CoriolanusCoriolanus by William Shakespeare

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Coriolanus, as retold by Shakespeare, was a successful general but a poor politician. The nobility wanted him to serve as consul, but he could not flatter the people at all, or even speak diplomatically. So they reject and banish him when the disagreement gets intense. He finds his way to his military enemy and offers to help attack Rome. Only his wife nad mother dissuade him from this, and he goes back with his enemy, who betrays and kills him. A tragic end – so unnecessary - for a war hero.

Recurring themes:
1 - the changing tide of the people. Several times the people change their minds about whether they like Coriolanus. They are easily led with flattery, the right words and charisma.

2 - pride can get in the way of the ambitious attaining their goals. While much of it was personality temperament, Coriolanus was just a stubborn jerk sometimes. He was more interested in standing on his honor than in overlooking provocations and pursuing peace.

3 - selfish political agendas can wreak terrible injustice for those who deserve better. There was no need to oppose Coriolanus as consul, except to grab the people’s support for themselves instead, which is what Brutus and Sicinius do. Coriolanus’ enemy, Aufidius, also does this at the end, deciding to assassinate Coriolanus to maintain his own position. There are shades and echoes here of the Sadducees and Caiaphas betraying Jesus: better one die to preserve our place and the nation.

While there were a few good insights into character or statecraft, this wasn’t one of Shakespeare’s best, literarily. It seemed like work to move the plot along. Perhaps this was due to the total absence of romance or marriage prospects – rare in a Shakespeare work.

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