In Shakespeare’s play, Coriolanus, the title character, a fearless Roman warrior then known as Caius Marcius, leads a battle in the city of Corioles, and is wounded. His men admire his ferocity, but worry he is too bloodied to return to the fighting. He shakes off their concern telling them:
“Praise me not, My work hath yet not warm’d me…the blood I drop is rather physical than dangerous to me; to Aufidius thus I will appear, and fight.”
And back he charges into battle.
Though Aufidius escapes, Marcius captures the city of Corioles and is given the honorary title Coriolanus.
When I first read this play, I was training intensely in Krav Maga, and feeling a bit discouraged because I wasn’t physically where I wanted to be with training, after recovering from a concussion some months earlier. As I do when I’m frustrated with anything, I turned to Shakespeare for some inspiration. I had never read Coriolanus before and was intrigued by the story of this fearless, proud warrior. He’s actually kind of a jerk to the citizens of Rome, whom he feels are weak and fickle, but he’s principled and unrelenting in his commitment to those principles. And he was one heck of a fighter.
I was wowed by his words after being wounded. Nothing was going stop him from getting the job done and taking over Corioles and taking on Aufidius. He wasn’t really doing it for Rome, he was doing it for himself. Ultimately, his pride and his disdain for his countrymen are his downfall, but I LOVED his stick-to-it-iveness in battle, because at the time, I was struggling with wanting to quit training and feeling kind of wishy-washy about other things in my life. Coriolanus wasn’t going to let wounds or the negative opinions of others get to him. He believed in everything he was doing and barely even acknowledged a gaping, bloody wound as a setback.
Ah, to have such singularity of purpose! To be so focused on a mission, so determined a will to succeed! To be so excellent a fighter! His words gave me courage and strengthened my will to continue in training and rally myself for the trials in life. Coriolanus was not driven by the desire for power, but for excellence. For whatever reason, that resonated with me. The fact that his desire for excellence turned tragic because of his unbending pride in his own superiority is another topic for another day, and maybe I’ll examine that closer when I need to check my own pride. For now, I will merely focus on his dogged determination to see a task through, come what may.