in Great Britain, this expression sounds pleonastic, the two words being used in the same
sense; whereas in America (as formerly in England) 'shop' means the place where a thing is made, 'store' or 'storehouse,'
the place where a thing is kept for sale.
124. If you do remember, said with a sort of sarcastic politeness, if you will be so good as to bethink yourselves for a
moment, you will recall what you seem to have forgotten.
126. Even ... brain. Malone seems to be right when he says
that the seat o' the brain is in apposition with, and descriptive
of, the heart. He quotes a similar apologue from Camden's
Remains, 1600, in which the bodily organs, having mutinied
against the belly, at length find themselves unable to perform
their functions, and "all with one accord desire the advice of the
heart. There Reason laid open before them," etc. That the
heart was once believed to be the seat of the understanding,
there can be no doubt; and just above we have it spoken of as
the counsellor. Others take the heart and the seat o' the brain
as the two points to which the blood conveys the nourishment;
in either case, seat will mean royal seat, throne, as frequently in
Shakespeare, e.g. H. V. i. 1. 88, Cymbl. i. 1. 142.
127-30. And, through ... live, and through the passages and
chambers of the body the strongest nerves alike with the petty
veins receive from me that adequate sustenance which gives
them vigorous life: cranks are properly winding channels, ducts
(cp. the verb in i. H. IV. iii. 1. 98), but here in connection with
offices they represent the passages running through a house by
which food is brought from the kitchen, larder, etc. Cp. Haml. i. 5. 67, "The natural gates and alleys of the body"; and for
offices,R. II. i. 2. 69, "But empty lodgings and unfurnish'd walls, unpeopled offices, untrodden stones"; Tim. ii. 2. 167,
"When all our offices have been oppress'd With riotous feeders."
By Shakespeare nerve is always used as = sinew, in accordance
with the Grk. origin; but he seems also
to have thought that they had some structural affinity to
veins and arteries; cp. Haml. i. 4. 82, 3, "And makes each
petty artery in this body As hardy as the Nemean lion's
130. though that, for the conjunctional affix, see Abb. § 287.
131. this says ... me, - i.e. this is the important point for you to notice.
132. Ay, sir; well, well, said with impatience; get on with
this answer that the belly made.
133. deliver out, distribute, apportioning to each its proper
134. Yet I can ... up, yet I can produce a balance sheet showing how my account stands and proving that all, etc.: audit,
literally, the hearing of an account rendered by stewards, etc.,
to those whose property they have in trust; cp. Macb. i. 6. 27,
"Your servants ever Have theirs, themselves, and what is
theirs, in compt. To make their audit at your highness' pleasure,
Still to return your own."
135. the flour, the finer part of meal; identical with flower.
136. the bran, the husk after the flour has been extracted.
137. It was ... this? it was a good answer, but how do you
apply it to the circumstances?
140. Their ... cares, their wise deliberations and the concern
they show for the people.
140, 1. digest ... common, with impartial consideration turn
over in your mind how the public welfare stands: weal, "A.S.
wela, from A.S. wel, well, adverb, the notion of condition being
expressed by the nominal suffix -a" (Skeat, Ety. Dict.). For
common, = the common people, cp. below, iii. 1. ,29, "Hath he
not pass'd the noble and the common?" So, the general, Haml.
ii. 2. 457, "'twas caviare to the general"; M. M. ii. 4, 27, "The
general, subject to a well-wish'd king."
141. you shall find, you will necessarily find. We should now
say either 'examine and you will find,' or 'if you examine, you will find.'
143. But it ... you, which does not either originate in them, or
at all events is made yours by them.
144. no way, in no way; used adverbially; see Abb. § 202.
147, 8. For that, ... foremost, because while you are one of the
lowest, basest, poorest, among those who with such great wisdom
have broken out into mutiny, you, like the great toe of the foot,
thrust yourself most forward; foremost is a double superlative,
the O. E. original superlative of fore being forma: cp. aftermost,
149, 50. Thou rascal ... vantage, you worthless fellow, least
fitted of all the herd to take the lead, put yourself at their head
thinking to secure to yourself some personal advantage. Mason
points out that rascal and in blood are terms of forestry, the
former meaning a lean deer (and so one wanting in spirit), the latter full of animal vigour. Cp. i. H. VI. iv. 2. 48, 9, "If we
be English deer, be then in blood; Not rascal-like, to fall down
with a pinch," i.e. as soon as bitten by a dog.
151. make you ready, make ready for yourselves, for your
152. Rome ... battle, Rome and the vermin, like you, that
infest her will soon be engaged in deadly struggle.
153. The one ... bale, one side or other must perish in the conflict; bale, A.S. bealu, evil, misfortune; not elsewhere used by Shakespeare, though baleful occurs in R. J. ii. 3. 8, and
repeatedly in H. VI. and Timon.
155, 6. That ... scabs? who in seeking to relieve the seditious
irritation from which you are suffering, only make yourselves
more loathsome objects than before? the poor ... opinion, this
contemptible desire to make your miserable opinions heard; in
T. N. ii. 5. 82, ii. H. IV. iii. 2. 296, T. C. ii. 1. 31, scab is used for scabby fellow, loathsome creature.
156. We have ... word, i.e. we might be sure beforehand of
abuse from you.
158. Beneath abhorring, to a degree of baseness that no abhorrence could fitly express.
159, 60. That like ... proud, whom neither peace nor war
satisfies, the latter terrifying you, the former only puffing you
up with arrogance.
161. Where, in matters in which: lions, brave as lions: hares,
timid as hares.
162. foxes, cunning as foxes: geese, stupid as geese.
162-4. no surer ... sun, of no more steadfastness, endurance,
than a coal which quickly bums itself out if put upon ice, or than,
164-6. Your virtue ... it, that in which you excel consists in exalting as a hero him whose vile actions have brought him to
ruin, and in cursing that justice which has meted out his deserts to him; cp. Lear, ii. 2. 128, "got praises of the king For him
attempting who was self-subdued." For the omission of the
relative before did, see Abb. § 244.
166, 7. Who deserves ... hats, to deserve greatness is to deserve
your hatred; the two things are identical. For Who, = he who,
cp. Macb. i. 3. 109, "Who was the thane lives yet"; A. C. i. 2.
102, "Who tells me true, though in his tale lies death, I hear
him as he flatter'd."
167-9. and your ... evil, and your inclinations are as the
appetite of a sick man, who longs most for such food as would
only make his malady worse; for affections, cp. ii. H. IV. ii. 3.
29, "In diet, in affections of delight."
170, 1. swims ... rushes, finds those favours to be leaden
weights to drag him down instead of fins to bear him up in
troubled waters, finds them as powerless to aid him in hewing
his way through difficulties as rushes woidd be to cut down oaks.
171. Hang ye! Trust ye? curses on you I do you fancy that
any one in his senses would trust you?
173. your hate, the object of your hatred.
174. your garland, your emblem of all that is glorious; cp.
A. C. XV. 15. 64, "O, wither'd is the garland of the war," i.e.
Antony is dead.
175. several, various; not here only, but all over the city.
177. Under the gods, next to the gods; as their vice-gerents on earth: keep you in awe, awe you into subjection: for which,
less definite than who, see Abb. § 266.
178. What's their seeking, what is it they desire? seeking, a
179. For corn ... rates, their desire is to have corn supplied to
them at such price as they may choose to fix: whereof, for with
it; for of used of the instrument, see Abb. § 171.
180. They say! i.e. fancy paying any attention to what is said
by creatures like them! with scornful emphasis on They.
181. 2. They'll sit ... Capitol, such fellows as they are sit at
home by their own hearths and yet have the audacity to pretend
a knowledge of the way in which state affairs are managed; fire,
a dissyllable; like, likely.
183. declines, is falling from power: side factions, in their idle
talk espouse one party or another; in iv. 2. 2, the verb is used
intransitively: give out, proclaim as about to be made.
184. Conjectural, that have no other foundation than their own
184-6. making ... shoes, imputing great power to those whom
in their wonderful wisdom they are pleased to admire, and in
equally wise imagmation treading beneath their clumsy shoes
those who are not fortunate enough to find a place in their
liking; for feebling, cp. K. J. v. 2. 146, "Shall that victorious
hand be feebled here?"
186. They say ... enough! Fancy their taking upon themselves
to say, etc. Who in the world would be foolish enough to pay
any heed to what they say?
187. ruth, mercy, tenderness of heart; cp. to rue, to be sorry
188-90. And let me... lance, allow me to deal with them as
they deserve to be dealt with and I'd butcher them till their
mangled bodies made a pile as high as I could pitch my lance;
quarry, a heap of slaughtered game. "Corrupted from O. F.
coree, curee, the intestines of the slain animal; the part that was
given to the hounds ... - Low Lat. corata, the intestines of the
slain animal ... - Lat. cor, heart" ... (Skeat, Ety. Dict.); cp.
Macb. iv. 3. 206, "the quarry of these murder'd deer";
quarter'd, hacked in pieces; used proleptically for which would
then be hacked, etc., i.e. by his blows; pick, pitch; cp, H. VIII.
V. 4. 94, "I'll peck you o'er the pales else."
191. Nay, these ... persuaded, nay, there is no need to thunder
at them any further, for they have already seen enough to be
pretty well convinced of the folly of their outbreak.
192. 3. For though ... cowardly, for though they are utterly
destitute of that better part of valour, discretion, they have
cowardice in abundance to teach them submission; for abundantly lack, cp. Haml. ii. 2. 202, "a plentiful lack of wisdom";
for passing, surpassingly, egregiously, cp. Oth. i. 3. 160, Haml. ii. 2. 427. In i. H. IV. v. 4. 121, Falstaff says, "The better part of valour is discretion"; a saying now proverbial.
193. I beseech you, be good enough to tell me; the phrase had
not in Shakespeare's time the sense of urgent entreaty which
it now carries.
194. troop, band; used contemptuously, as we should now say,
195. an-hungry, here an- is a corruption of the A.S. intensive
of; see Abb. 24: sigh'd forth, uttered in dismal accents.
196. That hunger ... walls, that nothing could restrain those
who were starving: that dogs must eat, that even animals must
have food, and will seize it if not given them.
198. shreds, fragments, odds and ends, of proverbial sayings;
literally a piece roughly cut off. Cp. Haml. iii. 4. 102, "A king
of shreds and patches."
200. a petition granted, a petition which they made being
201. To break ... generosity, one calculated to humble the
aristocracy to the dust; generosity, the abstract for the concrete; Lat. generosus, well-born; cp. M. M. iv. 6. 13, "The
generous and gravest citizens"; Oth. iii. 3. 280, "The generous islanders By you invited, do attend your presence."
202. And make ... pale, and strike terror into the hearts of
those who hitherto have boldly used the power entrusted to
them: threw their caps, threw up their caps in exultation.
203. As they would hang, in such a manner as they would have
done if they were about to, etc. "As, like an, appears to be
(though it is not) used by Shakespeare for as if ... the if is implied in the subjunctive"... (Abb. § 107): the horns o' the moon, cp. A. C. iv. 12. 45 "Let me lodge Lichas ."
204. Shouting their emulation, each vieing with the other as to
who should proclaim his satisfaction the louder. Schmidt and
Wright take emulation as envious contention, rivalry in a bad sense; but it is the joy at their triumph that the plebeians are
205. to defend ... wisdoms, for the protection of these boors in
the exercise of that wisdom with which they credit themselves.
206. Of their own choice, those tribunes to be chosen by themselves. Originally two in number, the tribunes were afterwards
increased to five, and later on to ten, two for each of the five classes of plebeians.
207. and I know not - who the others were I have forgotten: 's death, (by) God's death, i.e. the crucifixion of Christ; so,
's blood, by God's blood; 's life by God's life; 's wounds, or zounds,
by God's wounds.
209. The rabble ... me, I would have let them destroy the
whole city rather than have yielded them this privilege; for the
ellipsis of they should have after ere, cp. i. 1. 233, "I'll lean upon
one crutch and fight with t'other, Ere stay behind this
business"; it, the rabble.
210. Win upon power, gradually make an inroad upon the
power wielded by the nobles. Grant White thinks that the
rhythm and the sense of the passage hardly leave a doubt that
we should read winopenpower; but the text seems better to indicate the gradual process: throw ... themes, give birth to topics
of larger importance. It seems tempting to read throe forth, as
in A.C. iii. 7. 81, "With news the time's with labour, and throes
forth, each minute, some."
211. For ... arguing, "for insurgents to debate upon" (Malone);
the abstract for the concrete.
212. fragments, mere portions of men; none of you worthy to be called a man; cp. T. C. v. 1. 9, "From whence, fragment?",
addressed to the miserable creature Thersites; also Petruchio's
abuse of the tailor, T. S. iv. 3. 107-9, "Thou liest, thou thread,
thou thimble, Thou yard, three-quarters, half-yard, quarter, nail!"
214. are in arms, have taken up arms.
215, 6. to vent ... superfluity, to get rid of the worthless fellows of whom we have such superabundance. To vent is to sell, and
the idea is that of getting rid to foreigners of goods not fit for home consumption, here of course by getting them killed off.
Skeat (Ety. Dict.) quotes Bacon, Life of Henry VII. "The
merchant-adventurers likewise ... did hold out bravely; taking
off the commodities ... though they lay dead upon their hands for
want of vent"; and Burnet, Life of Hall, "when he found ill
money had been put into his hands, he would never suffer it to
be vented again."
216. our best elders, our noble senators; the patres, fathers of
217. 'tis true ... us, that which you lately told us (sc. that the
Volscians are preparing to attack us) turns out to be true.
219. that will ... to 't, who will make it necessary for you to strain your efforts to the utmost; cp. W. T. i. 2. 16, "We are
tougher, brother, Than you cau put us to 't"; M. M. iii. 2. 101,
"he puts transgression to 't."
220. I sin ... nobility, if envy is a sin, then I am guilty of that
sin, for I do envy his nobleness of character.
221. but what, except that which.
222. only he, none other than he is; he for him; cp. Haml. i.
2. 104, "From the first corse till he that died to-day."
223. half ... world, one half of the world to the other half; by
the ears, quarrelling; the metaphor is that of dogs seizing each
other by the ears. So, A. W. i. 2. 1, "The Florentines and
Senoys are by the ears."
224. Upon my party, taking my side of the quarrel; belonging
to my half of the world.
225. Only ... him, was with him alone for my antagonist; for
the transposition of Only, see Abb. § 420.
227. Attend upon, accompany as one of his subordinates.
229. constant, faithful to my promise.
231. stiff, sc. with age; cp. Cymbl. iii. 3. 32, "well corresponding with your stiff age": stand'st out? do you stand aloof from
this contest? Cp. T. N. iii. 3. 35, "only myself stood out."
232. I'll lean ... t' other, stiff as I am with age that I have to
go on crutches, I will, etc.
233. Ere stay ... business, ere I will stay behind and not take
my share in this business; see note on 1. 209, above.
234. true-bred, nobly bred; a true Roman.
235. Your company, give us your company, go with us to, etc.
236. attend, are already waiting for.
237. Right ... priority, you being well worthy of precedence;
the accusative after worthy, and without the preposition of, is
frequent in Shakespeare.
235. let them follow, said sarcastically, as though they were
displaying great eagerness to show their valour in the war.
240. mutiners, a form similar to pioner, muleter, enginer, all of
which Shakespeare uses. In K. J. ii. 1. 378, Haml. v. 2. 6, we
have the substantive mutine, and the verb in Haml. iii. 4. 83;
in Temp. iii. 2. 40, the form is mutineer.
241. puts well forth, shoots out, buds, abundantly; cp. W. T.
i. 2. 254. "But that his negligence, his folly, fear ... Sometime puts forth"; and for the transitive verb, H. VIII. iii. 2. 352,
"to-day he puts forth The tender leaves of hope."
243. no equal, sc. in pride.
245. his lip, the contempt with which his lip curled when
speaking of us: Nay, but his taunts, you speak of his lip and
eyes, but scornful as they were, they were nothing to his taunts.
246. Being moved ... gods, when provoked, he will not hesitate
to gibe even at the gods; for gird, cp. ii. H. IV. i. 2. 7, "men
of all sorts take a pride to gird at me"; and the substantive,
T. S. V. 2. 48. The word is the same as to gride, to strike,
pierce; used in its literal sense by Chaucer, Milton, and Spenser.
247. Be-mock, one of the forces of be- in composition is that of
intensifying, as here; modest, because representing the chaste
248. The present ... him! may the war now at hand swallow
him up! an imprecation. The folios put a comma only after
him, as though the words were a statement, and Malone thinks
that Shakespeare uses 'the present wars' to express the pride of
Coriolanus grounded on his military prowess; which kind of
pride Brutus says devours him. To this Wright justly replies
that "it is difficult to see how 'the present wars,' in which
Coriolanus has not yet been engaged, can denote the military
reputation derived from his past achievements."
248, 9. he is grown ... valiant, he is puffed up beyond all
endurance by the consciousness of his own valour; for the
infinitive in this indefinite sense, see Abb. § 356.
249, 51. Such ... noon, a man of his nature, when flattered
by success, disdains even his own shadow as he treads upon it;
success, meaning literally what follows, was in Shakespeare's
day frequently used with such epithets as good, bad, best,
and we still speak of ill, fair, success; at noon, the sun then
being vertical, a man necessarily treads on his own shadow.
252, 3. His insolence ... Cominius, a man so arrogant as he
is can endure to be a subordinate of Cominius; Schmidt and
Wright take to be commanded Under, as to hold a command
under; brook, endure; the original sense of the word was to
use, to enjoy.
253. the which, "generally used either ... where the antecedent,
or some word like the antecedent, is repeated, or else where such
a repetition could be made if desired. In almost all cases there
are two or more possible antecedents from which selection could
be made" (Abb. § 270).
254. In whom ... graced, with whose favours he has already
been plentifully decked; for who personifying irrational antecedents, see Abb. § 264.
254-6. can not ... first, cannot be more securely held, nor acquired in fuller measure, than by one who occupies a position
subordinate to the chief command.
257. Shall be, is certain to be accounted as.
257, 8. though he ... man, though his performances be as complete as are possible to a man: giddy censure, the fickle opinion
of the multitude; censure, originally meaning nothing more than opinion, later on came to mean blame, in consequence of the
greater readiness of men to form an unfavourable than a favourable opinion of the actions of others; but in Shakespeare it is
more frequently used in a neutral sense, implying neither a good nor a bad estimate.
259. of Marcius, regarding Marcius; cp. H. V. ii. 3. 29,
"they say he cried out of sack."
259, 60. 'O, if ... business!' how different would the result have been, if he had had the management of the war!
261. Opinion ... Marcius, favourable opinion that cleaves so
firmly to everything that Marcius does; for Opinion, cp. i. H. IV. iii. 2. 42, "Opinion, that did help me to the crown"; for sticks on, cp. Tim. iv. 3. 263, "The mouths, the tongues, the
eyes and hearts of men ... That numberless upon me stuck as leaves Do on the oak"; and for the contrary sense of evil
pertinacity, Oth. v. 2. 149, "The slime that sticks on filthy
How to cite the explanatory notes:
Shakespeare, William. Coriolanus. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan, 1900. Shakespeare Online. 20 Feb. 2010. (date when you accessed the information) < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/corio_1_1.html >.