COR. I had rather have one scratch my head i’

the sun,'

When the alarum were struck, than idly sit
To hear my nothings monster'd.


[Exit CORIOLANUS. Masters o'the people,

Your multiplying spawn how can he flatter,2 (That's thousand to one good one,) when you now


He had rather venture all his limbs for honour, Than one of his ears to hear it?-Proceed, Comi


COм. I shall lack voice: the deeds of Coriolanus Should not be utter'd feebly.-It is held,

That valour is the chiefest virtue, and
Most dignifies the haver: if it be,

The man I speak of cannot in the world
Be singly counterpois'd. At sixteen years, ·
When Tarquin made a head for Rome,' he fought
Beyond the mark of others: our then dictator,
Whom with all praise I point at, saw him fight,


·have one scratch my head i' the sun,] See Vol. XII. p. 103, n. 8. STEEVENS.


how can he flatter,] The reasoning of Menenius is this: How can he be expected to practise flattery to others, who abhors it so much, that he cannot hear it even when offered to himself? JOHNSON.

When Tarquin made a head for Rome,] When Tarquin, who had been expelled, raised a power to recover Rome. JOHNSON.

We learn from one of Cicero's letters, that the consular age in his time was forty three. If Coriolanus was but sixteen when Tarquin endeavoured to recover Rome, he could not now, A. U. C. 263, have been much more than twenty one years of age, and should therefore seem to be incapable of standing for the consulship. But perhaps the rule mentioned by Cicero, as subsisting in his time, was not established at this early period of the republick. MALONE.

When with his Amazonian chin+ he drove
The bristled lips before him: he bestrid
An o'er-press'd Roman," and i' the consul's view
Slew three opposers: Tarquin's self he met,
And struck him on his knee: in that day's feats,
When he might act the woman in the scene,"
He prov'd best man i' the field, and for his meed


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his Amazonian chin ] i. e. his chin on which there was no beard. The players read-shinne. STEEVENS.


he bestrid

An o'er-press'd Roman,] This was an act of similar friendship in our old English armies: [See Vol. XI. p. 405, n. 9; and Vol. XIII. p. 395, n. 4.] but there is no proof that any such practice prevailed among the legionary soldiers of Rome, nor did our author give himself any trouble on that subject. He was led into the error by North's translation of Plutarch, where he found these words: "The Roman souldier being thrown unto the ground even hard by him, Martius straight bestrid him, and slew the enemy." The translation ought to have been: "Martius hastened to his assistance, and standing before him, slew his assailant." See the next note, where there is a similar inaccuracy. See also, p. 88, n. 7. MALONE.

Shakspeare may, on this occasion, be vindicated by higher authority than that of books. Is it probable that any Roman soldier was so far divested of humanity as not to protect his friend who had fallen in battle? Our author (if unacquainted with the Grecian Hyperaspists,) was too well read in the volume of nature to need any apology for the introduction of the present incident, which must have been as familiar to Roman as to British warfare. STEEVENS.

© And struck him on his knee:] This does not mean that he gave Tarquin a blow on the knee, but gave him such a blow as occasioned him to fall on his knee:


ad terram duplicato poplite Turnus. STEEVENS.

When he might act the woman in the scene,] It has been more than once mentioned, that the parts of women were, in Shakspeare's time, represented by the most smooth-faced young men to be found among the players. STEEVENS.

Here is a great anachronism. There were no theatres at Rome for the exhibition of plays for about two hundred and fifty years after the death of Coriolanus. MALONE.

Was brow-bound with the oak. His pupil age
Man-enter'd thus, he waxed like a sea;

And, in the brunt of seventeen battles since,
He lurch'd all swords o'the garland. For this

Before and in Corioli, let me say,

I cannot speak him home: He stopp'd the fliers;
And, by his rare example, made the coward
Turn terror into sport: as waves before

A vessel under sail, so men obey'd,

And fell below his stem:1 his sword (death's stamp)

And, in the brunt of seventeen battles since,] The number seventeen, for which there is no authority, was suggested to Shakspeare by North's translation of Plutarch: "Now Martius followed this custome, showed many woundes and cutts upon his bodie, which he had received in seventeene yeeres service at the warres, and in many sundry battels." So also the original Greek; but it is undoubtedly erroneous; for from Coriolanus's first campaign to his death, was only a period of eight years. MALONE.

9 He lurch'd all swords o'the garland.] Ben Jonson has the same expression in The Silent Woman: " -you have lurch'd your friends of the better half of the garland." STeevens.

To lurch is properly to purloin; hence Shakspeare uses it in the sense of to deprive. So, in Christ's Tears over Jerusalem, by Thomas Nashe, 1594: "I see others of them sharing halfe with the bawdes, their hostesses, and laughing at the punies they had lurched."

I suspect, however, I have not rightly traced the origin of this phrase. To lurch, in Shakspeare's time, signified to win a maiden set at cards, &c. See Florio's Italian Dict. 1598: "Gioco marzo. A maiden set, or lurch, at any game." See also Cole's Latin Dict. 1679: "A lurch, Duplex palma, facilis victoria."

"To lurch all swords of the garland," therefore, was, to gain from all other warriors the wreath of victory, with ease, and incontestable superiority. MALONE.


as waves before

A vessel under sail, so men obey'd,

And fell below his stem:] [First folio-weeds.] The editor of the second folio, for weeds substituted waves, and this capri

Where it did mark, it took; from face to foot
He was a thing of blood, whose every motion
Was timed with dying cries: alone he enter❜d

cious alteration has been adopted in all the subsequent editions. In the same page of that copy, which has been the source of at least one half of the corruptions that have been introduced in our author's works, we find defamy for destiny, sir Coriolanus, for "sit, Coriolanus," trim'd for tim'd, and painting for panting: but luckily none of the latter sophistications have found admission into any of the modern editions, except Mr. Rowe's. Rushes falling below a vessel passing over them is an image as expressive of the prowess of Coriolanus as well can be conceived. A kindred image is found in Troilus and Cressida :


there the strawy Greeks, ripe for his edge, "Fall down before him, like the mower's swath."


Waves, the reading of the second folio, I regard as no trivial evidence in favour of the copy from which it was printed. Weeds, instead of falling below a vessel under sail, cling fast about the stem of it. The justice of my remark every sailor or waterman will confirm.

But were not this the truth, by conflict with a mean adversary, valour would be depreciated. The submersion of weeds resembles a Frenchman's triumph over a soup aux herbes; but to rise above the threatening billow, or force a way through the watry bulwark, is a conquest worthy of a ship, and furnishes a comparison suitable to the exploits of Coriolanus. Thus, in Troilus and Cressida:

"The strong-ribb'd bark through liquid mountains cuts, "Bounding between the two moist elements,

"Like Perseus' horse."

If Shakspeare originally wrote weeds, on finding such an image less apposite and dignified than that of waves, he might have introduced the correction which Mr. Malone has excluded from

his text.

The stem is that end of the ship which leads. From stem to stern is an expression used by Dryden in his translation of Virgil:

"Orontes' bark

"From stem to stern by waves was overborne."

his sword &c.] Old copy:


-His sword, death's stamp,


"Where it did mark, it took from face to foot.
"He was a thing of blood, whose every motion
"Was tim❜d with dying cries."

The mortal gate3 o'the city, which he painted
With shunless destiny, aidless came off,
And with a sudden re-enforcement struck
Corioli, like a planet:5 Now all's his :
When by and by the din of war 'gan pierce
His ready sense: then straight his doubled spirit
Re-quicken'd what in flesh was fatigate,
And to the battle came he; where he did
Run reeking o'er the lives of men, as if
'Twere a perpetual spoil: and, till we call'd
Both field and city ours, he never stood
To ease his breast with panting.


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Worthy man!

1 SEN. He cannot but with measure fit the ho

nours" 6

This passage should be pointed thus:

His sword (death's stamp)

Where it did mark, it took; from face to foot
He was a thing of blood, &c. TYRWHITT.

I have followed the punctuation recommended. STEEvens. every motion

Was tim'd with dying cries.] The cries of the slaughter'd regularly followed his motion, as musick and a dancer accompany each other. JOHNSON.

3 The mortal gate-] The gate that was made the scene of death. JOHNSON.

* With shunless destiny,] The second folio reads, whether by accident or choice:

With shunless defamy.

Defamie is an old French word signifying infamy.



It occurs often in John Bale's English Votaries, 1550.

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Corioli, like a planet :] So, in Timon of Athens:
"Be as a planetary plague, when Jove

"Will o'er some high-vic'd city hang his poison
"In the sick air." STEEVENS.

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