Coriolanus and contemporary politics

Ralph Fiennes’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus is due for release in the UK early next year. It’s already out in the US. You can see a trailer here. Coriolanus is one of Shakespeare’s most political plays, and you can see how it could be easily transplanted into a modern setting: Fiennes’s film was shot in Serbia. But here is an exchange from the opening scene which could be set in any contemporary Western state, especially if the ‘dearth’ is understood in terms of economics rather than simply hunger, and perhaps the markets as the new ‘gods’:

MENENIUS. I tell you, friends, most charitable care
Have the patricians of you. For your wants,
Your suffering in this dearth, you may as well
Strike at the heaven with your staves as lift them
Against the Roman state; whose course will on
The way it takes, cracking ten thousand curbs
Of more strong link asunder than can ever
Appear in your impediment. For the dearth,
The gods, not the patricians, make it, and
Your knees to them, not arms, must help. Alack,
You are transported by calamity
Thither where more attends you; and you slander
The helms o’ th’ state, who care for you like fathers,
When you curse them as enemies.
FIRST CITIZEN. Care for us! True, indeed! They ne’er cared for us yet. Suffer us to famish, and their storehouses cramm’d with grain; make edicts for usury, to support usurers; repeal daily any wholesome act established against the rich, and provide more piercing statutes daily to chain up and restrain the poor. If the wars eat us not up, they will; and there’s all the love they bear us.

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2 Responses to Coriolanus and contemporary politics

  1. Pingback: Shakespeare’s Coriolanus – political geographies, bodies and animals | Progressive Geographies

  2. Pingback: Coriolanus – Ralph Fiennes and the text | Progressive Geographies

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