I don't think Coriolanus is better than Hamlet or the greatest Shakespeare tragedy (is there really only one "greatest"?), but it has been underrated. It is in many ways brilliant. but not for Eliot's reasons and not just because we can see it as modern. I think Eliot would take that line for two reasons: Volumnia is a powerful and tragic mother, and Eliot had a profound need for his mother. He uses the line about her in "Difficulties of a Statesman": "O mother / What shall I cry?" He would, I think, have found her character deeply moving--and it would "make sense."

Perhaps more important, Eliot said he had always preferred the world of Virgil to the world of Homer, and he saw the Roman Empire as the precursor of the Holy Roman Empire--the lead-in to a Christian world. He also liked the world of Virgil because Virgil was, in his words, "one for whom the world made sense" and for whom "history had meaning." I discuss this at length in the first volume of T. S. Eliot Studies, if anyone is interested.

Eliot admired Virgil in large part because Eliot wanted the world to make sense and have meaning. I think he simply did not understand Hamlet, for whom the world does not make sense. And yet it is impossible for me to see how it lacks what Eliot calls an "objective correlative."  Hamlet's problem is not just his mother or his disgust at her. I assume if your uncle has murdered your father, your mother is now his wife, your friends are betraying you and trying to help you get killed, and Polonius is spying on you for the king/ father murder, you have more than one reason to be distressed.

In both cases, Eliot's reaction is focused on the mother. But both plays are about far more. Coriolanus does yield to his mother in the end, but he began the play as an arrogant and dismissive aristocrat who refused to listen to a starving populous--their rage and his exile are not simply due to Volumnia's urging. The play is also (and more so) political and economic. Volumnia uses her love and attitudes to urge her son to take a side he was already embarked upon.

On Thu, Jan 4, 2018 at 10:46 AM, Rickard A. Parker <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
Is Coriolanus Shakespeare’s Greatest Tragedy? A Closer Look at T.S. Eliot’s Zany Claim.
By David Haglund
Jan. 20 2012