Article Title

The Rhetoric of Wounds in Coriolanus; or, a Tragedy of Renaissance Rhetoric


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

It is the sad lot of the tragic hero that he is essentially misunderstood. His pride and failure to engage the vicissitudes of vulgar society and its inclinations to deceit and vice are met with a hard misapprehension of malice in his stubborn resolution to absolute moral clarity. What’s more, the tragic hero’s pretension, born out of the greatness and simplicity that define his mind, of having comprehended his place and the place of others in the world ensures that tragedy is rife with misinterpretation. Hence the prominent acts of misinterpretation and misrecognition across the history of tragic drama, from Herodotus’s story about King Creon having misinterpreted the prophecy of the oracle at Delphi, who told him to his ruin that if he attacked the Persians a great empire would fall; through Brutus’s conflation of patrician Republican ideals with popular support; to Wotan’s refusal to forfeit the absolute power of the ring despite the warnings of the Rhinemaidens in Wagner’s Ring tetralogy. And especially in Coriolanus, a play obsessed with voice and understanding, such misinterpretations serve as a constant source of anxiety, and ultimately tragedy.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.