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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: May ::
Characters
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0426  Tuesday, 9 May 2006

From: 		Joseph Egert <
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Date: 		Monday, 08 May 2006 19:11:03 +0000
Subject: 17.0406 Characters
Comment: 	RE: SHK 17.0406 Characters

L.Swilley notes:

>Coriolanus' flaw is his conviction that
>the citizens should have no voice in the polity; they are, he
>maintains, curs that must be muzzled and whipped into submission, or
>at least treated as soldiers in his army where the governed have, of
>necessity, no voice in military decisions...[L]ike her son,
>[Volumnia] has denied her aristocratic
>beliefs and argued for the salvation of her "inferiors." Both mother
>and son have lost or have never known the aristocratic principle of
>"noblesse oblige.")

The flaw, by patrician lights, was not conviction but the failure to mask 
it. Such conviction, as Nietzsche clearly understood, remains the heart 
and soul of patrician class identity at all times in every clime--with 
emphasis on their "noblesse" and secondarily on "oblige". To Volumnia and 
the Mother Macbeths like her, dissimulation constituted just one more 
military tactic against the class enemy within. Coriolanus' weak attempt 
at accommodating her hypocrisy, i.e., baring his wounds to woo the "mob", 
cannot withstand tribune provocation: the true patrician heart is exposed 
instead. Marcus insists on remaining lord and owner of his mama-moulded 
face with its fly-tearing teeth. He will not deny his own brittle 
integrity until late in the drama. Volumnia never denies her aristocratic 
beliefs: the salvation of her "inferiors" is a mere collateral gain of 
minimal interest to her.

L. Swilley's concluding remarks on backstories and on what constitutes 
valid interpretation are directly on point, as are Bruce Young's 
ever-thoughtful balanced arguments. What indeed are the centuries of 
scholarship and criticism if not an ongoing effort to fill in the 
backstory of Shakespeare's creative life and times, to unravel his sacred 
texts and flesh out their incarnations?

Joe Egert

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