March 30, 2009, 7pmThe word compromise was in Shakespeare's vocabulary, but barely, and not, it would seem, very welcome. In Richard II, King Richard is assailed for having "basely yielded upon compromise" lands and other assets "which his ancestors achieved with blows." Compromise seems here associated with the slimy parts of politics---talking, not fighting---though that word, in the plural and hence in our modern sense, does not appear in Shakespeare.
Coriolanus Conversations: The Politics of Compromise
Moderated by Director Robert Walsh
Ron Goldman, Cast Member & Psychologist
Diana Henderson, Shakespeare Scholar, MIT
Robert S. Ross, Professor of Political Science, Boston College
With scenes and discussion about the play and its relevance to our times, in our lives, today.
In any case, it is odd but interesting to invoke these terms in connection with Coriolanus. Coriolanus himself is, on the whole absolute---a word that appears four times in the play, twice used by him, sarcastically, of the common people, twice applied to him, as a term of approbation. He, much more than anyone, has the strongest, clearest set of values.
Absolutism, however, in 1607 or so when Shakespeare presumably wrote this play, was under scrutiny. King James I was flirting, at least, with the idea of absolute monarchy---the God-given right of a king to rule as he saw best. He was facing increased resistance from members of his court and especially from the elected members of Parliament, vox populi, the voice of the people. There seems a strong possibility that Shakespeare chose to dramatize this story from its source in Plutarch precisely because he could see in it the birth of politics in our sense. He could see the transition, at the very beginning of the Roman republic, from a time when the power of the state was vested in whatever man could claim it by absolute strength of arms, to a time when power was geld to derive from the people, temporarily assigned by them to some strong person to use in their interest.
It is certainly the case that at the core of this play is a call from the people to compromise, and an equally literal call toward the absolute. How the struggle turns out in the pay you know, if you have seen it. What's remarkable is how relevant the conflict still seems, 2500 years further on.
-David Evett [Scholar-in-residence]
While waiting for this to start, I was listening to conversations happening with audience members near me. One woman was attempting to translate the Russian on one of the images projected on the wall, and said she thought it approximated to "everything for the struggle."
I gave up on making full sentences complete with contextualization out of my notes.
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