Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Production Notes 2

This is Frank's final blog post. This week he discusses the role of the tribunes in the Coriolanus, his character's place in society and the difference between his character and Coriolanus.

Transcript of Podcast

The tribunes and their role

I think the tribunes do have a good cause to fight for although Sicinius takes it on a touch opportunistically. The cause the tribunes are championing is that of the people, the plebeians. Sicinius feels anger against the lifestyle of the patricians [the ruling elite] but he is a man of wealth himself so therefore he cannot really feel the heart of the people. However, he does fulfil the task of representing the people with a certain degree of integrity but that integrity is erodes because of his own ego and ambition.

Shakespeare isn’t kind to anyone in this play, in my opinion, and I think if you look at the tribunes, the ‘speakers for the people’, unfortunately there is something disingenuous about them. In this production, Dominic is very specifically saying that Sicinius and Brutus are of the ruling class, maybe not quite as high up the social ladder but definitely upper middle class as opposed to aristocratic. But they are none the less attached to the upper echelons of society. You could do another version of this play and have a tribune who comes from the people, a type of trade unionist or something, a person who really passionately feels their voice as representative of the people and it might alter the play. But in this production the tribunes are of the ruling class themselves, and their agenda is as much to do with their own social sphere as with any concerns for the people. If the rule of the Coriolanuses of the society is diminished or eroded, if the role of the nobles is eroded, then they as the representatives of the people effectively take the leadership of the country, and that is what I believe they are about.

What is the city but the people?

There are some lines which I feel that Sicinius genuinely means when he says them. For example, in Act 3, scene 1, when he cries, ‘What is the city but the people?’(3.1.197) I do think in that moment Sicinius believes that it is true, that in that moment he does have a passion for that idea, but it soon goes. Really, it's all just a personal, alpha male one-up-man-ship. Here is a man that is not as well built as some, doesn’t have the physical prowess, isn’t a fighter like Coriolanus. In this production, Jonathan [who plays Coriolanus] has a rugged warrior look whereas I am physically much finer. And I think my character's anger at Coriolanus is at his aloofness and at his arrogance and his ability to do whatever he wants. So in shouting that line, it's almost as if Sicinius is saying to Coriolanus, ‘I’m as passionate as you are, I’m as good a man as you are. Get off my stage and out of my country’. Sicinius is just as hubristic and self serving underneath, probably even more so than Coriolanus. Coriolanus really genuinely believes his political convictions. I’m not so sure about Sicinius. I don’t know whether there is a play on ‘cynicism’ and Sicinius.


These comments are the actor's thoughts or ideas about the part as s/he goes through the rehearsal process – they are simply his/her own interpretations and frequently change as the rehearsal process progresses.

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