Elle's Reviews > Coriolanus

Coriolanus by William Shakespeare
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's review
Feb 15, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: shakespeare, plays
Read from January 23 to February 15, 2012

I had never heard of this little-known Shakespeare play until I played an overture written for it by Beethoven last year in orchestra. Then, in January I saw that the Seattle Shakespeare Company was putting it on and I wanted to see it because I had wondered what it was about. I read about half of the play before we went to the production, and I finished the rest today.

It was worth it. Set in the early Roman Republic, it follows soldier Caius Martius to his downfall. It is called Coriolanus because he is renamed Coriolanus for his victory at Corioles. I loved reading the Cambridge School edition because it gave a lot of ideas, questions, and activities that really helped me see how one play can be interpreted in so many ways.

After reading the section "Staging Coriolanus" included after the text of the play, I know why it is staged so little now. It has been interpreted by Communists--with individuals against society--and in Nazi Germany was taught in schools as anti-democratic. They wanted students to think of Hitler as like Coriolanus, a "strong leader unjustly treated." (p. 250) Because of this, occupying American forces banned performances of it after the war.

Seattle Shakespeare Company portrayed a version without an overt and specific political agenda, which is how I think Shakespeare wrote it to be: an examination of the struggle and disagreements between the higher and lower classes (patricians and plebeians). As I read it, it reminded me of Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell, another book I've read recently, because it contains class struggles as well.

There are so many themes that I would like to discuss in my review but don't have time for right now so I will finish my review later.

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