Coriolanus Archetype Essay

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Throughout many of his plays, Shakespeare uses the human body as a political metaphor - known as a "body politic" metaphor. This means comparing a city or country to the human body, usually used by political leaders as a way of supporting social hierarchy and attempting to keep the common people in check. Shakespeare does exactly this in act 1, scene 1 of Coriolanus. In the first scene of the play, Menenius Agrippa has to calm the (supposedly) starving citizens of Rome, who are furious about the unfairness of the present system. So, he tells them Aesop's fable of the belly; one day all the other vital organs around the belly professed their infuriation at how lazy the belly was, and how it hogged all the food, whereas all the other body parts…show more content…
Using this fable as a metaphor, Shakespeare has presented the human body as Rome, as it represents a whole system that is living and breathing, and is made up of lots of different, smaller parts, all equally as important. The Senators are presented as the belly. They collect the city's grains and disperse it among it's people - the commoners and the labourers - which are depicted as the body parts and vital organs. What Menenius is trying to express to the citizens, is that they are being taken care of, even though it sometimes may not seem like that. He is also trying to show them that they play a crucial role in Rome's society; if they, the plebians (the body parts) rebel against the Senate (the belly), then the whole body (Rome) is going to…show more content…
This is shown through the character of Coriolanus. He is presented as having all the virtues of a great Roman; brave, strong, stoic. Despite this, he is seen as a harmful, toxic growth to a healthy Roman community. To them - and to the reader - he represents everything wrong with society, because of his temperament. According to Galen's Four Humours, Coriolanus is cholic, which means his body produces too much yellow bile. This causes him to react to situations in an aggressive, unbalanced manner. He is also used as a part of Shakespeare's body politic metaphor in Coriolanus, as his body is malfunctioning. In the play, he is eventually expelled as he doesn't fit in - not with the aristocrats or the commoners - as to them he is seen as the tumour of their Roman society, seen by them as a cohesive organism. This is a contradicting concept, as Coriolanus isn't a hypocrite like the others, and won't lower himself to the people, even when it is crucial for his survival among his people. When Caius Martinus comes back a hero, he is given the new name Coriolanus, and the opportunity to become consul. However, he would have to beg for the votes of the plebians. At first, the common people agree to give him their votes, but they later reverse their decision due to the manipulation of two clever tribunes, Brutus and Sicinius, who consider

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