Of all his tragic chronicle / biographical plays, is Shakespeare’s Coriolanus the bard’s “farewell” to the tragedy play format?
By: Ringo Bones
Recent studies by scholars have shown that William Shakespeare’s “ruthlessness” as a businessman who profited from famine and hardship was largely influenced by his tragic chronicle / biographical play Coriolanus. After he finished most of his plays, Shakespeare returned to Warwickshire where he had a lot of land planted with corn and barley crops and hoarded the season’s harvests where he managed to manipulate and cornered the then existing grain market during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.
The bard’s “complex character” was evident on his action as an “illegal food hoarder” 400 years ago who sold grain at inflated prices during famine was recently uncovered by researchers back in 2013. And it seems that this particular play very much influenced Shakespeare as a “shrewd” businessman. And sometimes I also wonder if Shakespeare had read Sun Tsu’s The Art of War.
To most Stratfordian scholars, William Shakespeare’s Coriolanus are founded on Sir Thomas North’s English translation of Plutarch’s Lives, a fact of which may indicate that the wearied poet felt the need of a source he could follow closely without having to rack his brains in invention. Shakespeare’s Coriolanus – composed between 1608 and 1609 – is a more firmly built play of the most of his “biographical tragedies”. After the civic riots and pitched battles of the first act, recalling the technique of the chronicle plays, Shakespeare concentrates upon the character and fate of the protagonist. And this fate is, perhaps, more rigidly determined by character than elsewhere in Shakespeare. Coriolanus might be called Shakespeare’s farewell to tragedy; the tragic temper, the sympathetic hero and the poetic expression of the tragic theme seem fainter and less effective here than in the earlier and greater plays.