Crowd and Commoner in Shakespeare

The ‘Commoner’, ‘Crowd’ and Contrasting Nobility : A View of Julius Caesar and Coriolanus
Assistant prof. of English
K.L.P. College, Rewari , Haryana.

There is a common belief that in his comedies, Shakespeare projects a glorious vision of life full of romantic exuberance that characterized the early Renaissance, in his history plays, he eulogized the national and patriotic sentiments of the English kings and nobles and that in his tragedies he presented a gloomy picture of life which is more manifest in the Jacobean theatre. But, as a matter of fact, he was critical of the utopian vision of the humanists and presented a contrast between the brutal realities of life and what the humanists thought of man- a paragon of beauty, an angel. The real world is governed by monsters who resort to all tactics of treachery and cunningness to grab power and drive the honest and truthful people to situations of helplessness and desolation. Hence, the study of the two classes –the ‘commoner’ and the aristocrat , and Shakespeare’s treatment of the common man becomes highly interesting.
Referred to as “groundlings”   “idle creatures”, “senseless things” , “multitudes” and “many headed monsters”( as a crowd) by the bourgeois and nobles in his plays, Shakespeare’s sympathy lies with the ordinary men of lower social status   and their dramatic significance lies in the fact that they were created to highlight the inadequacies of the other class- the class of the privileged. They were drawn as a relief from some powerful rulers, dictators or advantaged characters.
The present paper is a modest attempt to understand and analyze the portrayal of both the ‘commoner’ and the ‘crowd’ of Shakespeare as a representation in contrast with the sovereign, the monarchy and the authoritarian class which he despises.   The commoners and crowd in Julius Caesar, and the mob in the tragedy Coriolanus will be discussed for the exemplification and...