‘Never shame to hear / What you have nobly done’: The Representation of Existential Shame in Shakespeare’s Coriolanus

Bilal Tawfiq Hamamra

Department of English, An-Najah National University, Palestine.


Volume 9, Number 2, 2017 I Full Text PDF

DOI: 10.21659/rupkatha.v9n2.10

Received May 10, 2017; Revised July 24, 2017; Accepted July 27, 2017; Published August 10, 2017.


This article focuses on the uncanny prefigurations of existentialism in Shakespeare’s final tragedy Coriolanus (1608). The researcher contends that Coriolanus is riddled with the existential concepts of individualism, authenticity, the relationship between the self and the other, the dynamics of subjectivity and objectification, the other gaze, shame, bleeding, blush and bodily and linguistic abhorrence. Shakespeare suggests that Coriolanus experiences these existential manifestations in his attempt to create his identity away from the gaze and language of the other that challenges his self fashioning. In contrast to the negative treatment of the Other in Sartre’s doctrine, the researcher follows Beauvoir’s argument that the self-other relation is potentially mutual. The author argues that Coriolanus achieves his subjectivity and self-assertion, which is also, paradoxically, self-negation, by acknowledging his mother, wife and son and Romans whom he strives to deny throughout the tragedy so as to assert his independence.

Key words: bleeding, blush, existentialism, linguistic abhorrence, sacrifice, shame

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