Shakespeare Essay 2
The Power of Isolation Coriolanus, Hamlet, and Othello are all plays that follow protagonists who carry the weight of their own tragic death. Shakespeare’s plays however, differ in plots and personalities of the protagonists. Readers are brought into the lives of three very different characters: the prideful one, the mentally unstable one and the jealous one. One commonality between the plays is the theme of isolation. The consequences of physical and psychological isolation are presented and give scope about how the power of isolation alters one’s sense of self and contributes to the downfall of the protagonist. In Coriolanus the primary focus is on a natural leader and protagonist, Caius Martius Coriolanus, who is a truly flawed tragic hero. Coriolanus’s pride and arrogance amongst the common people of his city eventually causes them to exile him from his hometown, Rome. Coriolanus may be the ultimate war hero for the people of Rome, but when it comes to telling the people what they want to hear he could not follow through. The downfall of Coriolanus is spurred from both his psychological and physical isolation amongst groups of leaders and common people. Coriolanus’s psychological isolation is connected to his lack of tolerance to compromise. He is too prideful to articulate what the people want to hear. Unlike the “experienced and eloquent aristocrat” such as a Menenius, a character who appeases the masses as an orator, Coriolanus is “simply a military hero with an overwhelming hatred towards his fellow Romans” which in turn coins him as “‘chief enemy of the people’” (Honig 411). Coriolanus is viewed as a social outcast that is completely estranged from the lower class’s problems. One of the officers remark: “That’s a brave fellow, but he’s vengeance/proud and loves not the common people” (2.2.5-6). His lack of empathy and focus on his own integrity isolates him from the rest of the people. Coriolanus is indifferent with the people’s opinions and the “closer he abides by his own integrity,” Shakespeare “censures the extremity of the hero’s indignantly maintained alienation” (Honig 412). His lack of empathy towards the people is even expressed in words: “What’s the matter, you dissentious rogues, That, rubbing the poor itch of your opinion, Make yourselves scabs?” (1.1.174-76). It is no shock that the tragic hero’s isolated thoughts and lack of action contributed to his destiny of physical isolation. No matter if Coriolanus is alone in his thinking or alone on the battlefield, it seems that in all scenes in the play, readers are following the play through his isolation. Even when he is exiled from Rome, he shoots back and says, “Despising For you the city, thus I turn my back./There is a world elsewhere,” which shows he would rather “banish” and remain isolated than to give in to their “ignorance” (3.3.153-165). This scene, the climax of the play, shows how his isolated thinking physically alienated him from the people. The effects of the play’s falling action and resolution are directed by Coriolanus’s physical isolation. The rising action is when Coriolanus stands alone when he has to make a very important decision. He independently has to decide between the Romans and the Volscians, the people who want to destroy Rome. This is another instance in which he is isolated from the groups of people; he does not belong to any one side and is losing his sense of self because his uncertainty. At the end of the scene, Coriolanus’s decision to make a peace treaty between the Romans and Volscians puts him, again, as the isolated outcast amongst Volscians. His actions in this scene leads to the final scene of the play in which the tragic hero’s tragic destiny proceeds. Even his last words allude to his isolation:
Cut me to pieces, Volsces. Men and lads,
Stain all your edges on me. “Boy”? False hound!
If you have writ your annals true, ’tis there
That like an eagle in a