I have just added the two hundredth study guide to the Notes on Classic Literature page. The work I chose to play this auspicious role was William Shakespeare’s final tragedy, Coriolanus. Imagine, if you can, a renowned public figure, known for his wealth and accomplishments but totally lacking in political experience, who decides to run for the highest office in the land. The professional politicians, who know how to play the game and manipulate the media, are jealous of him and are concerned that he will undermine their power in the government, so they determine to destroy him by accusing him of arrogance, claiming that he is an elitist who cares nothing for the common people, promoting class warfare, and spreading the rumor that he intends to make himself a dictator. The man in question does himself no favors because he is highly opinionated and says whatever he thinks, no matter the consequences, and often lets his temper get the better of him. If any of this sounds the least bit familiar, you understand why the play, considered the most political of Shakespeare’s works, has frequently been performed or filmed by those with a political agenda.
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