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on 17 October 2010
This tragedy is world famous and among Shakespeare's is one of the deepest and most political. It deals with the social classes of Rome in those old days. The people are the free Romans who are not nobles or generals. These plebeians have representatives next to the Senate, the tribunes, elected by them. The Senate is elected too but by the nobility and patricians. At the time of Coriolanus the Tribunes had some kind of veto right on decisions and especially on appointments. The situation is difficult. The war was won in extremis by Coriolanus, the son of a noble family. The Senate wants to make him Consul but he refuses to bow down in front of the tribunes and the plebeians and is banished by them. He at once joins his previous enemy, whom he had defeated and is of course leading his army to the gates of Rome. But his banishment shows the absurdity of a political system based on democracy, on leaders elected by the people. The leaders to be elected or accepted have to flatter the people and that is the worst possible situation. The people do not want to hear the truth when there is a difficulty, and they do not want to share the decisions then. They are led by their desire to be flattered to absurd decisions that may lead the whole country to a catastrophe, to a standstill or to a complete collapse. The flattery the leaders are using is immoral in many ways but is it the only way? Unluckily it is except if you manage to side-track these plebeians and to have majority of people with you on the side of a realistic policy. That is the deepest evil of democracy.

Then we are confronted to vengeance in politics. It is the second worst motivation. It leads to deaf and dumb positions and attitudes that may make you a traitor in a situation similar to that of Rome which was not a popular democracy but a feudal democracy based on a slave state. The great advantage of democracy is that you can always try to get your revenge in the elections, whereas in the Roman situation revenge meant sedition, treason, betrayal, physical destruction of all and everything that had opposed you. Strangely enough this makes the situation even less sure and less stable because then the "traitor" is under pressure from his friends, his family, his relatives not to complete his vengeance and destroy the city or country that used to be his own, and along with it his own parents, wife, children, etc.

This play is marvelous because of some extraordinary scenes. The scene about the "absolute shall" is a prodigy, a miracle.

« SICINIUS: It is a mind That shall remain a poison where it is, Not poison any further. CORIOLANUS: Shall remain! Hear you this Triton of the minnows? mark you His absolute 'shall'? COMINIUS: 'Twas from the canon. CORIOLANUS: 'Shall'! O good but most unwise patricians! why, You grave but reckless senators, have you thus Given Hydra here to choose an officer, That with his peremptory 'shall,' being but The horn and noise o' the monster's, wants not spirit To say he'll turn your current in a ditch, And make your channel his? If he have power Then vail your ignorance; if none, awake Your dangerous lenity. If you are learn'd, Be not as common fools; if you are not, Let them have cushions by you. You are plebeians, If they be senators: and they are no less, When, both your voices blended, the great'st taste Most palates theirs. They choose their magistrate, And such a one as he, who puts his 'shall,' His popular 'shall' against a graver bench Than ever frown in Greece. By Jove himself! It makes the consuls base: and my soul aches To know, when two authorities are up, Neither supreme, how soon confusion May enter 'twixt the gap of both and take The one by the other. »

But the tragedy goes a long way beyond that scorn and condescendence. It shows the other phenomenal scene of the mother, the wife, the virginal temple servant and the son pleading for mercy and peace. Poignant, and all the more so because we know that this never happens and that in such situations only hatred dominates and triumphs, be it only in the name of military efficiency. But the scene is brilliant and brilliantly acted by an admirable actress. And the triumph of that mother coming back into Rome with the peace promised by her son is quite noble and impressive. But Shakespeare pushes slightly further his political reasoning.

Corialanus was the victorious general of Coriali. He was betrayed by some rabble, some populace who used or were used by their tribunes to get their way. A mistake that disturbed the fabric of history. Then Coriolanus becomes a traitor as a result. He is brought back to his senses by his mother but then he betrays the military pact he had agreed on with his ex-enemy and that disturbs again the fabric of history. Hence it has to be rectified and it is done by the hand of Coriolanus' ex-enemy, on the day when he brings a peace treaty and his sword as a token of that peace. And this ex-enemy kills Coriolanus with Coriolanus' own weapon. The rectification is total. A great pleasure to see such a great production.

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne, University Paris 8 Saint Denis, University Paris 12 Créteil, CEGID
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on 19 June 2015
Having begun viewing this production, I am close to giving up in frustration. This version is very heavily cut so that the plot loses direction, with some poor acting that does not convey the sense of the words. It is often a mistake to cut Shakespeare heavily as he knew what he was doing, and if something doesn't make sense in a production, you have to go back to the script and see what was cut out to fill in the gaps and work it out!
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on 27 March 2013
I am a fan of the bard and had never seen this play performed. I bought it to accompany the Ralph Fiennes version, which I intend to watch with a girlfriend. It's very intense and gripping. The themes unfold and the cast keep it tight and, more importantly, believable.
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on 16 November 2014
this shows the quality of B.B.C.
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on 19 February 2015
ten out ten love it
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on 5 March 2012
In Elijah Moshinsky's seminal production of Coriolanus for the BBC, a masterpiece is created. The production eschews traditional theatrical staples such as characterisation and passion to deliver a hauntingly bestilled interpretation. This passivity of performance appears to have evolved through groundbreaking lack of rehearsal and a refusal of actors to familiarise themselves with the script, or indeed the plot, of the play in advance of filming. The result is a turgidity of performance in which Moshinksy and his cutting crew deserve immense credit for editing out every instance of "Erm, line?"

Alan Howard's rambling monotonal rendition of Marcius is impressive for its eclectic construction, tapping into the depths of Blackadderian gurnage and the gorge-rising warped tonality of Vincent Price in Thriller voice-over mode.

Tipping the hat to Brecht's Coriolan, this performance takes the theatrical concept of defamiliarisation into daring new territory, by encouraging the audience to defamiliarise themselves from the work long before the end. Thus, the mystery of whether this is in fact a tragedy or not is, for most, maintained, as watching to the end could only be achieved by those viewers willing to flay themselves with nettles to distract themselves from the sheer agony of this production.

Simply brilliant.
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on 26 February 2015
Thank you.
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on 27 June 2014
No way to play this DVD in my country. Error made in the ordering, so DVD is unfortunately no use to me.
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on 5 June 2009
By portraying Coriolanus as a flaming poofter and his adversary as a gnarly dwarf, the production loses all believability in the final act. The story hinges on the audience being sold on Coriolanus's military prowess. Otherwise we cannot believe that Rome would shudder when he changes sides, or that the appeals made to him by his friends and family have any real urgency as far as the powers that be are concerned.
33 comments|6 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

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