A Tale of Three Butterflies: Etymology and Entomology in Shakespeare’s "Coriolanus"
To locate the butterfly’s importance in Coriolanus, I will trace the butterfly’s heritage from two perspectives - first as a word in English, and secondly as a literary symbol in the cultural tradition spanning Hebrew, Greek and Roman literatures through the Renaissance and Early Modern England, all contributing to Shakespeare’s eventual participation in this tradition. In a survey of the butterfly’s legacy as a literary symbol, I will construct a set of meanings associated with the butterfly that can be compared to Shakespeare’s sporadic use of the term throughout his dramatic career. . . . Finally, examining Shakespeare’s engagement with the butterfly in plays like A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Troilus and Cressida, and most significantly, King Lear, I will make the claim that the butterfly’s symbology in the Western tradition as received by Shakespeare contained primary associations with youthfulness, life, and sensibility, but also metamorphosis, fragility, victimhood and death. [From Introduction]
Thesis; [FULL-TEXT FREELY AVAILABLE ONLINE]Benjamin Christopher Gee is a member of the Class of 2018 of Washington and Lee University.