Last week, I talked a little about both homosociality and homo-eroticism in Coriolanus. We see some military-based quasi-male-bonding within armies and across armies within the same rank (between Martius and Aufidius. But there’s nothing erotic in those exchanges and bonds. We also see some pretty highly charged homo-erotic imagery in that Aufidius speech responding to Martius’ defection.
But there didn’t seem to be too great a connection.
[(not really any) EXPLICIT CONTENT, (no) ADULT LANGUAGE AND SEXUAL IMAGERY AHEAD… SKIP IF (super-duper-)EASILY OFFENDED.]
First of all, there’s not a whole lot of bawdy in Coriolanus. Eric Partridge, the author of the great Shakespeare’s Bawdy, sums it up: “possesses a few more particularities than Macbeth, yet, in its general effect, even less ‘objectionable’” (Shakespeare’s Bawdy, Partridge, Eric. New York: Routledge Classics, 2001; page 47), and he called Macbeth the purist of the tragedies. So as a cop on the bawdy beat, I’m almost tempted to wave you off, and say, “Move along, nothing to see here…”
Almost. But that would be shirking my duty… (heh heh, he said, “duty”…)
In the last couple of months, I’ve been taking a Masters-level course in Shakespeare, in which I wrote a lengthy paper on cuckoldry and the male anxiety caused by the fear of it in both Much Ado About Nothing and Othello. It turned out pretty well. More importantly, though, is that is introduced to me a sociological concept called homosociality. Basically, it’s same-sex relationships–loving, caring, mentoring, supportive–but not romantic or erotic in nature. The link I drew in the paper was between the fear of female sexuality and how the men’s previous homosocial bond through the military made it easier for them to accuse the females of adultery. Maybe the whole homosociality thing has been on my mind, but I see it in Coriolanus as well.
OK, I mentioned that the Fiennes film of Coriolanus seemed to accentuate a certain Oedipal reading in the production, especially in a scene following Martius’ return from Corioles. Volumnia lovingly bandages his wounds in the bathroom, sharing a quiet, almost whispered conversation; when his wife Virgilia walks in on them, they turn and look at her, and she wordlessly leaves the room, closing the door for their privacy.
Of course, I wouldn’t exactly call that Oedipal. But there’s something there…
The last couple of non-podcast blog entries on Coriolanus have been about Virgilia and Valeria, Coriolanus’ wife and her (?) friend–two of our three V’s in the play. Today, let’s finish off the V trifecta with everyone’s favorite mother, Volumnia.
Yesterday, we looked at the problematic wife in Coriolanus (problematic for scholars, not–really–for Martius), Virgilia. Today, let us turn to another V-lady in the play…no, not big mama, Volumnia, but her friend Valeria.
OK, seriously…how many out there have read Coriolanus? I know, you all are, because you’re reading it with me, right? <wink> How many of you have seen a stage production (no, not the cool Ralph Fiennes movie or the adequate BBC Complete Works version, but a honest-to-[hopefully]goodness production)? Fewer hands, I’m sure (full disclosure: me, neither).
Is it a case where there’ve been productions, but since it wasn’t part of the usual arsenal of Shakespeare (Midsummer, Hamlet, Twelfth Night, Romeo and Juliet, and the like), you decided to take a hard pass?
Or was it because there just haven’t been productions available?
In 1983, as part of the sixth and penultimate season of their Complete Works of Shakespeare series, the BBC filmed Coriolanus. Elijah Moshinsky, who had earlier directed All’s Well That End’s Well, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and (and our next play) Cymbeline, and would help one of the final installments, Love’s Labor’s Lost, was in the director’s chair for this one.
[note: yesterday, I reviewed this same filmed version of Coriolanus…but for my Masters course, I had to write a review of a Shakespeare film and I picked this one…you’ll find some overlaps, but a slightly different leaning]
In 2011, actor Ralph Fiennes made his film directorial debut with a theatrical release of Shakespeare’s rarely filmed play, Coriolanus. Noted for both stage and screen performances himself, Fiennes was able to secure major on-screen talent (including Gerard Butler, Vanessa Redgrave, Jessica Chastain, and Brian Cox) to support him in this endeavor. The result is a visceral and accessible, visually striking work.
In 2011, Ralph Fiennes made his cinematic directorial debut with Coriolanus, for BBC Films. Here, he reprises a role he had played under the direction of Jonathan Kent at the Almeida Theater in London a decade earlier.