Coriolanus, Hazlitt and the Insolence of Power

  • J Atkinson


William Hazlitt‟s 1816 essay on Shakespeare‟s Coriolanus was supposedly a review of a production by John Kemble. Yet it begins with a reference to Burke and Paine, and develops as a discourse on republic versus monarchy. This would have been more appropriate if Shakespeare had based his play on the account of  Dionysius Halicarnassus, but Shakespeare took his material from Plutarch‟s life of Coriolanus, and Plutarch had recast Dionysius‟ account, since he was writing biography and not political history. Hazlitt used his essay to advance his campaign against contemporary poets, especially those of a Tory persuasion, and to vent his  spleen against those who had abandoned their rational republican ideals in favour of celebrating the  reinstatement of the monarchy in France and the defeat and humiliation of Napoleon.

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eISSN: 1011-582X