Coriolanus on Stage in England and America, 1609-1994

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Coriolanus is not a comfortable play. One of the most problematic, yet intensely theatrical, of Shakespeare's dramas, its ambivalent politics, linear plot, repellent characters, unmusical poetry, and downbeat finale have taxed artistic ingenuity throughout its recorded history. Through analysis of the verbal "score," including cuts, additions, alterations, actors' interpretations, and scenographic design, John Ripley fascinatingly reconstructs the play's perennial accommodation to political and social ideologies, aesthetic fashion, actors' and directors' fancies, and changing playhouse practice. Drawing upon promptbooks and other theater documents, engravings and photographs, reviews, interviews, letters, diaries, and memoirs, he creates a richly layered account of a play persistently denied its character and rarely staged without explicit or implicit apology. From the late-seventeenth to the mid-eighteenth centuries, Coriolanus was revised to advance Tory and Whig agendas - and was even rewritten completely. In the decades preceding the French Revolution, Thomas Sheridan and John Philip Kemble evolved a production style which aestheticized the play's politics, privileged spectacle, and iconized its characters. This strategy shaped British and American productions for more than a century, apart from one bold but ineffective challenge by Edmund Kean in 1820. Laurence Olivier's groundbreaking performance at the Old Vic shortly before World War II launched two decades of romantic revivals in which politics was contained by cinematic scenography and sex appeal. The obsessive narcissism and social activism of the sixties, the ideological disillusion of the seventies and eighties, and the postmodern materialism and cynicism of the nineties all have informed more recent productions.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780838637418
  • Publisher: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press
  • Publication date: 5/1/1998
  • Pages: 432

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments 9
1 Introduction 13
2 The Jacobean and Caroline Era 34
3 From Tate to Thomson: The Age of Propaganda (1681-1749) 54
4 From Sheridan to Kemble: The Making of a Production Tradition (1752-1817) 95
5 The Kemble Tradition Challenged: Elliston-Kean (1820) 143
6 The Kemble Tradition in England (1819-1915) 160
7 The Kemble Tradition in America (1796-1885) 208
8 Modernism and Elizabethan Methodism (1920-1938) 240
9 From Olivier to Olivier: A Romantic Interlude (1938-1959) 270
10 Psychoanalysis, Politics, and Postmodernity (1961-1994) 299
Afterword 334
Chronological Handlist of Performances (1609-1994) 343
Notes 367
Bibliography 396
Index 414
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