The Blagger's Guide To... Coriolanus
Splatter-fan politicos – this one's for you
Sunday 22 January 2012
* Ralph Fiennes's new film of Shakespeare's Coriolanus opened this weekend in UK cinemas, meaning that Shakespeare might overtake Dickens as the dead British author whose estate most benefits from a film-related sales boost this January. Fiennes's version relocates the Roman tragedy to the modern-day Balkans; it was filmed in and around Belgrade. Fiennes both directs and stars in the film, but for someone who has apparently aced one of the Bard's most political plays, the actor is surprisingly apolitical. "I always feel innately disappointed by politicians," he told an interviewer last week.
* Vanessa Redgrave stars as Volumnia, Coriolanus's mother.
* This is Fiennes's directorial debut, but he has been planning to direct a film for many years, he says, and he is no stranger to this play. In 2000, he played Coriolanus for the first time for the Almeida theatre. His co-star, Paul Jessen, who plays Brutus, also played the general in a 1998 BBC radio production, and appeared as First Citizen (who has the first line in the play) in the 1984 TV drama The Tragedy of Coriolanus.
* Shakespeare wrote Coriolanus early in the 17th century, probably between 1608 and 1610. As with many of his plays, the source material is gathered from various earlier writers: Thomas North's translation of "The Life of Coriolanus" in Plutarch's Lives of the Greeks and Romans (1579); William Camden's Remaines (1605); and possibly some of the Roman historian Livy's Ab Urbe Condita Libri (27-25BC).
* Set in Ancient Rome, it opens as the citizens are rioting because their proud, rich emperor is withholding grain from the ordinary people. Relevant at almost any time in British history, then. Perhaps what the current government needs is a hastily-arranged war on Corioles.
* Other actors who have played Coriolanus include Laurence Olivier (twice), whose – spoiler alert! – famous death scene at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in 1959 ended up with him hanging upside down from a platform. Anthony Hopkins also had a go, as did Richard Burton, Ian McKellen, Christopher Walken and Morgan Freeman.
* Bryan A Garner's essay, "Shakespeare's Latinate Neologisms", names 22 Shakespearian neologisms in Coriolanus. Among these are: birthplace, petition (as a verb), reinforcement, spectacled, unclog (although the word "clog" had been around a while) and widowed.
* The actor who plays Coriolanus gets several lines in the play about being an actor. Among them: "Would you have me False to my nature? Rather say I play The man I am." (Act III Scene II, line 14) And: "Like a dull actor now, I have forgot my part, and I am out, Even to a full disgrace." (Act V Scene III, line 40)
* The play was briefly banned in France in the 1930s because it had become associated with Fascist tendencies. "In the past it has been linked with fascist ideology. But that's not the right way to go," Fiennes has said. "It's a story of loss and waste and devastation. Shakespeare is about provoking questions as opposed to telling you which way to vote, so to give it any overtly pro- or anti-fascist slant is wrong."
* Fiennes has promised that there will be plenty of blood.
After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violencefilm
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 'Alien thigh bone' on Mars: Excitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
- 2 Mother fed her daughter tapeworms to make her skinny for beauty pageant
- 3 Crystal Palace next manager latest: Palace consider Ally McCoist - EXCLUSIVE
- 4 Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
- 5 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
Jeremy Clarkson 'sees no problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC
Lucy, film review: Scarlett Johansson will blow your mind in Luc Besson's complex thriller
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw
Miley Cyrus concert banned on morality grounds in the Dominican Republic
Coolio has sold his soul to Pornhub
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Bin bag full of cats' heads discovered near Manchester's Curry Mile
Disgusting, frustrating, but intriguing: how the country really feels about its politicians