Coriolanus Analysis

Places Discussed (Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

*Rome

*Rome. Capital of the Roman Empire on the banks of Italy’s Tiber River. It is a walled city built on seven hills, one of which is the Capitoline or Capitol Hill. The senate house, where the tribunes meet and new consuls are sworn in is on Capitol Hill. Here, too, is Rock Tarpeian, a precipitous rock from which traitors are flung to their deaths—a fate suggested for Coriolanus. The market place, or Forum, is a meeting place for citizens where Coriolanus solicits the voices of the people in his attempt to become consul.

*Corioli

*Corioli. Walled city in the territory held by the Volsci, who are enemies of Rome. The Roman army is camped in trenches before Corioli’s walls as the play begins. The gates in the wall, where Coriolanus enters alone to fight Tullus Aufidius, face the encampment. The real battle of Corioli took place in 493 b.c.e., but no traces of the town remain, and its exact location is unknown.

*Antium

*Antium. Volsci town on the Italian coast south of Rome where the Volsci general Tullus Aufidius flees after the battle of Corioli. Coriolanus goes to his house there after his exile from Rome.

Coriolanus Modern Connections

Coriolanus has been called Shakespeare's most political play. It depicts a society in the midst of rapid change, struggling to adjust...

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Coriolanus Bibliography and Further Reading

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Bradley, Andrew Cecil. Shakespearean Tragedy. Cleveland, OH: World Publishing,...

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Coriolanus Bibliography (Great Characters in Literature)

Barton, Anne. “Julius Caesar and Coriolanus: Shakespeare’s Roman War of Words.” In Shakespeare’s Craft: Eight Lectures, edited by Philip H. Highfill, Jr. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1982. Barton points out that in a world dependent on verbal rhetorical persuasion, Coriolanus’ distrust of language alienates and isolates him, as does his personal use of language without regard to audience response.

Crowley, Richard C. “Coriolanus and the Epic Genre.” In Shakespeare’s Late Plays: Essays in Honor of Charles Crow, edited by Richard Tobias and Paul Zolbrod. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1974. Argues that Coriolanus merges tragedy and epic and has at its heart the conflict between mercy and honor.

McAlindon, T. “Coriolanus: An Essentialist Tragedy.” Review of English Studies 44 (November, 1993): 502-520. Rather than as a metaphor for England’s problems, McAlindon regards Coriolanus as a political tragedy of class conflict and manipulation of power in a realistic, historically specific society .

McKenzie, Stanley D. “ ‘Unshout the Noise That Banish’d Marcius’: Structural Paradox and Dissembling in Coriolanus.” Shakespeare Studies: An Annual Gathering of Research, Criticism, and Reviews 18 (1986): 189-204. Argues that in a world of chaotic reversals, betrayals, and paradoxes where only the adaptable survive, Coriolanus’ unchanging consistency dooms him.

Miller, Shannon. “Topicality and Subversion in William Shakespeare’s Coriolanus.” Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 32, no. 2 (Spring, 1992): 287-310. Discusses Coriolanus’ intricate structure of topical references and draws parallels with the career of James I, early seventeenth century issues of authority and monarchy, and other conflicts and contradictions of Shakespeare’s age.

Rackin, Phyllis. “Coriolanus: Shakespeare’s Anatomy of ‘Virtus.’” Modern Language Studies 13, no. 2 (Spring, 1983): 68-79. Interprets Coriolanus as a cautionary illustration of the narrow, exclusive inadequacy of the Roman ideal. The hero’s Roman virtues ironically are the vices that doom him.