—- Mistake me not: Shakespeare’s Coriolanus —- John Dennis: The Invader of His Country (1719), Parte II – di Germana Maciocci

  

UN CORIOLANUS PER LA PROPAGANDA WHIG

 

‘If Shakespear were stript of all the Bombast in his passions, and dress’d in the most vulgar words, we should find the beauties of his thoughts remaining; if his embroideries were burnt down, there would still be silver at the bottom of the melting pot…’tis our fault, who succeed him in an Age which is more refin’d, if we imitate him so ill, that we coppy his failings only, and make a virtue of that in our Writings, which in his was an imperfection.’17

 

John Dennis iniziò a scrivere il suo adattamento del Coriolanus nel 1708, intitolato The Invader of His Country: or, the Fatal Resentment, e lo terminò probabilmente agli inizi del 1711, quando ne inviò una copia a Sir George Granville, secretary at War di sua maestà, motivandogli la scelta dell’argomento e spiegandogli le ragioni dei suoi interventi sul testo originale.18

Come già accennato, per Dennis gli errori di Shakespeare erano dovuti principalmente alla mancanza di educazione scolastica e all’arretratezza culturale dell’epoca in cui visse; se avesse posseduto, oltre al talento naturale, anche ciò che egli chiama ‘Genius Learning and the Poetical Art,’19 la sua opera sarebbe stata di gran lunga più gradevole e istruttiva. Secondo il critico, infatti, tre elementi contribuiscono alla perfezione della poesia e della tragedia: la natura, l’arte, e la ricchezza di linguaggio.20

Dennis si impegna inoltre a dimostrare attraverso numerosi esempi in quale misura, a suo avviso, la debolezza del genio di Shakespeare dipenda soprattutto dalla sua scarsa, se non inesistente, familiarità con gli autori classici greci e latini, e dalla conseguente ignoranza riguardo l’uso delle unità poetiche: ‘For if he was familiarly conversant with them how comes it to pass that he wants Art? Or is that he studied to know them in other things, and neglected that only in them which chiefly tends to the Advancement of the Art of the Stage? Or is that he wanted Discernment to see the Justness and the Greatness and the Harmony of their Designs, and the Reasonableness of those Rules upon which those Designs are founded? Or how come his Successors to have that Discernment  which he wanted, when they fall so much below him in other things? How comes he to have been guilty of the grossest Faults in Chronology, and how come we to find out those Faults?’21

In particolare, Dennis disapprova il Coriolanus perché in alcuni passi si allontana dal testo di Plutarco,22 e trova inammissibile che l’autore introduca quella che lui chiama ‘plebaglia’ (mobble) nella sua opera: ‘If Shakespeare was familiarly conversant with the Roman Authors, how came he to introduce a Rabble into Coriolanus, in Which he offended not only against the Dignity of Tragedy but the Truth of Fact, the Authority of all the Roman Writers, the Customs of Ancient Rome, and the Majesty of the Roman People?…The Persons who in the Time of Coriolanus rose in Vindication of their Just Rights and extorted form the Patricians the Institution of the Tribunes of the People, and the Persons by whom afterwards Coriolanus was tried, were the whole Body of  the Roman People to the Reserve of the Patricians; which Body included the Roman Knights and the wealthy substantial Citizens, who were as different from the Rabble as the Patricians themselves, as qualify’d as the latter to form a right Judgment of Things, and to contemn the vain Opinions of the Rabble…’23

Ma ciò che il critico trova più grave e immorale, è che Shakespeare nelle sue opere, e soprattutto nel Coriolanus, non rispetti l’antica legge di giustizia poetica, che prevede il successo del bene e la sconfitta del male, affinché l’evolversi degli eventi sulla scena possano essere imputabili a ciò che Dennis chiama ‘Almighty Conduct and … Sovereign Justice’ e siano d’esempio allo spettatore, poiché il primo dovere di una tragedia è a suo parere quello di illustrare allegoricamente la retta morale, affinché essa possa essere seguita anche nel mondo reale.24

A giustificazione del Bardo, Dennis afferma che, in ogni modo, egli era un semplice attore, vissuto in un’epoca in cui la competizione tra le numerose compagnie teatrali esistenti spingeva i drammaturghi a produrre diversi copioni in breve tempo; la conseguenza diretta di questo ‘superlavoro’ era spesso la deludente qualità delle opere. Inoltre, egli ritiene che tra gli amici di Shakespeare, a partire da Jonson, non vi fosse nessuno in possesso di qualsiasi nozione su come si scrivesse una tragedia classica, e che potesse quindi consigliarlo nel suo operare: ‘So that Shakespear having neither had Time to correct, nor Friends to consult, must necessarily have frequently left such faults in his Writings, for the Correction of which either a great deal of Time or a judicious and well-natur’d Friend is indispensably necessary.’25

Dopo aver così presentato la sua revisione del Coriolanus a Sir George Granville nel 1711, sei anni più tardi l’autore decise di leggere il dramma a Wilks, Cibber e Booth, i già citati organizzatori del Drury Lane, i quali si impegnarono per metterlo in scena all’inizio della stagione teatrale successiva.

Tra Dennis e i tre direttori non correva buon sangue, e,  sin dal marzo 1711, egli era in lite con Steele, che ora era il governatore del Theatre Royal, a causa di alcuni articoli apparsi sul Tatler e sullo Spectator che lo attaccavano apertamente. Nel 1718, dal momento in cui quest’ultimo accettò con i suoi colleghi di finanziare The Invader, sembrò che la questione tra i due fosse finalmente chiusa.

Ma, a causa della particolare situazione politica del periodo scelto per la rappresentazione – Giacomo II, ottenuto l’appoggio di Svezia e Spagna, sembrava si preparasse ad invadere l’Inghilterra, – i produttori ritennero che la materia trattata dall’opera di Dennis non fosse in quel momento opportuna, e optarono invece per un lussuoso revival di All for Love; contemporaneamente, John Rich mise in scena la già citata produzione del Coriolanus di Shakespeare,26 per cui, per timore della concorrenza, il Drury Lane pospose indeterminatamente la rappresentazione di The Invader of His Country. Il dramma debuttò finalmente l’11 novembre del 1719, in un momento in cui il re era fuori dal Paese e l’attenzione del pubblico di corte era diretta altrove, e dopo le prime tre repliche i dirigenti del Drury Lane annunciarono un altro spettacolo per la sera seguente.27

Dennis scrisse una lettera piena d’indignazione a Steele e Booth, lamentando il trattamento riservato alla sua opera e la preferenza riservata ad All for Love: ‘As I had the Advantage of All for Love in the Moral of Coriolanus, I had it by Consequence in the whole Tragedy; for the Coriolanus, as I have alter’d it, having a just Moral, and by Consequence at the Bottom a general and allegorical Action, and universal and allegorical Characters, and for that very reason a Fable, is therefore a true Tragedy, if it be not a just and regular one…whereas All for Love having no Moral, and consequently no general and allegorical Action, nor general and allegorical Characters, can for that Reason have no Fable, and therefore can be no Tragedy.’28

Inoltre, nella dedica all’edizione del dramma pubblicata il 20 novembre 1719, diretta a Sir Thomas Pelham-Holles, duca di Newcastle, Dennis lamenta così lo sfortunato destino della tragedia e chiede in un certo senso vendetta: ‘My Lord, when I tell the World that Coriolanus has been unjustly banish’d from our Theatre by two or three Insolent Players, I am sure all those will be apt to believe me, who will reflect with Indignation and Disdain, that that Roman is not the first Nobleman whom they have audaciously dar’d to exclude from thence. And I hope this provoking Reflection will oblige Your Grace to vindicate Your own just Right, and the Crown’s undoubted Prerogative…I hope…that we who have scorn’d to be Slaves to our Princes, may be no longer subject to the ridiculous Tyranny of our own wretched creatures, our own Tools and Instruments; that They may no longer set up for Judges in their own Cause, which Englishmen would never allow to their Kings; that They may no longer usurp a Government, which they have neither Capacity, nor Equity, nor Authority to support, and of which Your Grace is the Lawful Monarch.’29

La scelta di Newcastle come protettore sembra sia stata opportuna: egli infatti non solo aveva in quel momento, come Lord Chamberlain, la giurisdizione su tutti i teatri, ma aveva anche già avuto degli screzi con Steele e Cibber per questioni politiche. Perciò non stupisce che, in seguito anche alle lamentele di Dennis, il 19 dicembre 1719 Cibber fu mandato via dal Drury Lane per ordine dello stesso duca.30

Come già accennato, lo scopo principale di Dennis nel riscrivere l’opera di Shakespeare è lo stesso di Tate, ovvero politico; tuttavia questa volta la propaganda dell’autore si associa al partito liberale.31 Nonostante i propositi del drammaturgo, anche in questo caso il risultato della revisione del Coriolanus più che ad un’allegoria sociale si riduce ad una serie di suggestivi paralleli tra la Roma repubblicana e l’Inghilterra a lui contemporanea, e soprattutto tra Coriolanus e Giacomo II: ambedue aspirano al potere, hanno scarsa simpatia per la democrazia popolare e devono subire l’esilio in una terra ostile. E, soprattutto, tutt’e due tentano di invadere la loro patria con l’aiuto del nemico.32

In Dennis come in Tate, non è ben individuabile il metodo attraverso il quale dal dramma di Shakespeare si arriva al testo ‘altro’: 990 versi vengono mantenuti dall’originale, e i restanti 1685 versi dell’opera sono di Dennis. A parte la completa riscrittura del quinto atto, comunque, il resto della riscrittura si rivela essere più simile ad una serie di interpolazioni ai versi di Shakespeare che un’innovazione vera e propria.33

Il linguaggio utilizzato dall’autore risulta essere comunque molto chiaro e lucido, e l’imagery, parte integrante del Coriolanus, come nell’opera di Tate viene quasi totalmente a mancare, assieme a qualsiasi traccia di ambiguità, contraddizione, paradosso. Decoro e proprietà di espressione vengono impiegati in maniera rigorosissima, con il rischio di appiattire e rendere monotoni perfino i testi dei dialoghi.34

Il cambiamento più evidente riguarda il numero delle scene che, al fine di rispettare l’unità di azione, dalle ventinove della versione originale vengono ridotte addirittura a dieci.35

 

Già il Prologo dell’opera ne specifica il messaggio e giustifica la scelta del soggetto:

 

The Tragedy we represent to Day

Is but a Grafting upon Shakespeare’s Play,

In whose Original we may descry

Where Master-strokes in wild Confusion lye;

Here brought to as much Order as we can

Reduce those Beauties upon Shakespeare’s Plan.

And from his Plan we dar’d not to depart,

Lest Nature should be lost in Quest of Art:

And Art had been attain’d with too much Cost

Had Shakespeare’s Beauties in the Search been lost.

………………………………………………………………

You chiefly, who are truly Britons nam’d,

Whose Breasts are with your Country’s Love inflam’d,

Whose martial Toils as long as Time shall live

Whose Conquests Credit to old Fables give:

………………………………………………………………

 

You in our just Defence must sure engage,

And shield us from the Storms of Factious Rage.

In the same Cause in which each Champion fights,

In the same noble Cause our daring Poet writes,

For as when Britain’s Rebel Sons of late

Combin’d with Foreign Foes t’invade the State,

She to your Valour and your Conduct owes

That she subdued and crush’d her num’rous Foes.

We shew, to Night, such Treasons to prevent,

That their Guilt’s follow’d by their Punishment,

That Heav’n’s the Guardian of our Rightful Cause,

And watches o’er our Sov’reign and our Laws.36

 

Proprio con il tema della battaglia si apre il primo atto: le scene i, iv, v, e vii di Shakespeare vengono tagliate, mentre la scena delle donne a casa di Marcius (ii) viene trasposta al secondo atto.

Il sipario si apre su Cominius che narra a Lucius Cluentius – un personaggio nuovo introdotto da Dennis – la conquista di Corioli. Marcius fa la sua entrata ‘painted…with Hostile Blood’ per aggiornare i compagni sull’andamento della battaglia, e Titus Largius [sic] tesse le lodi del condottiero, il quale si appresta a tornare sul campo per combattere contro Aufidius. Al termine della battaglia egli viene ribattezzato da Cominius col nome di Coriolanus e si prepara a ritornare a Roma.37

L’atto termina con cinquanta versi di Dennis, in cui Cominius tesse le lodi di Marcius:

Thy Soul’s possest of ev’ry peaceful Virtue,

Temperate, chast, observant of the Laws,

With and Integrity like that of Jove,

Above the Pow’r of Fortune or of Fate…

 

Al che l’espressione di Marcius ‘I hate the People’ risulta più colpevole, e Cominius risponde:

to this very People, whom you hate,

You more than half your matchless Conquest owe

And more than half your Glory.38

 

Il secondo atto inizia, come già accennato, con la scena tra Volumnia e Virgilia39 a casa di Marcius, alla quale viene tagliato l’episodio della visita di Valeria. Mentre le dame discorrono, intervengono all’improvviso Cominius, Coriolanus e Menenius, di ritorno dalla spedizione contro i Volsci. Tutto il resto della prima scena del secondo atto di Shakespeare viene tagliato – la schermaglia di Menenius con i tribuni, il suo incontro con Volumnia mentre si avviano a salutare Coriolanus e il ritorno trionfale di quest’ultimo a Roma.

La seconda scena si svolge come nell’originale tra Sicinius e Brutus, i quali discutono la minaccia costituita per loro dalla candidatura al consolato di Coriolanus, mentre la terza scena è un ampliamento della stessa scena in Shakespeare – Dennis vi aggiunge ben 187 versi. La parte che si svolge in Senato viene eliminata, e la decisione presa da parte dei senatori di eleggere console Coriolanus, previo l’appoggio del voto dei cittadini, viene riportata a Menenius e al diretto interessato da Cominius. In tutta l’opera, per evitare frequenti cambiamenti di scena, Dennis decide spesso di far descrivere dai personaggi stessi alcune azioni che nel testo originale vengono invece recitate direttamente.

La terza scena chiude l’atto, con i voti dei cittadini, che, grazie alle vedute politiche dell’autore appaiono curiosamente sottomessi:

Now let us passing one by one salute him,

And be saluted by him, and desired

To give our Voices

And now a Wager on the handsom’st Bow.40

 

Segue il discorso dei tribuni a quest’ultimi per convincerli a non appoggiare l’elezione di Coriolanus.

Il terzo atto è costituito dalla scena – molto abbreviata – in cui viene pronunciata la sentenza d’esilio e termina alla seconda scena con l’addio di Coriolanus ai propri familiari, nella quale il dialogo si svolge principalmente tra il generale e la moglie.41

Secondo il parere di Genest, Dennis: ‘…mutilates the first scene between Coriolanus and the Tribunes shamefully, and concludes the act with a parting scene between Coriolanus and Virgilia:

Cor. ___________Adieu!

In quest of great revenge thy Lover flies.

Virg. Support me, Virgins, for Virgilia dies.’

 

He had before said that the God of War had saved him at the request of Love’s propitious Goddess – Cibber himself could not have done worse than this.’42

Dal quarto atto scompaiono l’incontro di Volumnia con i tribuni e la scena tra Adrian e Nicanor. Nella prima scena Coriolanus arriva ad Anzio, mentre nella seconda viene introdotto un episodio inedito – una discussione di Aufidius con i senatori volsci, durante la quale fa la sua entrata Marcius, il quale rivela la propria identità al suo nemico, si accorda con lui per attaccare Roma e subito viene accolto come nuovo generale.43

Alla fine della terza scena, dopo aver appreso che Coriolanus è alle porte di Roma, accade come in Tate che i cittadini attribuiscano la colpa della loro rovina ai tribuni e decidano di giustiziarli:

1st Citizen   What we did, we did it for the best, and tho’ we consented to his banishment, yet  was it against our Wills.

 

Cominius   Against your Wills! You goodly things, you Voices!

Who urg’d you on to such a fatal Injury?

 

1st Citizen   Why e’en our worthy Tribunes.

 

Cominius   Why then your worthy Tribunes are the Persons

Who have laid waste the Roman Territory,

Have brought their Country to the brink of Ruin,

Have to the Temples of our Gods set Fire,

Have fix’d the murthering Knife to all your Throats,

And, to the Arms of leud Licentious Ruffians,

Have given your Wives and Daughters. So farewell.

…………………………………………………………………….

 

1st Citizen Have our Tribunes done all this?

 

3rd Citizen The Furies break their Necks for it.

 

4th Citizen What need we trouble the damn’d Neighbours for what we can do ourselves? We are the Furies.

 

All Citizens Ay, we are the Furies, we are the Furies. To the Rock, to the Rock with them.

 

Brutus   How!

 

Sicinius   What do I hear?

 

4th Citizen   The Punishment they designed for Coriolanus, let them feel themselves.

 

All Citizens   To the Rock, to the Rock with them.

 

Brutus   Hear me, my Masters.

 

1st Citizen   No, no, you have prated us into Mischief enough already, a Plague o’ your Rhetorical Throats for it.

 

Sicinius   Can you refuse to hear us then, my Masters?

 

2nd Citizen   No, by no Means, but you shall take a gentle leap first.

 

4th Citizen   We shall see what a delicate Speech you’ll make when your Neck’s broke.

 

All Citizens   To the Rock, to the Rock, away with them.44

 

Il quinto atto è costituito da un’unica, lunga scena di 599 versi, e inizia con l’intercessione da parte delle donne romane presso Coriolanus; tramite i versi pronunciati da Volumnia45 in quest’occasione, Dennis esprime al meglio il messaggio del suo dramma, e sottolinea ulteriormente il suo allontanamento sostanziale dal testo di Shakespeare:

Volumnia   I never knew the Rabble yet was Rome;

Yet ev’n the Rabble have reveng’d thy Cause,

Have thrown their Tribunes from the Rock Tarpeian,

And voted thy Repeal.

………………………………………………………..

From hence thou seest the Temples of our Gods:

Oh could thy Eyes but pierce the sacred Walls,

And shew thee the wild Horror that’s within,

The dismal fight would break thy cruel Heart.

Prostrate before each unrelenting God,

Thou would’st behold old venerable Age,

And helpless Infancy, and holy Matrons

And Virgins wither’d in their Bloom with Sorrow;

All fainting, swooning, dying with the fear

Of what may fall to-morrow.46

 

Volumnia minaccia addirittura il suicidio per convincere suo figlio a cambiare idea, e alla fine Coriolanus cede:

Coriolanus   Ye Gods, ye Gods! live Rome, and Marcius die first!

Oh, rise, my Mother; you and Rome have conquer’d,

But your unhappy Son’s for ever lost.47

 

Il generale romano affronta quindi Aufidius, il quale lo accusa di ingratitudine; i due combattono, e Coriolanus ferisce a morte il suo nemico, ma a sua volta viene ucciso da un tribuno dei Volsci.

Come nel caso del dramma di Tate, grande spazio viene riservato all’addio di Coriolanus ai familiari prima di esalare l’ultimo respiro:

Coriolanus   My Blood and Life are at the lowest Ebb.

 

Virgilia   Ah, now I see a Sight that will distract me,

And dread the utmost Malice of my Fate;

For the first time my Marcius now turns pale.

 

Volumnia   Yet looks undaunted still.

 

Coriolanus Mother, farewell. Nay, if you weep!-

 

Volumnia   ‘Tis I have only Cause, ‘tis I have done this.

Thy filial Piety has been thy Fate;

And I have kill’d my Son.

 

Coriolanus   You have sav’d your Country.

 

Volumnia   What’s my Country now

To me, a Widow, helpless, childless, comfortless?

 

Coriolanus   My everlasting Fame be now your Son,

And your own Deathless Glory be your husband.

Where-ever Roman Annals shall be read,

The Godlike Action you have done this Day

To endless Age will transmit your Name,

And all the Good eternally will bless you.

Be it your Care to comfort poor Virgilia.

 

Virgilia   Is this the Happiness that I expected?

Now first I hop’d to have thee mine entirely,

Inseparably mine, and now we part,

For ever part. And must we? No, we will not;

For when thou go’st Virgilia will not stay.

 

Coriolanus   Virgilia, let me die as I have liv’d,

And, like a Roman, view the Tyrant Death

With Scorn, as I have always done in Battle.

Thy Grief alone can make him formidable,

One parting Kiss; a long, a long Farewell

[Dies48

 

L’atto quinto si conclude con l’entrata in scena di Menenius e Cominius, e quest’ultimo pronuncia l’Epilogo, che, come il Prologo, vuole esortare il pubblico alla fedeltà alla propria patria e ammonirlo contro il tradimento attraverso l’esempio di Coriolanus:

Cominius   In solemn, slow Procession let us march,

And bear the sad Remains of him to Rome,

Where pompous Rites of Funeral shall be paid then.

Where, Ladies, you who have thus nobly sav’d

Your Country, shall receive immortal Honours.

But they who tro’ Ambition, or Revenge,

Or impious Int’rest, join with foreign Foes,

T’ invade or to betray their Native Country,

Shall find, like Coriolanus, soon or late,

From their perfidious Foreign Friends their Fate.49

 

La riscrittura del Coriolanus da parte di Dennis, compreso il quinto atto, non cambia in ogni caso la struttura generica della doppia crisi del personaggio – sottomettersi o meno alle leggi dei tribuni e decidere se abbandonare l’impresa dell’invasione di Roma. Ma l’omissione di scene chiave, e l’inserimento inopportuno di nuove parti comiche tra i servitori di Aufidius, fa perdere alla riscrittura, come già era avvenuto con Tate, la terza dimensione propria dell’opera originale, donata soprattutto dal personaggio di Menenius.50

 

Genest non solo critica la scarsa qualità del lavoro di Dennis, ma trova inopportuno e presuntuoso l’appello dell’autore al duca di Newcastle affinché, in qualche maniera, l’offesa arrecatagli dai tre managers del Drury Lane venga vendicata: ‘as he [Dennis] was a man of abilities and a professed Critic, it might reasonably have been expected of him that he would have had too much good sense to have mangled Shakespeare in the way that Tate, Cibber, and others had done… no one had talked more about liberty than Dennis; yet he here wants the Duke to interfere with the management of the theatre in the same arbitrary manner in which his predecessors in office had done – and calls him the lawful monarch of the Stage – in an advertisement he again attacks Cibber and his Tragedies, and says no one can get a play acted at Drury Lane, unless he will flatter Wilks by telling him that he is an excellent Tragedian – which would be ridiculous and absurd.’51

 

 

H. H. Furness cita le opinioni di due altri critici, Taulford e Kilbourne, i quali sembrano in ogni caso concordare nel giudicare negativamente questa manipolazione del Coriolanus.52

Chi scrive, per evitare di scadere in una critica sterile e priva di senso storico, ma allo stesso tempo tenendo conto del fatto che il testo di John Dennis seppur epurato dagli ‘errori’ e rispettoso dell’unità d’azione, e quindi più breve rispetto all’originale, risulta curiosamente più gravoso e artificioso alla lettura, concorda con l’opinione di Ruth McGugan, la quale riconosce che, come si è cercato di mostrare fino ad ora, probabilmente grazie alla natura della materia trattata da Shakespeare nel suo Coriolanus, fino al 1720 quest’opera era ritenuta da drammaturghi come Tate e Dennis un utile mezzo di propaganda politica. Non è poi di conseguenza così difficile comprendere la riluttanza dei produttori nel mettere in scena, in un periodo di crisi nazionale, pieces socialmente compromettenti.

Dennis in particolare ‘…had good reason to be apprehensive; although he had brought order to Shakespeare’s first and last acts, he had interrupted the action with comic bits and one scene (totally unrelated to either the traditional hero or James II) in which the supporters of Sempronius (a rival candidate for the consulship) and those of Coriolanus exchange insults (II. iii). Such additions destroy the unity and coherence of the play and, although his version of the story is shorter than Shakespeare’s, the whole seems tedious and verbose by comparison. Apparently  theatre managers were unconvinced by arguments Dennis advanced before and after the play.’53

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


17 John Dryden, in D. N. Smith, Shakespeare in the XVIII century, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1928, p. 9.

18 John Dennis, An Essay on the Genius and Writings of Shakespear , in John Dennis, The critical works, op. cit. ed. by E. N. Hooker,  vol. II, pp. 1-17.

19 John Dennis, The critical works, op. cit., vol II, p. 5. Per Dennis ‘The successful dramatist…is one who is able to portray strong passion rather than one who constructs a well-made plot. Dennis denies, however, that genius alone is sufficient to achieve a work of stature…Without the control of established literary conventions, especially in tragedy and the epic, Dennis believes, poetic chaos will inevitably prevail. He insists that poetic fury be tempered by judgment, although he speaks of the forces of nature prevailing in the poet, even sometimes exalting him to the divine.’ John C. Grace, Tragic Theory in the works of Thomas Rymer, John Dennis and John Dryden, op. cit. pp. 62-3.

20 John C. Grace, Tragic Theory in the works of Thomas Rymer, John Dennis and John Dryden, op. cit. p. 69.

21 John Dennis, The critical works, op. cit., vol. II, p. 8. Diversi critici hanno al contrario dimostrato, attraverso lo studio di autori greci e latini tradotti da studiosi contemporanei a Shakespeare, che quest’ultimo rispecchia fedelmente nella sua opera la società e i valori romani all’epoca di Coriolanus; tra questi, si possono menzionare: Reuben A. Brower, op. cit.; G. Bullough, op. cit;  Paul A. Cantor, Shakespeare’s Rome: Republic and Empire, Cornell University Press, Ithaca and London, 1976; J. L Simmons, Shakespeare’s pagan World – the Roman Tragedies, Brighton Harvester Press, Charlottesville, Va., 1973; T. J. Spencer, Shakespeare and the Elizabethan Romans in B. A. Brockman, ed., op. cit. pp. 115-117.

22 ‘In this last Tragedy he has mistaken the very Names if his Dramatick Persons, if we give Credit to Livy. For the Mother of Coriolanus in the Roman Historian is Vetturia, and the Wife is Volumnia. Whereas in Shakespeare the Wife is Virgilia, and the Mother Volumnia. And the Volscian General in Shakespeare is Tullus Aufidius, and Tullus Attius in Livy. How  comes it that he takes Plutarch’s Word (who was by Birth a Graecian) for the Affairs of Rome rather than that of the Roman Historian, if so be that he had read the Latter? Or what Reason can be given for his not reading him, when he wrote upon a Roman Story, but that in Shakespeare’s rime there was a Translation of Plutarch and none of Livy?’ John Dennis, op. cit., vol. II, p. 9. Dennis critica anche Shakespeare perchè a suo avviso modifica il carattere dei personaggi storici: ‘If Shakespeare was so conversant with the Ancients how comes he to have introduc’d some Characters into his Plays so unlike what they are to be found in History? In the Character of Menenius in the following Tragedy he has doubly offended against that Historical Resemblance. For first, whereas Menenius was an eloquent Person Shakespeare has made him a downright Buffon. …And secondly, whereas Shakespeare has made him a Hater and Contemner, and Vilifyer of the People, we are assur’d by the Roman Historian that Menenius was extremely popular. He was so very far from opposing the Institution of the Tribunes, as he is represented in Shakespeare, that he was chiefly instrumental in it. After the People had deserted the City and sat down upon the sacred Mountain he was the chief of the Delegates whom the Senate deputed to them, as being look’d upon to be the Person who would be most agreeable to them. In short, this very Menenius both liv’d and dy’d so very much their Favourite that dying poor he had pompous Funerals at the Expence of the Roman People.’ John Dennis, The critical works, op. cit., vol. II, pp. 9-10.

23 John Dennis, The critical works, op. cit., vol. II, p. 9.

24 Dennis afferma riguardo il Coriolanus: ‘The want of this impartial Distribution of Justice makes the Coriolanus of Shakespeare to be without Moral. ‘Tis true, indeed, Coriolanus is kill’d by those Foreign Enemies with whom he had openly sided against his country, which seems to be an Event worthy of Providence, and would look as if it were contrived by infinite Wisdom and executed by supreme Justice to make Coriolanus a dreadful Example to all who lead on Foreign Enemies to the Invasion of their native Country, if there were not something in the Fate of the other Characters which gives occasion to doubt of him and which suggests to the Sceptical Reader that this might happen by accident. For Aufidius, the principal Murderer of Coriolanus, who in cold Blood gets him assassinated by Ruffians instead of leaving him to the Law of the Country and the Justice of the Volscian Senate, and who commits so black a Crime not by any erroneous Weal or a mistaken Publick Spirit but thro’ Jealousy, Envy, and inveterate Malice; this Assassinator not only survives, and survives unpunish’d, but seems to be rewarded for so detestable an Action by engrossing all those Honours to himself which Coriolanus before had shar’d with him. But not only Aufidius but the Roman Tribunes, Sicinius and Brutus, appear to me to cry aloud for Poetick Vengeance. For they are guilty of two Faults, neither of which ought to go unpunish’d, the first in procuring the Banishment of Coriolanus. If they were really jealous that Coriolanus had a Design on their Liberties when he stood for the Consulship it was but just that they should give him a Repulse; but to get the Champion and Defender of their Country banish’d upon a pretended Jealousy was a great deal too much, and could proceed from nothing but that Hatred and Malice which they had conceiv’d against him for opposing their Institution. Their second Fault lay in procuring this Sentence by indirect Methods, by exasperating and inflaming the People by Artifices and Insinuations, by taking a base Advantage of the Open-heartedness and Violence if Coriolanus, and by oppressing him with a Sophistical Argument – that he aim’d at Sovereignty because he had not delivered into the Publick Treasury the Spoils which he had taken from the Antiates. ..it was among the young Patricians that Coriolanus distributed the Spoils which were taken form the Antiates; whereas nothing but caressing the Populace could enslave the Roman People…And yet these Tribunes at the end of the Play, like Aufidius, remain unpunish’d …I humbly conceive therefore that this want of Dramatical Justice in the Tragedy of Coriolanus gave occasion for a just Alteration, and that I was oblig’d to sacrifice to that Justice Aufidius and the Tribunes, as well as Coriolanus.’ John Dennis, The critical works, op. cit., vol. II, pp. 6-7.

25 John Dennis, The critical works, op. cit. vol. II pp. 16-7.

26 Vedi nota 128 della presente trattazione.

27 John Ripley, Coriolanus on Stage in England and America, 1609-1994, op. cit. p. 71.

28 Letters to Steele and Booth, 1719-1721, in John Dennis, op. cit. vol. II p. 164. Il brano sopra citato appartiene alla prima lettera, datata 26 marzo 1719, che così termina: ‘And now, Sir, I shall be oblig’d to you, if you will acquaint me, for what mighty and unknown Reason, the Coriolanus, notwithstanding yours and their warm Approbation of it, notwithstanding your Words solemnly given to act it, as soon as it could conveniently be brought upon the Stage this Winter, notwithstanding the Merit of the Play it self (I speak of Shakespear’s part of it), notwithstanding the World’s and their own Opinion of the superior Merit of Shakespear to Mr. Dryden in Tragedy; and their very Opinion of their own Interest in the Case, nay notwithstanding the exact Seasonableness of the Moral for the Service of King George and of Great Britain, which above all things ought to have been consider’d by those who call themselves the King’s Servants, and who act under his Authority: I say, Sir, I should be extremely oblig’d to you, if you would tell me what powerful Reason could so far prevail over all those I have mention’d, as to engage them to postpone the Coriolanus, not only for All for Love, but likewise for that lamentable Tragick Farce CæsarBorgia, from which no Body expected any thing but themselves; and a Comedy after it call’d the Masquerade, from which they themselves declar’d they expected nothing.’ John Dennis, The critical works, op. cit. vol. II p. 165.

29 John Dennis, The critical works, op. cit. vol. II pp. 176 e 180.

30 John Dennis, The critical works, op. cit. vol. II p. 474.

31 In risposta sia alla propaganda di Dennis che a quella di Tate, si potrebbe citare C. C. Huffman, il quale afferma che sebbene anche ai tempi di Shakespeare ‘the stage was regarded as an important means of inculcating the civic virtues, and plays dramatizing English history regularly present “the unifying of the nation and the binding of the audience into the myth as the inheritors of that unity, set over against the disasters of civil war and weak leadership…the orthodox doctrines of rebellion and of the monarchy were shared by every section of the community,” anche se ‘…pointing a fancied correspondence between contemporary people and events and classical ones (a habit pervasive in such varied areas as parliamentary speeches, law cases, casual letters and historiography) does not mean that individual characters need necessarily represent living men.’ C. C. Huffman, Coriolanus in Context, op. cit. pp. 16 e 25.

32 ‘The title of Dennis’ play immediately calls attention to the activities of the Old Pretender who, after the death of his father in 1701, was publicly acknowledged by Louis XIV and Pope Clement XI as King James II of England. The intrigues of Jacobites on the continent culminated (after and abortive attempt to invade England in 1708) in the active participation of James II in the Scottish rebellion of 1715. from September to December of that year, James Stuart seemed to be well on his way to invading his own country. Although his “resentment” did not have the almost immediately fatal consequence that traditionally, and in the Dennis adaptation, befall Coriolanus – James II died quietly in Rome in 1766 – his personal character was and even closer parallel to that of Coriolanus, the paragon of virtue, than the character of James II had been. Although he did not seem to have the “traditional “ difficulty in maintaining good public relations (at least among Jacobite sympathizers), it is clear that Dennis could have had him in mind, as specific political motivation for adapting Coriolanus, at any time between 1701 and 1710.’ Ruth McGugan, Nahum Tate and the Coriolanus Tradition in English Drama, with a Critical Edition of Tate’s The Ingratitude of a Commonwealth, op. cit. pp. 75-6.

33 Ruth McGugan, Nahum Tate and the Coriolanus Tradition in English Drama, with a Critical Edition of Tate’s The Ingratitude of a Commonwealth, op. cit. p. 77. Per quanto riguarda un’eventuale influenza dell’opera di Tate nella composizione di Dennis, la stessa autrice afferma: ‘There is little evidence…to support a theory that Tate’s influence on Dennis was extensive. Only two textual facts even suggest that Dennis may have been working, at least in the early stages of his adaptation of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, with a copy of the Ingratitude. There are echoes of Tate’s diction in more than a dozen lines, probably the most significant of which are such things as the word Starter which Tate and Dennis both substitute for budger in Shakespeare’s line “Let the first budger die the other’s slave” (I. vii. 5). The other textual fact suggesting that Dennis was familiar with Tate’s version is his use of many lines (particularly in Act I) that Tate did not use (e.g.,  I. iv. 9-39 and 47-75). One incident (invented by Tate and amplified by Dennis) may indicate influence, but when one considers that Dennis’ political allegory depends on making the point that the plot-mongering Tribunes have been punished and order is being restored in Rome (V. i., p. 67) it is conceivable that he could have worked out this incident independently of Tate’s closing of IV. iii with the angry plebeians “Haling and Dragging off the Tribunes.”’ Ruth McGugan, Nahum Tate and the Coriolanus Tradition in English Drama, with a Critical Edition of Tate’s The Ingratitude of a Commonwealth, op. cit. pp. 79-80.

34 John Ripley, Coriolanus on Stage in England and America, 1609-1994, op. cit. p. 79.

35 Per uno schema comparativo tra le due opere, vedi Appendice B p. ii della presente trattazione.

36 John Dennis, The Invader of His Country, 1720, in Brian Vickers (ed.), Shakespeare – The critical heritage 1623-1801, op. cit. vol. II p. 329-330. Per la descrizione generica degli atti e delle scene dell’opera, vedi John Ripley, Coriolanus on Stage in England and America, 1609-1994, op. cit. pp. 74-5; H. H. Furness, The Tragedie of Coriolanus, op. cit. pp. 717-8; C. B. Hogan, Shakespeare in theatre 1701-1800 – A record of performances in London, op. cit. pp. 166-7.

37 Come fa notare John Ripley, sin dal primo atto: ‘The action is now totally linear and unified, its spatial and temporal fluidity stabilized.’ John Ripley, Coriolanus on Stage in England and America, 1609-1994, op. cit. p. 74.

38 ‘Dennis cuts 1.1 completely, and with it disappears most of the plebeians’ claim to three dimensionality – their violence, shrewdness, hunger, and frustration, together with Marcius’s assessment of them as cowardly, mutinous, and variable. In battle Dennis’s citizens are heroic altruists to a man: ‘Lead on, brave Marcius, thee we follow all / To Death or Victory,’ shouts the 1st Soldier in response to Marcius’s appeal, and all echo ‘To Death or Victory we follow all’…Unable to respond to their rough generosity, it is Marcius who appears uncouth and ungracious.’ John Ripley, Coriolanus on Stage in England and America, 1609-1994, op. cit. p. 73. (Per i versi citati, vedi John Ripley, Coriolanus on Stage in England and America, 1609-1994, op. cit. p. 72.)

39 ‘Virgilia, without enjoying the primacy accorded her by Tate, is more visible and articulate than in Shakespeare’s script. On Marcius’s return from the wars, rather than the silent weeper of Shakespeare’s devising, Dennis’s Virgilia is vocal and exultant; when her husband is banished, she asserts her determination to accompany him; at the conclusion of the Intercession sequence she vainly urges him to return home; and just before curtain-fall she delivers a high Roman lament over his body. Her first and last appearances are neatly utilized by Dennis to lend that whiff of the supernatural missed from Tate to Bradley. When first introduced she tells Volumnia of a frightening dream in which she has seen Marcius “Surpriz’d, surrounded, murder’d by the Volscians”’ John Ripley, Coriolanus on Stage in England and America, 1609-1994, op. cit. p. 78.

40 John Ripley, Coriolanus on Stage in England and America, 1609-1994, op. cit. p. 73.

41 Secondo Dennis, Shakespeare‘…makes Coriolanus upon his Sentence of Banishment take his leave of his Wife and his Mother out of sight of the Audience, and so has purposely, as it were, avoided a great occasion to move.’ John Dennis, op. cit. vol. II p. 5. Così si salutano i due coniugi:

 

Virgilia   But whither art thou going?

Coriolanus   Where I can find Revenge

Virgilia   Shall I not hear from thee?

Coriolanus   Yes, if my Actions answer to my Thoughts,

the Universe shall hear from me.

Virgilia   I shall be dead of Grief e’er thou return’st.

Coriolanus   My Mother soon will teach thee nobler Passions,

And tell thee, that my Wife should mourn like Jove’s,

With Grief that meditates Revenge.

Now for one parting Kiss, one last Embrace.

Virgilia   The last: Thou kill’st me, Marcius.

 

(Ruth McGugan, Nahum Tate and the Coriolanus Tradition in English Drama, with a Critical Edition of Tate’s The Ingratitude of a Commonwealth, op. cit. p. 78).

42 Genest, in H. H. Furness, The Tragedie of Coriolanus, op. cit. p. 717.

43 ‘We can no more blame him [Coriolanus] for his ruthless valour than we blame the hurtling spear for finding its mark. And yet Coriolanus has no mark: that is his tragedy. Compact or nobility and strength, he pursues his course. But he is too perfect a pure unit, an isolated force: no deep love of country is his. His wars are not for Rome: they are an end in themselves. Therefore his renegade attack on Rome is not strange. His course obeys no direction but its own: he is a power used in the service of power. The spear turns out, in mid flight, to be a boomerang, and hurtles back on the hand that loosed it. So he whirls like a planet in the dark chaos of pride, pursuing his self-bound orbit: a blind mechanic, metallic thing of pride and pride’s destiny.’ Wilson Knight, The Imperial Theme, op. cit. p. 161.

44 In Brian Vickers, ed., Shakespeare – The critical heritage 1623-1801, op. cit. vol. II pp. 333-4.

45 ‘Volumnia, shorn of her unhealthy hold on Marcius and virtually any hint of common clay, is more sculpture than woman. She is not permitted to sew, to describe herself as a clucking hen, to experience a momentary memory lapse, to engage in wound-counting, to appear in destitute garb, or to make her silent cross in V. v. Her appeals to her son are impassioned rather than calculated, and her final assessment of her role in Marcius’s death – “I was the fatal, I the only Cause” – is as heroic as it is inaccurate.’ John Ripley, Coriolanus on Stage in England and America, 1609-1994, op. cit. pp. 77-8.

46 In Brian Vickers, ed., Shakespeare – The critical heritage 1623-1801, op. cit. vol. II pp. 335 e 337. ‘The second crisis is more of a debate between Volumnia and Coriolanus than a plea by Volumnia. When she announces that the ladies of Rome have come as “suitors” to Coriolanus, he interrupt with

For any thing, except ungrateful Rome.

 

She reminds him, however, that

 

Rome, Tho’ ungrateful, is your Country still

(V. i. p. 67)

Although Volumnia’s victory is still the mother’s victory, she has had six pages in which to present arguments not, as in Dionysius’ account, that everyone can be satisfied by the withdrawal lf Coriolanus from the walls of Rome, but that he should spare Rome and all her people. Thus, without materially changing the traditional events in the Coriolanus story, Dennis has made the courageous but irascible and impolitic her of legend and Shakespeare’s “boy of tears” into a veritable Sidney Carton.’ Ruth McGugan, Nahum Tate and the Coriolanus Tradition in English Drama, with a Critical Edition of Tate’s The Ingratitude of a Commonwealth, op. cit. pp. 78-9.

47 In Brian Vickers, ed., Shakespeare – The critical heritage 1623-1801, op. cit. vol. II p. 340.

 

48 In Brian Vickers, ed., Shakespeare – The critical heritage 1623-1801, op. cit. vol. II pp. 345-6.

49 In Brian Vickers, ed., Shakespeare – The critical heritage 1623-1801, op. cit. vol. II pp. 347.

50 Ruth McGugan, Nahum Tate and the Coriolanus Tradition in English Drama, with a Critical Edition of Tate’s The Ingratitude of a Commonwealth, op. cit. p. 77.

51 H. H. Furness, The Tragedie of Coriolanus, op. cit.

52 La critica di Taulford è particolareggiata e motivata: ‘Mr Dennis proceeds very generously to apologize for Shakspeare’s faults by observing that he had neither friends to consult nor time to make corrections. He also attributes his lines ‘utterly void of celestial fire,’ and passages ‘harsh and unmusical,’ to the want of leisure to wait for felicitous hours and moments of choicest inspiration. To remedy these defects – to mend the harmony and to put life into the dullness of Shakspeare – Mr Dennis has assayed, and brought his own genius to the alteration of Coriolanus for the stage under the lofty title of the Invader of his Country, or the Fatal Resentment. In the catastrophe Coriolanus kills Aufidius, and is himself afterwards slain, to satisfy the requisitions of poetical justice, which, to Mr Dennis’s great distress, Shakspeare so often violates. It is quite amusing to observe with how perverted an ingenuity all the gaps in Shakspeare’s verses are filled up, the irregularities smoothed away, and the colloquial expressions changed for stately phrases. Thus, for example, the noble wish of Coriolanus on entering the forum –

 

‘The honoured gods

Keep Rome in safety, and the chairs of justice

Supplied with worthy men! Plant love among us!

Throng our large temples with the shows of peace,

And not our streets with war’-

 

is thus elegantly translated into classical language:

 

‘The great and tutelary gods of Rome

Keep Rome in safety, and the chairs of justice

Supplied with worthy men: plant love among you:

Adorn your temples with the pomp of peace,

And, from our streets drive horrid war away:’

 

The conclusion of the hero’s last speech on leaving Rome –

 

‘Thus I turn my back: there is a world elsewhere’-

 

is elevated into the following heroic lines:

 

‘For me, thus, thus, I turn my back upon you,

And make a better world where’er I go.’

 

His fond expression of constancy to his wife –

 

‘That kiss

I carried from thee, dear; and my true lip

Hath virgined e’er since’-

 

is thus refined:

 

‘That kiss

I carried from my love, and my true lip

Hath ever since preserved it like a virgin.’

 

The icicle which was wont to ‘hang on Dian’s temple,’ here more gracefully ‘hangs upon the temple of Diana.’

The burst of mingled pride and triumph of Coriolanus when taunted with the word ‘boy,’ is here exalted to tragic dignity. Our readers have, doubtless, ignorantly admired the original.

 

‘Boy! False hound!

If you have writ your annals true, ‘tis there,

That like an eagle in a dove cote, I

Fluttered your Volsces in Corioli.

Alone I did it – Boy.’

 

The following is the improved version:

 

‘This boy, that like an eagle in a dove court,

Flutter’d a thousand Volsces in Corioli,

And did it without second or acquittance,

Thus sends their mighty chief to mourn in hell!’

 

Who does not now appreciate the sad lot of Shakespeare – so feelingly bewailed by Mr Dennis – that he had not a critic, of the age of King William, by his side, to refine his style and elevate his conceptions!’ H. H. Furness, op. cit. pp. 718. Al contrario, Kilbourne esprime il suo parere piuttosto stringatamente: ‘Again we see what havoc the application of an artificial notion can work with a play of Shakespeare’s. Dennis has but stultified himself by attempting to improve Shakespeare, the absence of the superior enlightenment and knowledge of dramatic art he believed himself to possess being amply demonstrated by his performance in this instance, as it had been also in the case of his revision of The Merry Wives of Windsor.’ H. H. Furness, The Tragedie of Coriolanus, op. cit. p. 720.

 

53 Ruth McGugan, Nahum Tate and the Coriolanus Tradition in English Drama, with a Critical Edition of Tate’s The Ingratitude of a Commonwealth, op. cit. pp. 79-80.

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