“What is the city but the People?” Transversal Performance and Radical Politics in Shakespeare’s Coriolanus and Brecht’s Coriolan

  • Bryan Reynolds

Abstract

Shakespeare’s Coriolanus and Brecht’s adaptation of it were written during historical periods of high cultural anxiety and frustration.2 Both works reflect and comment on social, economic, and political problems contemporaneous to their conception. Whereas Brecht makes his purpose for creating Coriolan explicit in his nonfictional writings, he does not reveal the direct correlations between his play and, as he calls them, the “dark times” in which he wrote. To do this would have been dangerous for Brecht while living in a newly formed East Germany that was indirectly governed and closely monitored by Soviet forces. Similarly, despite the obvious topicality of its subject matter, Shakespeare gives no clear indication of his political investment in Coriolanus, and censorship was an issue that Jacobean dramatists were compelled to consider.3 In this chapter, I compare Coriolanus and Coriolan in light of their historical contexts in hopes of bettering our understanding of both the actions of the plebeians and Coriolanus’s negotiation of his own subject position in response to the changing sociopolitical environment in Shakespeare’s play. I aim to propose a new reading of Coriolanus that emphasizes performance rather than literal possibilities for the play-text.

Keywords

Sugar Corn Depression Posit Lution 

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© Bryan Reynolds 2003

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  • Bryan Reynolds

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