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For mercy to his country. Therefore, let's hence, And with our fair entreaties haste them on.
So, that all hope is vain,
For mercy to his country-] Unless his mother and wife, - do what? The sentence is imperfect. We should read:
Force mercy to his country. and then all is right. WARBURTON.
Dr. Warburton's emendation is surely harsh, and may be rendered unnecessary by printing the passage thus :
mean to solicit him For mercy to his country-Therefore, &c. This liberty is the more justifiable, because, as soon as the remaining hope crosses the imagination of Cominius, he might suppress what he was going to add, through haste to try the success of a last expedient, It has been proposed to me to read:
So that all hope is vain,
Unless in his noble mother and his wife, &c. In his, abbreviated in's, might have been easily mistaken by such inaccurate printers. STEEVENS.
No amendment is wanting, the sense of the passage being complete without it. We say every day in conversation,-You are my only hope-He is my only hope,
instead of-My only hope is in you, or in him. The same mode of expression occurs in this sentence, and occasions the obscurity of it. M. MASON.
That this passage has been considered as difficult, surprises me. Many passages in these plays have been suspected to be corrupt, merely because the language was peculiar to Shakspeare, or the phraseology of that age, and not of the present; and this surely is one of them. Had he written_his noble mother and his wife are our only hope—his meaning could not have been doubted; and is not this precisely what Cominius says ?-So that we have now no other hope, nothing to rely upon but his mother and his wife, who, as I am told, mean, &c. Unless is here used for except. MALONE.
An advanced Post of the Volcian Camp before
Rome. The Guard at their Stations.
Enter to them, MENENIUS.
1 G. Stay: Whence are you? 2 G.
back. Men. You guard like men ; 'tis well: But, by
your leave, I am an officer of state, and come To speak with Coriolanus. 1 G.
From whence ?" MEN.
From Rome. 1 G. You may not pass, you must return: our
general Will no more hear from thence. 2 G. You'll see your Rome embrac'd with fire,
before You'll speak with Coriolanus. MEN.
friends, If you have heard your general talk of Rome, And of his friends there, it is lots to blanks,
* Stand, and go back.] This defective measure might be completed by reading-Stand, and go back again. STEEVENS.
• From whence?] As the word—from is not only needless, but injures the measure, it might be fairly omitted, being probably caught by the compositor's eye from the speech immediately following. STEEVENS.
lots to blanks,] A lot here is a prize. JOHNSON. Lot, in French, signifies prize. Le gros lot. The capital prize. S. W.
My name hath touch'd your ears: it is Menenius.
1 G. Be it so; go back : the virtue of your Is not here passable. MEN.
I tell thee, fellow, Thy general is my lover :6 I have been The book of his good acts, whence men have read His fame unparalleld, haply, amplified; For I have ever verified my friends, (Of whom he's chief,) with all the size that verity*
I believe Dr. Johnson here mistakes. Menenius, I imagine, only means to say, that it is more than an equal chance that his name has touched their ears. Lots were the term in our author's time for the total number of tickets in a lottery, which took its name from thence. So, in the Continuation of Stowe's Chronicle, 1615, p. 1002: “ Out of which lottery, for want of filling, by the number of lots, there were then taken out and thrown away threescore thousand blanks, without abating of any one prize." The lots were of course more numerous than the blanks. If lot signified prize, as Dr. Johnson supposed, there being in every lottery many more blanks than prizes, Menenius must be supposed to say, that the chance of his name having reached their ears was very small; which certainly is not his meaning. MALONE.
Lots to blanks is a phrase equivalent to another in King Richard III:
“ All the world to nothing." STEEVENS. • Thy general is my lover:] This also was the language of Shakspeare's time. See Vol. VII. p. 331, n. 5. MALONE.
? The book of his good acts, whence men have read &c.] So, in Pericles:
“ Her face the book of praises, where is read” &c. Again, in Macbeth:
“ Your face, my thane, is as a book, where men
“ May read” &c. STEEVENS. • For I have ever verified my friends,
with all the size that verity &c.] To verify, is to establish by testimony. One may say with propriety, he brought false witnesses to verify his title. Shakspeare considered the word with his usual laxity, as importing rather testimony than
Would without lapsing suffer: nay, sometimes,
truth, and only meant to say, I bore witness to my friends with all the size that verity would suffer.
I must remark, that to magnify, signifies to exalt or enlarge, but not necessarily to enlarge beyond
the truth. JOHNSON. Mr. Edwards would read varnished; but Dr. Johnson's explanation of the old word renders all change unnecessary.
To verify may, however, signify to display. Thus in an ancient metrical pedigree in possession of the late Duchess of Northumberland, and quoted by Dr. Percy in The Reliques of ancient English Poetry, Vol. I. p. 279, 3d edit: “In hys scheld did schyne a mone veryfying her light."
STEEVENS. The meaning (to give a somewhat more expanded comment) is: “I have ever spoken the truth of my friends, and in speaking of them have gone as far as I could go consistently with truth: I have not only told the truth, but the whole truth, and with the most favourable colouring that I could give to their actions, without transgressing the bounds of truth." MALONE.
upon a subtle ground, ] Subtle means smooth, level. So, Ben Jonson, in one of his Masques :
“ Tityus's breast is counted the subtlest bowling ground in all Tartarus.”
Subtle, however, may mean artificially unlevel, as many bowling-greens are. STEEVENS. May it not have its more ordinary acceptation, deceitful ?
MALONE. and in his praise Have, almost, stamp'd the leasing :] i. e. given the sanction of truth to my very exaggerations. This appears to be the sense of the passage, from what is afterwards said by the 2 Guard :
“Howsoever you have been his liar, as you say you have." Leasing occurs in our translation of the Bible. See Psalm iv. 2.
HENLEY. Have, almost, stamp'd the leasing :] I have almost given the lie such a sanction as to render it current. MALONE,
1 G. 'Faith, sir, if you had told as many lies in his behalf, as you have uttered words in your own, you should not pass here: no, though it were as virtuous to lie, as to live chastly. Therefore, go back.
Men. Pr’ythee, fellow, remember my name is Menenius, always factionary on the party of your general.
2 G. Howsoever you have been his liar, (as you say, you have,) I am one that, telling true under him, must say, you cannot pass. Therefore, go back.
Men. Has he dined, can'st thou tell ? for I would not speak with him till after dinner.
i G. You are a Roman, are you?
1 G. Then you should hate Rome, as he does, · Can you, when you have pushed out your gates the very defender of them, and, in a violent popular ignorance, given your enemy your shield, think to front his revenges with the easy groans of old women, the virginal palms of your daughters, or with the palsied intercession of such a decayed do
easy groans-] i. e. slight, inconsiderable. So, in King Henry VI. P. II: these faults are easy, quickly answer'd.”
STEEVENS. -the virginal palms of your daughters,] The adjective virginal is used in Woman is a Weathercock, 1612:
“ Lav'd in a bath of contrite virginal tears.' Again, in Spenser's Fairy Queen, B. II. c. ix : “ She to them made with mildness virginal."
STEEVENS Again, in King Henry VI. P. II:
tears virginal “ Shall be to me even as the dew to .? MALONE.