• The sweet which is their poison’: of venom, envy and vanity in Coriolanus

    Author(s):
    Yan Brailowsky (see profile)
    Date:
    2006
    Subject(s):
    Early modern English drama, Rhetorical theory, Shakespeare and early modern drama
    Item Type:
    Article
    Permanent URL:
    http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/M64J09X16
    Abstract:
    Contrary to other plays in which references to poison clearly refer to mortal potions and assassination plots, Coriolanus offers no such thing. Poison is only taken in a figura- tive sense – and yet, the poison in the play is poisonous, infecting not the body natural, but the body politic, underlining the deep-rooted link between poison and envy, or Invidia. I take the question of poison and the way in which poison affects, or infects, the body politic to be a metaphor for what happens when one attempts to weigh one’s merits, or give (away) one’s voice. This will, in turn, allow me to argue that, if Coriolanus is often said to lack rhetorical flourishes commonly found elsewhere in Shakespeare, it is perhaps because Coriolanus’ fabled lack of oratorical skills is here set as a model against the “Vanitie of Words”, to counterpoise “the sweet which is [our] poison” (III.1.159).
    Metadata:
    Published as:
    Book chapter    
    Status:
    Published
    Last Updated:
    10 months ago
    License:
    All Rights Reserved
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