Volumnia's Puppet By Shakespeare Essay

1830 words - 8 pages

Volumnia's Puppet By Shakespeare
Churning with self-doubt about his determination, his relationship with those around him, and his relationship with his mother, Coriolanus is a man at the mercy of his environment.

Because Coriolanus is largely a stage of competing self-interests, it seems wholly unnecessary to acknowledge their centrality in the play. Most of these interests are ephemeral or situational, and are thus without true devotion. Thus however "enraged" particular interests are, they are rarely triumphant. However, Volumnia's self-interest warrants noting, as she is consistently resolute and passionately advocates her opinions. Her self-interest ultimately triumphs over Coriolanus psychologically, and in consequence leaves him vulnerable to be triumphed over physically.

Assumingly on account of the marginalized status of and opportunities for Roman women, Volumnia uses her son Coriolanus to satisfy her otherwise unrealizable longing for power. She makes her intentions of raising a warrior, as well as her value system quite apparent.

"I, consider-/ ing how honour would become such a person- was pleased to let him seek danger where he was like to find fame. To cruel war/ I sent him, from whence he returned his brows bound/ with oak. I tell thee, daughter, I sprang not more in/ joy at first hearing he was a man-child than now/ in first seeing he had proved himself a man." (1.3.10-17)

Furthermore, while most mothers in her situation would beg the gods to spare their 16 year-olds from injury, Volumnia does just the opposite.

"O, he is wounded; I thank the gods for't...I' the shoulder and I' th' left arm. There will be large cicatrices to show the people, when he shall stand for his place." (2.1.118; 143-147)

Coriolanus' valor is the primary source of her pride. She cherishes anything associated with bravery, even if it is also associated with death.

"The breasts of Hecuba/ When she did suckle Hector looked not lovlier/ Than Hector's forehead when it spit forth blood/ At Grecian sword..." (1.3.41-43) she tells her daughter-in-law

Volumnia's praise for Coriolanus' military prowess leads him to become extremely arrogant. As Sicinius remarks, "Being moved, he will not spare to gird the gods."(1.1.254) Coriolanus assumes that he deserves unrequited honor and consequently treats any and all who contradict his intentions with the utmost disrespect. He is relentless and debasing in interactions with the plebeians, treats them as if they are animals, and considers them unworthy of respect. "What's the matter, you dissentious rogues,/ That, rubbing the poor itch of your opinion,/ Make yourselves scabs?" (1.1.161-163) Nearly every word in this statement contributes to its abusiveness. He calls the people dissentious (though not in their opposition to him), rogues (although the plebeians are the one's being denied rations, rights, and respect), their opinions itches (because they irritate him) to be scratched, and culminates by calling...

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