«by JANE ELIZABETH KINGSLEY-SMITH A thesis submitted to the Faculty of Arts of the University of Birmingham for the degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY The ...»
Plutarch's 'Life of Aristides' tells of the Athenian, famed for justice and honour, whose
Ostracismon: disguising the envie they bare to his glory with the name of feare of tyrannic'.
Plutarch explains that this exile is only practised against great men - in estimation above the common people, either in fame, nobilitie, or eloquence' (349). 39 He continues.
56 "Antike Roman " Power Symbology and the Roman Play in Early Modern England, 1585-1635 (Athens and London: University of Georgia Press, 1995), 81.
57 The Consent of Time, STC 16619, 496-7. In The Strategems ofJerusalem (1602), STC 16630, Lloyd argues that Rome should have been grateful that Coriolanus changed his mind about invading the city, 312.
58 See 'The Life of Aristides', Lives, 348-68, 353. Cimon is another Athenian ostracised as Plutarch describes in 'The Life of Cimon', Lives, 524-39, 537. See the reference to Greek and Roman exile, including this practice, in
the Oxford Classical Dictionary 3 rd edition ed. by Simon Hornbiower and Antony Spawforth (Oxford:
Clarendon Press, 1994).
59 Plutarch describes here how Damon, the tutor of Pericles, was banished because the people resented his wisdom, 349.
to give it an honest cloke, they saide it was onely a pulling downe and tying short, of too much greatnesse and authoritie, exceeding farre the maner and countenance of a popular state. But to tell you truely, it was none otherwise,
then a gentle mean to qualifie the peoples envy against some private person:
which envy bred no malice to him whose greatnesse did offende them, but onely tended to the banishing of him for tenne yeares. (353) In other explanations of ostracism, this envy of the rich and famous is a correlation of the democracy for which Athens was renowned. 60 That Coriolanus was too extraordinary (particularly in his opposition to plebeian power) may similarly be implied by his suggestion in Shakespeare's play that 'The cruelty and envy of the people' banished him. It would also deflect the accusation of tyranny that Plutarch referred to as a 'cloke' for their true purpose.
Coriolanus' banishment may be interpreted as a sign of his greatness. 61 In his Treasurie, Thomas Milles makes this claim. However, in his earlier condemnation of the democratic state, Milles proffered a different idea of the exile. The popular state or commonwealth is
the source and refuge of all turbulent spirits, mutiners, seditions, and exiles:
who give councell comfort and resistance to the sillier sort, to make havocke and spoile of the greater. 62 Milles employs the traditional interpretation of the exile before reinventing the concept for men such as Aristides and Coriolanus. 63 Within Shakespeare's play, exile is both a source of 60 The Treasurie ofAuncient and Modern Times by Thomas Milles (London 1613), STC 17936, Bk. 8, chp. 32, 817.
61 Miola reads Timon ofAthens in parallel with such contemporary literature on Athenian vices. He writes that 'by a perverse but persistent logic, banishment from the corrupt Athenian city, voluntary or otherwise, was a sure sign of private rectitude', 'Timon in Shakespeare's Athens', Sh. 0. 31 (1980), 21-30, 29. Elsewhere, Miola suggests that in Coriolanus too the protagonist's expulsion 'demonstrates integrity and courage' and proves that he values 'personal honor more than comfortable life', Shakespeare's Rome, 191.
62 The Treasurie ofAuncient and Modern Times, 816.
63 We may recall here the similar debate upon the terms of exile, whether it was resonant of depravity and treacherv or of heroic suffering, between Sir William Cecil and William Alien as referred to in the introduction.
degradation and of self-aggrandisement for the protagonist. Like Milles, Coriolanus refers to exile, before his own experience of it, as shameful, as 'vagabond exile'. For the Jacobean audience, the term 'vagabond' had grave connotations of anti-social inclinations, of an underworld of displaced men. Moreover, the audience might have recalled the legislation of 1597 'An Act for the Punishment of Rogues, Vagabonds, and sturdy Beggars' which included banishment for the recalcitrant offender. 64 Coriolanus further recalls the shame of being 'Whooped by th'voice of slaves out of Rome'. The emphasis upon the plebeians hooting and roaring him into exile recalls not only the scene of his exile but also the means of it: the tribune's sentence was ratified by the popular tongue.
Banishment poses questions about the exile. For Coriolanus, it resolves the dilemma about Rome. He tells the plebeians, 'Despising/ For you the city, thus I turn my back' (3.3.137-8).
These words allow Coriolanus to perform his own banishment, to take artistic control.
Coriolanus suggests here that it is he who voluntarily shuns Rome and not the other way around. More importantly, these words repeat the sentence Coriolanus has already spoken
against his country:
Coriolanus' banishment of the city works on a number of levels. It is an assertion of superiority, a linguistic revenge, a prophecy of Rome's tragic self-alienation (though h4 See introduction.
unfulfilled). 63 Perhaps primarily, 'I banish you' dramatises Coriolanus' belief that he is the only true citizen and it is they who betray Rome. Such a reversal is central to the consolations we have already seen consoling the exiles of Shakespeare's drama. One striking anticipation of this trope in Coriolanus occurs in Cicero's Paradoxa Stoicorum, Paradox IV. Here, Cicero defies the sentence of exile proclaimed against him by the Consul, Clodius, in 58 BC. He makes a qualitative judgement of what is and is not a state in order to deny the possibility of
exile. He writes:
For what is a state? every collection even of uncivilized savages? every multitude even of runaways and robbers gathered into one place? Not so, you will certainly say. Therefore our community was not a state at a time when laws had no force in it, when the courts of justice were abased, when ancestral custom had been overthrown, when the officers of government had been exiled and the name of the senate was unknown in the commonwealth. 66 Clodius' acts have proven him a criminal, an enemy of the people and so worthy of exile. The fact that he has not been officially condemned but remains in the city does not make him any less of an outcast. Cicero asks, 'Do you distinguish a citizen from an enemy by race and by locality, not by character and conduct?' 67 These arguments are echoed in Coriolanus' identification of the plebeians as barbarians, whether or not they have been born and bred in 65 Stanley Fish describes Coriolanus' 'counterbanishing' of Rome as a challenge to the city's declarative power.
The sentence of banishment depends upon the hearer and subject's compliance. Coriolanus refuses to give this compliance but insists on equal authority to banish Rome, 'What Coriolanus does opens the way for anyone who feels constrained by the bonds of a society to declare a society of his own, to nominate his own conventions, to stipulate his own obligations... ',216. See 'How To Do Things with Austin and Searle: SpeechAct Theory and Literary Criticism' in Is There a Text in This Class? The Authority of Interpretive Communities (Cam., Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1980), 197-245, especially 215-8.
66 Paradoxa Stoicorum in De Orators III, 279-83, 279.
67 Ibid., 281.
Rome. They also reflect the play's obfuscation of friend and enemy. 68 Coriolanus says that Rome exiles its best defender because it cannot make this distinction. Similarly, the First Watchman outside the Volscian camp asks Menenius how he can ask for mercy, 'when you have pushed out your gates the very defender of them, and in a violent popular ignorance given your enemy your shield' (5.2.41-4).
Cicero declares 'everybody thinks that with my departure the commonwealth went into exile'.69 Coriolanus locates the city of Rome as barbarous and uncivil. This reversal may also be found in Timon of Athens. Here, the self-exiled Timon apostrophises the city wall from the
Wolves have long been associated with what is marginal and savage. 70 In this play, the locations of civilisation and wilderness are repeatedly inverted: Apemantus remarks 'The commonwealth of Athens is become a forest of beasts' (4.3.349-50). Timon finds the species of beast amongst which he now dwells kinder than the Athenian species hi both senses of that word.
68 See in particular the meeting between the Roman and Volscian spies. 4.3. Shakespeare's other main source, The Romane Historie ofT. Livy translated by Philemon Holland (1600) repeatedly uses the term 'enemie' in this way. Most obviously, Veturia (Volumnia) goes to plead with Coriolanus at the Volscian camp and asks 'Let me know [...] before I suffer thee to embrace me, whether I am come to a an enemie or to a sonne, whether I be in thy campe as a captive prisoner, or as a natural! mother', Narrative and Dramatic Sources, vol. 5, 504.
69 Paradoxa Stoicorum. 283.
70 See "Antike Roman". 136-40.
Through banishment, Coriolanus discovers the schism between his ideal Rome and its physical manifestation. From the beginning of the play, he has invested himself with the essence of Romanitas, has aspired to be the city himself. By banishing the city he expresses this belief that he carries Rome within him. When Coriolanus leaves Rome, his quiet demeanour and Stoic platitudes seem to suggest that he will be satisfied with his linguistic and philosophical revenge, with 'I banish you'. His reference to being recalled, 'I shall be loved when I am lacked' (4.1.16), remembers his prophecy that Rome would shortly be invaded and would require his services. To wait patiently until needed is by implication Plutarch's advice for the man banished unjustly. He praises Scipio for going quietly into
For he would not come against his country with ensignes displaid, neither would he solicite strange nations and mighty kings to come with force, and their aide, to destroy the citie, the which he had beautified with so many spoyles and triumphes. 71 Of course, this is exactly what Coriolanus and 'divers others' have done, as Plutarch remarks.
Coriolanus promises his family and friends that they will hear nothing from him but what was like him formerly (4.1.53-4). When they do hear of him, he is the commander of the Volscian army who has raided their territories and is advancing on Rome. There is no explanation for this apparent change of heart. Before his encounter with Aufidius, Coriolanus' soliloquy accounts for his revenge only as part of a universal betrayal whereby friends become enemies and vice versa (4.4.12-22). This is not the chaos that Gloucester predicted in King Lear, 'in cities mutinies, in countries discords, palaces treason' (2.107-8), but something more logical, 71 'The Comparison of Anniball with P. Scipio African', Lives, 1171-3, 1174. In this case, Scipio has not been officially banished but chooses exile for the sake of peace.
set in motion by Coriolanus' banishment and sealed by his banishing of the city. He imagines his future as governed by this reversal formula: 'My birthplace hate I, and my love's upon/ This enemy town' (23-4).
Equally, his love is upon that enemy, Aufidius, and it is to him that Coriolanus reveals himself. He suggests the reasons for his banishment, 'Now this extremity/ Hath brought me to thy hearthf (4.5.79-80). As a preface to Coriolanus' revenge plotting, the reference to hearth is curiously domestic. Similarly, on his entrance into Aufidius' house the warrior has remarked 'A goodly house. The feast/ Smells well' (5-6). Both these references suggest the state of the exile, banished from his usual sources of food and shelter. In the late Roman Republic, following the exile's departure, a decree of aqua et igni interdictio would be declared, literally a denial of water and fire, excluding him from legal protection and condemning him to death if he returned. 72 Coriolanus suggests that he does not care to save his life, as threatened by banishment. He comes
The reference to his 'cankered country' might suggest that Coriolanus has a desire to purge 72 See The Oxford Classical Dictionary, 580.
Rome for its own good were it not that he offers his country to the Volscians so that they may also wreak their fury upon it. Moreover, the demonic wrath he claims here does not bode well
for a curative revenge. Aufldius insists that he shares Coriolanus' personal motive:
Aufldius' denial of any other cause suggests how powerful is the instinct to destroy in these two men. In 1.2, Coriolanus declared an indifference to the side for which he fought as long as he could oppose Aufldius (233-5). Similarly, hearing news of Aufldius at Antium when the two countries are apparently at peace, Coriolanus declares 'I wish I had a cause to seek him there' (3.1.20). Aufldius promises an indiscriminate wrath, engulfing the city like a flood, with an army of every Antiate from 'twelve to seventy'. Here, he anticipates the exorbitance of Coriolanus' revenge. The Messenger reports that Coriolanus vows "revenge as spacious as between/ The young'st and oldest thing' (4.6.69-70). This richly evocative phrase reflects the bloodlust generally associated with the tyrant. 73 It is also a common feature of the tyrannical Roman in Elizabethan and Jacobean plays. In The Wounds of Civil War, Scilla promises
revenge upon the city that has passed him over for the generalship in favour of Marius:
MARIUS: These threats against thy country and these lords.