Saturday, 4 February 2012

from man to dragon

One day off, last Sunday. So I grabbed my chance to go to the Cinema and see the much anticipated, on my part, Coriolanus. I enjoyed the film immensely, but this is not a film review, at least I'm not intending to make it one, but it might be later on. I had been reading the play for some time, see previous post, and it was a struggle. The reason it was a struggle was because I was reading it in small installments. That doesn't really work for me. Reading Shakespeare is so different from watching it being performed. I cant read it as I would read a novel, no one can. The writing is so rich and complex, you have to give it your full concentration. I will have to be disciplined and set aside time, so I am able to read large swathes of a play at a sitting. Hopefully finish, say Macbeth in one or two goes. The longer ones, like Hamlet, a few more.

So Coriolanus. Or, The Tragedy of Coriolanus. It is set in ancient Rome in the early days of the Republic, hundreds of years before Julius Caesar. It starts of with the citizens of Rome, hungry and short of grain, complaining about the rich, with their grain stores crammed full. Caius Martius, appears to treat the people with contempt. When Rome goes to war with the Volcaisians, Caius Martius attacks and defeats the city of Corioles. In the battle he fights hand to hand with Aufidius. They are both cut up pretty badly and are helped away by their men. When he goes back to Rome, victorious. He is given, in his honour, the name Coriolanus. He is then appointed consul by the Senate but he refuses to show the people his wounds, as is custom and will not humble himself, still treating the citizens with contempt. So the Tribunes encourage the citizens, to turn against him and accuse him of treason. They have him banished. Coriolanus, in a rage, seeks out the Volscian army, finds Aufidius and offers to lead them against Rome. Back in Rome they hear of the impending attack, they send out, first Cominius, who comes back without even having a chance to speak with Coriolanus. They then persuaded Menenius Agrippa, his friend to try and talk him out of the attack. Coriolanus barely acknowledges him. Finally his mother Volumnia, with his wife Virgilia and son have their chance. His mother, in a great speech pleads with him. Coriolanus finally agrees not to attack Rome. Meanwhile close advisers of Aufidius have been telling their General that Coriolanus has become too powerful and popular with their own army. They kill him and Aufidius tramples on his body. It is not easy explaining the whole play to you. All I will say is it had a wonderful effect on me, I loved it. Reading the play was difficult but so rewarding. A few of the great speeches, as when his mother, Volumnia, is pleading with Coriolanus not to attack Rome, had me hooked. When, Menenius speaking to Sicinius, about the chances of Volumnia, persuading her Son not to attack Rome.
Sicinius says "Is't possible that so short a time can alter a man".
Menenius replies, "There is differency between a grub and a butterfly; yet your butterfly was a grub. This Martius has grown from man to dragon: he has wings: he's more than a creeping thing.
Sicinius "He loved his mother dearly"
Menenius "So did he me: and he
no more remembers his mother
now than an eight year-old horse. The
tartness
of his face sours ripe grapes: when he
walks, he
moves like an engine, and the ground
shrinks before
his treading: he is able to pierce a corslet
with
his eye; talks like a knell, and his hum is a
battery. He sits in a state, as a thing
made for
Alexander, What he bids be done is finished
with
his bidding. He wants nothing of a god but
eternity
and a heaven to throne in.
I love that scene. I think I could spend a large part off my life on Coriolanus, alone. That's the thing with Shakespeare, I'll be dead, before I get to the end of my journey. The thing is, I love the plays and writing of Shakespeare and it will be a life long joy to read his plays and once in a blue moon, see them performed live on stage. I hope they make more and more of the plays into movies. I know its not the same as live theater, but I love watching them on DVD.

I'd like to say some things about the movie, Coriolanus. I thought it was fantastic. Ralph Fiennes as Caius Martius and afterwards Coriolanus, was brilliant. Lets hope he dose more Shakespeare. Gerard Butler as Aufidius, was no surprise, I knew he would be great. He looked like that mad Spartan from 300 but played the part brilliantly. I thought Jessica Chastain as Virgilia was really good. I noticed while reading the play, she doesn't have a lot to say. So in the film, she didn't say much, her presence and her acting were superb. Lubna Azabal, playing one of the citizens, was excellent. James Nesbitt as Sicinius, well I knew, like Butler, he'd be great and he was. Jon Snow reading the news, was a surprise, he was excellent, read his lines like a keen school teacher. I thought Vanessa Redgrave was good but, and I think I will have to see it again, she didn't bring her big speeches alive, for me. That leaves the mighty, Brian Cox. As Menenius, I just thought he was fantastic. I might be biased, he is one of my favourite actors, but I think his part held the whole film together. Going from Citizens to Tribunes, from Volumnia to his friend Coriolanus. Acting the fool with his son. He just seemed to have more complexity than most. I'm not saying the other characters lacked complexity, far from it. As I've said, The Tragedy of Coriolanus, will keep me busy and entertained for ever.

Well that was, Coriolanus. I may not mention him in my blog again. But that doesn't mean I'm finished with him. I think I will go onto, The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, next. So it may be a while before my next post.

I would like to thank Trish Nicholson, who was kind enough to look over an early draft of this post. I was really struggling and Trish gave me so much tips and advice. I cant thank her enough. Follow her on twitter @TrishaNicholson she is ace. Thanks to Andy Maginley, he helped with the quotes, follow him on twitter too @AndrewMaginley A real renaissance man. And as always, DB for her great encouragement.

I'M going to post this, as it is. If I'm lucky enough to have a few readers, please let me know if I have written a load of tosh, It's only my humble attempt to write down my thoughts.

So long for now

George

3 comments:

DW96 said...

Interesting post, George.

When it comes to Shakespeare I'm a "take it or leave it" sort and often it depends on my mood.

One other point. About 50 years ago, when I was at school, I played Cassius in Julius Caesar. Interesting role, but it wasn't unitl I was much older that I understood what was going on.

trish nicholson said...

I enjoyed reading this post, George, and a great title which sums up neatly so much of what you describe later. I don't know the play at all, but your description and enthusiasm are enough to get me interested in doing so. And I like the extracts you selected, they really do show the richness that has 'caught you up'. Keep journeying and keep sharing it with us, Trish.

LizB said...

George, this is great! I'm a Shakespeare fan too - acting and directing past - and I don't know Coriolanus. Been wondering about the film. How did you find the modern setting? Enjoy Julius Caesar - I love it, knew lots of it by heart because we had a record of the film as kids. Brilliant! And I bet that Latin proverb of yours came out of your Shakespeare reading and you didn't even know it. I think it said King John.