Journal Article

City of In-gratia: Roman Ingratitude in Shakespeare's Coriolanus<sup>1</sup>

Peter J. Leithart

in Literature and Theology

Volume 20, issue 4, pages 341-360
Published in print December 2006 | ISSN: 0269-1205
Published online October 2006 | e-ISSN: 1477-4623 | DOI:
City of In-gratia: Roman Ingratitude in Shakespeare's Coriolanus1

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Shakespeare's Coriolanus is among the most politically rich of Shakespeare's plays, and has often been produced with an ideological slant to the right or left. Shakespeare's political interests, however, are more basic than these productions suggest. The article examines the theme of political gratitude in the play which gradually moves towards a theological and specifically Augustinian interpretation of the play. Three dimensions of the theme are explored: first, the ingratitude of the populace of Rome towards Coriolanus; second, Coriolanus’ own ingratitude towards Rome and, finally and fundamentally, Rome's essential perversion of the economy of benefit and gratitude. By hinting that pagan Rome cannot help but be a cannibalistic Mother-city, Coriolanus gestures towards another city, a city marked by grateful participation because it is the realm marked by gratia.

Journal Article.  8964 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Religion and Art, Literature, and Music

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