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Title: The representations of Hercules and Hydra in Shakespeare's Coriolanus
Author: Nishi, Takashi
ISNI:       0000 0004 5357 5190
Awarding Body: Birkbeck (University of London)
Current Institution: Birkbeck (University of London)
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis relates Coriolanus to traditions of Renaissance and Reformation thinking on Hercules and Hydra, which had acquired new connotations in the age after neglect during the Middle Ages; and this study investigates the play’s engagement with that material and more precisely its active relationships to texts and ideas at present under-represented in its critical reception and especially by Shakespearean critics. Coriolanus highlights the conflict between the patricians including heroic Coriolanus and the plebeians, and Coriolanus describes the plebeians as “the many-headed multitude” like “Hydra” (2.3.16-17; 3.1.96). Coriolanus is compared to Hercules (4.6.104), and battle between Hercules and the many-headed Hydra is suggested in the play. If Hydra symbolises subjects, likewise Hercules stands for rulers. In short, the closer examination of Hercules and Hydra leads us to a deeper understanding of Shakespeare’s presentation of rulers and subjects. In the Introduction, a preliminary analysis of Coriolanus will elucidate the significance of the mythical hero and monster. Chapter 1 will discuss the roots of the phrase “many-headed multitude” in Coriolanus: it is a reflection, in complex form, of the really existing social instability in late Tudor and early Stuart England, which experienced many rebellions and famines; and it is in the tradition of Renaissance Humanism. Building on this material, Chapter 2 explores the way some European monarchs compared themselves to Hercules. The next two chapters analyse Herculean “eloquence” and “virtue,” which are quintessentially Humanistic terms, and they trace the use of the “eloquent” and “virtuous” Hercules as a model for European monarchs in the Renaissance. Finally, we study Hydra as a symbol of “the flexibility of the self” in the Humanistic tradition. This study employs the methodology of the iconology of the Warburg School and the history of ideas, referring to Erasmus, Luther, Calvin, Holbein’s engravings, and Alciato’s emblem books, etc.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available