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Shakespeare and the Constant Romans$
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Geoffrey Miles

Print publication date: 1996

Print ISBN-13: 9780198117711

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198117711.001.0001

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‘I Play the Man I Am’: Coriolanus

‘I Play the Man I Am’: Coriolanus

Chapter:
(p.149) 8 ‘I Play the Man I Am’: Coriolanus
Source:
Shakespeare and the Constant Romans
Author(s):

Miles Geoffrey

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198117711.003.0008

In a paradox characteristic of the intensely paradoxical play Coriolanus, the passionate traitor Coriolanus is Shakespeare's most self-consciously ‘constant’ character, and the play is Shakespeare's most searching treatment of the ideal of constancy. Where the earlier play demonstrated how Senecan and Ciceronian elements are interwoven in the construction of Roman constancy, Coriolanus sets them against each other, and shows how the internal self-contradictions of the ideal, when it is pushed to its limits, come close to destroying Rome. Coriolanus is Shakespeare's definitive critique of the contradictions of ‘constancy’, and its potentially destructive consequences for an individual or a society which holds it as the supreme virtue.

Keywords:   Corlolanus, Rome, Shakespeare, Roman virtue, Cicero

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