English / Looking Closely At Act 5 Sc 3 And Act 3 Sc 3 How Does Shakespeare Make Coriolanus Into A Tragic Character?

Looking Closely At Act 5 Sc 3 And Act 3 Sc 3 How Does Shakespeare Make Coriolanus Into A Tragic Character?

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Autor:  anton  13 November 2010
Tags:  Looking,  Closely
Words: 1842   |   Pages: 8
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A tragedy typically deals with the downfall of an important character, in a serious play, via a fatal flaw. The audience would feel upset for the character as his weakness is not his fault and his in his nature. A tragedy has an unhappy ending or ongoing poignant events and during Act 5 sc3 and Act 3 sc3 in Shakespeare’s Coriolanus many of these take place.

Coriolanus’ weakness is his honesty. As we see later others know how to manipulate this which in turn brings him to his demise. Although he is modest and honourable the common people despise him as he is arrogant about his fighting skills and constantly insults them. “You dissentious rouges, that, rubbing the poor itch of opinion make yourself scabs?” He speaks his mind and nothing but the truth and because of this the audience first see him as an arrogant character. Due to this at the beginning of the play the citizens are threatening rebellion and call him “Chief enemy to the people!”

Later on in the play the audience see him as modest as he doesn’t like praise for his great bravery in battle. “I had rather have my wounds heal again than hear say how I got them.” Coriolanus is a born fighter and is even named after the Roman god of war Mars (Caius Martius). Because of this he receives the name ‘Coriolanus’ for his brave acts in battle. His mother Volumnia is a very strong, well spoken woman who has great speaking skills. She has brought Coriolanus up to be strong and fearless and follow her teachings, which causes him to be exactly like her in everyway. He has a great grasp of language and uses this to convey his true feelings.

The political system in Rome at the time of the play is a democratic society. This allows the common people to vote for who they want to come to power. This is different to every other city at the time as elsewhere whoever came to power was determined by wealth. This came around after Kings had ruled Rome for years until the last king imposed himself upon a young girl, because of the distress received she later committed suicide in public. The commoners were furious about this and rose up against the king and took over. They took an oath never to allow another king in Rome and created a republic. The people are split into tribes in which each tribe has one vote determined by majority. Coriolanus believes this system to be wrong as he feels that the commoners aren’t able to control the power they have and are not able to make the right decisions.

Act 3 sc3 is the first scene in the play where Shakespeare brings Coriolanus’ tragedy to life. This scene is controlled by the tribunes; they have hatched a plan to bring Coriolanus to his exile, “Put him to choler straight.” They know that he will speak what’s in his heart if he is aggravated enough and they know exactly how to control him. They know that he is a proud man and has a strong nature which causes him not retaliate to insults to his character. The tribunes, mainly Sicinius and Brutus, feel that if Coriolanus runs for consul than he would have too much power. In the scene they try to prove to the plebeians that all Coriolanus’ actions are to take total control of the city causing them vote for him to be banished.

Shakespeare has now shown the first trait of Coriolanus’ tragedy, he strives to control his anger towards what is unfolding but finally erupts at being called a traitor when he’s anything but. Menenius, Coriolanus’ close friend, tries to calm Coriolanus praying him to stop but the citizens erupt, “To th’ rock, to th’ rock with him!” playing their part to enrage him more. Shakespeare uses dramatic devices in this scene to emphasise Coriolanus’ feelings. Dramatic devices help to emphasise how the audience react to the character by stage directions which follow the text, also sound, lighting and body positioning on stage. These emphasise mood and emotions, and during the RSC production Coriolanus is being surrounded by the citizens both in speech and on stage adding more to the dramatic effect. The lighting was focused on Coriolanus with a dark overall gloomy-blue colour adding more to the dramatic tension.

Finally in the scene during Coriolanus’ last speech he uses harsh discordant sounds and alliteration, “You common cry of curs!” emphasising his feelings. Coriolanus pauses before his insults, making them more apparent to the audience, adding to the dramatic effect of the speech. This scene is pinnacle in the audiences’ reaction to Coriolanus. They know that he doesn’t deserve to be exiled and when he leaves he ‘turns his back.’ On Rome and leaves his life behind. When he exits the citizens throw up their caps and rejoice and follow him to the gates “Our enemy is banished!”

Coriolanus is now a broken man. There seems to be nothing left for him, the audience see him as a shattered man dressed in threadbare clothes kneeling in the cold. Seeing Coriolanus like this is such an extreme comparison from his former self clearly showing us that he is a broken man. This image is unfitting to Coriolanus and adversity is at his highest in the play so far for him. He realises that he has to regain his formality and the only way that he can do this is by travelling to Corioles and joining forces with his sworn enemy Aufidius.

As Coriolanus is such has such a strong character he soon returns to his former self however on opposing sides. He has made companions with his previous enemies and has a high place of authority over Corioles. He plans to attack Rome and seek revenge for his exile. Rome hears news of their impending attack and because of this Coriolanus’ dear friend Menenius goes to plead with him. The audience have seen previously that Coriolanus deeply loves his friends and family, but when Menenius comes to plead with him Coriolanus pushes him away showing that he is a changed man. Menenius has always defended Coriolanus and “Loved him above the measure of a father,” for Coriolanus to send him away like this shows how hurt he was from his banishment. Although Coriolanus did send Menenius away he tells Aufidius how hard it was for him at the start of Act 5 sc5 “This last old man. Whom with a cracked heart I have sent to Rome.” Gradually through the last scenes of the play Aufidius has become increasingly jealous of Coriolanus’ popularity with his men. Due to this Aufidius plans to murder Coriolanus and regain his former credibility.

At the start of Act 5 sc3 Coriolanus and Aufidius sit at the back of the stage in anticipation of the attack of Rome. Coriolanus tells Aufidius how he will not be turned from the attack on Rome, “Shall I be tempted to infringe my in the same time ‘tis made? I will not.”

We know that Coriolanus deeply loves his mother and we see this when she enters the scene, “My wife comes foremost; then the honour’d mould where in this trunk was fram’d and in her hand the grandchild to her blood,” he refers to his son not as his own offspring but as his mothers grandson showing his reverence of her. Throughout the whole of this scene there is deep conflict in Coriolanus. He is torn between giving in to his mother, who he loves dearly, and staying with Aufidius to attack the city that betrayed him. He knows that he must attack Rome but his nature leads him to turn to his mother and wife, Virgilia. In the RSC’ production of the play Virgilia, Volumnia, Young Martius surround Coriolanus in the centre of the stage adding to the dramatic effect of the scene.

Coriolanus goes on further to illustrate his feelings for his mother. When she bows before him he uses the metaphor of describing Volumnia as Mount Olympus, the home of the gods, to himself as a molehill in her presence.

Volumnia is desperately trying to persuade her son not to attack Rome. She is the only person who could turn Coriolanus from his aim and tries to reason with him. It’s through her persuasive techniques that Coriolanus begins to have conflict over his decision. Volumnia searches to bring out Coriolanus’ nature, “Thou shalt no sooner march to assault thy country then to tread – trust to’t, thou shalt not – on thy mothers womb which brought you to this world.” Saying that to attack Rome would be like treading on her womb. Virgilia seconds this by saying it would be like treading on her womb as well which brought their son to the world. Even Young Martius then furthers the persuasion and speaks out against his father.

Even though Coriolanus said that he would not be turned he cannot deny his nature any longer and is overthrown with emotion, he kneels at his mothers feet after a kiss from his wife. Coriolanus is now deeply moved, he rises to his feet but still Volumnia continues attacking her son, “Thou hast affected the fine strains of honour, to imitate the graces of the gods” she says that he has been like a go d in war and should show the graces a god would show. “There’s no man in the world more bound to his mother,” she goes on to describe herself as a hen clucking to her favourite chick. Once again she is knelt before her son and with one last attempt to persuade Coriolanus she calls him a Volscian with a Volscian mother and a wife in Corioles. The previous Coriolanus, back in Rome, would respond to this insult immediately which allows Martius to see what he has become.

The irony in the scene ultimately makes Coriolanus tragedy apparent. This is due to Coriolanus gradually giving in to the persuasive techniques of his mother. He had previously said that he would not be turned from his target; this gives Aufidius his reason to murder Coriolanus completing his tragedy fully.

There is a long pause and Coriolanus is defeated. He holds his mothers hand and weeps, “O mother what have you done?” Martius realises his fate and accepts it with dignity, “But let it come.” Aufidius now has reason to regain his fortune and Coriolanus follows him back to meet his doom.

In the end Coriolanus is brought down by his nature. Shakespeare made Coriolanus’ love of his mother so strong that he could not disobey his nature to deny her. She held so much power over him and without knowing it this led her son to his death. Aristotle’s definition of a tragedy was: “the downfall of an important character via a fatal flaw.” Shakespeare makes this so by making Coriolanus such a noble man. This in turn allows Coriolanus give into his mothers persuasive techniques and leads him to his downfall.



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