Coriolanus-Discussion of Volumnia

Essay by TaKarraLUniversity, Bachelor's September 2004

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As a woman, Volumnia lacks the ability to achieve power on her own in the male-dominated Roman society; she also lacks a husband through whom she might indirectly enjoy public clout. Thus, Volumnia raises her son to be a great soldier, and it is her ambition, more than his, that puts him on the disastrous track toward the consulship. Moreover, Volumnia's controlling nature constitutes a major cause of Coriolanus's fatal childishness; and while his legendary stubbornness holds sway in every other situation, she alone can overcome it and convince Coriolanus to spare Rome--and, thus, unwittingly set his doom in motion.

Volumnia is depicted as a powerful woman who exercises considerable influence over her son. She is an important character and appears in every act of the play. Her appearances are always significant, and her words have an important affect on Coriolanus. In fact, Volumnia is responsible for her son's arrogance and contempt of the commoners.

She has taught him to regard the plebeians as "woollen vessels" and "things created/To buy and sell with goats". It is also Volumnia who has taught Coriolanus to treasure war wounds above the pleasures of common life. From an early age, she has trained him to be a soldier, valuing honor and bravery above all else. At the age of sixteen, she sent him off to war and gloried in his successes.

Volumnia's ruling passion is fury. She claims that "Anger's my meat; I sup upon myself," but she is also judicious. As she tells Coriolanus she has "a brain that leads my use of anger / To better advantage." While Coriolanus' anger is incorrigible, Volumnia's anger is not. In the same vein, Volumnia can be a political creature when needed, where her son has no sense of politics...