gall and gumption

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Angry People IV -- Coriolanus

He's pretty steamed when they accuse him of treason and debate throwing him off a cliff.

CORIOLANUS. 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,
Nor check my courage for what they can give,
To have't with saying 'Good morrow.'


I must say it sounds very Jamaican to me. One of the things I missed about the Caribbean is the rhetoric. Caribbean people are great at soliloquies, and the trope above is one you frequently hear.

Yeah and I will confess that when I get angry I resort to some form of this one. It's basically, if you can't do me justice I don't want any [insert lonnnnnng string of adjectival obscenity here] favors. You have to be prepared to live up to it too.

More.

Banish him? I don't think so.

CORIOLANUS. YOU common cry of curs, whose breath I hate
As reek o' th' rotten fens, whose loves I prize
As the dead carcasses of unburied men
That do corrupt my air- I banish you.
And here remain with your uncertainty!
Let every feeble rumour shake your hearts;
Your enemies, with nodding of their plumes,
Fan you into despair! Have the power still
To banish your defenders, till at length
Your ignorance- which finds not till it feels,
Making but reservation of yourselves
Still your own foes- deliver you
As most abated captives to some nation
That won you without blows! Despising
For you the city, thus I turn my back;
There is a world elsewhere.


I don't know -- maybe there aren't that many things you can say in his situation. You tell them, "You banish me? No, I banish you!" and then you basically tell them, "Without me you are nothing, you are fucked!" I suppose Brutus would say something polite and dignified before letting himself be thrown off the cliff. And those Kleist heroes I cited would have probably burned the whole place down. But Coriolanus's response at this point is even more than most people I know would do.

You aren't supposed to say stuff like he does. It's not going to save him. It's not going to make him any friends among the people who are throwing him overboard.

My own feeling is that he is right to speak out. Because he must make it clear that he does not consent to the deceit, the betrayal. Also, I'm with Burke: "What is not just should not be convenient." Of course his enemies would like him to assent, to agree that he deserves to be banished and mistreated. He is letting them know by the violence of his expression just how strongly he is revolted by what's happening. The feeling is there first.

It's very good that he says there is a world elsewhere. At this point the best thing he can do with these pathetic traitors is go to that place as soon as possible -- unless he has some more labrish for them.

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