The search for points of contact between Shakespeare and Greek tragedy has intensified in the last fifteen years, as several scholars (Mossman, Pelling, Burrow) have argued with increasing confidence for Plutarch’s Lives as a mediating conduit between classical Athenian tragedy and early modern English theatre. Plutarch’s prominence in Shakespeare’s library has never been doubted, and his Lives reflect deep engagement with the Greek tragic corpus. This article advances this line of inquiry to consider Plutarch’s oeuvre as a repository of ancient thinking about dramatic gesture and the movement of the body in performance, focusing on performance conventions of Plutarch’s own era in the second century BCE. Drawing on examples from both the Lives and the Moralia, I show that Plutarch’s investment in drama goes beyond visualized scenes and tragic structure to include non-verbal aspects of physical performance that came to be of significance for Shakespeare. The second part of the essay reconsiders the relationship of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus to its Plutarchan model, suggesting a transhistorical collaborative effort between Plutarch and Shakespeare in creating the climactic encounter between Coriolanus and Volumnia in Act 5 Scene 2, which emphasizes the affective impact of bodily gesture.

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