The Ralph Fiennes directed Coriolanus, that stars him too, looks promising, in contrast to the high production but low truth value Roland Emerich movie Anonymous, asking “Was Shakespeare a fraud?“, and peddling the tedious Edward Devere, Earl of Oxford theory about authorship. In interview Fiennes talked about how as relevant Shakespeare is today as he ever was, despite any difficulty with language, and, as a footnote, a project here on Shakespeare and Southwark has noticed how the Fiennes family name, though not a theatrical family then, turns up in Southwark Cathedral, 400 years back. It was of course his brother who played Will himself in lovely Shakespeare in Love. But without seeing the film, we wonder how true the film stays to a fascinating play. Coriolanus is not only the high patrician, who scorns the ‘democratic‘ voices of the mob, or the hopes of Republican Rome, but the essential soldier, whose life and power is undermined by the matronly Roman virtues of his mother Volumnia, when he is banished. In that it is much about male identity. The Nazis initially banned the play, then changed their mind and put it on the school curriculum! No doubt they completely misunderstood Shakespeare’s purpose, in the act of the play, and the journeys towards comedy or tragedy, in human beings over reaching themselves. But it is a work that asks two vital questions too, in Gaius Martius’ Coriolanus’ journey away from all-powerful Rome – “There is a world elsewhere” he cries, but also “as if a Man were author of himself“. It is a question about individual freedom and human identity so essential to Shakespeare, but one he repeatedly asks in seeking the almost Godlike power of his own writing, that it makes it a much neglected work.

Coriolanus is released on January 20th

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