The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1880 Wednesday, 11 September 2002
From: John W. Kennedy <
Date: Tuesday, 10 Sep 2002 12:39:08 -0400
Subject: 13.1870 Re: "Modern dress" Syndrome
Comment: Re: SHK 13.1870 Re: "Modern dress" Syndrome
>From: Martin Steward
>"I know they keep wanting to bash home the 'relevance' but 'Coriolanus'
>is set in ancient Rome for a purpose and it would be fantastic to see it
>done without all this modern garbage piled on top!"
>I guess it was probably Jonson who first pointed out that the Romans had
>two consuls, not one, as in Shakespeare's play (and if he didn't in
>print then he almost certainly did in conversation with someone other
>than Drummond). Shakespeare must simply have been plain wrong, failing
>to read his Plutarch properly, perhaps: he cannot possibly have been
>concerned with the modern, relevant garbage of monarchical authority...
No, he indeed cannot have, seeing that authority is not at issue in a
play about a man who _isn't_ a consul.
I think I have already mentioned that I once pointed out to Paul Barry
that he almost always put Shakespeare's Greek plays in modern dress, and
almost never the rest. So there may indeed be something to the notion
that, the less Shakespeare knows of a period, the more justified a
director in altering it. But I do not offhand recall anything in
"Coriolanus" that forces the notion of there having been a single consul
in ancient Rome, and, as I say, the office is really quite peripheral to
the action of the play. The _Romanitas_ of the play, on the other hand,
is plain. (For what it's worth, Paul Barry has done "Coriolanus" twice;
once, in a rare exception to his usual habit, he used the then-recent
film of "Patton" as a keynote. The second time he made it Roman.)
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