Play Review: Coriolanus

Coriolanus by William Shakespeare

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this play so much! This is the story of Marcius, a noble general in the armies of Rome who wins renown in battle, is renamed Coriolanus, and is promoted to consul. But the political machinations of Rome bring him down because he won’t pander to the people or speak sweetly to the rabble. It IS a tragedy, so of course we already expect him to die in the end.

I was intrigued by Coriolanus/Marcius’ tempestuous nature and rage that is tempered by his love of honor and justice. He has a high regard for noble deeds, and refuses to compromise to lesser men, and naturally his honesty is what gets him killed.

People are always lying about him, saying that he’s a proud tyrant or a traitor; and I think that his public and private reactions to those rumors are very telling of his honest character. Honest people don’t always jump to defend themselves or proclaim their innocence. They are more often secure in their innocence and don’t think they need defending against lies.

Coriolanus, while innocent and good, does not react with wisdom when confronted by evil conniving people. He seems to think that any intelligent person will be able to see his innocence, forgetting how stupid the masses actually are, and how easily they are swayed by any passing orator with honey in his mouth.

I vacillated between loving and being annoyed by Coriolanus’ mother, Volumnia. She is a strong character with witty and moving dialogue. She’s extremely proud of her son, always saying how she encouraged him to be so war-like and brave. It’s evident from the beginning that they have a close relationship and Volumnia has a lot of influence over Coriolanus. He’s really a bit of a momma’s boy! haha! She presses him to become a consul, even though he doesn’t think he’ll enjoy the job, and the whole thing falls apart from there.

A big point is made in the play that Coriolanus is more suited by nature to life as a soldier, and that his rough disposition is not conducive to politics. It brings up a deeper theme of men and women being fit for their work and taking their proper place in life. Almost a “nature vs. nurture” debate could be found in between the lines.

Coriolanus often calls on Mars, the god of war, and I find that very apt for his character. The entire time I was reading, I kept thinking of Percy Jackson’s Greek gods, and how well Coriolanus would have fit in at Camp Half-Blood as a demi-god child of Mars/Ares. haha!

In the end, I think it’s the fault of Roman society for raising a boy to be courageous and prove his worth by violence in a battle arena, and then punishing him when he does that same thing as a man in a political arena. Rome, you got problems!

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