Fall 1986 • Vol. VIII No. 4 Nonfiction |

“Say I Play the Man I Am”: Gender and Politics in “Coriolanus”

The concerns of this essay reflect the particular historical juncture at which we find ourselves as readers. Largely due to the feminist theory and literary criticism of the last decade, we now recognize that dramatic representations of sexuality and gender necessarily foreground political questions and issues, and likewise that what we may constitute as the political dimensions of a play—who wields power in the dramatic situation, how this authority is constructed, upon what it is founded, and by what means it is deployed—cannot be separated from the portraits of sexuality and the distribution of gender roles proposed by the play. Consequently, the questions of how and what we read as literary critics become political questions. I am considering Shakespeare's Coriolanus not simply because it is distinct in its representation of class politics and in its treatment of sexuality and gender, but because it has elicited a particularly rich critical discussion of these issues. I sugg

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