Shakespeare had himself been convicted of hoarding grain a decade earlier, and in he would be involved in a dispute about an enclosure project at Welcombe, which the Stratford Corporation opposed: this was subject matter he knew from both sides. A rallying cry from hungry Warwickshire labourers to other rural workers during the Midland Revolt of Usage terms Public Domain in most countries other than the UK. In a bid to produce some theatrical propaganda for the Stuart monarchy against the Whig politicians who sought to limit its power, Nahum Tate rewrote the play in as The Ingratitude of a Commonwealth , a version in which Coriolanus is wholly sympathetic and his adversaries wholly cynical.
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This pattern was even more marked in Germany, where the Nazis hailed the play as a hymn to strong leadership and as a result the occupying powers banned it after their downfall until Toby Stephens, unusually young for the role, made a brilliant RSC debut as Coriolanus in , in a production by David Thacker which, dressing its cast in clothes of the early 19th century, made its protagonist resemble a sneering Regency cadet defying the French Revolution.
In this it echoed the work of one of the few major actor-managers ever to make Caius Martius his signature role, John Philip Kemble — Regarded as an autocrat by his theatrical colleagues, Kemble came to be regarded as an unacceptable favourer of patrician encroachment by most of his audience into the bargain when, in September , his reopened Covent Garden theatre turned out to have reallocated much of the space formerly occupied by the pit to expensive private boxes.
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The lead man, Coriolanus, is a complicated hero, not obviously likeable at the start. Well I don't want to give it away! It's a world, just in the future, where the pillars of Rome have given way and crumbled and metal dominates the landscape. It's also all about walls that protect you and divide you, and we are lucky enough to be able to do that with a bit of scale. Our Coriolanus is a young man who is strong-headed and powerful but the old guard, including his mother, have a very clear idea of what he should be doing.
It's very funny watching the negotiations.
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He's more akin to a prize athlete or a rockstar than what we might think of as a soldier. He's a high-born incredibly gifted individual who isn't popular because he's so proud. But then it's as if he returns from the Olympics with twelve gold medals, becomes an overnight sensation and goes into politics….
There is some cross-gender casting in your production — why did you decide to do this? Martius took the side of the Consuls, and forced the compliance of those chosen for the new colony.
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Since apparently it was much more difficult to bribe or force military service, he attacked that problem separately. He led a group of men into battle in an area where the spoils included grain and cattle; all his soldiers came back rich, and envied by those who had stayed home.
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From this time on, some people those who were rewarded couldn't say enough good about Martius; others "spited to see his credit and estimation increase still more and more. From "Shortly after this, Martius stood for the consulship" to "For a man that will live in the world, must needs have patience, which lusty bloods make but a mock at.
Martius had his share of admirable scars; why then did he lose the election for Consul? What was his reaction? The choice of Martius for Consul appears to flow directly out of his military victory and current popularity with the people, rather than as the separate event that Plutarch describes.
Scene i. You may wish to watch that scene from the film starring Alan Howard the clip is posted on You-tube. Around this time, large amounts of grain finally arrived in Rome from various sources. The first thought of the governors was that some of it should be sold cheaply, and some that had been given as tribute should be given away free. Martius violently disagreed; he said that the common people would think the grain was only given out of fear, an attempt to appease them; and that they would take advantage of that and grow even more violent, demand even more.
He proposed that the experiment with the "tribuneship" men elected to represent the common people, not the aristocracy be cancelled as well, since it only caused dissent. You may want to discuss this the advantages and disadvantages of democracy? From "For the tribunes of the people, being present" to "as their malice and desire was increased, to be revenged of the Romans. In the omitted section, Martius had made a deal with the tribunes, that he would only answer to one charge, that of "aspiring to be king.
Why could the senators only say, "I told you so? What plan did Martius have at the end of this lesson? Would you have counseled him to act differently? Anyway, at that point in the play, Brutus and Sicinius call in officers to arrest Martius, and he reacts violently. The tribunes propose that Martius be thrown from the Tarpeian rock, but eventually they all agree to at least give him a trial by law. From "Now in the city of Antium, there was one called Tullus Aufidius" to "in what sort they should begin their wars.
Do you think Martius will fully give himself to the Volscian cause, or should Tullus perhaps be cautious about trusting him? Did you know that Shakespeare uses the word "thwack? From "Now Tullus and Martius had secret conference with the greatest personages" to "by change of one man for another, such and so strange events fell out in the state. What were the strategies that Martius and Tullus used against the cities under Roman rule? Why did the Romans not offer a better defense? From "In this while, all still went to wrack at Rome" to "departed with his army out of the territories of the Romans.
Why was all still "to wrack at Rome? What was the reaction of the Senate? It's clear, in the play, that Aufidius plans to get rid of Martius; that all his co-operation has been only for his own purposes. From "This was, the first matter wherewith the Volsces" to "to accept peace under the first conditions offered, or else to receive war.
Coriolanus by William Shakespeare: Approaches to the text
Why did Martius send a double response to the Romans' plea for peace? Why do you think he continued to deal so harshly with them? From "Now the Roman ladies and gentlewomen" to "Ladies, ye have devoutly offered me up.