Anger Is My Meat
In the brilliant Coriolanus (recently adapted to film by Ralph Fiennes) Volumnia, the mother of the title character, refuses food with the excellent line “Anger is my meat”! There have been countless times when, at the platitudinous offer of a cup of tea and a biscuit, I have wanted to cry “Anger is my meat!”, but Volumnia’s response is significantly more meaningful than an expression of rage and independence. Throughout Coriolanus, eating is depicted as unmanly luxuriance and contrasted with the image of the abstemious warrior. All Coriolanus and Tullus Aufidius want to consume is each other (I don’t need to add ‘in more ways than one’). The play begins with the hunger of the citizens, who Coriolanus dissmisses as “fragments” – scraps left on a dinner plate – and cowards who sit at home eating the profits of his military victories. When Virgilia, Coriolanus’ wife expresses worry about his safety, Volumnia says she is proud that he has “proved himself a man” and that if she had twelve sons, she “had rather had eleven die nobly for their country than one voluptuously surfeit out of action.” Volumnia imagines the opposite of proving oneself a man to be eating to excess. When she refuses food later in the play, she asserts her masculinity (her power and her courage).
Today it seems, rather, to be an assertion of fashionable feminity to refuse food. “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”, Kate Moss supposedly quipped. This denial of food seems to be as singlemindedly mad as Coriolanus and Volumnia, but an assertion of weakness rather than of strength. The fad for the size zero body type certainly makes me angry, but in this case, I’ll let meat be my meat, instead of anger.
|What a dosa!|