chapter  IX
17 Pages

Coriolanus

In the plays of his maturity, Shakespeare reveals by secret impressions the underlying natures of his characters, so that, with the knowledge thus conveyed to us, we redress at unawares the balance of evidence given not only by those characters but by other parts of the play. Many of those in which this process can be clearly discerned are minor or subordinate figures, but a few are co-partners with the greatest l and it is found to some degree in all. Of none can we say with certainty that we know them until we have taken into account the hidden evidence thus disclosed, and it is probable that our unconscious awareness of every character is influenced by it. But in one play at least Shakespeare seems to determine by this mode our apprehension of the central figure itself; and this so modifies the total effect of the play, as to re-colour our interpretation of nearly every aspect. No detailed analysis of such a character can be attemped within the limits of this volume, but some indications may be given of the process by which unconscious knowledge finds its way into our imaginations.