Wavering Pride





Wavering Pride

In drama, readers are given spoken language and stage directions to interpret the world of the play. In Shakespeare’s case, stage directions are close to non-existent and as analysts of what most consider the most gifted and eloquent playwright of humanity, it is possible to expound upon the most minute details and possible interpretations of his work. Having no information on what Shakespeare thought of his own work or his intended literary and dramatic motives, he speaks through his character’s voices. It is important to observe Coriolanus objectively to see how his interactions with his supporting characters shape the play and shed light on why Shakespeare chose to lead him down his tragic spiral. The main benefit of the first seven weeks of class has been to take twenty informed opinions and allow them to take shape in structured discussion in order to fuel theories and the building process of discovering major themes and literary motives in important literature to theater as an area of study. There are many sections of speech in Coriolanus that provide an outlet of use for the techniques that have been refined in class so we may be able to break off as individuals and formulate solid and specific arguments by ourselves. In lines 182-193, before the closure of Act Five, Scene Three, Coriolanus succumbs to his family’s pleas thus relinquishing pride’s strong grip around his headstrong personality and through the form of the scene and these specific lines and their dramatic explosiveness, his tragic flaw is revealed being not his pride, but his willingness and ability to understand the false motivations it has inspired within him.
O mother, mother!
What have you done? Behold, the heavens do ope,
The gods look down, and this unnatural scene
They laugh at. O my mother, mother! O!
You have won a happy victory to Rome;
But for your son-believe it-O believe it!-
Most dangerously you have with him prevailed,
If not most mortal to him. But let it come.
Aufidius, though I cannot make true wars,
I’ll frame convenient peace. Now, good Aufidius,
Were you in my stead, would you have heard
A mother less? Or granted less, Aufidius? (L. 182-193 pp. 128-129)*

In Scene Three of Act Five, Shakespeare provides the suspension of two possible outcomes. Volumnia, Virgilia, and Coriolanus’ son are the last line of defense against Coriolanus’ tyranny towards Rome. This passage proves their success and Rome’s safety. However, in these few lines Shakespeare spells out his twist on the concepts of ancient tragedies. Volumnia’s monologues have moved Coriolanus with her sound reasons and swayed him from war. His mentioning of the “gods laughing” brings reference to the god’s ultimate say of fate in ancient tragedy due to the hero’s tragic flaw. Because Coriolanus until this point has been too proud to change his strong heart, although Volumnia was close enough to make him try when he was sent to apologize to the Roman people, Shakespeare is providing an alternative to the tragic flaw of pride leading Coriolanus all the way to his demise. Instead, it is Coriolanus’ lack of conviction in his pride and his weakness in the face of his mother’s description of how his nobility will be warped that stops him from reeking revenge on his once beloved city. Coriolanus has essentially realized that all his emotional effort has been exerted to a motive "poisonous to his honor" (l. 146). It is a firm example that shows Coriolanus’ simple pride in war is tainted by the constant pressure and coercive ability of Volumnia. Therefore, against the grain of heroic tragedy in Greece or Rome, Coriolanus’ fall has a major co-catalyst in the form of his mother. His acknowledgment that the Gods are in shock of his change reveals the power than Coriolanus thought it would take to sway him. Not only is it unexpected to him that this amount of power has been reached but it is also a blow to the reader.
Sequential to the revelation of Coriolanus’ willingness to accept humility in the face of his family and emotions is his acceptance of its consequence. It presents a puzzling dilemma to the interpreter because there is a fine line of emotional distinction to be drawn from what Coriolanus is saying. In stating that Rome will stay untouched at the possible