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Staging Rhetorical Vividness in Coriolanus.


SHAKESPEARE'S CORIOLANUS is a man of action rather than words. As Menenius explains to Sicinius, he "talks like a knell and his hum is a battery" (5.4.20-21). (1) Nevertheless, many scholars have explored the centrality of rhetoric in the Roman plays, and have commented on Coriolanus's particular aptitudes as an orator. Some have found his eloquence "remarkable" and "brilliant," noting its complex affinities to Ciceronian, anti-Ciceronian, or Attic style. (2) Others have argued that his overpacked, dense manner of speaking--not to mention his failure to utter when it matters most--represent his contempt for the civilizing resources of language; or, at best, his eloquent inarticulacy. (3) Critics interested in the play's rhetorical landscape have all however tended to agree that Coriolanus's own accomplishments or deficiencies as an orator lie at the heart of the drama. This essay aims to shed new light on the place of rhetoric in Coriolanus by looking beyond the hero's own speaking voice, concentrating instead on moments where language--informal report as well as formal declamation--calls Coriolanus vividly to mind when he is not present onstage. Cominius and Lartius, among others, sketch absorbing word pictures of Coriolanus in front of attentive onstage Roman audiences; and these word pictures are considered here as examples of the "rhetoric of immediacy" that summons up absent, remembered, or imagined people as if they were truly before our eyes. (4) I argue that Shakespeare was drawing on both classical and Christian ideas of rhetorical vividness, and that Coriolanus (as well as his earlier Roman play, Julius Caesar) set out to explore how and why such pictures stir up strong responses, especially pity, among susceptible groups of listeners. As we will see, the Roman citizens' responses have consequences for the dramatization of Romanitas. More importantly, they also allow Shakespeare to explore more broadly the place of rhetoric in early modern theatrical representation.

It is not difficult to see why Coriolanus's own rhetorical prowess has so often been regarded as the play's central animating force. Coriolanus is a colossal machine of a man, with a thunderous voice to match. Fearing his avenging wrath in the play's final act, Menenius describes how he "moves like an engine and the ground shrinks before his treading" (5.4.18-20). To audiences in the theater, Coriolanus's character tends to prove exceptionally compelling--not least because of what he says, and how he says it. As A. C. Bradley memorably remarked, when Coriolanus is cut off by the conspirators in the play's final moments, it is as though "life has suddenly shrunk and dwindled, and become a home for pygmies." (5) But Bradley's comment misses a different and more complex kind of shrinking, or dwindling, which is felt by Coriolanus's Roman audiences not when he leaves the stage but rather when he takes to it. Coriolanus is often evoked by others in his absence, especially the outstanding orator Cominius, and their words summon him into lively, imaginative presence in the citizens' minds as the "best man i'th' field" (2.2.95). Here, in accordance with rhetorical theories of enargeia, Coriolanus is brought brightly alive, through words, as Rome's most "rare example" (2.2.102). I argue that Shakespeare is, however, centrally interested in the shortfall between such versions of Coriolanus, drawn in words, and the man who appears in person before the Roman citizens. Coriolanus fails, in person, to live up to his off-stage reputation--especially when he resolutely refuses to display his wounds. The play's exposure of this shortfall contributes to broader cultural debates about the place and value of rhetoric, especially sacred rhetoric, in early modern culture. As often as rhetoric was endorsed as an essential tool of persuasion, not least because of its ability to create lifelike presence, it was criticized for its propensity to foster deception and error. (6) The Roman plays prove a surprisingly rich site for exploring this problem.

Rhetoric and Rome were inseparable in Shakespeare's imagination. As Dan Hooley has written, "rhetoric itself, the acculturating, identity-imprinting system of education and language of civic discourse, is part and parcel of Romanitas." (7) Shakespeare's familiarity with the ancient rhetorical tradition has long been recognized, and he would have absorbed from Livy's Ab Urbe Condita the importance of exemplary oratorical performance to the res populi. (8) A recent surge of critical attention to the schoolroom experiences of Shakespeare and his contemporaries has uncovered the rhetorical habits of mind that animate early modern drama, especially plays set in ancient Rome. Scholarship has often focused on the ways in which rhetorical exercise fostered stoical resolution and emotional self-management, leading toward a robust sense of solidarity among like-minded learners. (9) More recently Lynn Enterline has suggested in Shakespeare's Schoolroom that theater was capable of challenging the "socially normative" practices that generally served to shore up the political status quo in England. (10) The present essay agrees with Enterline and others that dramatizing the early modern rhetorical inheritance provided Shakespeare with an opportunity to problematize the relationship between good speaking and right action. But rather than seeing the Roman plays as acts of resistance to the gestural, expressive, and bodily constraints of the schoolroom, I argue here that their focus on eloquence forms part of a broader, more radical experiment with theatrical representation itself. Shakespeare was deeply interested in the boundaries between language's power to stimulate the mind's eye, and drama's ability to bring matters literally before us. These boundaries are a prominent feature of his later works, perhaps most memorably in act 4, scene 6 of King Lear where, on Dover cliff, the blinded Gloucester finds Edgar's description of events ("Ten masts at each make not the altitude / Which thou hast perpendicularly fell") more persuasively real than the smaller fall he has enacted onstage. (11) The Winter's Tale returns to this same problem, not only in the final "statue scene" but also in the two versions of Antigonus's unfortunate death--one narrated by the Clown to his father the shepherd ("I have seen ... such sights"), and the other not quite witnessed by the audience ["Exit, pursued by a bear"). (12) It is the Roman plays, especially Julius Caesar and Coriolanus, which, on the face of things, seem most explicitly concerned with rhetoric rather than theatrical effects; it is here, however, that Shakespeare interrogated most thoroughly the difference between seeing and believing.

The rhetorical landscape of Coriolanus is as Christian as it is Roman, and this has always seemed strangely at odds with the fact that the warlike Coriolanus is self-evidently not Christlike. Scholarship has accounted for this problem by discussing the play's exploration of the differences between classical and Christian politics, or between Roman honestas and Christian patterns of sacrifice. (13) Attending more specifically to early modern debates about rhetoric allows a fresh perspective on this difficult question. Shakespeare was writing at a time when theologians were debating ways to make Christ's sacrifice more directly apprehensible to believers through the sacraments, and more especially through preaching from the pulpit. Here the stakes involved in rhetorical vividness could scarcely have been higher as the preacher's invocation of the Holy Spirit--brought through language before the faithful--ravished, uplifted, and exhilarated communities of believers, reinforcing their devotion to something vastly greater. (14) In the Catholic tradition of identifying with the suffering Christ, emotional intensity became a spiritual tool as each believer's pity for the broken body of Christ, and suffering Christians more generally, pricked the desire to perform good works. (15) But even as an innovative Christian grand style was developing in England, pulpit eloquence was criticized as an affront to unadorned spiritual expression--and sacred rhetoric eventually became "a polemical issue, possibly even a heresy." (16) The tension that arose was expressed through debates about the legitimacy of painting vivid word pictures in the imagination; and, relatedly, about the role of compassion as a crucial duty among and between Christians. (17) When Shakespeare's Roman citizen audiences encounter verbal tableaux of Coriolanus, they long to witness his Christian martyrdom--but also to participate vicariously in his military honor and heroism. The play's rhetorical landscape therefore emerges as a combustible blend of sacred and ancient traditions that sheds new light, especially in its second half, on the limits of theatrical representation.


Shakespeare and his contemporaries would have encountered ancient theories about rhetorical vividness from a variety of sources. As part of an account of the value of metaphor, Aristotle describes in The Art of Rhetoric how speakers can effectively bring matters "before the eyes" of an audience. (18) Later Quintilian makes clear the close relationship between enargeia and phantasia, the rhetorical methods "by which the images of absent things are presented to the mind in such a way that we seem actually to see them with our eyes and have them physically present to us." As part of this same discussion, Quintilian ascribes to Cicero the terms illustratio and evidentia; these are capable of stirring emotions in an audience which feel "very like the real thing." (19) Such speech makes people sense they are experiencing events directly rather than merely hearing them described, for they have "a quality which makes us seem not so much to be talking about something as exhibiting it. Emotions will ensue just as if we were present at the event itself." (20) Besides referencing these key sources, scholars have also recently detected in early modern culture the influence of Longinus's discussion of phantasia in Peri Hupsous, published in the mid-sixteenth century although not translated into English until 1652. (21) Together these ancient rhetorical ideas were filtering into early modern aesthetic and literary theory, along with surviving accounts of ancient (especially Stoic) philosophies of cognition where the quality of an "impression" allows the soul to determine the difference between appearance and reality. (22) Early modern literary theorists accordingly often praised writing in which the people or events described seemed indistinguishable from their reallife presence. As George Puttenham puts it in his account of hypotyposis in The Art of English Poesy (1589): "the matter and occasion leadeth us many times to describe and set forth many things in such sort as it should appear they were truly before our eyes though they were not present." (23) These various "visualizing" techniques (evidentia, phantasia, hypotyposis) are difficult to distinguish from one another in early modern writing--and, indeed, from ekphrasis, the creation of pictures in words. (24) All such aspects of rhetorical techne should appear effortless, even if they are extraordinarily difficult to achieve, bringing matters urgently before us rather than delineating them carefully and accurately. They secure the strongest possible emotional engagement of the audience who feel they are apprehending matters directly, rather than listening to them at one remove.

Shakespeare's Roman orators often powerfully deploy such techne, including Antony in his elegiac description of Caesar's death in Julius Caesar. Part of this episode's effectiveness lies in the fact that the audience has already witnessed in the previous scene the events Antony so vividly recreates. The citizens' immediate response to this spectacle, however, had been dismayed confusion: "Men, wives and children stare, cry out, and run." As Cassius warns Brutus, Antony's speech at Caesar's funeral will have altogether more subtle, profound, and politically dangerous consequences: "the people may be moved / By that which he will utter." (25) Antony goes on to describe the moment that Brutus, "Caesar's angel," betrays him:
   If you have tears, prepare to shed them now ...
   For when the noble Caesar saw him stab,
   Ingratitude, more strong than traitor's arms,
   Quite vanquished him: then burst his mighty heart;
   And in his mantle muffling up his face,
   Even at the base of Pompey's statue,
   Which all the while ran blood, great Caesar fell.
   O, what a fall was there, my countrymen!
   Then I, and you, and all of us fell down,
   Whilst bloody treason flourished over us.
   O, now you weep, and I perceive you feel
   The dint of pity. (26)

Despite Antony's claim a few lines later that he is unskilled in rhetoric ("I have neither wit, nor words, not worth, / Action, nor utterance, nor the power of speech / To stir men's blood" [3.2.214-16]), this speech is a deft example of evidentia that brings a vivid tableau of Caesar's murder before his audience. The citizens' pity is aroused through Antony's description of Caesar muffling his face with his mantle at the very moment when Brutus's ingratitude "burst his mighty heart," but also by his nostalgic sketch of Caesar first wearing that same mantle "on a summer's evening in his tent, / That day he overcame the Nervii" (170-71). If the bloodied mantle is a powerful prop, so is Caesar's body: "Here is himself, marred as you see with traitors" (195). But it is Antony's rhetoric, rather than the corpse, which impresses itself irresistibly on the plebeians so that they "feel / The dint of pity." And it is Antony's moving word picture, rather than the staged spectacle of Caesar's murder, which ignites the play's pivotal events.

Shakespeare's main source for Julius Caesar was Plutarch's Parallel Lives, which he read in Thomas North's 1579 translation, The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans. Besides the "Life of Marcus Antonius," Shakespeare surely also had Plutarch's "Life of Marcus Brutus" in mind:
   Afterwards, when Caesar's body was brought into the marketplace,
   Antonius making his funeral oration in praise of the dead,
   according to the ancient custom of Rome, and perceiving that his
   words moved the common people to compassion, he framed his
   eloquence to make their hearts yearn the more. (27)

In Plutarch's original, it is Antony himself who feels, or at least feigns, pity [oiktos] after his eulogy has moved the people. (28) Here, as elsewhere, North works closely with Jacques Amyot's 1559 French translation: "Antoine ... voyant que la commune s'emouvait a compassion par son dire." (29) The "ancient custom" described is the laudatio funebris, or funeral eulogy, which formed an important part of the public funerals of the elite. Such eulogies traditionally celebrated the exploits (exempla) of the deceased that had impacted most profoundly upon political life, shoring up mourners' affiliation to their community and encouraging young Romans to emulate admirable accomplishments. (30) In Shakespeare's play, Antony rouses among the citizens these "Roman" forms of participatory sympathy--as well as their "dint of pity"--with a political aim firmly in mind. But in a departure from standard eulogy's emphasis on the public achievements of the dead, Antony also makes his words easily accessible to the listening citizens. His vivid picture of Caesar indeed seems capable of moving them more profoundly than the embodied Caesar could ever have done while he was alive. As David Daniell has commented, "in a play given almost wholly to oratory and persuasion, the titular hero does not persuade." (31)

In Coriolanus, too, the Roman citizens encounter compelling word pictures of an absent hero. In this later and more complex example, however, Roman forms of pity are brought more explicitly into conversation with Christian ones. As part of another formal, elegiac occasion, the Roman general Lartius summons up Coriolanus in a striking tableau in front of the city of Corioles, believing he has perished during his single-handed pursuit of the retreating Volscian army. Lartius addresses his noble memory directly:
   Thou wast a soldier
   Even to Cato's wish, not fierce and terrible
   Only in strokes, but with thy grim looks and
   The thunder-like percussion of thy sounds
   Thou mad'st thine enemies shake, as if the world
   Were feverous and did tremble.

If Julius Caesar dramatizes Rome's mortal world reflecting heavenly chaos, "when all the sway of earth / Shakes like a thing unflrm" (1.3.3-4), here, by contrast, it is Coriolanus himself who is remembered--in all his vastness--as a new version of the thundering skies. Cominius will later remark that Coriolanus's unmistakable manner of speaking "thunder-strikes" those who encounter it:
   The shepherd knows not thunder from a tabor
   More than I know the sound of Martius' tongue
   From every meaner man.

His voice is a weapon on a huge scale commanding silence and surrender, comparable to everyone else's voice only insofar as thunder is comparable to a snare drum. It does not so much persuade people as overwhelm them--as though Coriolanus is a brutal new world order before which they must fall silent. As Lartius makes clear, Coriolanus outdoes nature by outsizing it: "A carbuncle entire, as big as thou art, / Were not so rich a jewel" (1.4.59-60). Coriolanus's wounded person is elementally impressive, a human-sized red gemstone which shines in the dark. Lartius's elegy is interrupted, however, by Coriolanus's abrupt and unanticipated re-entry ("Enter Martius bleeding"):
   1 SOLDIER Look, sir.
   LARTIUS O,'tis Martius

As though it were impossible for his voice to live up to Lartius's promise, Coriolanus here says nothing at all. In the second half of the play, Shakespeare will explore more fully the variance between such versions of Coriolanus that are vividly conjured in the mind's eye and his embodied reality.

Another extraordinarily powerful evocation of the absent Coriolanus comes as the officers are making ready for his election as consul at the Capitol. This time it is Cominius who prepares "to report / A little of that worthy work" (2.2.42-43) that Coriolanus has performed. He puts forward a formal oration listing Coriolanus's victories on the battlefield before and since his "pupil age / Man-entered" (96-97), his subsequent inexorable waxing "like a sea" (97), and his eventual martial invincibility:
   As weeds before
   A vessel under sail, so men obeyed
   And fell below his stem. His sword, death's stamp,
   Where it did mark, it took; from face to foot
   He was a thing of blood, whose every motion
   Was timed with dying cries.

Cominius's powerful evocation of Coriolanus's ruthlessness as a death machine makes it easy to forget that this speech did not start well. Just before Cominius had begun, Coriolanus had raised the stakes by stalking offstage rather than consenting to "idly sit / To hear my nothings monstered" (74-75). At the start of his oration then, Cominius had seemed acutely aware of the high stakes involved in bringing Coriolanus vividly back to mind, through rhetoric, and had labored to find words to do justice to the occasion:
   I shall lack voice: the deeds of Coriolanus
   Should not be uttered feebly. It is held
   That valour is the chiefest virtue and
   Most dignifies the haver. If it be,
   The man I speak of cannot in the world
   Be singly counterpoised.

The metrical irregularity of his first line suggests Cominius's struggle to match his own voice to Coriolanus's (reportedly) singularly powerful one. And despite Menenius's confidence in his eloquence, Cominius himself fears he cannot hope to "counterpoise" the enormity of Coriolanus's military accomplishments by speaking about them. He fears he will be unable properly to summon Coriolanus into presence before the citizens: "I cannot speak him home" (101). While Cominius's set piece surely impresses the audience in the playhouse, particularly those familiar with Roman epideictic rhetoric, it leaves his onstage audience more or less speechless. Even the usually prolix Menenius can respond only with "Worthy man" (120). It is left to nameless characters to retrieve matters by calling Coriolanus back onstage:
   1 SENATOR Call Coriolanus.
   OFFICER He doth appear. (129)
   Enter Coriolanus

Coriolanus's awkward mid-scene exit and re-entrance only reinforces the effort behind Cominius's attempt, exposing the fissure between rhetoric's potential to stimulate the mind's eye, and Coriolanus's personal "form" (143). Indeed in the following scene the unscrupulous tribunes Brutus and Sicinius will make political capital out of the citizens' dawning awareness of the difference between listening to "lectures" (2.3.232) about Coriolanus's worthiness on the one hand, and the real-time and potentially more moving "apprehension of his present portance" (2.3.221) on the other. Cominius's struggle to bring Coriolanus back into vivid presence by talking about him signals Shakespeare's bold, metatheatrical experiment with on- and off-stage presence across the action of the play as a whole. Now the rhetorical landscape of Rome has emerged as an ideal backdrop to explore a specific, human problem rich with dramatic possibility: what happens when vivid description does not neatly match but instead embarrassingly exceeds, or indeed falls short of, the person it aims to represent? As Coriolanus himself objects to Lartius and Cominius, his two most ardent picture makers, "you shout me forth / In acclamations hyperbolical" (1.9.49-50).

Much later, in act 4, scene 5, the First and Second Servingman encounter the same problem. Striving to find words to describe Coriolanus outside Aufidius's house, the servingmen seek a formulation that might approximate and so do justice to the extraordinary experience of actually seeing or hearing Coriolanus in person:

2 SERVINGMAN Nay, I knew by his face that there was something in him. He had, sir, a kind of face, methought--I cannot tell how to term it.

1 SERVINGMAN He had so, looking, as it were--would I were hanged but I thought there was more in him than I could think.

2 SERVINGMAN So did I, I'll be sworn. He is simply the rarest man i'th'world.


The servingmen's inarticulacy is part of the play's broader exploration of whether and how it is possible to capture, through words, a powerful presence; and the consequences, personally and politically, when such efforts succeed or fail. (32) Here the difficulty resides in what the second servingman calls Coriolanus's incomparable rarity. How can language invoke a person who is absent--not just as a typology, or a "kind of face," but rather as someone singular and particular? The additional problem here is that recalling Coriolanus's face conjures up only a fraction of the colossal man he is: "I thought there was more in him than I could think." Now Coriolanus seems not only beyond words, but also miraculously beyond comprehension. As we will see in the next section, the Romans' intense investment in making and receiving Coriolanus as a word picture--as well as their longing to feel his literal presence--suggests that Shakespeare's investment in vivid rhetoric was as Christian as it was Roman.


As many readers have noted, the ostensibly pre-Christian landscape of Coriolanus is freighted with Elizabethan and early Jacobean theology. (33) Coriolanus's story has Christological resonance, not least because of the spectacular wounds he receives after the battle at Corioli which the commoners will insist "he should have showed us" (2.3.160). As Stanley Cavell famously argued, these suggest Coriolanus's "connection with the figure of Christ," calling especially to mind Thomas's need to witness His wounds in order to believe in the Resurrection. Thomas was not present at the first showing, and would not believe until he had actually seen; to him, Christ said "because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed" (John 20:29). (34) These same questions of seeing, hearing, and believing also lie behind the fraught early modern debate about how best to make Christ vividly present to believers--even as post-Reformation thought was marginalizing symbolic ceremony from churches, and jettisoning "visual memory-systems from the imagination." Through the concept of fides ex auditu ("faith is by hearing") God was assumed to become present through the ear rather than the eye, the preacher's "visible words" circumventing, at least in part, the theological problems posed by images and symbols. (35) There was no greater early modern project of praesentia than the forms of sacred rhetoric that sought to bring Christ into proximity with the believer as a felt presence. When such rhetoric focused especially on Christ's suffering in the Passion, it was not intended to promote understanding through the rational faculties, nor indeed through straightforward sensory perception, but instead to ignite through pity a deep sense of faith, commitment, and assurance. In the Roman context of Shakespeare's play, the problem of how to foster, succumb to, or resist such responses becomes particularly pressing when Coriolanus finally and reluctantly accepts Cominius's invitation to display his wounds in front of the citizens at the Roman marketplace.

Coriolanus's reputation is secured in the minds of the citizens by word paintings with a distinctively Christological luster. As we have seen, "there's wondrous things spoke of him" (2.1.134), and Coriolanus's legend thrives, in the minds of the citizens, through his pierced body whose "wounds become him" (2.1.120). The spiritual intensity of the citizens' attentiveness contributes to what Hannibal Hamlin calls Shakespeare's creative anachronism in the Roman plays which tend to pay "frequent, deliberate and significant" attention to the bible, even as their classical settings are specifically elaborated. (36) According to the messenger, the citizens received the war-torn Coriolanus rapturously back into Rome after his victory at Corioli:
   I have seen the dumb men throng to see him, and
   The blind to hear him speak. Matrons flung gloves,
   Ladies and maids their scarves and handkerchiefs,
   Upon him as he passed. The nobles bended
   As to Jove's statue, and the commons made
   A shower and thunder with their caps and shouts.

People flock to see and hear Coriolanus for themselves, even if they cannot hear or see. Indeed, the messenger recognizes that the citizens are uniquely receptive to their hero's presence by virtue of their very deafness and blindness. As the Second Officer will later make clear, Coriolanus's great "estimation" (2.2.27) has been firmly planted not only in the citizens' eyes, but also in their hearts. The first two lines quoted above may echo the description in Matthew 15:30 of Christ at Galilee where, after the story of His miracles has spread far and wide, "great multitudes came unto him, having with them those that were lame, blind, dumb ... and cast them down at Jesus' feet." (37) Like those biblical multitudes, Shakespeare's plebeians have absorbed Coriolanus's legend in an intimate, transcendent way beyond the dull embodied senses of perception, and long to do so again, suggesting something of the spiritual rapture ignited by Coriolanus's own "good report" (1.3.20). In turn, this rapture is accompanied by their fervent desire to feel, and to share in, his personal aura--even as the Roman noblemen set about worshipping him like "Jove's statue."

The tension between hearing about Christ and actually seeing or feeling His presence was of course central to early modern spiritual practice. Like many of his contemporaries, Shakespeare would have encountered firsthand the expectation that powerful eloquence might conjure Christ in the imagination. But preachers found themselves wrestling with the problem of how to reconcile rhetoric's necessary artifice with grace--for, as John Ludham had written in his 1577 translation of Andreas Hyperius's The Practis of Preaching, "the maner of mouinge of affections assigned vnto Preachers in the Church, is not altogether lyke vnto that, that the Orators vse in their Forum or Consistory." (38) Not altogether like, perhaps, but also not altogether unlike. Most ministers were obliged, as Debora Shuger has argued, to "accept the paradox, already present in Augustine, that passionate oratory both is and is not a human art." Figures familiar from ancient rhetoric such as apostrophe, admiratio and exclamatio were all regarded as capable of capturing divine greatness, and of articulating "the soul's ardent response to God's presence." (39) The grand style of Christian rhetoric, or Christiana Rhetorica, relied fundamentally on conveying emotion--not least "pitie and compassion" for Christ's suffering--through the careful fashioning of words, countenance, and gesture. Like the orator, the minister was expected first to stir up in himself "such lyke affections" as he hoped "to bee translated into the myndes of his auditors," striving to master a passionate plain style commensurate with the Holy Spirit and repudiating rhetorical flourishes while still privileging the passion and expressivity necessary to foster Christian service. (40) John Donne summed up these aims succinctly in a sermon preached on Easter Day 1622: "Rhetorique will make absent and remote things present to your understanding." (41) It remained important to emphasize, however, that the source of this presence did not lie within the rhetorical figures themselves, nor entirely within the speaker--for, as John Norden suggests in A Pensiue Mans Practise (1596), "without the help of the holy Ghost, the voice of the preacher vanisheth, and the hearers profit nothing at all." (42) An accomplished preacher capable of mastering the appropriate rhetorical devices would need God's blessing before he could bring Christ vividly before the faithful.

Perhaps surprisingly, the marketplace at Rome proved a fitting place for Shakespeare to test these ideas on the early modern stage. Here, at last, Coriolanus appears in person in front of the citizens--although the action will still pivot around the question of exactly how much this onstage audience will literally witness, and how much will be left to their imagination. In accordance with Roman law, Coriolanus's appointment as Consul can be ratified only if he entreats the plebeians' acceptance by suing for their favor and publicly displaying his wounds. Coriolanus is here required to match, in person, the image of the wounded martyr that the plebeians already cherish in their imagination; but also to speak convincingly, for the first time, as his own advocate. The plebeians may accept or reject him by bestowing or withholding their voices in response to his. They are eager to "give ... voices heartily" (2.3.103), seeking the rapturous sympathy that might re-create Coriolanus's euphoric entry into Rome in act 1, when their shouts (according to Lartius's report) had absorbed and then echoed "the thunder-like percussion" (1.4.63) of his voice. Speaking for Coriolanus's wounds, the plebeians will make them their own; recognizing his noble deeds, they will sympathetically share his nobility. They long to take some part in Coriolanus's epic "deed-achieving" (2.1.168), but also to undertake enthusiastic self-surrender much like the ardent, faithful volition the messenger had described in act 2, scene 1. For as the Third Citizen puts it, denying Coriolanus's voice "is a power that we have no power to do" (2.3.4-5). To borrow North's word from his "Life of Marcus Brutus," theirs is a kind of "yearning" for sympathetic involvement that blends Roman participation in Coriolanus's wounded nobility with Christian pity for his suffering. But their more particular yearning is to match this newly visible (and pitiable) Coriolanus, in the flesh, to the vivid impression they have already gathered of his wounded person.

The Fourth Citizen accordingly prompts Coriolanus: "You have received many wounds for your country"; but Coriolanus immediately rebuffs him: "I will not seal your knowledge with showing them" (2.3.105-7). He must nevertheless wear a "napless [threadbare] vesture of humility" (2.1.228) more clearly related to shame than the garment described in Plutarch, thanks to its resemblance to the sheet worn by public penitents. In displays of contrition resembling those that had occurred in marketplaces since the Middle Ages, early modern sinners were sometimes obliged to stand in church draped in a "meane simple cloathe," usually a white sheet, which made their wrongdoing starkly visible. (43) Shakespeare's line indeed recalls 1 Peter 5:5 where humility is worn as a garment: "be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble." The word "vesture" may also reference the scene of the Crucifixion where the soldiers "cast lots upon the vesture of Christ." (44) Even donning the gown is a gesture Coriolanus can scarcely countenance: "I cannot / Put on the gown, stand naked and entreat them, / For my wounds' sake, to give their suffrage" (2.2.135-37).

In Lartius and Cominius's earlier reports, Coriolanus's thundering voice had inspired rapturous fellow feeling, establishing Roman solidarity, or metropolitana civitas. Now that Coriolanus is literally present before them, however, the plebeians long to see their colossus humbled, and to hear him begging for their voices like alms. (45) They seek in fact to participate in a Roman imitatio Christi whose aura resides in its portrait of infinite power rendered utterly vulnerable. At the beginning of the play, Coriolanus had regarded pity as his own to bestow on his poor host at Corioles (1.9.85). But to be pitied himself by "the beastly plebeians" (2.1.92) with their "children's voices" (3.1.31) would involve a devastating loss of Roman authority, suggesting his personal pain like the suffering Christ's.

Shakespeare's Coriolanus (unlike Plutarch's) therefore flatly refuses to reveal his wounds, and the plebeians' ardency soon comes to an aggrieved halt: "He said he had wounds" (2.3.163). (46) To Coriolanus, revealing himself in this way seems both an absurd deference to ancient custom and a shameful postponement of more purposeful action. The notion that his wounds were received "for the hire / Of their breath only" (2.2.148-49) is anathema to him; and, in any case, the Senate has already confirmed his appointment as Consul. Coriolanus goes on to disappoint his onstage citizen audience a second time in his manner of speaking--for he can imagine his voice meeting with theirs only in a way that involves disease: "so shall my lungs / Coin words till their decay against those measles / Which we disdain should tetter us" (3.1.79-81). Coriolanus spits forth language that decays the moment it is received, and the words he offers work like incantations against lepers ("measles"). (47) The imagery of this passage turns on the resemblance between the tettered (blistered) human body and the divided state. But it also serves to prohibit the ardent pity which early modern sacred rhetoric sets out to foster among the faithful. Public speaking is here instead exposed as the lungs' dirty work. Coriolanus imagines a terrible world where the plebeians are given too much credence by the patricians so that, when "both your voices blended" (104), there is nothing but "confusion" (111). The citizens had unanimously concluded in the very first scene that Coriolanus is "a very dog to the commonalty" (1.1.26). This doggishness, unequivocally proven by act 3, suggests not only casual cruelty but also Coriolanus's unwillingness to cultivate, through language, the consensus which might hold Rome peaceably together. And since the rhetorical landscape of this play is sacred as well as Roman, it also suggests his absolute rejection of affective Christian solidarity.

One particular aim of sacred rhetoric, as we have seen, was to stir up pity for Christ through vivid description. This in turn created a sense of intimate responsiveness shared and strengthened among the Christian faithful. Shakespeare's play painfully exposes the shortfall between an ecstatically vulnerable, imagined Christ figure and Coriolanus's stubborn presence in reality. And when Coriolanus does himself speak, his rhetorical performance is a much more wretched failure even than Cominius's in act 2, scene 2. As Menenius affirms, Coriolanus is "ill-schooled / In bolted language" (3.1.323-24). North's Coriolanus has an "eloquent tongue," but Shakespeare's would rather act than converse: "When blows have made me stay I fled from words" (2.2.70). (48) Menenius records Coriolanus's dramatic failure to set his emotions in order: "His heart's his mouth. / What his breast forges that his tongue must vent" (3.1.259-60). The heart stands in these lines for emotional authenticity: Coriolanus says what he feels. (49) On the face of it, this marks out Coriolanus as an effective orator--for, as Horace makes clear, the best speakers first feel the emotions they seek to stir among their auditors: "si vis me flere, dolendum est / primum ipsi tibi" ("If you would have me weep, you must first feel grief yourself"). (50) But here the language of forging and venting suggests that if the raw stuff of Coriolanus's voice is heat and metal, as befits a colossus, his words are coined through a painful process of smelting which seems expressly to forbid pity.

Summoned back to the marketplace, and accused by Sicinius of treachery, Coriolanus retorts
   I'll know no further.
   Let them pronounce the steep Tarpeian death,
   Vagabond exile, flaying, pent to linger
   But with a grain a day, I would not buy
   Their mercy at the price of one fair word[.]

The nuts and bolts of language here fail Coriolanus, as they often do at crucial moments. Switching inexplicably from the parallel nouns "death ... exile ... flaying" to the past-participle construction "pent to linger," Coriolanus cannot encompass his fury within the strictures of blank verse. This stuttering effect contributes to the play's major achievement according to R. B. Parker who notes "the sense it gives of overpackedness, of details over-riding the regular patterns of metre, syntax, and grammar." (51) As Coriolanus imagines his "vagabond exile" on the Tarpeian rock, the emotion behind his words appears raw and improvised. It is also startlingly and riskily embodied through Coriolanus's willing preparedness for "flaying"--recalling Cominius's earlier visualization of his return from the battlefield as if "he were flayed" (1.6.22). It is true that Coriolanus's uncompromising resistance to the clamorous demands of the plebeians--and, more especially, to the manipulative schemes of the tribunes--are often thoroughly persuasive to an audience in the theater. Amongst his onstage citizen listeners, however, Coriolanus's words fall flat: "He's banished and it shall be so!" (3.3.106). When these Roman audiences directly see and hear Coriolanus, rather than experiencing him as an imaginative tableau through the words of other people, he no longer elicits impassioned feeling or self-sacrificing loyalty. The plebeians may be seeking "salvific intimacy" at the marketplace, but Coriolanus is unable or unwilling to live up their demands. Instead he experiences the citizens' attentiveness as one more act of flaying. (52)

Coriolanus by now offers far more than a portrait of a bluntly inarticulate (or obscurely eloquent) soldier orator. Instead, Shakespeare seems particularly focused on experimenting with how Coriolanus's character emerges through--and in conflict with--the story that has been told while he is offstage. In person, to the plebeians, Coriolanus resembles neither the deeply impressive "thing of blood" which Lartius and Cominius have eulogized; nor a wondrously pitiable Christ on the Cross. Readers have found it impossible to reconcile Coriolanus's notional Christlikeness with the man he is, but Shakespeare reveals that this irreconcilability is precisely the point. In person, Coriolanus brutally punctures the plebeians' expectations that they can bestow Christian pity on their wounded colossus, staging his own "vagabond exile" from the versions of himself that have been flourishing in the commoners' eager imaginations. As long as his presence is hoped for, remembered, or eulogized by others, Coriolanus seems capable of igniting powerfully compassionate fervor. But when he appears in person, this prowess, and the capacity of his plebeian audience to feel ardent sympathy for him, both stop abruptly. Shakespeare's radical experiment with rhetoric, in the early modern theater, is to make Coriolanus more compelling in the minds of the Roman citizens (if not the audience in the playhouse) when he is spoken about than when he speaks. And as Coriolanus is increasingly required to take center stage, and to play his own part, he begins himself to recognize--devastatingly--that these earlier lifelike tableaux were only a temporarily satisfying simulacrum. But theatrical representation scarcely emerges as a reliable or stable alternative.


In act 3, Coriolanus's inability to move and persuade his onstage audience becomes not only a rhetorical problem but also an explicitly metatheatrical one. This is partly because, in Coriolanus's mind, to speak in front of the plebeians is inevitably to "perform a part" (3.2.110). Early modern theories of oratory and acting were in fact inseparable from one another since, as Joseph Roach has written, "the rhetoric of the passions, derived from the work of Quintilian and his successors, dominated discussions of acting." (53) This poses a new problem to Coriolanus, however, who sees the potential overlap as one more looming threat to his authority. He comes to the marketplace a second time, having been implored by Menenius, and then Volumnia, to make a more convincing show of humility by speaking
   not by your own instruction,
   Nor by th' matter which your heart prompts you,
   But with such words that are but roted in
   Your tongue, though but bastards and syllables
   Of no allowance to your bosom's truth.

Coriolanus's earlier, surly outrage at the prospect of humbling himself had come from the heart, but Volumnia now encourages him to speak from a script. Coriolanus recognizes however that speaking an actor's "roted" words would involve a terrible compromise of his force:
   My throat of war be turned,
   Which choired with my drum, into a pipe
   Small as an eunuch or the virgin voice
   That babies lull asleep!

To speak with such smallness would be to assume the plebeians' own weakness and childishness--and, for Coriolanus, "It is a part / That I shall blush in acting" (2.2.143-44). It is not only acting per se that seems threatening to Coriolanus, but more especially the prospect of disgracing himself "like a dull actor" (5.3.40) who cannot effortlessly engage the audience's emotions and so tries instead mechanically to "cog their hearts from them" (3.2.134). (54) Only actors who seem to speak the "bosom's truth" are persuasive and moving. Their speech only is truly "to th'life" (3.2.107), presenting a part which chimes recognizably with off-stage reality. Our most profound experiences of art (and especially of theater) are indeed surely those which are as vivid as our lived experience in the world. In these cases, the emotions we feel are, as Quintilian says of enargeia, "very like the real thing." But a poor actor slips (as Coriolanus dreads he will) into contemptible lowness and mechanical artifice. (55)

Act 2 dramatizes the friction between Coriolanus's potency as a rhetorical creation, conjured in the Romans' minds while he was offstage, and the reality of his embodied presence. In act 3, the theatrical consequences of this friction become increasingly apparent as Volumnia encourages Coriolanus not so much to match the oratorical accomplishments of Lartius, Cominius and the others, but instead to deploy the more flexible resources of acting in order to secure the plebeians' affection. To Volumnia, at least, Coriolanus's success at the marketplace hinges on his ability to play his own part, personating his own "motion, spirit and life" which, until now, has flourished best (from the plebeians' perspective) as a rhetorical effect in the speech of others. But, as Coriolanus objects to Cominius, "You have put me now to such a part which never / I shall discharge to th'life" (3.2.106-7). Cominius promises assistance--"Come, come, we'll prompt you" (3.2.107)--but even with the most generous prompting, what actor could convincingly personate the supersized machine Cominius had earlier summoned into presence? Part of the problem, well-documented in scholarly responses to the play, is Coriolanus's inability to master himself, and so to fall in with either a Christian or an ancient pattern of virtue and right action. But the more subtle and serious difficulty, as Coriolanus sees it, is that he cannot, in person, "discharge" his own part convincingly, which is to say affectively, in order to foster the citizen audience's sympathetic involvement. Paradoxically, it may be precisely this failure to move the onstage audience of citizens, in tandem with his refusal to emolliate the manipulative tribunes, which has given Coriolanus such charismatic appeal to his audiences offstage.

In this strictest tragedy of Shakespeare's, however, it is Coriolanus's perceived failure as an actor, rather than as an orator, which signals his mortality. He predicts how those watching will eventually expose and scatter "This mould of Martius" simply by witnessing his pretended, actorly baseness: "they to dust should grind it / And throw't against the wind" (3.2.104-5). Volumnia advises her son to soften himself "as the ripest mulberry / That will not hold the handling" (3.2.80-81), and this pregnable, pliable Coriolanus bears scant resemblance to the fiery "carbuncle entire" Lartius had earlier described. And perhaps it is Volumnia who is most keenly aware of the risk Coriolanus is taking, for she seemed to foresee this moment when she tallied up her son's wounds in act 2, scene 1 upon his return from Corioli. Among the play's many word pictures of the absent Coriolanus, Volumnia's is surely the strangest and most disturbing:
   Before him
   He carries noise, and behind him he leaves tears.
   Death, that dark Spirit, in's nervy arm doth lie,
   Which being advanced, declines, and then men die.

Like her son, Volumnia sometimes slips into rhyming couplets when facing a difficult reality. (56) On the face of it, Coriolanus's "nervy arm," strung tight with sinews, stands for his unimaginably pitiless deeds on the battlefield. But the phrase is a strange one, and reveals not only Coriolanus's physical power but also how his skin contains and then brutally spills out the darkness of mortality itself. The uncomfortable resolution implied by the flat, masculine rhyme of Volumnia's closing couplet suggests however that she, like Coriolanus, knows that a warrior as spectacularly threatening as death itself could only ever be conjured through words in the imagination. Coriolanus will find such conjuring impossible to live up to, in person, through theatrical "dissembling" (3.2.63). To borrow another phrase from A. C. Bradley, Coriolanus is "an impossible person"--but he is not simply impossible to bear, as Bradley's remark implies. The graver difficulty lies in the impossibility of his performing, in person, his own reputed enormity. (57)

And of course it is Volumnia, rather than Coriolanus, who ends the play with an astonishingly powerful rhetorical performance. Her son's departure and triumphant return have already been made into orations by Volumnia. And as Coriolanus contemplates burning Rome and all it stands for, Volumnia insists he is not his own man--"Thou art my warrior. / I holp to frame thee" (5.3.62-63)--until Coriolanus, bewildered, concedes her victory: "it is no little thing to make / Mine eyes to sweat compassion" (195-96). The fact that his eyes "sweat" compassion makes Coriolanus's tears look assertive, but it is at this moment that he loses his voice altogether. In North's Plutarch, Coriolanus's compassion is highlighted in italics in the margin as the episode's central, organizing theme: "Coriolanus compassion of his mother." Here, as in Shakespeare's play, Coriolanus responds helplessly to Volumnia's words "as if he had been violently carried with the fury of a most swift-running stream," calling to mind Quintilian's description in Institutio Oratoria of the ability of high or grandiloquent style to overcome listeners, regardless of their intentions, like "the river that can roll rocks along ... will carry the judge away with its mighty torrent however much he resists." (58) Coriolanus's compassion for Volumnia is not, however, the Roman, participatory sympathy his own "rare example" had inspired in the plebeians' minds at the start of the play, nor is it the ardent Christian-seeming pity which the plebeians had longed to bestow upon their wounded martyr at the marketplace. It resembles instead a more private feeling which confirms both Volumnia's vulnerability and Coriolanus's own. Speaking for himself in front of his mother, rather than remotely evoked by others, Coriolanus looks as pitiable as any "corrected son" (5.3.57) as his inability to play his own part again becomes painfully evident: "I melt, and am not / Of stronger earth than others" (5.3.28-29). Coriolanus recognizes himself as a member of the com mons not only because he feels himself slipping into a lower social order but also, more dreadfully, because his life (like most lives) is now revealed as something less than the miracle it had appeared by repute.

So long as Coriolanus was spoken about in his absence, he remained singular and celebrated. Lartius's premature elegy and Cominius's eulogy, in particular, had celebrated his miraculous potency through rhetorical pictures that Coriolanus himself had shrunk from as "acclamations hyperbolical" (1.9.50). But when he appears in person, Coriolanus's furious rejection of the citizens reflects larger denominational pressures that center on the power of word pictures to conjure up godly presence, and the attendant danger that they might instead create foolish (or heretical) error. And when Coriolanus steps unwillingly into his theatrical role at the marketplace, which explicitly relies on being directly perceived by his onstage audience's eyes and ears rather than only in their imagination, his potency proves impossible to sustain. The plebeians demand that Coriolanus "show us his wounds" (2.3.6), longing for a moving encounter that might outdo, or at least match, the heights of rhetorical phantasia. Such an encounter promises, momentarily, to foster the kind of compassionate fervor that Shakespeare had designated Roman in Julius Caesar, or the congregational forms of pity that seem so Christian in Coriolanus. But theater depends on the visible and vulnerable body of the actor, and appearing in this way involves exposure to different sorts of scrutiny. Coriolanus may seem charismatic, even uncompromisingly virtuous, to an audience in the playhouse. To his onstage citizen audience, however, he cannot persuasively "play / The man I am" (3.2.16-17). Exploring the place of both ancient and sacred rhetoric in the early modern theater, Coriolanus dramatizes what is gained, or more often lost, when cherished figures are no longer conjured vividly in the mind, but are instead brought nakedly before us. Shakespeare's engagement with rhetoric in this play therefore goes far beyond anatomizing either Coriolanus's oratorical proficiency or the tragic shrinking, or dwindling, which takes place when he is silenced. Coriolanus instead scrutinizes the more wide-reaching tension between rhetorical vividness and theatrical representation--and the mortal risks involved in speaking, rather than being spoken about.


(1.) All quotations from Coriolanus refer to Peter Holland's Arden edition (London: Bloomsbury, 2013).

(2.) Yvonne Bruce, "The Pathology of Rhetoric in Coriolanus," Upstart Crow 20 (2000): 93-115 (107); Jonathan Crewe, ed., Coriolanus (New York: Penguin, 1999), XXXV. See also Michael West and Myron Silberstein, "The Controversial Eloquence of Shakespeare's Coriolanus--an anti-Ciceronian Orator?," Modern Philology 102, no. 3 (2005): 307-31 (309).

(3.) See Cathy Shrank, "Civility and the City in Coriolanus," Shakespeare Quarterly 54, no. 4 (2003): 406-23 (419-20); Aleksandar Brlek, "111 Seen, Well Said: On the Uses of Rhetoric in Julius Caesar and Coriolanus," Studio Romanica et Anglica Zagrahiensia, 43 (1998): 161-71 (168); and Jarrett Walker, "Voiceless Bodies and Bodiless Voices: the Drama of Human Perception in Coriolanus," Shakespeare Quarterly 43, no. 2 (1992): 170-85.

(4.) The term is Heinrich F. Plett's, from Rhetoric and Renaissance Culture (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2004), 498.

(5.) See Bradley's 1912 essay, "Character and the Imaginative Appeal of Tragedy in Coriolanus," in Coriolanus: A Casebook, ed. B. A. Brockman (London: Macmillan, 1977), 53-72 (67).

(6.) Neil Rhodes, The Power of Eloquence and English Renaissance Literature (New York: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1992), 12-19; 64.

(7.) Dan Hooley, "Rhetoric and Satire: Horace, Persius, and Juvenal," in A Companion to Roman Rhetoric, ed. William Dominik and Jon Hall (Oxford: Blackwell, 2007), 396-412 (412).

(8.) See Anne Barton, "Livy, Machiavelli and Shakespeare's Coriolanus," in Shakespeare Survey 38 (1985): 115-29.

(9.) See for example Stefan Daniel Keller's The Development of Shakespeare's Rhetoric: A Study of Nine Plays (Tubingen: Francke, 2009), 15-17.

(10.) Lynn Enterline, Shakespeare's Schoolroom: Rhetoric, Discipline, Emotion (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012), 1 and 8.

(11.) King Lear, ed. R. A. Foakes (London: Bloomsbury, 1997), 4.6.53-54.

(12.) The Winter's Tale, ed. John Pitcher (London: Bloomsbury, 2010), 3.3.81 and 3.3.57 [SD],

(13.) See for example Hannibal Hamlin, The Bible in Shakespeare (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 198-99.

(14.) Debora Shuger, Sacred Rhetoric: The Christian Grand Style in the English Renaissance (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988), 28-54.

(15.) Jan Franz Dijkhuizen describes how compassion's generally "relational dimension" was integrated into an overarching theology in Pain and Compassion in Early Modern Literature and Culture (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2012), 7.

(16.) Shuger, Sacred Rhetoric, 3.

(17.) See Khen Lampert's discussion of "the compassionate God" in Traditions of Compassion: From Religious Duty to Social Activism (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2005), 3-24.

(18.) Aristotle, The Art of Rhetoric, trans. John Henry Freese (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1926), 398-99. Aristotle provides a further account, in On Memory and Recollection, of the memory's capacity to "see and hear what is not present." See Parva Naturalia, trans. W. S. Hett (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1986), 294-95.

(19.) Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, trans. Donald A. Russell, 5 vols. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001), Book 6.2.32-36 (3.60-65). Quintilian also discusses enargeia in Book 4.2.63-65 (2.250-51) and Book 8.3.61-71 (3.374-81).

(20.) Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, 3.60-61. See also Cicero, De Inventione, trans. H. M. Hubbekk (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1976) who describes in Book 1 how an auditor may be moved "as if he were present, and not by words alone" (158-59). For a summary of this strand of rhetorical thinking, see Ruth Webb, "Imagination and arousal of the emotions in Greco-Roman Rhetoric," in The Passions in Roman Thought and Literature, ed. Susanna Morton Braund and Christopher Gill (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 112-27.

(21.) Peri Hypsous [On the Sublime), trans. W. H. Fyfe and rev. Donald Russell (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995; rev. 1999), 214-17. On the dissemination of Longinus's ideas in early modern culture, see The Early Modern Reception and Dissemination of Longinus' 'Peri Hupsous' in Rhetoric, the Visual Arts, Architecture and the Theatre, ed. Caroline Van Eck et al. (Boston: Brill, 2012); and Patrick Cheney, English Authorship and the Early Modern Sublime (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018).

(22.) Diogenes Laertius makes an account in his life of Zeno of such "impressions." See Lives of Eminent Philosophers, trans. R. D. Hicks, 2 vols. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; London: W. Heinemann, 1950), 2.158-63. Diogenes's Greek text was available in Latin translation from 1570. On Stoic phantasia more generally, see Steven K. Strange, "The Stoics on the Voluntariness of the Passions" in Stoicism: Traditions and Transformations, ed. Steven K. Strange and Jack Zupko (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 32-51 (47-48).

(23.) The Art of English Poesy, ed. Frank Whigham and Wayne A. Rebhorn (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2007), 323.

(24.) As Richard Meek explains in Narrating the Visual in Shakespeare (Farnham: Ashgate, 2009), ekphrasis is one way "Shakespeare's plays beguile us with vivid descriptions of things unseen" (2). See also Alison Thorne, Vision and Rhetoric in Shakespeare: Looking through Language (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2000), esp 57-103.

(25.) Juli us Caesar, ed. David Daniell (London: Bloomsbury Arden, 1998), 3.1.97 and 234. All quotations follow this edition.

(26.) Julius Caesar, 3.2.179, 167, and 182-92.

(27.) T. J. B. Spencer, ed., Shakespeare's Plutarch (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1964), 128-29.

(28.) Plutarch's Lives, trans. Bemadotte Perrin, 11 vols. (London: Heinemann, 1918), 6.168-71; 9.168-69.

(29.) "Vie de Marcus Brutus" in Les Vies des Hommes Illustres, ed. Gerard Walter, 2 vols. (Paris: Editions Gallimard, 1951), 2.1062. On North's dependence on Amyot, see "The Main Sources of Julius Caesar" in Shakespeare's Plutarch, ed. C. F. Tucker Brooke, 4 vols. (London: Chatto & Windus, 1909), l.xv

(30.) See Catherine Edwards, Death in Ancient Rome (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007), 19.

(31.) Daniell, ed., Julius Caesar, 47-48.

(32.) For an account of inarticulacy's cultural work in Renaissance drama, see Carla Mazzio, The Inarticulate Renaissance: Language Trouble in an Age of Eloquence (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009).

(33.) Hamlin explores the "Christlike" Coriolanus in The Bible in Shakespeare, 200-214 (204). See also Peter Lake, "Shakespeare's Julius Caesar and the search for a usable (Christian) past" in Shakespeare and Early Modern Religion, ed. David Loewenstein and Michael Witmore (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 111-30.

(34.) Disowning Knowledge in Six Plays of Shakespeare (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 158-59. Cavell finds further parallels between certain actions of Coriolanus and the biblical Revelation. The other disciples, too, are slow to believe when Christ "shewed them his hands and his feet" in Luke 24:38-41. All biblical quotations follow the King James version (1611); https://www.king

(35.) These three quotations come from Arnold Hunt, The Art of Hearing: English Preachers and their Audiences, 1590-1640 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 20-23.

(36.) Hamlin, The Bible in Shakespeare, 1.

(37.) See Holland, ed., Coriolanus, 256-62n. Further biblical references are explored in Naseeb Shaheen, Biblical References in Shakespeare's Plays (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1999), 658-69.

(38.) Andreas Hyperius, The Practis of Preaching, Otherwise Called the Pathway to the Pulpet, trans. John Ludham (1577), sig. G1v.

(39.) Shuger, Sacred Rhetoric, 231, 239.

(40.) Ludham, The Practis of Preaching, 127.

(41.) The Sermons of John Donne, ed. Evelyn M. Simpson and George R. Potter, 10 vols., (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1953-62), 4.87.

(42.) Norden, A Pensiue Mans Practise, sig. Glv.

(43.) See William Stanley, A Treatise of Penance (1617) in English Recusant Literature, 1558-1640, ed. D. M. Rogers, vol. 92 (London: Scolar Press, 1972), 230; Alison Shell, Shakespeare and Religion (Bloomsbury: London, 2010), 53. On the medieval public "performance of penitence," which sometimes required sinners to appear "nude except for a white sheet," see Dave Postles, "Penance and the Market Place: a Reformation Dialogue with the Medieval Church (c. 1250 - c. 1600)," in Journal of Ecclesiastical History 54, no. 3 (2003): 441-68 (442 and 445).

(44.) Matthew 27:35; see Hamlin, The Bible in Shakespeare, 202-3.

(45.) Coriolanus, 2.3.69, 80.

(46.) Spencer, ed., Shakespeare's Plutarch, 319. For comparison of this episode in Plutarch and Shakespeare, see David C. Green, Plutarch Revisited: A Study of Shakespeare's Last Roman Tragedies and their Source (Salzburg: Salzburg Studies in English Literature, 1979), 146-47.

(47.) Compare Hamlet, 1.5.71-73. Gina Bloom discusses the material properties of the early modern voice in Voice in Motion: Staging Gender, Shaping Sound in Early Modern England (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007), 2.

(48.) Thomas North, The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romanes (1579), sig. Y4r. John Wesley has recently explored the tension between eloquence and embodied expression in early modern rhetorical training. See "Rhetorical Delivery for Renaissance English: Voice, Gesture, Emotion, and the Sixteenth-Century Vernacular Turn," Renaissance Quarterly 68.4 (2015): 1265-96 (1266).

(49.) According to Thomas Wright, "all passions may be distinguished by the dilation enlargement, or diffusion of the heart." See The Passions of the Mind in Generali, ed. Thomas O. Sloan (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1971), 24.

(50.) Satires, Epistles, Ars Poetica, trans. H. R. Fairclough (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991), 458-59.

(51.) Coriolanus, ed. R. B. Parker (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 74.

(52.) See James M. Bromley, "Intimacy and the Body in Seventeenth-century Religious Devotion," Early Modern Literary Studies 11.1 (May, 2005) http://purl

(53.) Joseph Roach, The Player's Passion: Studies in the Science of Acting (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1993), 26.

(54.) Eve Rachele Sanders explores Coriolanus as "an antitheatrical ideologue" in "The Body of the Actor in Coriolanus," Shakespeare Quarterly 57, no. 4 (2006)' 387-412 (388).

(55.) Tracing a different classical genesis for this same episode, Emily Griffiths Jones argues that Coriolanus's conversation with his mother--and especially his fear of appearing "ignoble, feminized, and whorish"--is selectively derived from Xenophon's Oeconomicus. See '"Beloved of all the trades in Rome': Oeconomics, Occupation and the Gendered Body in Coriolanus," Shakespeare Studies 43 (2015): 154-78 (172).

(56.) Compare Coriolanus's six rhyming couplets as he squares up to begging for the plebeians' voices at 2.3.111-22.

(57.) Bradley, "Character and the Imaginative Appeal," 60.

(58.) Spencer, Shakespeare's Plutarch, 353: Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, Book 12.10.61 (5.314-15).
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