• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Coriolanus is a man of action who is finally defeated by words. To what extent do you agree?

Extracts from this document...


'Coriolanus is a man of action who is finally defeated by words.' To what extent do you agree? There is no question that Coriolanus has, like any other tragic hero, a large flaw in his soldier personality, a weakness that could inevitably lead to his downfall. His inability with words against his ability as a warrior is a fatal combination, and this begs the question as to whether it was this one weakness or his military strengths that were ultimately the cause of his defeat. Coriolanus demonstrates right from the beginning of the play that his tactless way with words leads him to become his own worst enemy. In Act 1, Scene 1, Menenius cleverly uses the Parable of the Belly to highlight to the plebeians how fundamental Coriolanus is to their society, that he is 'the storehouse and the shop of the whole body' and they couldn't get by without him. Yet immediately after the citizens have calmed down and accepted Menenius' speech as 'an answer', Coriolanus enters and undoes all that Menenius has said by saying that the 'dissentious rogues' are 'curs...hares...geese' who 'like nor peace nor war', belittling them first through his use of animal imagery and again by implying their weak and fickle nature. ...read more.


All Coriolanus' rant manages to do is make the citizens turn against him even more and convince them to indeed 'banish him'. This banishment does eventually lead to his death, so in this particular instance the use of words is a key factor in his defeat. Although throughout the majority of the play the tragic hero is seen as a poor public speaker, there are a few examples of words turning from being his enemy to being his friend. Act 1, Scene 4 sees Coriolanus giving a speech to ready his army for battle. Shakespeare cleverly changes his speech into verse for the first time, to highlight the change in the quality of his words and also to emphasise his persuasiveness. He also describes his soldiers as having 'hearts more proof than shields', a powerful metaphor designed to inspire them to fight. He treats the men as his 'fellows' rather than animals, as well as threatening to kill them if they don't fight. This authoritative and influential speech made by Coriolanus emphasises the fact that he is able to use words effectively when he needs to. Act 1, Scene 6 also includes a powerful use of rhetoric by Coriolanus when he asks 'make you a sword of me?' which incorporates the extended metaphor of the body politic and of all the men working together, a very significant element as it is the first time this play sees the men working as one with the protagonist. ...read more.


She 'rejoiced in [his] absence' when he was fighting and was 'pleased to let him seek danger where he was like to find fame'. Honour was what mattered most to her, and her guidance had managed to lead Coriolanus astray, as she steered herself and her son through her delusional plans to make him a great leader. She counts his wounds and 'thank[s] the gods for't', which is a very unaffectionate thing to do. This lack of a true maternal presence in his life is what some believe to be the leading factor that made him abandon Rome to fight alongside Aufidius after he was accused of being a traitor and ultimately what led to his death. This is then another possible example of the use of words against him as his own mother shaped him into the man he became through her words. Although Coriolanus is capable of speaking effectively and using words to his advantage when under pressure, he has essentially been brought up to be a soldier and is therefore not only a victim of the harmful words of others but also incapable of defending himself through his own speeches, which is the fatal flaw in his character that leads him to be defeated. Shakespeare clearly shows that, apart from a few exceptions, Coriolanus is certainly a man of action defeated by words. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Other works section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Other works essays

  1. Taking into consideration of the language and structure of the play, how would you ...

    We have just seen Richard's betrayal, and now Clarence is finally seeing it; in a supernatural way, which links to superstition and prophesizing; having visions etc. But what makes it even more tedious is the fact that Clarence thinks Richard would never mean to hurt him and he "thought that

  2. The contrast between Hotspur and Hal is the main theme in Henry IV part ...

    This is also an example of the way that Hotspur takes action rather than thinking about it. Hal is cool headed but can be nasty towards Falstaff. He knows that one day soon he will have to break his ties with Falstaff.

  1. Consider How Shakespeare Presents and Develops the Character of Prince Hal and Hotspur In ...

    At the end of the scene Hotspur tries to urge his supporters to fight but it's inevitable that the rebellion will fail, although Hotspur knows this he vows with obvious fatalism. "Doomsday is near, die all, die merrily." Even though it may be wiser to retreat, his stubborn character won't

  2. A comparison (up to the end of Act 3) of the 'courts' of Henry ...

    This is throughout Act 3 Scene 2. An example to show this will be in lines 18-28, "So please your Majesty, I would I could Quit all offences wit as clear excuse As well as I am doubtless I

  1. who in your opinion is the true hero of Henry the fourth part 1

    Hal claims that he is only elevating the severity of his crimes in order to make his comeback seem even more dramatic, 'By how much better than my word I am', (Act 1 Scene 2 line 198). Shakespeare's plan is to contrast the characters of Hal and Hotspur, and then to exchange their attributes.

  2. To what extent does the tragedy of Titus Andronicus unfold from the protagonist and ...

    In the play we often see Titus' traditionalism in his acts, the first of which would be his support of Saturninus. He asks the people to 'create your emperor's eldest son, Lord Saturnine.' His reasoning appears here to be that he is choosing the eldest son, who would have been the rightful heir to the throne.

  1. Does Coriolanus make mistakes or errors in judgement that lead to his downfall? If ...

    'I have lived to see inherited my very wishes?. only there's one thing wanting,?.but which our Rome will cast upon thee.'. Running for consulship was clearly a mistake, because firstly, he has no desire for it, 'Though he obeys his mother's wishes and dons the gown of humility.

  2. Coriolanus, write a critical appreciation of the following passage, (Act 1, Scene 1, 146-210) ...

    In truth, Menenius is a hypocrite, for he has little regard for the commoners, much like Marcius. Martius has a single-minded virtue ? a warrior virtue. His reaction to the news of the approach of the Volsces, Rome?s ancient enemy, illuminates his love of war and fighting and his restlessness

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work