Coriolanus (act two, scene one)
- The way Caius Martius' victory brings happiness and seems to solve all the conflicts
- How Caius Martius is made a hero without even being present and how characters perceive him
- The peculiar attitude of Volumnia, her relationship with her son and her ambitions
Shakespeare's play Coriolanus is a political tragedy, which exposes the events that took place in Rome in the early days of the Republic. This play is set up around 490 BC, at a time when the city was divided by a conflict between the Patricians and the Plebeians because of shortage of grain. The rebellion initiated in act one is interrupted by a revolt enthused by the Volscians under the leadership of Tullus Aufidius. Caius Martius goes to war with his soldiers and manages, despite a general loss of heart, to capture the city by his own bravery.
[...] In fact, Menenius, finding out that Martius has been successful, says gives me an estate of seven years' health, in which time I will make a lip at the physician. The most sovereign prescription in Galen is but empiricutic and, to this preservative, of no better report than a horse-drench? (111-5). To him, the letter Martius wrote to him is better than any medicine. This image of health and disease is recurrent throughout the play and is all the more important as a few pages later Caius Martius will be said to be the disease of the city. [...]
[...] Besides, it is not Coriolanus that kills but his arm. This synecdoche is also fundamental because one more time he is not identified as an individual, but as a part of it. Qualified and acclaimed as a hero, people seem to notice Caius Martius Coriolanus' superhuman capacities, actions rather that moral or psychological qualities. He is defined through violence and never perceived as a real entity. But, what is patent is that he is the product of a powerful woman who did everything from his birth to make him become a warrior; therefore we shall consider the character of Volumnia and how this excerpt reveals her ambitions. [...]
[...] son as well as on her ambitions. What strikes the spectator is, first and foremost, Menenius' change of tone when the three Roman ladies enter. Indeed, although before Menenius was ironical and almost aggressive, here he is very courteous: as fair as noble ladies? (94). Even if we could understand this sudden difference as Menenius' capacity to adapt to changing circumstances, it also helps us realize that something positive must have happened. Indeed, as spectators, we can guess that these three Roman ladies would not have made their way to Menenius if something extraordinary had not happened. [...]