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|Title:||Moral Economy and the Politics of Food Riots in Coriolanus|
|Authors:||Elyssa Y. Cheng|
Department of English, NTNU
|Abstract:||Food riots in the Elizabethan-Jacobean period were an explosive expression of discontent over the threat of food scarcity and starvation. They were ritualisticacts used by the commoners to compel the authorities to meet the standards of moral economy and to respect the plebeians' legitimate right to eat. In Coriolanus, Shakespeare highlights contemporary Jacobean food riots by rewriting and transferring the belly fable incident of usury riots into food riots and by repetitively referring to famine, hunger, and food hoarding in the riot scenes. Like Shakespeare's contemporary food rioters, the mobs in Coriolanus do not rise up to subvert the established social order; they revolt in order to alert the authorities that their grievances must be heard and respected. By portraying the crowd as exceptionally well-organized, the playwright transforms the play into a social critique to encourage his audience to think about the potential danger of popular disruptions and to urge the authorities to contemplate the consequences of ignoring the popular voice. Through this critique, the dramatist also manages to display how hunger can turn into a formidably collective power that poses a serious threat to the ruling authorities.|
|Appears in Collections:||Concentric: Studies in English Literature and Linguistics|
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