Yan Brailowsky deposited The sweet which is their poison’: of venom, envy and vanity in Coriolanus on Humanities Commons 4 months ago
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).