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Coriolanus and Donne

In: English and Literature

Submitted By sambeans
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Act 1.1 * The mob of plebeians, which holds the stage as the play opens, lacks an individual identity but nevertheless constitutes one of the most important "characters" in the story. * They have taken up arms, true, but not without cause: As one of them puts it, "the gods know I speak this in hunger for bread, not thirst for revenge (I.i.22-23)." * Menenius does makes an attempt at a response, with his story about the stomach and the body. His behavior toward the plebeians contrasts starkly with Martius's--the common people like him, calling him "one that hath always loved the people"; they say of him, "...he's one honest enough! Would all the rest were so!"(I.i.49-52). Although he does not genuinely care for them any more than Martius does (he never actually takes their side in any of the play's political disputes), the people nevertheless favor him because he possesses a gift the play's hero lacks--the gift of public relations. – Compared to Menenius. * The play shows us a city suffering from a power vacuum; wily patricians like Menenius and crafty demagogues like the tribunes now struggle to fill this vacuum, Menenius with his organic conception of the state and the tribunes with their notion of popular rule. Moreover, this political situation can be traced back to Martius; we learn that as a youth he had a hand in King Tarquin's overthrow. One can, thus, see the play's initial situation as an Oedipal moment: The young Martius has overthrown the royal father-figure and is poised to take his place--except that in republican Rome, the kingly Martius cannot take Tarquin's place without becoming himself a tyrant.

Act 1.2-5 * We find Coriolanus's wife and mother in a domestic scene, sitting and sewing, and then gossiping with one of their friends who pays a visit. But the domestic setting sharply contrasts with the words and character of...

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