Coriolanus: A Tragic Hero that Stands Alone
The story of Coriolanus is a very unique Tragedy, for instance unlike other Shakespeare tragidies where the plays are littered with deaths; in Coriolanus, Coriolanus is the only character to die. This is not the only reason, I believe, that separates Coriolanus from all of Shakespeare’s other tragidies: Coriolanus is the most unique tragic hero, when compared to all the other tragic heroes Shakespeare has written about. Unlike most of Shakespeare’s tragic heroes there is no inner complexity to Coriolanus; he is seen completely from the outside, by the reader, as written by Sailendra’s article What Happens in Coriolanus, "Coriolanus, then, is a character not inwardly evolved, as the greater tragic characters are, but seen from without." (pg 331). This is exemplified through the fact that Coriolanus has no soliloquies in the play. This is extremely odd considering he is the main protagonist in the play and is considered a Tragic Hero. Coriolanus is truly unique in the fact that everything we learn about him is a result of another character; the most obvious example being his pride and rage, brought on by Brutus and Sicinius, and their plots against him. Similar to other Tragic Heroes Coriolanus is easily manipulated and persuaded by other characters in the play. Just like Macbeth was persuaded by Lady Macbeth to murder the King and take over as King of Scotland, Coriolanus was persuaded by Volumnia to run for Council. A significant difference between Coriolanus and Macbeth being that Macbeth ended up truly wanting to become King, and the ambitions Lady Macbeth had for him soon became his own; unlike in Coriolanus, where through-out the play it was never really evident that Coriolanus wanted any political power. There is thus many reasons to point out why Coriolanus is the most unique of Shakespeare’s Tragic Heroes.
In the very first scene of Act 1, the reader a hint of what Coriolanus’ true political feelings are. He is first introduced to the reader by the citizens because they are planning an uprising against him; Coriolanus has cut off grain to the common people. It is also in this scene that we are introduced to Menenius, who like Coriolanus has the same thoughts opinions of the common people, but is more politically savvy. Menenius talks to the people and explains to them how they are the body of Rome and the Senate is the belly and only if we work together will Rome survive. This, I think, triggers an emotion in Coriolanus, who does not think very highly of the common people, basically has an angry outburst and calls them savage beasts. This can be shown in lines 210-210: “They are dissolved: hang 'em! They said they were an-hungry; sigh'd forth proverbs, That hunger broke stone walls, that dogs must eat, That meat was made for mouths, that the gods sent not Corn for the rich men only: with these shreds They vented their complainings; which being answer'd, And a petition granted them, a strange one— To break the heart of generosity, And make bold power look pale—they threw their caps As they would hang them on the horns o' the moon, Shouting their emulation." (Coriolanus 1.1). It is here that the reader first gets an inclination of what Coriolanus’ tragic flaw might be, his pride his thoughts of self worth, and his anger ultimately bring forth his down fall. This outburst in Act 1, like most of his outburst toward the people in the rest of his play, is triggered by another character’s discourse. It is hear that we first learn that everything the reader might uncover about Coriolanus is brought on by another character; this theme will follow us through the rest of the play.
Coriolanus’ pride is evident in the first scene and is portrayed heavily in the rest of the play. In scene 4 and 5 we see Coriolanus as a soldier and leader of his army. It is in war that we see his strength and where he truly belongs. In this atmosphere, he easily takes...
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