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Romantic AntiquityRome in the British Imagination, 1789-1832$
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Jonathan Sachs

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195376128

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195376128.001.0001

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Rome-antic Shakespeare

Rome-antic Shakespeare

Coriolanus on Stage and Page, 1789–1820

Chapter:
(p.179) Chapter Five Rome-antic Shakespeare
Source:
Romantic Antiquity
Author(s):

Jonathan Sachs (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195376128.003.0006

With its representation of grain shortages, conflicts between the populace and the patricians, and the dependence of political leaders on the approval of the people, Coriolanus was a most topical play for Romantic period audiences. This chapter compares productions by John Philip Kemble, who used the role to portray the rightness of patrician rule in a time of popular unrest, with that of Edmund Kean, who returned the scenery to the mud huts of early Rome and diminished the haughty dominance of the central character. It then evaluates Hazlitt's claim, made initially in a review of Coriolanus, that imagination is an “aristocratical faculty.” The performance history of Coriolanus, the chapter concludes, provides the crucial subtext for Hazlitt's Romantic theorization of the imagination and helps us to understand Romantic anxieties about Shakespearean performance generally.

Keywords:   John Philip Kemble, Edmund Kean, William Hazlitt, imagination, Coriolanus, Shakespeare in performance, popular sovereignty, Romantic theatre, reception of Rome

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