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We let the people know't.
What, what? his choler?
Were I as patient as the midnight sleep,
Shall remain !—
Hear you this Triton of the minnows?? mark you His absolute shall?
"Twas from the canon'.
O good, but most unwise patricians 2, why,
9 minnows?] i. e. small fry. WARBURTON.
A minnow is one of the smallest river fish, called in some counties a pink. JOHNSON.
So, in Love's Labour's Lost :
that base minnow of thy
I 'Twas from the canon,] Was contrary to the established rule; it was a form of speech to which he has no right.
These words appear to me to imply the very reverse. nius means to say, "that what Sicinius had said, was according to the rule," alluding to the absolute veto of the Tribunes, the power of putting a stop to every proceeding :-and, accordingly, Coriolanus, instead of disputing this power of the Tribunes, proceeds to argue against the power itself, and to inveigh against the Patricians for having granted it. M. MASON.
2 O GOOD, but most unwise patricians, &c.] The old copy has -O God, but, &c. Mr. Theobald made the correction. Mr. Steevens asks, "when the only authentick ancient copy makes sense, why should we depart from it?"-No one can be more thoroughly convinced of the general propriety of adhering to the old copy than I am; and I trust I have given abundant proofs of my attention to it, by restoring and establishing many ancient readings in every one of these plays, which had been displaced for modern innovations: and if in the passage before us the ancient copy had afforded sense, I should have been very unwilling to disturb it. But it does not; for it reads, not " O Gods," as Mr. Steevens supposed, but O God, an adjuration surely not proper
You grave, but reckless senators, have you thus
To say, he'll turn your current in a ditch,
in the mouth of a heathen. Add to this, that the word but is exhibited with a small initial letter, in the only authentick copy; and the words " good but unwise," here appear to be the counterpart of grave and reckless in the subsequent line. These two words have been confounded elsewhere.
So, in Troilus and Cressida, Act II. Sc. III. 4to. 1609: "Yet God Achilles still cries excellent."
On a reconsideration of this passage therefore, I am confident that even my learned predecessor will approve of the emendation now adopted. MALONE.
I have not displaced Mr. Malone's reading, though it may be observed, that an improper mention of the Supreme Being of the Christians will not appear decisive on this occasion to the reader who recollects that in Troilus and Cressida the Trojan Pandarus swears, "by God's lid," the Greek Thersites exclaims-" Goda-mercy;" and that, in A Midsummer-Night's Dream, our author has put "God shield us! into the mouth of Bottom, an Athenian weaver.-I lately met with a still more glaring instance of the same impropriety in another play of Shakspeare, but cannot, at this moment, ascertain it. STEEVENS.
3 The horn and noise-] Alluding to his having called him Triton before. WARBURTON.
4 Then vail your IGNORANCE:] "If this man has power, let the ignorance that gave it him vail or bow down before him."
Most palates theirs. They choose their magis-
And such a one as he, who puts his shall,
May enter 'twixt the gap of both, and take
Well-on to the market-place. COR. Whoever gave that counsel', to give forth
5 - You are plebeians,
If they be senators: and they are no less,
When, both your voices blended, the greatest taste
Most palates theirs.] These lines may, I think, be made more intelligible by a very slight correction:
they no less [than senators]
"When, both your voices blended, the greatest taste
When the taste of the great, the patricians, must palate, must please [or must try] that of the plebeians. JOHNSON.
The plain meaning is, "that senators and plebeians are equal, when the highest taste is best pleased with that which pleases the lowest," &c. STEEVENS.
I think the meaning is, the plebeians are no less than senators, when, the voices of the senate and the people being blended together, the predominant taste of the compound smacks more of the populace than the senate. MALONE.
and my soul akes,] The mischief and absurdity of what is called Imperium in imperio, is here finely expressed.
7 Whoever gave that counsel, &c.] So, in the old translation of Plutarch: Therefore, sayed he, they that gaue counsell, and persuaded that the Corne should be giuen out to the common people gratis, as they vsed to doe in cities of Græce, where the people had more absolute power, dyd but only nourishe their disobedience, which would breake out in the ende, to the vtter ruine and ouerthrow of the whole state. For they will not thincke it is done in recompense of their service past, sithence they know well enough they haue so often refused to go to the warres, when they were commaunded: neither for their mutinies when they went with vs, whereby they haue rebelled and forsaken their
The corn o' the store-house gratis, as 'twas us'd
Well, well, no more of that. COR. (Though there the people had more absolute power,)
I say, they nourish'd disobedience, fed
The ruin of the state.
BRU. Why, shall the people give One. that speaks thus, their voice?
I'll give my reasons, More worthier than their voices. They know, the
Was not our recompense; resting well assur'd They ne'er did service for't: Being press'd to the
Even when the navel of the state was touch'd, They would not thread the gates: this kind of
Did not deserve corn gratis: being i' the war, Their mutinies and revolts, wherein they show'd Most valour, spoke not for them: The accusation Which they have often made against the senate,
countrie: neither for their accusation which their flatterers haue preferred vnto them, and they have recevued, and made good against the senate: but they will rather judge we geue and graunt them this, as abasing our selues, and standing in feare of them, and glad to flatter them euery way. By this meanes, their disobedience will still grow worse and worse; and they will neuer leave to practise newe sedition, and vprores. Therefore it were a great follie for vs, me thinckes, to do it: yea, shall I say more? we should if we were wise, take from them their tribuneshippe, which most manifestly is the embasing of the consulshippe, and the cause of the diuision of the cittie. The state whereof as it standeth, is not now as it was wont to be, but becommeth dismembered in two factions, which mainteines allwayes ciuill dissention and discorde betwene vs, and will neuer suffer us againe to be vnited into one bodie." STEEVENS.
That is, pass them.
8 They would not THREAD the gates :] We yet say, to thread an alley. JOHNSON. So, in King Lear:
"threading dark-ey'd night." STEEVENS.
All cause unborn, could never be the native"
Come, enough 2.
9 could never be the NATIVE-] Native, for natural birth. WARBURTON.
Native is here not natural birth, but natural parent, or cause of birth. JOHNSON.
So, in a kindred sense, in King Henry V. :
"A many of our bodies shall no doubt
Find native graves." MALONE.
I cannot agree with Johnson that native can possibly mean natural parent, or cause of birth; nor with Warburton, in supposing that it means natural birth; for if the word could bear that meaning, it would not be sense here, as Coriolanus is speaking not of the consequence, but the cause, of their donation. I should therefore read motive instead of native. Malone's quotation from King Henry V. is nothing to the purpose, as in that passage native graves, means evidently graves in their native soil.
this bosom MULTIPLIED] This multitudinous bosom ; the bosom of that many-headed monster, the people. MALONE. 2 Come, ENOUGH.] Perhaps this imperfect line was originally completed by a repetition of enough. STEEVENS.
3 No, take more:
What may be sworn by, both divine and human,
Seal what I end withal!] The sense is, 'No, let me add this further and may every thing divine and human which can give force to an oath, bear witness to the truth of what I shall conclude with.'.