Reading/Watching Shakespeare: Coriolanus

You may have noticed I’ve been on a little Tom Hiddleston binge, when I found out that he played Coriolanus in the Donmar Warehouse production. Trying to find it online I couldn’t so I resided to the fact that I wouldn’t be able to find it as it wasn’t released on DVD. So, even though it wouldn’t be the same I resided to the fact that on the day the power was off for maintenance I began to read Coriolanus.

I was immediately drawn into the language, it took me a bit to get back into the swing of it, though. But that didn’t faze me as I was fascinated by the character of Coriolanus.

Essentially the plot is that Caius Martius Coriolanus is a decorated war hero who tries to get into politics. When he is banished from his home, Rome, he tries to come back into the city with disastrous results. I did not

I knew that the death of the character was coming (and that isn’t a spoiler as with Shakespeare and tragedies we know how it is going to end) I was not prepared. Throughout the play I felt myself sympathising with Coriolanus; even though you feel you should be siding with the side of the side of the citizens of Rome as Coriolanus believes in the class-system and that some people are born to be leaders; however it is the betrayal of the people of the man who basically saved their lives made me wanting to take a sword myself and fight them alongside Coriolanus.

What I found an interesting was that when the council asks Coriolanus to stand up the front while he has his reasons for being a politician read he says: ‘I had rather have my wounds to heal again. Then to hear how I got them.’ To me, this speaks to the heart of his character. To me, he is saying that he does not want to hear about his battles because he has lived them, and thus may be suffering psychologically because he has experienced things that these people in council would not ever imagine.

Now, I pray thee speak about the play…

I managed last night to find the National Theatre Live: Coriolanus starring Tom Hiddleston and watched it tonight. I thought I was pretty well prepared for what I knew was going to be an intense play that would see Tom’s character die… Oh how wrong I was.

I have never really understood why people get emotionally attached to characters. I mean I get attached but I am specifically talking about a persons emotional reaction towards such things as a characters illness or death.

Tom Hiddleston’s (left) portrayl of Coriolanus was outstanding. I know he is an actor who is playing a part but my god – he embodied  the character which such conviction that I believed that Tom was in fact this war hero, Caius Martius Coriolanus.

Reading the words as a play is one thing – seeing or watching it is a whole new experience.  It was the performances of all the actors, espically Tom that made the characters become more then just words on the page. As the play went on I saw the words I had been reading the last 5 days come to life.

Even though I knew the death was coming – when it actually happened my heart was thrown into my throat. I’d grown compassionate towards Coriolanus and his death was swift, sudden and sad.

It is after reading and watching this play that it has now become my favourite, making Hamlet move to second place. I do still love Hamlet, and have watched David Tennant’s adaptation; however, it is the complexity of one man’s personal war with himself that makes me see Coriolanus as arrogant, yes, but mainly fighting a loosing battle and is trying to remain true to himself. As Coriolanus says: ‘Would you have me false to my nature? Rather say I play the man that I am.’

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