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Upstart Crow: A Shakespeare Journal


Coriolanus, Rome, Brutus, Sicinius, action, Shakespeare, language


Coriolanus seems to be a play of action, a dramatized world of mutinous citizens, plotting tribunes, famine, war, and banishment. Yet what really happens in this world? The citizens never realize their mutiny. Brutus and Sicinius never realize their illdefined plot, Coriolanus' consulship is rescinded, the mutual banishment of Coriolanus is undone by his resolve not to make "true wars" against Rome. and the defeat of Aufidius in act one becomes a meaningless victory when Coriolanus is in turn defeated in the final scene of the play. Perhaps it is more accurate to call Coriolanus a play of action, a drama in which action is enstated rather than enacted, in which action is described, deferred, erased, and repeated, but in which activity itself is never "finalized" as a discrete event. Coriolanus contains plenty of movement but no progression, debate without resolution, plots and promises that are never fulfilled, and constant effort for no realized gain.


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