Caius Marcius Coriolanus

  • John Palmer


Shakespeare in ‘Coriolanus’ takes for his theme a recurrent political problem of all times and places. A representative group of Roman patricians, whose attitudes and dispositions are embodied at a maximum in a heroically proud member of their class, is confronted with a representative group of Roman plebeians, whose grievances call for a limitation of the rights conferred by birth and privilege upon their rulers. Politics are a predominating interest in scene after scene of the play. It is true that Shakespeare’s imagination, as always, is concentrated rather upon the individual men and women who play their parts in a public contention than upon the social implications of their behaviour, but in this particular tragedy the individual men and women are passionately concerned with their rights and wrongs as citizens in a community. The ultimate climax of the tragedy is a conflict between personal pride and family affection rather than a conflict between the principles of aristocratic and popular government. But the virtues and vices of the principal characters are all related to their place and function in the commonwealth; their actions and passions are almost wholly governed by their conceptions of what is due to them or expected of them as belonging to an estate of the nation.


Great Nature Political Character Roman People Political Play Popular Party 
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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1946

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Palmer

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