Silence as a Sign of Emotional Intent in Shakespeare's.
Volumnia, in her final appearance in Shakespeare's Coriolanus, passes over the stage in silence as she is hailed as " the life of Rome" (V.v.1). In winning the day for Rome, she has sent Coriolanus, her son, to his death at the hands of the Volscions. Traditional academic critics have received this scene without much analysis, taking the character at face value and condemning Volumnia as a cruel and abusive mother, and insist that she is not "given a moment of reflection or of recognition that [she has] caused Martius" death Coriolanus" new acknowledgment of the power of tenderness and family bonds does not change the grim world of the play; it does not even change Volumnia." 6 It is this attitude toward her character that has been prevalent in the performance of Coriolanus over the last century, but recent productions have seen a change. The 1984 production by the National Theatre saw Irene Worth portray Volumnia's final scene with silent agony. The 1972 Royal Shakespeare Academy's performance was similar, and led one reviewer to write, "Her ravaged face showing no glimmer of joy, hardly of life." 3 These performances are not isolated to major productions, nor are they the ideas of a single director trying to enforce his own vision and thus recreate Shakespeare, but rather are representative of a growing trend in the staging of this play. Volumnia is now often being interpreted as a being capable of growth, and thereby regret and grief in her final scene. This is not just a modern invention to reconcile an old play with a modern world and modern values; there is evidence that this was Shakespeare's intent.
Many instances suggest that silence in women is a convention in renaissance theater that was to be understood by audiences as emotionally difficult for the character being portrayed. In Shakespeare's Othello, Iago says, "guiltiness will speak, though tongues were out of use" (Othello V.