Psychological Analysis of Coriolanus’s Downfall Essay

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Shakespeare’s Coriolanus asks, what does it mean to be virtuous. Today, Virtue means to be of high moral standards, but this definition is not culturally transferable. Virtue originally meant manliness, which at the time was the pinnacle of social achievement. Coriolanus was a Roman general born into a time of war, when men had to be brave and physically powerful. If manliness was seen as the highest achievement then femininity and juvenility were both viewed as failure. Even women, as shown by Volumnia and Valeria, possessed typically manly qualities. Volumnia, in training her son to be a man, forced Coriolanus into a mental regression manifesting in both a childlike state and one of hyper-masculinity. Coriolanus’s downfall is attributed …show more content…
It is almost ironic that she becomes the hero after spending her life wanting this for her son. It is his downfall or failure to achieve this honor that makes Volumnia become the hero.
“Hypermasculinity is a psychological term for the exaggeration of male stereotypical behavior, such as an emphasis on strength, aggression, body hair, odor, and virility.” As seen in Act 1 Coriolanus is a brave and aggressive roman general whose thirst for blood exceeds that of the other romans. There is no doubt that he is an accomplished and proficient soldier, but in his own eyes he stands out. “What would you have, you curs, / That like nor peace nor war? The one affrights you, / The other makes you proud. He that trusts to you, / Where he should find you lions, finds you hares; / Where foxes, geese.” (I,1, 166-170) He was taught virtue, or manliness, from his mother, but Coriolanus takes it to the extreme. In scene 8 he shows bravery in taking on all of the soldiers by himself; however, it is easy to view this bravery as foolishness or even hubris. Though he is successful in his endeavor he put his entire army at risk, this just shows his arrogance and egocentricity. He feels no sorrow in his genocide, as only a hyper-masculine person would. “An earlier article (Scheff 2003), used the examples of Lt. Calley and Hitler to illustrate my [Scheff] theory of hypermasculine isolation, repression and violence.” In speech and in action, Coriolanus isolates himself in an overgrown

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