Today I finally plucked up the courage to finish reading Coriolanus by William Shakespeare for my next MA English essay (and the 2016 Reading Challenge). I have always had a bad relationship with Shakespeare: the only two other plays I have studied for school – The Tempest and The Merchant of Venice – I really didn’t enjoy, and as a result I have ardently proclaimed not to like any of his works. Unfortunately my third foray into his repertoire did nothing to alleviate my distaste.
Author: William Shakespeare
Favourite character: Volumnia
Category: #8 A book set in Europe
“Nature teaches beasts to know their friends.”
Coriolanus by William Shakespeare is believed to be the playwrights final tragedy. The play is set in early Republican Rome, and the ruling King has been replaced by a government run by elected officials. It follows soldier-turned-politician Caius Martius who wishes to represent Rome – he is of the belief that his noble standing and military excellence should automatically bestow on him the honour of the consulship. However, when the senate inform him that he must win the people’s approval by asking them for their vote, Coriolanus’s true nature comes to light – he is an arrogant, insolent individual, concerned only with personal glory.
The play features several strong and influential characters, most notably Coriolanus’s mother, Volumnia, who captures the early voice of feminism, along with her ready belief in her noble status. One of the primary themes of the play is class divide: the noble patricians versus the common plebeians. The people have won their way into power through a select few tribunes, who act as the voices of the masses, much to the dismay of many of noble blood. As a result of these tribunes being elected there is a power struggle between the classes, which ultimately leads to Coriolanus’s banishment and eventual demise.
I found the play extremely difficult to get into, though thankfully after struggling through two Acts I found an audiobook on YouTube, which lessened the strain somewhat. The plot was interesting enough and there were some characters I found noteworthy, but I still maintain that I have no interest in Shakespeare – how am I going to write a 2,500 word essay?!
For more content, visit @charlottebibliophile on Goodreads, Instagram and YouTube