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‘Coriolanus’: Nothing Plebeian About Him

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    • Why has “Coriolanus” never been popular? It’s been mounted on Broadway only once—in 1938. The last time that I reviewed a production in this space was eight years ago. Yet connoisseurs need no reminding of the immense stature of Shakespeare’s most explicitly political play. T.S. Eliot ranked “Coriolanus” above “Hamlet,” calling it “Shakespeare’s most assured artistic success.” A man I know who used to work for one of America’s best-known politicians claims that it’s one of only two pieces of literary art that tells the whole truth about politics (the other, he says, is “All the King’s Men”). And if you should be lucky enough to see Shakespeare Theatre Company’s new production, directed by David Muse and featuring a towering performance by Patrick Page, you’ll come away wondering why it doesn’t get done regularly by every drama company in America.
    • Enter Coriolanus (Mr. Page), a paragon of the military virtues who more or less single-handedly defeats the enemy. Physically fearless and noble without limit, he has only one flaw: He knows that he is a great man, and refuses to pretend otherwise. Indifferent to the praise of “the common people,” he will not “flatter them for their love,”
    • He understands that “Coriolanus” is not about any particular politician, or any particular war: Its real subject is pride. Is there room in a democracy for an aristocrat like Coriolanus who refuses to play the popularity game? Or is it his duty to don the hypocrite’s mask in order to serve the greater good?
    • You’ll be paralyzed by the hideous, red-faced howl of horror that he wrenches from his depths when his terrified mother (Diane d’Aquila) begs him not to renounce his family and his country.

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Coriolanus (2012) review by That Film Dude | That Film Guy

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    • Coriolanus demonstrates brilliantly how well Shakespeare can be adapted to a modern context, with the setting allowing for sharp commentary on the political situation in the Balkans. As the innumerable modern revisions of Shakespeare have shown, it is astonishing how universal the themes the Bard tackled are, and Coriolanus is no exception: the turbulent politics and the conflict between the aristocracy and commoners of Republican Rome translate extremely well to the modern setting, and there are more than a few echoes of the Occupy movement in the plebeians’ criticisms of the patricians.

    • The play, one of Shakespeare’s longest, has been edited down considerably to fit into a two hour run time, but the resulting increase in pace fits the modern setting very well. While I do wish it had been longer so the characters and their motivations could have been explored more, there’s never a feeling that material has been left on the cutting room floor. Coriolanus is an extremely refreshing film; not a stately Roman play, but a raw, fierce, exhilarating take on one of the Bard’s least known works.

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Contemporizing Coriolanus

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    • From the speculative storm kicked up by Anonymous to the popular release of Stephen Marche’s How Shakespeare Changed Everything, public curiosity in the Bard’s work was piqued just in time for Ralph Fiennes’ directorial shot at Coriolanus.
    • He chose to preserve the iambic pentameter in the film, and with the expert screen-writing help of John Logan (best-known for his work on Gladiator, The Aviator, Rango, not to mention his exceptional play Red, about Mark Rothko), Coriolanus has turned out to be an exhilarating contemporary take on Shakespeare’s story of a tragic, bull-headed patriot.
    • Fiennes as Martius is a perfectly calculating, persistent soldier, but also a dry and useless politico. His refusal to play popular is overt enough to be almost comical, and that obstinacy becomes his downfall when the quick-tongued Tribunes (moonlighting as slimy lobbyists) conspire to expose Martius as a politician who doesn’t particularly care about what the Citizens think. The media, in Fox News style, becomes a forum for the trial of Coriolanus’ character, and his eventual exile from Rome is reflected not just in a distancing from the city, but as a descent into extreme poverty.

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World is plagued by Shakespearean villains – Ralph Fiennes – UKPlurk

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    • Gerard Butler describes Coriolanus as “fresh and relevant” as he joins his co-stars, the film’s debut director Ralph Fiennes and Vanessa Redgrave for a special screening of the Shakespearean drama in London. Ralph Fiennes’ directorial debut is a modern more
    • Gerard Butler talks about how Ralph Fiennes’ modern take on Shakespeare’s political drama Coriolanus is very relevant and fresh today. Rough Cut (no reporter narration)
    • Shakespeare’s tragedy Coriolanus has been reworked by Ralph Fiennes, in his directorial debut, into a timely modern-day tale of betrayal, political unrest and civil discontent. ‘Coriolanus is described in Shakespeare’s play as being “a thing of blood”

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Time’s Person of the Year and Shakespeare’s “Many-Headed Monster” | Renaissance Matters

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    • So I really love Time Magazine’s pick for person of the year, the Protester.
    • Kurt Andersen’s piece elaborating on Time’s choice of the Protester connects the dots so cogently among the seemingly disparate global protest movements.
    • But to return to the focus of this blog, connecting our present moment to that of the Early Modern, you know who really hated and fear protests, Shakespeare. Now, as most Shakespearean scholars would agree, it is nearly impossible to make any categorical, general statements about Shakespeare’s works. One cannot really make the claim that the “Shakespeare” who comes through in the plays and poems was a misogynist, or an anti-Semite, or a racist, or a Catholic, or a Protestant.
    • In his 1912 essay for the PMLA, Frederick Tupper, Jr. asserts that readers of Shakespeare “are one in their diagnosis of Shakespeare’s mob – that it is something disorganized, dangerous, unintelligent.” It is very difficult to dispute that Shakespeare saw pure anarchy in the “mob.”
    • Here are just some examples of Shakespeare’s depiction of protests:

      Coriolanus: When one is thinking about the haves and have-nots in Shakespeare’s plays, Coriolanus stands out. Shakespeare presents a Rome very much divided along economic class lines.

    • In an episode that Shakespeare borrows from his source, Plutarch’s Lives, Menenius Agrippa, spokesperson for the senate, tells a fable in which the different organs of the body riot against the stomach for hording all of the food.
    •  In comes Coriolanus, who has this to say about the plebeians’ demands for fair corn prices: “Hang ‘em!
    • When discussing Shakespeare’s disgust with social protests, one of my favorite scenes to talk about is from Julius Caesar.
    • Shakespeare chooses to open with two patricians Marullus and Flavius, berating a crowd of plebeians for their openly rejoicing in Caesar’s victory.
    • in the following scene we see the result of unleashing the vulgus. In a very dark bit a of comedy, Cinna, a poet, encounters the crowd that Antony has just addressed. The crowd confuses this Cinna for a different Cinna, one of the conspirators.
    • While the comedy in this scene reminds me of something worthy of Monty Python, Shakespeare speaks to an unsavory facet of crowd psychology – none of us is as cruel as all of us. A Shakespearean mob becomes an expression of a collective id, a mass of violent urges blindly seeking out a target.
    • To wrap things up, in Shakespeare the protester does not find a friend. What we may see as truly the distilled essence of our politics, the grass roots protesters sacrificing their lives to enact meaningful change, Shakespeare saw as the destruction of society.

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Film Review: Coriolanus

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COMMENT: More Shakespeare will soon be hitting the big screen, with Ralph Fiennes starring. Advance word on this film is good, and it sounds like yet another instance where folks can learn that Shakespeare is as relevant today as E.Ver (pun intended). And what’s especially intriguing about this Shakespeare work is that the core of the story is simply this: a boy and his mom. Really.

Article link: Coriolanus

EXCERPT: “Coriolanus unfolds in an alternate present, in “a place calling itself Rome,” mired in an ongoing war with the neighboring Volscians. Having distinguished himself during the siege of the Volscian stronghold Coriolus, General Caius Martius (Ralph Fiennes) returns home to the kind of acclaim that launches political careers, and while Martius doesn’t give a damn about politics, his strong-willed mother, Volumnia (Vanessa Redgrave), does. Since Volumnia has been the engine of his success for as long as he can remember, Martius submits once again to her ambitions.”