Coriolanus, A Miscellany

A. C. Bradley, Coriolanus, A Miscellany (London: Macmillan, 1929)


Coriolanus is beyond doubt among the latest of Shakespeare’s tragedies; there is some reason for thinking it the last. Like all those that succeeded Hamlet, it is a tragedy of vehement passion; and in none of them are more striking revolutions of fortune displayed. It is full of power, and almost every one feels it to be a noble work. We may say of it, as of its hero, that, if not one of Shakespeare’s greatest creations, it is certainly one of his biggest.

Nevertheless, it is scarcely popular. It is seldom acted, and perhaps no reader ever called it his favourite play. Indeed, except for educational purposes, I suppose it is, after Timon, the least generally read of the tragedies. Even the critic who feels bound to rank it above Romeo and Juliet, and even above Julius Cæsar, may add that he prefers those dramas all the same; and if he ignores his personal preferences, still we do not find him asking whether it is not the equal of the four great tragedies. He may feel this doubt as to Antony and Cleopatra, but not as to Coriolanus.

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