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The following tape recorded program is a presentation of the National Association of educational broadcasters. The egoist in tragedy. The University of Chicago radio office presents the second in a series of three talks by David Greene poet translator and professor in the committee on social thought at the University of Chicago. Today's program is entitled Shakespeare's Coriolanus. Mr. Greene. I had some thoughts. On this series of plays I know but this guy did say. However that it began with a second act. Because. The interesting or rather strange thing about these three plays is. That they are clear our plates. And finally. A.. I actually mean. That these are players in
which one's reaction. Is ambiguous. There are things in them one finds exciting things in them one finds attractive. But at the end one is not certain. In which direction the trend of one's emotions actually got. I think this is you either try to invade your life time. To the peculiar nature of the pain in all three of them. That's to say if I may use a little shorthand to recollect. The substance of the last lecture. There is a deliberate disjunction of one's dramatics and day. And at the conclusion of the play. Now. I think this is true of all three of them. But there is a difference in the way they handle
each one of the three. And as so very often happens. The Greek. Handles it by giving you the skeleton of the whole story. That is to say I think the theme of an egotist. And the collapse of his dreams in the face of reality is perhaps more completely indicated. In the Philippines than in either of the other two players. This is a quality of the Greek drama as a matter of fact. Which carries with it of course the sort of particularity. They are perhaps. As you say one of. The great dramas are the most perfect form of travel. And that's why I prefer Shakespeare because he is imperfect and particular. There's a great deal of truth to that. And what I wanted to stress
tonight. Was particulary Shakespearean play Coriolanus which is the second of the series. Shakespeare is especially concerned with the why. Are we. Not actually with the confrontation and reality and the destruction of history. But why this particular egotist. Has the particular green hat. And why we come to grief. I'd like to give you an indication. What I mean by this. In a concrete way. In the film and in correlating us both. The hero. Found to say eventually collapses to the claims of what we can rock we call commonsense. And mercy. Perhaps more common sense in the one case for more mercy in the other.
But you're living longer. Kate's. The hero to the claims are commonsense and mercy. Except in so far as they are borne by somebody who has a power over him. In virtue of something else than the claims of common sense and mercy. The two characters. The result of the insoluble dilemma are respectively of course character and. Yet one extraordinary difference in the amount we know about the one and the other. Characters. We know with demi god we know that from the legend we know that he's come. For that. That's absolutely all we know and we have about 35 lines of his speech. And there are standards of impact realty stops.
In fact really except the symbol of the Greeks except as a symbol. In virtue of what we know about outside the clay rather than inside the blood. And tears because this symbol was inadequate as I tried to show last day. That. Our sense. Of the difficulty of the play was so very marked. But in the case of. CORIOLANUS. Almost the whole plague in a certain sense. Is devoted to the relations of Carlina from his mother and we are entirely prepared for the manner in which finally she will subjugate him. And give up this plan. A bird in Rome. The two players we've had little so far are as I said at the beginning. Difficult. And in this particular sense of the word ambiguous plates.
2. I think it is true as I said in the case too that it is the theme. That is peculiarly difficult and ambiguous about them. But in addition to that oddly enough there are in both of these plays very peculiar elements which are almost wilfully introduced by the gravitas. Which alienate our sympathy from the hero. It is in a way that drags us. Having found a character who is in an abnormal relation like. Proceeded to graft on practically all of us anti-social anti-human feelings. Leaving us with a man. Whose story. Evokes arsenic thing. But who remains almost irritatingly avian. I think this is even true of TV's because of the extreme abstraction of the play in the extreme
economy with which it's handled. You're perhaps not aware of it. Yet I think Philip deejays. Took the elements in predicting a piece that could be elongated. It takes. The cake. Exaggerate it and particularized in the fashion of Shakespeare. The. Shakespearean. Play is played quite rare because. It's extraordinarily difficult.
Yes. Just just last time this happened it was. Contrived. That's. The reason why this is. Because Carly specked personal respect horribly and pathetic. Let's look at
the pictures. I want to do it by saying let's agree to react. We said the. Same thing. Reaction. To the. Anti democratic said. Fortunately in the area where one can shrug off. Even if.
There is a way every time. They can. Right all the people the Commonwealth should use for cannon fodder is the part. I don't just get this that perhaps. One doesn't entirely read sentiments. I'm watching it again. Sure they did. And I think beginning to see this and other people just think it's the right perspective. It remains very difficult plate. The second feature of here is. That I personally find rather annoying.
In. A kind of exaggeration. TY the thing becomes quite crap. He couldn't bear to hear himself praised by anybody else. He brags almost incessantly until finally one of heart goes out to Octavia. When he describes her as a fantastic brag. And this you know on top of all the statements of Comenius that he ducks every time there's a separate so. I was trying to do with these two features. To start with. And first perhaps I should discuss the way in which that customer really explained it. The ordinary way in which you deal with. Car yelling ASIS dislike the mob. Is to say that Shakespeare was a well-known and Democrat witness all his statements about Crabbe. And the fact that
almost invariably people are represented as not having any mind of their own and being in the control of the last speaker. And so on. But I really don't think this will stand up in play because the continuous insult. That currently in US. Hands out. To common people are paid before. They're. Paid money and we're sitting up on the stage. It's quite alright to have a country where you point out that the people really only remember the last not the last big one. But I keep telling them that they smell frightfully objection. Through three acts. Without them feeling a bit irritated that. I don't think that the explanation picture of
Shakespeare are such different standards from our own different standards of politics but different standards of humanity. Got away with it. I think this is the first indication. That actually we are character. He is an exaggerated character in the play trying to put it but he's more of a statesman. So are. Our rights. This is a man whose reactions to ordinary of ordinary people. I think you are meant to preview his. Attitude toward ordinary people as be hysterical. And. I'd like to illustrate that
with greater detail given the relation to time our time in the back. And anybody who tells me that time. Is meant to represent Shakespeare's ordinary attitude to women. On his ordinary attitude toward society. I think should be a gag. In my opinion in line with time. Now the second conventional way of representing this play. Is to accept the violence having an attitude toward ordinary people. Bragging and so on. I'm saying that Carlos is a man who offended. By. Crime. And this tragedy is due to his pride and of course it was a great TV said because Pride was mentioned repeatedly in connection with Cari latest.
And if you really believe in a very rigid interpretation the TDA definition of tragedy you can far try. Marked his besetting sin. It's a very difficult interpretation to deal with. From another point of view and more difficult than the one I've indicated. Because quite true. In the case of correlating us is prime is exactly one is in conflict with the reality world. But this particular obscene tragedy is due to his pride. I think Mario and convention will. Take up dramatic with the people I. Talk to more about that in just a minute. I want to handle
debt. Moment. That. Gave us a character. Clearly our attitude to ordinary people in virtual private. Things coming. And coming. But. Accept it and we just completely lost.
It. For US generals are. Mostly bores or I guess. They can be idols. Not in virtue of anything we've ever seen them do in fact if we saw them plan the campaigns in which an enormous number of people die or mutilated it would be very hard for one sense of the glory of the general. But the grave. So. If somebody who was fighting hand-to-hand be fought. And you could put that stake. You put on an extraordinary regular work to do well between yourself in all 50 years it's really exciting. From the Elizabethan point of view. They scenes in which. You know we penetrate inside Korea day. And factory system. Is the kind our kind of display
which for the Elizabethan audience can object to. The picture of great. Congress. We can't do a thing with it. We don't know what the pair are both at the play. Psychological dramatic. Focus. Particularly psychological characterization. Here try to examine the. Fact I have. Some relation to people being extravagant. In comedy exemplify this man exemplifies.
Quite. Happen. Now in the time Shakespeare has passed dramatic. Contact. With. Easier. Because of the exaggeration of. Exaggeration that. Time and they have heard. My opinion and much thing here indicating that the person is there and that the rock is the big particular sort of take on this particular
sort of perversity. In my opinion. The greatest speech or. The last place of Shakespeare. That he was representing the tragic past. People. Essentially perverse. And not in his young days. Through quite natural riches. Let's take this on my say so. I want to highlight two points. Right. There. The poor man who. Tried to rescue at the end because your biggest host
forgot. That. And. Is there any explanation except. One cannot recollect. To. Come to talk with the ball. He only had to stop and say they sold him out. They did not play. Then. They put me fish from. Time. To time that. I could play better than you.
Guys. Very chaotic in the beginning. There are. Big cats out. There who are. To have the tragedy looked upon as dependent on his thing and anything like that. But as a human being that was a human being. I'd like. To illustrate to you. It gives me the advantage that I can recall it to you by then. A very rough way if I may face a. Conventional bird's eye view. Looked at by a very conventional bird. The dramatic ways of the play is always a balance between. Headstrong. And adjurations obvious brain.
The are many COMINIUS and his mother. Three trials of this order. The first candidate for the consulate. Finally an ironical. Thing active in. Relation. To. Or. An audience. However in this ironical vein he's more successful than expects. Second trial calling it a willingness to submit to the judgment of the Tribune and the people on the accusation of himself for treason. In the first case his reluctant pride is overcome by a series of appeals
climax by that of his mother. Face to Face with the Tribune temper get the better rock me doesn't come off as well as it did when he stood for council. Her trial and our latest the road to victory before the gig. Gating is intrigued by this phrase. And this time he refuses almost every treatise on his mother in the same cause. And then he abandoned his planet Earth for a second row. Returning to the vault and dying victim of all of us is perfect yet. Another place that I want to construct. My interpretation of play and this conventional one. Is the line in which he finally agrees. To his mother's request. Oh my love our mother. But.
Believe it. Believe it you have with him if not more. But let it. Be as. Though I cannot make wars. I pray you can be peace. How Good Are You In My Eyes. Would you have heard a mother less talk granted. No interpretation. Or dramatic anticipation like Hamlet's but I would think that my heart. Is no match. Not equipped. We defy our giving. There's a special providence in the body. If it does not come it will be now if it be not now yet it will. The readiness. If my view was right. It is essential. That we see the earlier conflict between you and your friend.
And his mama. In a different light. He is not overwhelmed by superior reason. Only to break down later. But people who don't understand that top can temporarily dull here. With words with which he has a very good association. Until a crisis provokes what is deepest in him again. This case the passage I quote is point. And is quite central to my interpretation. Because at last it shows a car and they are aware where his brain leaving him. And in spite of that goes that way. In that case. The whole plague will illustrate.
The pride of a very lonely man. And a vision and act as peace. Like a right picture. It's this which is a by the first of the people call. It which is offended by the need to humble themselves before their feet you know. And it is finally this. Which is offended by the request of its friends and finally of its mother. Despair which is round here. And the almost insane reject and praise and I replied. Actually here you see. Why you're always anxious to have anybody praise him here because. He was easily aware that perhaps in that case the action was done. For the sake of what they'd say about it.
But it wasn't purely so. That he wasn't just himself in it but he was somehow looking for war from somebody else. That I think for sentiment Shakespeare means you would take this particular form of separation.
Egoist in tragedy
Shakespeare: Coriolanus, part one
Producing Organization
University of Chicago
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program features the first part of David Grene's lecture on Shakespeare's Coriolanus.
Series Description
Three lectures by David Grene, poet, translator, and Professor in the Committee on Social Thought, University of Chicago. He discusses a particular kind of tragedy and focuses on three examples.
Broadcast Date
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616. Coriolanus.
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Producing Organization: University of Chicago
Speaker: Grene, David
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 55-12-2 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:45
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Chicago: “Egoist in tragedy; Shakespeare: Coriolanus, part one,” 1955-05-08, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 21, 2024,
MLA: “Egoist in tragedy; Shakespeare: Coriolanus, part one.” 1955-05-08. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 21, 2024. <>.
APA: Egoist in tragedy; Shakespeare: Coriolanus, part one. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from