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Drama

Character Analysis of Volumnia from Coriolanus in the Original Text and Its Adaptation

June 7, 2022 by Essay Writer

The legendary actress, Vanessa Redgrave, following the releasing of Coriolanus, on her interpretation of her characterization and in specifics her obvious demonstration of a martial characteristic and political power. When casting for the role of Volumnia in Ralph Fiennes production of Coriolanus, what is it about her character that you wanted to display? Throughout Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, Volumnias feminity is continuously challenged by her portrayed martial characteristic. She is like a father to Coriolanus, her son, then a mother and in this parental imbalance, we perceive her character as not matriarchal at all but very patriarchal. Under Ralph’s directing and in the original text, they still entirely share this depiction however with the modernised version, we were able to make Volumnia’s clothes, verbal speech and composure very masculine as well which I tried very hard to emulate. What do you think makes Volumnia perceived as masculine? Volumnia in comparison with the only other main female character, Virgilia, assists in the portrayal of her masculinity, as Virgilia (Jessica Chastain) is the embodiment of domestic virtues that were held in those times.

Typically, masculinity was associated with politics, and as demonstrated by Volumnia’s engagement and love for politics, she was linked with less femininity as the other females in her time would be. Masculine language is used very actively as well throughout the play when talking about politics and this further reinforces the connection that is made, especially when Menenius (Brian Cox) states explicitly that the consul cares like fathers for their citizens. When problems begin to arise with Coriolanus and war, Virgilia takes Shakespeare’s ideals of characteristically feminine women and worries for her husband. However, Volumnia has an entirely different belief system with her patriotism, and it creates a juxtaposition of masculine/feminine between the two characters, especially when Volumnia denounces Virgilia over her cries with her husband. How did Ralph Fiennes depiction portray Volumnia specifically in the modernised film to make her masculinity prevalent? Well, the most apparent signs were present in the clothing choice as often ! wore grey and black colours and anything that was super muted. Standing next to all of the other male characters in the film, it is challenging to distinguish me from any of them. Volumnia’s martial characteristic is also heavily enforced as the clothing isn’t just merely dull or dark, it is the military-style clothing that the other men were wearing.

Shakespeare intended for Volumnia’s character to be portrayed as masculine and in having her clothing readily associated to the other male characters in the film, it made it easier for the audience to see this more visually. How do you think Volumnias character impacts Coriolanus? In the film and the original text?

Well taking into consideration her patriarchal ideals, I think it is very evident the impact that this would have on Coriolanus, or anyone, in their upbringing. She demonstrates a considerable amount of parental control and dominating effect on him which continues from when he was born, to adulthood. Coriolanus only feels masculine himself when he is in the role that she has created and is playing by her acceptance. In one part of the film, Volumnia wishes Coriolanus milder, and his response to this distinguishes his insecurities with his masculinity because it was not corresponding with the previous ideals she had brought him up within his life. What do you think Volumnia’s intentions are with Coriolanus? In one part, Volumnia speaks proudly of how she sent Coriolanus off to war even when he was just a child. However, I believe that Volumnia meant no cruelty to her son in doing this.

Volumnia throughout the entire film does everything to live vicariously through Coriolanus and all of her political maneuvering that she persuades him to follow is part of this. She fights with herself as she is not able to compete for Rome because of her gender like her son even though she holds more respect and love for the city than he does. The social roles from this time don’t permit Volumnia to portray her martial characteristic openly, and therefore she believes that she can fight Rome through her son instead. The only way she can be in a position of power and military hierarchy, which is her full characterisation, is through her patriotic beliefs instilled in him. I think her intentions are firmly based on what she needs to do in order have her own need for the power granted. But what is the point for Volumnia in giving the key to power to someone else when she wants it for herself? Volumnia continually claims her martial pride through Coriolanus, and this is enough for her to continue doing it, as she experiences power over her son and continuously believes that his victories are solely her own.

This created insecurity for Volumnia however when she was unable to live vicariously through Coriolanus because he was expelled from Rome and with the enemy (Aufidius). Her anguish displayed with Coriolanus is shallowly perceived as for her son’s well being however with greater depth, it can be analysed that the agony is for her selfish intentions. This is shown when Volumnia consistently chooses her city over her son, and Coriolanus’ tragic hero archetype is heavily blamed on her paternalistic parenting leading up to his death. If Volumnia cares profoundly for her city and not her son, why does she come to the Volscian camp to persuade Coriolanus to return if he has betrayed Rome? Volumnias parenting strategies encounter a conflict when Coriolanus is exiled as he is her son however the love she holds for Rome, is that of another son. In Coriolanus’ promised vengeance on Rome, Volumnia realises how she now has two sons fighting against the other and in her urge to save Rome, not her son; this is what she does. She turns to ultimately shaming Coriolanus and using manipulative tactics to persuade him to return to Rome. Her calculating actions are displayed as she knows that Coriolanus cannot deny her as his mother. Volumnia’s understanding of politics and the betrayal to Aufidius demonstrates her acknowledgement in the foreshadowing of his death.

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