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30 Days of Shakespeare, Day 22

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Day #22: An underrated play - Coriolanus

I could very easily list any of the Henry VIs here because they never get enough love, but I talked at length about their utter brilliance on Day 10. Then I was tempted by Henry IV, Part II, but I actually know quite a few people who love that play, so I decided to go with something completely different.

Namely, Coriolanus.

I only read this play recently, on the repeated suggestion of gileonnen, and it is absolutely fascinating. I knew absolutely nothing about the actual Coriolanus -- a far cry from reading Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra with all their accompanying cultural baggage. And Coriolanus himself is just a very different kind of tragic hero. He's exactly the right man for the military aspects of his job, but he can't handle the politics. Or, perhaps more accurately, he refuses to be a political animal. I suppose if Hamlet is driven by his brain and Othello by his heart, Coriolanus follows...his gut? His first instinct?

gileonnen makes the point that what makes Coriolanus interesting is its rejection of heroic tropes -- it's not about love or revenge or patriotism, but about how Coriolanus' actions are constantly misread as being something greater than they are. Actually, just read her entire post. She's got far more cogent thoughts on it than I do.

I'm not sure why this play isn't more popular. Possibly it is because it gets overshadowed by the better-known Roman plays, or maybe because the different levels of conflict are a bit hard to parse on first glance (Romans v. Volscians, plebes v. patricians, Coriolanus v. everybody, etc). Or possibly it's just not performed enough, though I expect that will change with the upcoming film version.

Also, Volumnia is BRILLIANT. She's got incredible power over her son and is completely unashamed of it, and powerful women in Shakespeare always make me happy.


Day #1: Your favourite play - Othello and Richard III
Day #2: Your favourite character - Lady Elizabeth Grey in 3 Henry VI and Richard III
Day #3: Your favourite hero - Othello
Day #4: Your favourite heroine - Juliet from Romeo and Juliet and Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing
Day #5: Your favorite villain - Richard of Gloucester
Day #6: Your favourite villainess female villain - Joan la Pucelle
Day #7: Your favourite clown - Feste from Twelfth Night
Day #8: Your favourite comedy - Much Ado About Nothing
Day #9: Your favourite tragedy - King Lear
Day #10: Your favourite history - The Henry VI trilogy
Day #11: Your least favourite play - The Taming of the Shrew
Day #12: Your favourite scene - selections from Richard III, Othello, Much Ado, and 3 Henry VI
Day #13: Your favourite romantic scene - As You Like It, Act IV, Scene I
Day #14: Your favourite fight scene - 1 Henry IV and 3 Henry VI
Day #15: The first play you read - Romeo and Juliet
Day #16: Your first play you saw - Macbeth
Day #17: Your favourite speech - Romeo and Juliet and 3 Henry VI
Day #18: Your favourite dialogue - Much Ado About Nothing, Romeo and Juliet, and Hamlet
Day #19: Your favourite movie version of a play - Richard III (1995)
Day #20: Your favourite movie adaptation of a play - Ten Things I Hate About You
Day #21: An overrated play - The Tempest
Day #22: An underrated play - Coriolanus
Day #23: A role you've never played but would love to play
Day #24: An actor or actress you would love to see in a particular role
Day #25: Sooner or later, everyone has to choose: Hal or Falstaff?
Day #26: Your favourite couple
Day #27: Your favourite couplet
Day #28: Your favourite joke
Day #29: Your favourite sonnet
Day #30: Your favourite single line
Current Location:
Desk
Current Mood:
calm calm
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On 14th August 2010 00:18 (UTC), gileonnen commented:
Why, I couldn't have said this better myself. ^_~
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On 21st August 2010 12:47 (UTC), gehayi commented:
I wish that I could read that post...but it's locked.
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On 24th August 2010 20:51 (UTC), lareinenoire replied:
Oh, dear. I keep forgetting that she locks her posts -- not that I can argue, considering I do the same thing!

The particular bit I was referring to was this:

I can't plead for the beauty of its language--for it's very seldom beautiful, although those moments of beauty are incredibly striking when they occur--nor for the greatness of its themes; in many ways, this play seems almost deliberately shallow, as though the meat of it's been pared away. Indeed, at times I wonder if Coriolanus doesn't model that nigh-paranoiac need that we feel to read some sign of greatness or tragedy into the actions of heroes: Coriolanus is a man who can't make himself a political animal, a man whose failure to be polite and politic is constantly being (mis)read as itself a political statement. In a play where words and pleas and voices are the currency by which people buy their success, Coriolanus tries to enclose himself within his body and to keep his body safe from concourse and discourse, to insist that his actions speak for themselves and that he needn't offer his own voice--and it's nearly inevitable that the other characters should insist upon reading him all the more strenuously for it.
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