William Shakespeare

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Coriolanus: Pathos 2 key examples

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Definition of Pathos
Pathos, along with logos and ethos, is one of the three "modes of persuasion" in rhetoric (the art of effective speaking or writing). Pathos is an argument that appeals to... read full definition
Pathos, along with logos and ethos, is one of the three "modes of persuasion" in rhetoric (the art of effective speaking or writing). Pathos is... read full definition
Pathos, along with logos and ethos, is one of the three "modes of persuasion" in rhetoric (the art of effective... read full definition
Act 1, Scene 6
Explanation and Analysis—All the Battles:

Amid the battle between Rome and the Volscians, Coriolanus fights with great skill and bravery, defeating many Volscian soldiers. As the Romans mount their final attack against the Volscians, hoping to confront the Volscian leader Aufidius, Coriolanus begs Cominius, council-in-chief of the army, to allow him to participate in the attack despite his injuries. He employs pathos and ethos in his argument, emphasizing his own extensive experience in combat and highlighting his own authority in battle: 

I do beseech you,
By all the battles wherein we have fought,
By th’b lood we have shed together, by th’ vows we
Have made
To endure friends, that you directly set me
Against Aufidius and his Antiates
And that you do not delay the present, but,
Filling the air with swords advanced and darts,
We prove this very hour.
Though I could wish
You were conducted to a gentle bath
And balms applied to you, yet dare I never
Deny your asking.

Seeing that Coriolanus is deeply injured and covered in blood, Cominius urges him to abstain from the rest of the battle and to treat his injuries. Coriolanus, however, is eager to participate in the rest of the battle, hoping to finally defeat Aufidius, his rival and foe. Coriolanus employs pathos in his argument, reminding Cominius of “all the battles” they have fought together and the “vows” that they have made in the past, highlighting their close relationship and many years of teamwork. Further, he employs ethos, highlighting his extensive experience in war against the Volscians in order to strengthen his argument for his participation in the battle. Ultimately, though Cominius suggests that he wants Coriolanus to seek medical attention, he accepts the soldier’s request. 

Act 5, Scene 3
Explanation and Analysis—Fear and Sorrow:

While Coriolanus plans for war in the Volscian camps, his loved ones in Rome plan to weaken his resolve and earn mercy on behalf of their city. While Cominius and Menenius fail to move Coriolanus, his mother skillfully wields pathos in support of her argument for mercy: 

Should we be silent and not speak, our raiment
And state of bodies would bewray what life
We have led since thy exile. Think with thyself
How more unfortunate than all living women
Are we come hither; since that thy sight, which should
Make our eyes flow with joy, hearts dance with comforts,
Constrains them weep and shake with fear and sorrow,
Making the mother, wife, and child to see
The son, the husband, and the father tearing
His country’s bowels out. And to poor we
Thine enmity’s most capital.

Coriolanus is shocked to see his own mother in the camp, and he acknowledges in an aside that the sight of his family poses a threat to his commitment to revenge. Volumnia is strategic in her speech to her son, using pathos and emphasizing the suffering that she, Virgilia, and Caius Martius Junior have experienced since he was banished. When Coriolanus refuses to listen to them, Volumnia makes a passionate plea, stating that the “state” of their “bodies” will be enough to prove to him the difficulties they have experienced. Attempting to manipulate his feelings of filial loyalty, she refers to herself as “more unfortunate than all living women” because the sight of her son makes her “weep and shake with fear and sorrow.” Volumnia succeeds where Cominius and Menenius failed, forcing Coriolanus to relent.

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