The conflict between the patricians, or traditional ruling class, and the plebeians, or common people, is central to the play. At the opening of the play, the plebeians are rebelling against the patricians, whom they accuse of hoarding grain while the plebeians starve. The tribunes Brutus and Sicinius are of the plebeian class and representatives of that class. Their mistrust and dislike of Coriolanus is partly their class’s mistrust and dislike of the patrician class. In addition, Coriolanus fosters this mistrust and dislike because of the pride and contempt he displays towards the plebeians.
The patricians, equally, mistrust and scorn the plebeians. Both Menenius and Coriolanus dismiss them as fragments, incomplete people: words applied to them include “great toe?(I.i.142), “cobbled [patched] shoes?(I.i.182), and “shreds?(I.i.194). They are “dissentious rogues?(I.i.150). Menenius and Coriolanus, being patricians, are biased witnesses, but their judgments are validated by the action of the play, which is not neutral with regard to class. Shakespeare assumes that class is a predictor of intelligence, rationality, and ability to govern. The plebeians cannot be relied upon to think for themselves or stick to a decision once they have made it; they are easily manipulated by the self-serving tribunes; they are cowardly in battle; and they are unable to take any responsible role in government. Coriolanus is driven out of Rome because Brutus and Sicinius play upon the plebeians?fears that he will become a tyrant if elected consul. Repeatedly, the patricians are the voice of reason; they do not want Coriolanus to be banished; they try to give him a fair hearing when he is being condemned by the plebeians; and at the end of the play, their Volscian equivalent, the Lords, again try to give Coriolanus a fair hearing before he is hacked to death by the Conspirators.
Pride is Coriolanus’s main problematical quality, and it defines his fate. His pride partly arises from his remarkable martial qualities, but it prevents him making the necessary compromises to become a political leader. If he were not so proud, he would be viewed by the plebeians both as a war hero and a suitable consul. They would see him as they do Menenius, as “one that hath always loved the people?(I.i.41?2), rather than as “chief enemy to the people?(I.i.5?) and “a very dog to the commonalty?(I.i.23). Coriolanus’s pride leads to his offending the plebeians at every step, and prevents him from making amends to them. He even responds to his banishment with pride, insisting that it is he who banishes the Roman people, and hurling insults at them. This makes his future rehabilitation in their eyes all the more unlikely, and means that Coriolanus is permanently trapped in his stubborn resolve to reject his native land. Similarly, his pride is a factor in antagonizing Aufidius, with whom Coriolanus takes refuge in exile (“He bears himself more proudlier, / Even to my person, that I thought he would / When first I did embrace him.??IV.vii.8?0).
Different kinds of virtue
“Virtus,?valiantness or martial valor, was the most highly prized character virtue in ancient Rome at the time the play is set. It encompassed courage, boldness, heroism, and resoluteness. Coriolanus has these qualities in abundance, but it is at the expense of another more humble virtue, “pietas,?or love and respect for family, country, and gods. While “virtus?was unquestionably of more value in war time, “pietas?was vital in peace time to provide the ability to compromise and forgive that held society together.
The two virtues often find themselves in conflict in the play, and Coriolanus, by upholding “virtus?and neglecting “pietas,?cuts himself off from society and humanity in general. While the plebeians are grateful for Coriolanus’s war record, they do not value “virtus?as highly as he does. Understandably, they are more concerned with the quality of their daily lives and being listened to and treated with respect. Coriolanus cannot provide these elements ?in fact, he seems to work against them. He is too inflexible in his warrior-like stance to make the compromises necessary to making society function smoothly. In banishing him, the plebeians deliver their verdict on “virtus,?though naturally they regret their rashness when another attack on Rome is imminent. Finally, Coriolanus, under the influence of Volumnia, does set aside “virtus?and bows to the demands of “pietas?in his abandonment of the attack on Rome.
The two virtues, however, have not been reconciled; they cannot coexist in Coriolanus. It is Coriolanus’s tragedy that this allowance of humanity into his nature is fatal to him; he is aware that it will lead to his death. Aufidius, another inflexible man wedded to “virtus,?is unable to forgive Coriolanus for his betrayal of “virtus.?Aufidius is also unable to overcome his own warlike rivalry towards Coriolanus ?another aspect of “virtus??and so has him killed.
The play does not reconcile the two virtues but rather, shows ways in which they conflict. It also shows their importance changing with changing times: “virtus?is necessary for defending Rome and expanding its influence through conquest, but “pietas?is necessary for building a cohesive society. With the death of Coriolanus and the ascendancy of politicians like Menenius, Brutus, and Sicinius, the suggestion is that “virtus?has had its day and “pietas?is the more timely quality.
The past versus progress
The struggle between the patricians and the plebeians is also a struggle between the past and progress. The patricians support the ways of the past, including the traditional hierarchical system of government, whereas the people want change, including a share in government. This theme is embodied in Coriolanus himself, who is a war hero of the traditional kind at a time that has moved beyond the values he represents. Now, political skill, not immovable courage, is what is needed for Rome to progress.
An atmosphere of uncertainty pervades this play due to shifting allegiances. It is difficult to identify who is a friend and who is an enemy. On the one hand, Coriolanus is a war hero who has a claim on the people’s loyalty for his military services. On the other hand, the people dislike his pride and under the influence of the tribunes, quickly become his enemy and drive him out of Rome. This turns Coriolanus’s allegiance from Rome to his former enemies, the Volscians. Aufidius and Coriolanus are sworn enemies who become friends after Coriolanus is banished, but envy and rivalry gain ascendancy in Aufidius’s mind and he once again becomes Coriolanus’s treacherous enemy.
While such shifts come naturally to Aufidius and he is skilled at hiding them when needed, Coriolanus is of an open and guileless nature, so that everyone knows whose side he is on. As the age of martial conquest begins to give way to an age of political manoeuvring, it is no accident that Aufidius and the other politicians, Menenius, Brutus and Sicinius, survive, but Coriolanus dies.
The play’s treatment of the battles also shows how times are changing. The audience sees little actual fighting but hears a large amount of military intelligence, including an entire scene (IV.iii) featuring a Roman spying for the Volscians ?another example of changed allegiance. The days of heroic action, when allegiances were clear, are past, and have given way to the compromises, subterfuge, negotiations, alliances of convenience, and other ‘grey areas?of the political arena
“In spite of difference of soil and climate, of language and manners, of laws and customs, in spite of things silently gone out of mind and things violently destroyed, the Poet binds together by passion and knowledge the vast empire of human society, as it is spread over the whole earth, and over all time. The objects of the Poet’s thoughts are everywhere; though the eyes and senses of man are, it is true, his favorite guides, yet he will follow wheresoever he can find an atmosphere of sensation in which to move his wings. Poetry is the first and last of all knowledge—it is as immortal as the heart of man.”
—William Wordsworth, “Preface to Lyrical Ballads”
Romanticism was arguably the largest artistic movement of the late 1700s. Its influence was felt across continents and through every artistic discipline into the mid-nineteenth century, and many of its values and beliefs can still be seen in contemporary poetry.
It is difficult to pinpoint the exact start of the romantic movement, as its beginnings can be traced to many events of the time: a surge of interest in folklore in the early to mid-nineteenth century with the work of the brothers Grimm, reactions against neoclassicism and the Augustan poets in England, and political events and uprisings that fostered nationalistic pride.
Romantic poets cultivated individualism, reverence for the natural world, idealism, physical and emotional passion, and an interest in the mystic and supernatural. Romantics set themselves in opposition to the order and rationality of classical and neoclassical artistic precepts to embrace freedom and revolution in their art and politics. German romantic poets included Fredrich Schiller and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and British poets such as Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Percy Bysshe Shelley, George Gordon Lord Byron, and John Keats propelled the English romantic movement. Victor Hugo was a noted French romantic poet as well, and romanticism crossed the Atlantic through the work of American poets like Walt Whitmanand Edgar Allan Poe. The romantic era produced many of the stereotypes of poets and poetry that exist to this day (i.e., the poet as a tortured and melancholy visionary). https://www.poets.org
Literary critics consider 1798, the year when Wordsworth and Coleridge published their “Lyrical Ballads,” to mark the beginning of the English Romantic Movement. However, its actual beginnings date back to the poetry of Gray, Collins, Blake and Burns who are regaded as ‘Transition Poets’ who lived and wrote at the end of the Neo-Classical Age. Critical opinion is divided as to when the Romantic Movement actually came to an end; infact, some critics consider the Victorian age to be a continuation of the Romantic Age and that the English Romantic Age extended till the beginning of the Modern Age in the twentieth century. The characteristic features of English Romantic poetry are:
5.Completely abandoned the ‘Heroic Couplet’ and substituted it with simpler verse forms like the ballads which belonged to the English rural Folk. In fact the ‘Ballad Revival’ is said to have sparked off the English Romantic Movememnt.
Romanticism is the name given to a dominant movement in literature and the other arts – particularly music and painting – in the the period from the 1770s to the mid-nineteenth century:
Reaction to earlier age
Like many other literary movements, it developed in reaction to the dominant style of the preceding period:
Central features of Romanticism include:
Who were the Romantics?
Some authors have been regarded as pre-Romantic:
The first generation of Romantics is also known as the Lake Poets because of their attachment to the Lake District in the north-west of England:
The second generation of Romantic poets included:
The poets named so far are those who, for many years, dominated the Romantic canon – that group of writers whose works were most commonly republished, read, anthologised, written about and taught in schools, colleges and universities.
SHE walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow’d to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impair’d the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.
And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!
by: George Gordon (Lord) Byron (1788-1824)
A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its lovliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o’er-darkn’d ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
With the green world they live in; and clear rills
That for themselves a cooling covert make
‘Gainst the hot season; the mid-forest brake,
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms:
And such too is the grandeur of the dooms
We have imagined for the mighty dead;
An endless fountain of immortal drink,
Pouring unto us from the heaven’s brink.
– By: John Keats
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.
Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.
Where are the songs of spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too, –
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breat whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.
Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art-
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night,
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors;
No-yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever-or else swoon to death. – John Keats
Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!
I WANDERED lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed–and gazed–but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils. – William Wordsworth
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.–Great God! I’d rather be
A pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river ran
Through caverns measurless to man,
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers was girdled round,
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And there were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
But oh! That deep romantic chasm that slanted
Down a green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! As holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover!
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced,
Amidst whose swift half-intermitted burst,
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the threasher’s flail,
Amd ‘midst this tumult, at once and ever,
It flung up momently the sacred river;
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion,
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean;
And ‘midst this tumult Kubla heard from afar,
Ancestral voices prophesying war!
The shadow of the dome of pleasure
Floated midway on the waves,
Where was heard the mingled measure,
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device;
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!
A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw;
It was an Abasynnian maid,
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me,
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight ‘twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that pleasure-dome.
That sunny dome! Those caves of ice!
And all who heard would see them there
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread;
For he on honeydew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.
It may indeed be phantasy, when I
Essay to draw from all created things
Deep, heartfelt, inward joy that closely clings ;
And trace in leaves and flowers that round me lie
Lessons of love and earnest piety.
So let it be ; and if the wide world rings
In mock of this belief, it brings
Nor fear, nor grief, nor vain perplexity.
So will I build my altar in the fields,
And the blue sky my fretted dome shall be,
And the sweet fragrance that the wild flower yields
Shall be the incense I will yield to Thee,
Thee only God ! and thou shalt not despise
Even me, the priest of this poor sacrifice
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
ODE TO THE WEST WIND
IO wild West Wind; thou breath of Autumn’s being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing, –
Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O thou,
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed –
The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse within its grave, until
Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow –
Her clarion o’er the dreaming earth, and fill
(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)
With living hues and odors plain and hill: –
Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere;
Destroyer and preserver; hear, oh, hear! –
Thou on whose stream, mid the steep sky’s commotion,
Loose clouds like earth’s decaying leaves are shed,
Shook from the tangled boughs of Heaven and Ocean, –
Angels of rain and lightning: there are spread
On the blue surface of thine aery surge,
Like the bright hair uplifted from the head –
Of some fierce Maenad, even from the dim verge
Of the horizon to the zenith’s height,
The locks of the approaching storm. Thou dirge –
Of the dying year, to which this closing night
Will be the dome of a vast sepulchre,
Vaulted with all thy congregated might –
Of vapors, from whose solid atmosphere
Black rain, and fire, and hail will burst: oh, hear! –
Thou who didst waken from his summer dreams
The blue Mediterranean, where he lay,
Lulled by the coil of his crystalline streams, –
Beside a pumice isle in Baiae’s bay,
And saw in sleep old palaces and towers
Quivering within the wave’s intenser day, –
All overgrown with azure moss and flowers
So sweet, the sense faints picturing them! Thou
For whose path the Atlantic’s level powers –
Cleave themselves into chasms, while far below
The sea-blooms and the oozy woods which wear
The sapless foliage of the ocean, know –
Thy voice, and suddenly grow gray with fear,
And tremble and despoil themselves: oh, hear! –
If I were a dead leaf thou mightest bear;
If I were a swift cloud to fly with thee;
A wave to pant beneath thy power, and share –
The impulse of thy strength, only less free
Than thou, O uncontrollable! If even
I were as in my boyhood, and could be –
The comrade of thy wanderings over Heaven,
As then, when to outstrip thy skiey speed
Scarce seemed a vision; I would ne’er have striven –
As thus with thee in prayer in my sore need.
Oh, lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud!
I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed! –
A heavy weight of hours has chained and bowed
One too like thee: tameless, and swift, and proud. –
Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is:
What if my leaves are falling like its own!
The tumult of thy mighty harmonies –
Will take from both a deep, autumnal tone,
Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, Spirit fierce,
My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one! –
Drive my dead thoughts over the universe
Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth!
And, by the incantation of this verse, –
Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
Be through my lips to unawakened earth –
The trumpet of a prophecy! O, Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind! –
Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with any one I love, or sleep in the bed at night
with any one I love,
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so
quiet and bright,
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring;
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.
To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.
To me the sea is a continual miracle,
The fishes that swim—the rocks—the motion of the waves—the
ships with men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?
Walt Whitman, 1819 – 1892
A Bird came down the Walk
A Bird came down the Walk—
He did not know I saw—
He bit an Angleworm in halves
And ate the fellow, raw,And then he drank a Dew
From a convenient Grass—
And then hopped sidewise to the Wall
To let a Beetle pass—He glanced with rapid eyes
That hurried all around—
They looked like frightened Beads, I thought—
He stirred his Velvet HeadLike one in danger, Cautious,
I offered him a Crumb
And he unrolled his feathers
And rowed him softer home—Than Oars divide the Ocean,
Too silver for a seam—
Or Butterflies, off Banks of Noon
Leap, plashless as they swim.
Human Morality and the Laws of Nature by Ian Mackean
by Ian Mackean
In his novel Tess of the d’Urbervilles Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) deals with issues of morality in two fundamental ways; one is the relativity of moral values – their variation according to time and place – the other is the opposition between man-made laws and Nature. These issues are explored through the experiences of Tess Durbyfield as she encounters the problems of life, and exemplify Hardy’s idea of the ‘two forces’:
So the two forces were at work here as everywhere, the inherent will to enjoy, and the circumstantial will against enjoyment. (p.332)
The ‘circumstantial will against enjoyment’ is often a matter of morality or convention, but equally often it is a matter of chance, or fate.
The first example of the relativity of moral values is seen in the clash of attitudes between Tess and her mother…
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