A few posts ago, we mentioned we had seen a notice about a new movie: Coriolanus. That moved us to haul the play out of our home library. Now we remember why we had forgotten it. It was a bit confusing.
Some of the politics was amazingly current. Coriolanus reminded us a little bit of the generals Patton and MacArthur – great warriors, arrogant, refused to pander to the masses or their bosses, for that matter. Treasured their troops, but were tough on them.
The action takes place in the early days of the Republic – long before Cicero, Ceasar, the emperors. Coriolanus came from a fine Roman family, one of the First Families of Rome. He got his name, Coriolanus, when he defeated the city of Corioles. It was such a great victory, he was urged to stand for a elective position. He had to show his wounds to the people to get their votes, but he hated the whole political business.
Turns out he had some enemies, populists who were able to twist the opinions of the people with just a few words attacking the great man. Coriolanus did the rest by himself, insulting the people and their representatives when they turned on him. So, the people kicked him out of Rome!
He was so angry, he joined the other side. The general from the other side hated him, too, but pretended to be his friend when C. offered to take Rome the way he had taken Corioles. He became a traitor, in other words. All he wanted to do was what his mother raised him to do: go into battle and win. He didn’t care if the Romans killed him in battle.
About this time in reading the play, we thought of today’s phenomenon: some people today goad the police in order to force the cops to kill them. They threaten the cops and the cops shoot them. That’s called “death by cop.”
It turns out that Coriolanus got back to Rome by some complicated plot twist and the Romans killed him, but our point is that some people seek death in ways that seem very strange to the rest of us.
That is our commentary on the classics for today.