The Gendering of Tragedy: Honor in Shakespeare's Coriolanus
Vengeance, chaos, uncertain honor and untimely death-whether describing the fall from grace of a noble king, impassioned General, or valiant warrior, each arises in the historically based tragedies of William Shakespeare. Coriolanus, Shakespeare's account of the societal and self destruction of a Roman warrior paragon, proves no exception, depicting the demise that results from any character trait excess, even honor. This particular play introduces a further element of gender to fatal excess, providing, through the characters of Coriolanus and Volumnia, a theory on the relationship between masculine and feminine honor in Roman society, a relationship which, semantically intertwined and yet independent in actualization, leads to a conflict that necessitates the play's tragic outcome in order to restore this chief virtue to both characters.
In Coriolanus both sexes value honor above limb, life, and love. Volumnia, a Roman matriarch and the primary female character in the play, establishes this value immediately upon her entrance into the plot, stating, "If my son were my husband, / I should freelier rejoice in that absence wherein / he won honor than in the embracements of his bed / where he would show most...
Join Now to View Premium Content
GradeSaver provides access to 872 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 6693 literature essays, 1803 sample college application essays, 276 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.
Already a member? Log in