Absolulely Absolutism Analysis Of Political Structure In Shakespeare's Coriolanus.

1648 words - 7 pages

Absolutely Absolutism.Political structure. Undoubtedly, it is something that affects an entire community. Its role is crucial in that decisions must be made "to keep the good of the people." (Cicero, 2005, p.1) Coriolanus, a tragedy by William Shakespeare, takes place during a time of war in ancient Rome. At this time, republicanism was relatively new in society, only having been around for twenty years. Tone, an important factor in the comprehension of literature, shows the "attitude of the author towards the subject matter." Shakespeare immediately introduces contradiction between the plebeians and patricians in the first scene. Absolutism versus republicanism - an unavoidable theme of Coriolanus. Applying the concept of tone, how does Shakespeare feel? More importantly, does Shakespeare side with republicanism or absolutism? Through an analysis of Shakespeare's Coriolanus, along with evidence from Cicero and Machiavelli, one may conclude that Shakespeare favours absolutism over republicanism. Particularly: the commoners are characterized as fickle, selfish, and uneducated, suggesting that power to the people will lead to corruption; Shakespeare's main historical source, Plutarch's Life of Coriolanus, is a veneration of Coriolanus; and Shakespeare gives the protagonist, Coriolanus, a moral temperament, implying that an absolutist leader is better;In Shakespeare's plays, a recurring theme is the fickleness of the plebeians. Shakespeare portrays the commoners as easily swayed, uneducated, and never satisfied. Accordingly, Coriolanus commences on a street with a rowdy crowd demanding "for corn at their own rates, whereof they say the city is well stored." (I, i, l. 189-191) The plebeians were in agreement to "kill him (Coriolanus) and have corn at their own price." However, a story about a belly by Menenius easily changed their opinions and thoughts, showing how easily they are persuaded. Machiavelli concludes that:"Let a prince, therefore, win victories and uphold his state; his methods will always be considered worthy, and everyone will praise them, because the masses are always impressed by the superficial appearance of things, and by the outcome of an enterprise." (Machiavelli, p.20)People are easily pleased because they can change their minds quickly. They do not care for any factual evidence - one that pleases, even by hypocrisy, will win the vote.Shakespeare provides evidence that if power were given to the people as republicanism suggests, they will never be able to universally agree on issues. Humans are naturally motivated by self-interest. In a republican government, citizens will vote for whatever benefits themselves and when they do not get their ways, they will create a disturbance - comparable to the beginning of Coriolanus. Power to the people would corrupt society. An illustration of this is given by Shakespeare's hundred-headed monster:"We have been called so of many; not that our heads are some brown, some black, some abram,...

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