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Abstract

No work is created in a cultural vacuum and Shakespeare was not merely churning out stage versions of stories already told. By comparing Shakespeare’s stories to his source material and looking at the historical moment that Shakespeare worked from, readers can understand more about the ideas that the minds of the day wrestled with. Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, a play inspired by the Plutarch story, is full of conflicting ideas of self, particularly when we look at the presentations of self seen in Coriolanus and Volumnia, as well as the way in which the passages on religion all but disappear from Shakespeare’s version. By examining what elements of Plutarch’s story Shakespeare kept and which he modified, and by understanding the shifts in thinking about self that were occurring during the Early Modern era, the reader is able to glean a better understanding of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus and the ideas of self that emerged during that time.

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