- New Horizons in Leadership Studies series
Edited by George R. Goethals and Georgia L.J. Sorenson
Chapter 4: Power
Michael Harvey We have power in ourselves to do it, but it is a power that we have no power to do. Third Citizen, Coriolanus (2.3.4–5)1 Coriolanus, a study of early 17th-century English political anxieties set in an cient Rome, is Shakespeare’s most searching meditation on power and leadership. It’s a bitter and ambiguous play, filled with largely unlikeable char acters jostling for power – one critic, Eric Bentley, called Coriolanus ‘the struggle of wrong and wrong’ (1954, 186). Caius Marcius Coriolanus, the im perious warrior who as a youth helped drive out the last king of Rome and bears the scars of a lifetime of warfare and command, decides to seek the consulship. The move from military to civil power requires him to learn a new kind of leadership and cultivate a truly reciprocal relationship with the commoners he has always disdained, for they have a crucial (though limited) voice in the elec tion of a consul. Shakespeare begins the play with images of conflict and power as physical force: mutinous citizens with rude weapons, Menenius’ fable of the belly with its literal imagining of the body politic (‘the arm our soldier’ [1.1.105]), war between Rome and the neighboring Volscians, soldiers armed with swords, and standing above all, the haughty, blood-drenched, heroic Cori olanus (the word ‘hero,’ a Coriolanus scholar reminds us, derives from the Greek word for ‘warrior’ [Maus 1997, 2785]). In the play, it is not the aristocratic Coriolanus but an anonymous commoner – one of...
You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.
Elgaronline requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals. Please login through your library system or with your personal username and password on the homepage.
Non-subscribers can freely search the site, view abstracts/ extracts and download selected front matter and introductory chapters for personal use.
Your library may not have purchased all subject areas. If you are authenticated and think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.