Coriolanus Essay, Research Paper
3rd May 2001
English Coursework. Final draft.
I think Coriolanus is far too proud for his own good. I think this because at the end of the play he is dead due to him being too proud.
His people hate him:
‘He’s a very dog to the community.’
His own people say this to him because of the way he abuses them.
‘He pays himself with being proud’
Menenius say this to flatter the crowd; Coriolanus is very opposite to this, as he would never flatter any crowd.
They say he isn’t patriotic (proud of his own country) instead he fights to please his mother.
Martius is noble because of his position in society, and for that reason only! Whilst talking to a crowd Coriolanus referrers to them as ‘dissensions rouges and scabs.’ Coriolanus can sense the crowds hatred towards him and comes out with the following line
‘Who deserves greatness,
Deserves your hatred.’
When Coriolanus is at home in Rome its seems out of place, he is constantly at war with his own people. However, on the battlefield, his skills are unchallenged. This is evident when we are told that;
‘He struck Corioles like a planet’
This makes him seem, too powerful, he seems to be like a superman. For the Romans the planets were thought of as gods. They were thought to control human lives. In this instance Coriolanus’ praise makes him seem inhuman
Due to being so successful in Corioles he has been awarded the name Coriolanus. The Patricians want him to become a politician (a consul) in ordered to do this he has to show humility. He has to wear the gown of humility, ask (not order, as he would normally do) people to support him and show them wounds to prove he is worthy of being a consul. He will have great difficulties here. He despises the people and they hate him. Menenius tells him not to be proud. If he is Memenius warns him “you’ll mar [ruin] all.” This is an important warning for him. At the end of the play when Coriolanus lies dead it is largely his own fault (because of him being too proud). Coriolanus continues to show his pride. He says “Twas never my desire to trouble the poor begging”
Menenius tries to excuse Coriolanus’ angry attitude when he speaks to the citizens. He says he should be judged for who he is. Not who they want him to be:
That when he speaks not like a citizen,
You find him like a soldier.
Do not take he rougher accents for malicious sounds,
But as I, such as becomes a soldier’
Sicinius (the tribune) is not in a mood to be calmed. He tries to make Coriolanus angrier. He accuses him of two things. 1, He doesn’t follow the rules (‘seasoned office’), 2, He assumes ‘tyrannical power.’ You are a traitor to the people.
‘You common cry of curs’ uses alliteration to link the words together and emphasize his anger. Coriolanus uses words like weapons here:
‘Whose breath I hate
As reek o’ th’ rotten fens’
This means a, on a literal level that he doesn’t like their breath but on b, on a deeper level that he hates the fact that they are still breathing. He uses disease imagery again when he says:
Whose loves I prize
As the dead carcasses of unburied men
That do corrupt my air’
In scene Act 4 scene 4 we see a contrast between Coriolanus’ usual manners. He enters the Volscian territory in a disguise. He shows sympathy for the citizens.
‘Tis I that made thy widows.’ He speaks with respect to the citizens as well. The one thing in this scene that is typical of Coriolanus is the way that’s he ends, preferring decisive actions even if it means death
‘My birthplace I hate, and my love is upon this enemy town I’ll enter. If he slay me, he does fair justice; if he give me my way, I’ll do his country service.’
Here Coriolanus is saying he hates the place where he was born, ROME. He has chosen to turn his back on Rome and join the Volsces, if he is rejected they will have made the right decision and he is granted right of way he will do the country justice in making that decision.
‘He is chief enemy to the people’
His own people say this to him because of the way he treats them he cares only about himself and no one else. In turning to the Volscians, Coriolanus proves the right.
Thorough the play Coriolanus’ mum ‘Volumnia’ Encourages Coriolanus to go to battle, and he has always took her advice. But when it comes to his death his mum wants him to back down and not get killed, he takes no notice of he because he doesn’t want to be remembered a being a coward when in a dangerous situation. He wants to be remembered as an excellent fighter, and as a strong man, knowing that he was going to get killed if he never backed down; he refused to, HE STOOD HIS GROUND! Coriolanus actually encourages Aufidius to kill him; he even says ‘Cut me to pieces’
Coriolanus’ other qualities.
Coriolanus’ death was mainly due to the amount of pride he had. If he wouldn’t have had the same amount of pride he has he would have been able to patch up any differences with his enemies, and may not have even offended them in the first place. Coriolanus’ pride was started by his special abilities and his stature as some people’s hero, this pride also stops him from being a political leader and from being able to save his life through compromising with enemies.
How Coriolanus treated his people depends mainly on his past; people see his past as feared and he was later to be loved by the Volscians, this establishes how exactly they feel about him. Coriolanus’ reputation within Rome does not help him in some confrontations. Although the patricians and those of a higher class are aware of Coriolanus’ good reputation, the people pay no notice when Coriolanus speaks out.
Enemy and friend
Enemies and friends this is especially significant in Aufidius and Coriolanus’ relationship, and in Coriolanus’ relationship to Rome. This determines who they are fighting and why; and when and friends shift, as Coriolanus and Aufidius do, there is often confusion, and threat of a violent outcome.
Words vs. actions
This is a distinction that often trips Coriolanus up. Coriolanus uses words as if they were actions, Coriolanus will include as many offensive words as possible in his public speeches. Coriolanus tends to when his actions are required, his uses his speeches to clarify and back his actions up. When he has to use words on their own he gets very angry, and his emotions really come through.
The past vs. progress
There is a tug-of-war going on deep down in the heart of this play, the war is between the patricians who supports the ways of the past, and the people, who want progress in there institutions. This theme is embodied into Coriolanus himself, he is like a hero from Rome’s past, in a time that has advanced past the political usefulness of such a warrior. Although Coriolanus is a high achiever, he is out of date and in a place that does not glorify warriors like himself as the once did.
Love and battle
Love and battle takes place between a few characters in the play, the most notable is between Aufidius and Coriolanus, they always seem to confuse love and battle in their interactions with one another. This put emphasis on how much more important war is than their personal relationships; they are overwhelmed by they need to go to battle, because of this they have nothing left over for there normal lives. This confusion of love and battle highlights a very intense relationship for the pair, and a rivalry that consumes their entire lives.