Shakespeare’s Coriolanus and Aristotle’s Great-Souled Man

Carson Holloway, “Shakespeare’s Coriolanus and Aristotle’s Great-Souled Man,” Review of Politics 69 (2007): 353-74


This paper seeks to illuminate magnanimity by examining Shakespeare’s Coriolanus in light of Aristotle’s account of greatness of soul in the Nicomachean Ethics. I contend that contemplation of Coriolanus’s similarity to Aristotle’s magnanimous man allows us to harmonize two apparently discordant elements of the magnanimous man’s character: his seriousness about the good, on the one hand, and his apparently status-oriented intolerance of insult, on the other. Nevertheless, Coriolanus falls short of Aristotle’s standard; reflection on his defects reveals that genuine magnanimity requires prudence and a philosophic detachment from the city’s moral convictions that Shakespeare’s hero lacks.

Cambridge University Press