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Coriolanus

  • Date Submitted: 06/11/2011 04:19 PM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 30.4 
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CORIOLANUS. By William Shakespeare. Directed by Dominic Dromgoole. Globe Theatre,
London. 17 May 2006.

  As two-thirds of the Globe theatre’s budget derives from its box office, some critics have asked why Dominic Dromgoole chose as his debut an obscure Shakespearean tragedy that may not draw crowds and, thus, fail to cement his own position in the fickle world of theatre. This question seems perfectly appropriate in the context of Coriolanus’ thematic focus on an anti-plebian hero, the superlative patrician soldier, Caius Martius (Jonathan Cake),
Martius defeats his arch-rival, Tullus Aufidius (Mo Sesay); wins great honors on the battlefield (including the epithet, Coriolanus) then loses greater honors, murdered by his erstwhile opponents/benefactors, the Volscians. The trouble with presenting Coriolanus today lies with the hero’s tragic flaw. Exemplified by an intense disdain for the plebeians, Coriolanus’ hubris is difficult to portray to modern audiences in a sympathetic light. Despite Cakes’ attempts to portray Coriolanus’ athletic and martial magnetism, his sneering disdain of the public overshadows the performance at least until late in the production when he is compelled toward a semblance of self-awareness by the entreaties of his wife, mother, and children. By then, it is a case of too little, too late. As a result, Coriolanus appears rather like Shakespeare’s satiric representation of the great and prideful warrior Ajax in Troilus and Cressida: “whom nature hath so crowded humors that his valour / is crushed into folly, his folly farced with discretion.” (1.1). Pride and gullibility make Ajax a soft target. Yet, the same faults of pride and gullibility do not make Coriolanus as convincingly tragic as Ajax is humorous.
    If Coriolanus is a thorny and relatively unknown play, why select it to open the Globe season?   The play had significant topical references in Shakespeare’s day. Not only has Coriolanus been linked to the Earl of Essex--a man...

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