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Their needless vouches 2? Custom calls me to't:What custom wills, in all things should we do't,
Why in this woolvish toge should I stand here,'] So, in Othello," the toged consuls.' I suppose the meaning is, 'Why should I stand in this gown of humility, which is little expressive of my feelings towards the people; as far from being an emblem of my real character, as the sheep's clothing on a wolf is expressive of his disposition.' I believe woolvish was used by our author for false or deceitful, and that the phrase was suggested to him, as Mr. Steevens seems to think, by the common expression,
-"a wolf in sheep's clothing." Mr. Mason says, that this is a ludicrous idea, and ought to be treated as such." I have paid due attention to many of the ingenious commentator's remarks in the present edition, and therefore I am sure he will pardon me when I observe that speculative criticism on these plays will ever be liable to error, unless we add to it an intimate acquaintance with the language and writings of the predecessors and contemporaries of Shakspeare. If Mr. Mason had read the following line in Churchyard's Legend of Cardinal Wolsey, Mirror for Magistrates, 1587, instead of considering this as a ludicrous interpretation, he would probably have admitted it to be a natural and just explication of the epithet before us :
"O fye on wolves that march in masking clothes."
The woolvish [gown or] toge is a gown of humility, in which Coriolanus thinks he shall appear in masquerade; and not in his real and natural character.
Woolvish cannot mean rough, hirsute, as Dr. Johnson interprets it, because the gown Coriolanus wore has already been described as napless.
The old copy has tongue; which was a very natural error for the compositor at the press to fall into, who almost always substitutes a familiar English word for one derived from the Latin, which he does not understand. The very same mistake has happened in Othello, where we find "tongued consuls," for toged consuls-The particle in shows that tongue cannot be right. The editor of the second folio solved the difficulty as usual, by substituting gown, without any regard to the word in the original copy. MALONE.
The first folio reads-" this wolvish tongue." Gown is the reading of the second folio, and, I believe, the true one.
Let us try, however, to extract some meaning from the word exhibited in the elder copy.
The white robe worn by a candidate was made, I think, of white lamb-skins. How comes it then to be called woolvish, unless in
The dust on antique time would lie unswept,
allusion to the fable of the wolf in sheep's clothing? Perhaps the poet meant only, 'Why do I stand with a tongue deceitful as that of the wolf, and seem to flatter those whom I would wish to treat with my usual ferocity?' We might perhaps more distinctly read : "with this wolvish tongue."
unless tongue be used for tone or accent. Tongue might, indeed, be only a typographical mistake, and the word designed be toge, which is used in Othello. Yet it is as probable, if Shakspeare originally wrote-toge, that he afterwards exchanged it forgown, a word more intelligible to his audience. Our author, however, does not appear to have known what the toga hirsuta was, because he has just before called it the napless gown of humility.
Since the foregoing note was written, I met with the following passage in "A Merye Jest of a Man called Howleglass," bl. 1. no date. Howleglas hired himself to a tailor, who "caste unto him a husbande mans gown, and bad him take a wolfe, and make it up. Then cut Howleglas the husbandmans gowne and made thereof a woulfe with the head and feete, &c. Then sayd the maister, I ment that you should have made up the russet gown, for a husbandman's gowne is here called a wolfe." By a wolvish gown, therefore, Shakspeare might have meant Coriolanus to compare the dress of a Roman candidate to the coarse frock of a ploughman, who exposed himself to solicit the votes of his fellow rusticks. STEEVENS.
Mr. Steevens has in his note on this passage cited the romance of Howleglas to show that a husbandman's gown was called a wolf; but quære if it be called so in this country? it must be remembered that Howleglas is literally translated from the French where the word " loup" certainly occurs, but I believe it has not the same signification in that language. The French copy also may be literally rendered from the German. Douce.
Mr. Steevens, however, is clearly right in supposing the allusion to be to the "wolf in sheep's clothing;" not indeed that Coriolanus means to call himself a wolf; but merely to say, Why, should I stand here playing the hypocrite, and simulating the humility which is not in my nature ?' RITSON.
2 To beg of Hob and Dick, that do appear,
Their needless vouches ?] Why stand I here,―to beg of Hob and Dick, and such others as make their appearance here, their unnecessary voices? JOHNSON.
By strange inattention our poet has here given the names (as
For truth to over-peer.-Rather than fool it so,
Enter Three other Citizens.
Here come more voices,
Your voices for your voices I have fought;
Indeed, I would be consul.
5 Cır. He has done nobly, and cannot go without any honest man's voice.
6 CIT. Therefore let him be consul: The gods give him joy, and make him good friend to the people!
ALL. Amen, amen.-
God save thee, noble consul!
[Exeunt Citizens. Worthy voices!
Re-enter MENENIUS, with BRUTUS, and SiCINIUS. MEN. You have stood your limitation; and the tribunes
in many other places he has attributed the customs,) of England,
"The country gnuffs, Hob, Dick, and Hick,
battles thrice six, &c.] Coriolanus seems now, in earnest,
to petition for the consulate: perhaps we may better read:
battles thrice six
"I've seen, and you have heard of; for your voices
Endue you with the people's voice: Remains,
COR. Where? at the senate-house?
COR. That I'll straight do; and, knowing myself
Repair to the senate-house.
MEN. I'll keep you company.-Will you along?
Fare you well. [Exeunt CORIOL. and MENEN.
He has it now; and by his looks, methinks, 'Tis warm at his heart.
With a proud heart he wore His humble weeds: Will you dismiss the people?
SIC. How now, my masters? have you chose this man?
1 CIT. He has our voices, sir.
BRU. We pray the gods, he may deserve your loves.
2 Cır. Amen, sir: To my poor unworthy notice, He mock'd us, when he begg'd our voices.
He flouted us down-right.
4 May I THEN, &c.] Then, which is wanting in the old copy, was supplied, for the sake of metre, by Sir T. Hanmer.
1 CIT. No, 'tis his kind of speech, he did not mock us.
2 CIT. Not one amongst us, save yourself, but says,
He us❜d us scornfully: he should have show'd us
No; no man saw 'em. [Several speak. 3 CIT. He said, he had wounds, which he could show in private;
And with his hat, thus waving it in scorn,
Your most sweet voices:-now you have left your voices,
I have no further with you:-Was not this mockery?
SIC. Why, either, you were ignorant to see't?
aged custom,] This was a strange inattention. The Romans at this time had but lately changed the regal for the consular government for Coriolanus was banished the eighteenth year after the expulsion of the kings. WARBURTON.
Perhaps our author meant by aged custom, that Coriolanus should say, the custom which requires the consul to be of a certain prescribed age, will not permit that I should be elected, unless by the voice of the people that rule should be broken through. This would meet with the objection made in p. 75, n. 4; but I doubt much whether Shakspeare knew the precise consular age even in Tully's time, and therefore think it more probable that the words aged custom were used by our author in their ordinary sense, however inconsistent with the recent establishment of consular government at Rome. Plutarch had led him into an error concerning this aged custom. See p. 81, n. 3. MALONE.
ignorant to see't?] "Were you ignorant to see it," is, 'did you want knowledge to discern it?' JOHNSON.