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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: May ::
Coriolanus's Hamartia
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0419  Tuesday, 9 May 2006

[1] 	From: 	L. Swilley <
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 	Date: 	Monday, 8 May 2006 09:00:13 -0500
 	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0409 Coriolanus's Hamartia

[2] 	From: 	Peter Holland <
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 	Date: 	Monday, 8 May 2006 16:52:03 -0400
 	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0409 Coriolanus's Hamartia


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		L. Swilley <
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Date: 		Monday, 8 May 2006 09:00:13 -0500
Subject: 17.0409 Coriolanus's Hamartia
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0409 Coriolanus's Hamartia

Larry Weiss writes,

>>L. Swilley says:
>>
>>'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.'
>
>" I beg to differ with Mr. Swilley.  A tragic flaw is not the same thing
>as a political opinion.  Coriolanus suffered the consequences of
>overweening pride and arrogance.  His political views, which
>undoubtedly were influenced by his hubris, could as easily have led
>him to demagogue the rabble as insult them, were it not that his
>arrogance inhibited him from pretending a humility he did not
>have.... I take the text as given, and disagree with Mr. Swilley only
>on the nature of hamartia in general -- it is the internal flaw, not the
>outward consequences it leads to."

[Confession of ignorance being the beginning of wisdom, I certainly stand 
to be corrected on this - and perhaps I should have written, "Coriolanus' 
flaw is his *judgement* that, etc."

[First, does not Aristotle define "hamartia" as "some great error of 
judgement"?  And does he not a few lines earlier, declare: "There remains, 
then, the intermediate kind of personage, a man not pre-eminently virtuous 
and just, whose misfortune, however, is brought upon him *not by vice and 
depravity but by some error of judgement [hamartia]* [my italics]?

[Second, perhaps erroneously, I have judged lack of humility and arrogance 
as vices, bad habits arising from misjudgement. And Coriolanus' 
misjudgement is his erroneous conviction that the citizens are of less 
human moment than himself and his kind and deserve little consideration. 
And is not a *political* opinion a *political conclusion* from a deeper 
misjudgement? Political philosophies are dependent on convictions about 
the nature of man, about what he is and how he should be because of what 
he is.]

[Any help on this thorny matter will be appreciated.]

[L. Swilley]

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Peter Holland <
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Date: 		Monday, 8 May 2006 16:52:03 -0400
Subject: 17.0409 Coriolanus's Hamartia
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0409 Coriolanus's Hamartia

Of course, hamartia in Aristotle does not mean "a tragic flaw". As 
classical scholars have been clearly stating for many, many years, 
hamartia in The Poetics means a fault/error caused by ignorance, 
especially of a blood-relationship. Isn't it about time we listened to 
them and stopped talking about hamartia as if it meant something entirely 
different? I really don't think Shakespeare and his audiences would have 
had the faintest idea what a "tragic flaw" is. But then they probably 
wouldn't have known the word "hamartia" either.

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