How Is Caius Martius Presented In The First Scene Of Coriolanus? What Conflicts And Oppositions Are Set Up In This Scene? English Literature Essay

1882 words - 8 pages

How is Caius Martius presented in the first scene of Coriolanus? What conflicts and oppositions are set up in this scene?
The play commences in the city of Rome where the common folk, the “plebeians”, are rioting against the patrician class due to the increase in hunger. The action of the play is semi-historical and is set in the aftermath of the fall of Tarquin. It focuses on the ongoing struggle between the plebeians and patricians during Rome’s transition from monarchy to republic. The plebeians are outrightly putting the responsibility of their starvation upon the patricians as they believe that they are hoarding grain while they starve. Right from the very beginning of the play the audience is already introduced to the hostility of the plebeians towards the patricians and the ongoing conflict between the two social classes. The first stage directions state, “Enter a company of mutinous Citizens with staves, clubs, and other weapons.” The fact that the the word “mutinous” is being used as an adjective to describe the citizens shows how the citizens and the lower class have had enough, they are refusing to obey the orders and rules of the people in authority – which would be the patricians and those of the senate. This boisterous act of disobedience furthur foreshadows the upcoming events of conflict that are to come between the plebeians and the patricians, the lower class and the higher elite class of the social hierachy in Rome.
It is evident that the citizens are unsatisfied with the way things are running within Rome and the increase in hunger is resulting in much distress within the lower class of Rome’s society. The citizens then begin to speak out against Caius Martius who is yet to be introduced into the play. It is apparent that there is much animosity and aggression coming from within the plebeians being targeted at Caius Martius, which automatically gives the audience a negative first impression of him as it is revealed that much of their unrest has been rooted from Caius Martius himself. He is described as the “chief enemy to the people”. By claiming him as an enemy already it furthur emphasises the conflict and opposition towards Martius. The first citizen singles him out and identifies him as predominantly responsible for the senate’s refusal to realise supplies of corn to the populace. Furthurmore, as the scene develops, all of the citizens state that Martius is “a very dog to the commonalty.” At this point, pitiless animal imagery is being used which evidently begins to occur more frequently as the play progresses. The fact that they have described him as a “dog” shows the lack of respect that they have for Martius; a derogatory image is being produced and they are openly dehumanising him. They no longer view him as a human being or as an equal but rather they are looking down on him, they feel no more pity in him than a dog. Therefore, despite Martius not even being introduced to the audience yet, they already have this...

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