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Consider the way in which Shakespeare presents Martius in the early part of the play.

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Introduction

Consider the way in which Shakespeare presents Martius in the early part of the play. The first, and perhaps most popular view of Martius is that of the plebeians in the opening scene, who have an unequivocally negative opinion of the man soon to become a popular and 'noble' consul, albeit transiently. While it is argued by Martius that the citizens can never be content ('what would you have, you curs, that like nor peace nor war?'), it is still significant that the earliest reference to him in the play states that he is 'chief enemy to the people'. Further quotations help explain why this conclusion is drawn. Shortly after this point, one citizen suggests that they 'kill him (Martius), and...have corn at our own price'. Since 'Coriolanus' is set in the period immediately succeeding a great famine in Rome, it is of paramount importance to the plebeians that they do not encounter the same situation again, therefore they are aggrieved that patricians like Caius Martius have the power to raise the price of corn at their discretion. Although it is widely understood that, during this period of civil unrest in Rome, few patricians are held in high esteem by the lower classes ('They ne'er cared for us yet', complains one citizen), it would be fair to state that Martius is among the least popular. ...read more.

Middle

He is certainly not a fan of democracy, and feels that the mob should be even more oppressed than they already are. Martius' reputation as a soldier is undoubtedly a good one, even if his rapport with the lower classes leaves a lot to be desired; his mother speaks of how he returned from his first battle 'brows bound in oak', the plebeians acknowledge his services for his country in an earlier part of the act and, towards the end of Act One, he is given the title Coriolanus, meaning 'man of Corioles' in recognition of his achievements. On one occasion, in Act One Scene Five, Titus Lartius is speaking with some of his soldiers about Martius' bravery on having tackled the city of Corioles single-handedly, following the cowardly retreat of his men. Lartius assumes immediately that his colleague has been defeated and killed, and begins to pronounce what is effectively Caius Martius' obituary, which summarises how he is seen as a soldier quite well. Lartius says, 'Oh noble fellow, who sensibly outdares his senseless sword...A carbuncle entire, as big as thou are, were not so rich a jewel. Thou wast a soldier even to Cato's wish...with thy grim looks...thou mad'st thine enemies shake as if the world...did tremble.' Here Shakespeare compares him to a precious stone, and describes the fear which he instilled in his opponents, using a simile for increased emphasis. ...read more.

Conclusion

After the final battle of the act, Martius returns to the Roman camp where a hero's welcome awaits him. The most peculiar aspect of this scene is how he displays uncharacteristic modesty, which can, on account of his pride, in most cases be put down to either his being shaken after a day's fighting or to false humility and a desire for further praise. At one stage, in fact, his speech becomes incoherent and garbled in declining this constant stream of adulation, which would indicate genuine embarrassment and disbelief at the degree of appreciation shown for his acts. Another occurrence directly after the battle which comes out of character for Martius, now known as Coriolanus, is his display of generosity in asking that a man who gave him shelter in Corioles be freed by the Romans for this gesture. These examples of anomalous behaviour on his part could have been brought about by the fact that either he was traumatised after long hours of combat, or that he was still in shock after having been given such a great honour. In the first act, Coriolanus is depicted during his rise to the epitome of popularity. Although he does not always come across as pleasant, charisma is unimportant while he is still a soldier; what is necessary is that he fights well, and that is exactly what he does in order to attain success. It is not until later acts that his less attractive traits begin to work to his disadvantage. ...read more.

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