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Shakespeare's Coriolanus: A tragic hero in the Sophoclean mould

Wainstein, Marienne; (1993) Shakespeare's Coriolanus: A tragic hero in the Sophoclean mould. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

The thesis examines the striking analogies between Shakespeare's Coriolanus and Sophoclean tragedy: in determinant features of substance and style and in the unique individuality of the tragic hero. There are seven chapters, of which the first is synoptic and expository. Chapter II and Appendix I present documentation and analyses of the currency of translations of the Ajax and the Antigone of Sophocles throughout the sixteenth century, and the familiarity of these works in Europe and England during Shakespeare's lifetime. The third chapter investigates the genesis of the concept of the heroic individual in Homeric epic and Sophoclean tragic drama, and identifies the relevance of the concept to a particular perception of Coriolanus. This perception includes the understanding that the tragic hero lives his life according to assumptions derived from the Homeric-Sophoclean prototype: that his archetypal nature and conduct exemplify an essentially intuitive, non-rational demand for absolutes, and consequently resist judgement in terms of more reasonable criteria. The personality of the tragic hero is investigated in Chapters IV to VII, relative to the predicament embodied in his ambiguous relationship with the non-heroic community. His commitment to conduct which is commensurate with his personal areté confirms his unsuitability to, and incompatibility with his world: he cannot compromise his self-assertive individuality, and society misunderstands and censures his passionate resolve and temperament. Criticism of the tragic hero, based on conventional or questionable morality, fails to comprehend that the excesses of his temperament are elemental and indispensable attributes of the quintessential heroic personality. The hero's harsh aggression, and the lack of accord, understanding, and reliable communication between him and the community determine the irreconcilable clash of opposing ethical principles, which results in his moral and physical isolation, his complete exclusion from society and sympathy. The tragic hero may lose his life, but is morally triumphant. The tragedy exemplifies the inadequacy of human nature, yet recognizes man's potential to nobility; an authentic and lasting testimony to that which is most tragic yet most impressive in human aspiration.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Shakespeare's Coriolanus: A tragic hero in the Sophoclean mould
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Language, literature and linguistics; Communication and the arts
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10100086
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