In a Jan. 26 (IFO is having a hard time keeping up with the news these days!), we saw a front page article, More Drones, Fewer Troops. We no longer refer to the U.S. foreign policy – it’s mainly military policy. After all, the US Dept of Defense was formerly named the Dept of War.
What a coincidence it turned out to be that the WSJ, a day or so later, had a movie review of a film named “Coriolanus,” in theaters now. It is based on a play written by Shakespeare in 1608 about a real person – a Republican Roman general in about 493 BCE who earned the name Coriolanus after he defeated the Corioles.
After watching the trailer, we agreed with the directors’ choice to do it in modern dress. The Romans, after all, were the most powerful military and civil force in the Western world for hundreds of years. How the Roman state developed and collapsed holds many lessons for us.
The events took place at the beginning of Rome’s rise when there was still a powerful Senate, long before it became ruled by Emperors, who pretended to defer to a powerless, wimpy Senate.
IFO is now in the process of reading the actual play, which we providentially saved during our recent ruthless winnowing of our huge library. The play starts with a mob complaining about how the rich and powerful don’t care about them. Here’s a sample of some dialogue from the first act:
They ne’er cared for us yet: suffer us to famish, and their storehouses crammed with grain; make edicts for usury, to support usurers; repeal daily any wholesome act established against the rich, and provide more piercing statutes daily to chain up and restrain the poor. If the wars eat us not up, they will; and there’s all the love they bear us.
Sound familiar? It’s no coincidence that a commenter on the WSJ review of the movie quoted the same passage. In our opinion, that quoted passage is not what Shakespeare thought of the rich and the poor. He is a photographer, recording what they think of each other. Also, my copy of the play notes that Shakespeare repeated almost word for word most of the account from Plutarch’s Lives. Shakespeare just liked a good story.