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Living Monuments: The Spatial Politics of Shakespeare’s Rome on the Contemporary Stage

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 November 2007

Peter Holland
Affiliation:
University of Notre Dame, Indiana
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Summary

Upon a close view of this story, there appear’d in some passages, no small resemblance with the busy faction of our own time. And I confess, I chose rather to set the parallel nearer to Sight, than to throw it off to further Distance.

Nahum Tate, The Ingratitude of the Common-Wealth; or the fall of Caius Martius Coriolanus

What is the city but the people? – William Shakespeare. Sign on hoardings covering the City Center Shopping Mall, Minneapolis, during its refurbishment, 2006.

In the California Building Gallery in South Minneapolis, Aidan, a nine-year-old boy is trying to get the attention of the actor playing his father, in a workshop production of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus. The actors are having a break and are discussing the end of the presentation: how will the company leave the playing space once Martius has been killed? F1 has the Volscians leave the stage ‘bearing the dead body of Martius’. If we have Jim Bovino, who is playing Martius, carried off stage, it must be through the audience, as they surround the action throughout the piece. No one is taking much notice of Aidan. He starts to mould his onstage father into a monumental pose, right arm curved in front of him, fist clenched, left arm up as if brandishing a sword. Having studiously ignored this activity for a while, it occurs to Bovino that Aidan’s idea for a human sculpture is something of an inspired one, and the Coriolanus that I directed for Flaneur Productions in the California Building Gallery, Minneapolis, and Rochester Art Center, Rochester, Minnesota in April 2006, ended as the Volscians hauled Martius onto his feet, onto the block where he has just been killed and on which he had stood to receive the citizens’ vote in his gown of humility in 2.3. At the end of each performance, Martius’ son climbed onto the block, pulled from his father the Volscian shirt Martius had acquired when he left Rome for Actium and moulded him into a monument to Roman virtus. Or Mother Russia. Or Saddam Hussein. Or the Statue of Liberty, perhaps. When the boy was satisfied with the monument he had made of his father, he left the playing space.

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Shakespeare Survey , pp. 170 - 183
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2007

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