❧ Having been rereading Coriolanus from the point of view of one roleplaying Caius, I’ve been starting to question the usual analysis of Aufidius and Caius’ relationship. At first glance, yes, many of Aufidius’ lines are loaded with sexual overtones, but I begin to wonder if that isn’t really the truth of Aufidius’ attitude toward Caius, and if what is between them is not friendship or attraction.
Let us start, since it has been my focus, with Caius.
Martius. ‘I sin in envying his nobility;
And were I anything but what I am,
I would wish me only he.’
Cominius. ‘You have goutht together.’
Martius. ‘Were half to half the world by th’ ears, and he
Upon my party, I’d revolt, to make
Only my wars with him. He is a lion
That I am proud to hunt.’
It goes perhaps without saying that Aufidius is held by Caius in an esteem he grants few else. To no one, perhaps, except his own mother. But Aufidius is not a lover, nor a friend, but rather a beast, a lion, whom Caius pursues with the singlemindedness of a hunter who cannot best his prey. And yet, Caius professes that he would rather be Aufidius than anyone else; high praise from one whose scorn for all in Rome and his own soldiers is common knowledge.
Thing is, it seems to me that Aufidius takes the place of Caius’ mother. Following his banishment from Rome, Caius goes straight to Antium and his nemesis, kneels before him, and offers him, essentially, his life and service. The very same things he seems to have pledged to his mother. It is to her will that he constantly aquiesces, only she can talk him down from his anger (albeit only until he is again incensed, and much of what he does appears to come from a desire to live up to her expectations.
However, in Antium, banished from Rome, he makes no attempt, despite his claim that he shall do so, to communicate with his family or Menenius and Cominius. With his mother. Instead, we observe his almost obsequeious deferrence to Aufidius.
Martius. ‘This man, Aufidius,
Was my beloved in Rome: yet thou behold’st.’
Aufidius. ‘You keep a constant temper.’
Martius. 'Their latest refuge
Was to send him; for whose old love I have—
Though I showed sourly to him—once more offered
The first conditions, which they did refuse
And cannot now accept; to grace him only
That thought he could do more, a very little
I have yielded to.’
His entire manner throughout these scenes is distinctly unlike the Caius we have been introduced to. That man would not have constantly reminded Aufidius that he did not step outside the bounds of some agreement, tacit or otherwise, about how Caius is permitted to conduct himself. That man was never concerned with hiw he was permitted to behave, and he would be himself no matter the cost. It is to Aufidius, rather than to Volumnia, that Caius here looks to his friend.
There are few for whom Caius holds enough respect that he desires their approval, but to those he does, he will do anything to maintain their good-will, even though it means humbling himself before them.
Aufidius, on the other hand, is by nature the underdog in his trials with Caius, a fact he himself well admits:
Aufidius. ‘Five times, Martius,
I have fought with thee; so often hast thou beat me;
And wouldst do so, I think, should we encounter
As often as we eat’
And yet, despite his conviction that Caius will always, in a physical battle, best him, he continues:
Aufidius. 'By th'elements,
If e’er again I meet him beard to beard,
He’s mine or I am his. Mine emulation
Hath not that honour in’t it had; for where
I thought to crush him in an equal force,
True sword to sword,
I’ll potch at him some way,
Or wrath or craft may get him.
These are not the words of one sexually or romantically attracted to another, but of a warrior determined, in one way or another, to best his adversary. Perhaps in the “He’s mine or I am his” there are hints of a perhaps sexual dominance, but I will argue that, while it may result in those tones, it is fundamentally not rooted in physical desire, but in an emotional desire to have this man, who for so long has defeated him, bowed, humbly, at his feet. Even here, in the first act of the play, Aufidius forshadows Caius’ downfall, by means other than battle.
Aufidius’ supposedly very sexual lines at Antium again run into the same situation: Caius has here come before him, offering him his life and service, for all intensive purposes, baring his own neck to Aufidius’ blade, submitting to his (inferior?) adversary.
Martius. ‘I […] present
My throat to thee and to thy ancient malice;
Which not to cut would show thee but a fool,
Since I have ever followed thee with hate,
Drawn tuns of blood out of thy country’s breast,
And cannot live but to thy shame, unless
It be to do thee service.’
Aufidius. ‘Know thou first,
I loved the maid I married; never man
Sighed truer breath; but that I see thee here,
Thou noble thing, more dances my rapt heart
Than when I first my wedded mistress saw
Bestride my threshold.’
The unspecified ‘here’ allows for a slightly different interpretation than the one usually adopted. While ‘here’ could mean Antium, in Aufidius’ home with him, it could also well be figuratively ‘at Aufidius’ feet,’ having humbled himself and submitted himself to his will, be that to die or serve him. Aufidius has here his first victory, the submission of his opponent, the adversary Aufidius believed he could not beat.
There is little to strengthen one interpretation over the other until we consider the final scenes of the play (chopped up and altered by the Donmar production, I might add). Caius’ failure to uphold his promise to take Rome for the Volscians results not in the outrage or hurt one would expect from Aufidius if he considered Caius a friend or lover.
Aufidius. [aside] ‘I am glad thou hast set thy mercy and thy honour
At difference in thee. Out of that I’ll work
Myself a former fortune.’
Where is the betrayal? All I see is a man pleased with the victory he has again been handed. Caius has undone himself, for the Volscians will not tolerate this failure. Aufidius knows he has won afterall. Perhaps Aufidius never did feel ought for Caius but the hatred he professed to hold, ‘abhor[ing him for his] fame and envy,’
Aufidius. ‘At a few drops of women’s rheum, which are
As cheap as lies, he sold the blood and labour
Of our great action: therefore shall he die,
And I’ll renew me in his fall.’
Aufidius. ‘Ay, Marcius; Caius Martius! Dost thou think
I’ll grace thee with that robbery, thy stol’n name
Coriolanus, in Corioles?
You lords and heads o’ the’ state, perfidiously
He has betrayed your business and given up,
For certain drops of salt, your city Rome,
I say ‘your city’, to his wife and mother;
Breaking his oath and resolution, like
A twist of rotten silk; never admitting
Counsel o’ th’ war; but at his nurse’s tears
He whined and roared away your victory;
That pages blushed at him and men of heart
Looked wond’ring each at another.’
Each word he speaks is that of a man determined to finally, victoriously, bring down his enemy. There is no traces of love, or even adoration or respect, remaining. In fact, it is not until some of Aufidius’ lines of the play (‘My rage is gone, / And I am struck with sorrow.’) that he feels anything but the triumph that lends him to stand on the body of Caius (following the stage directions, or to bathe in his blood as the Donmar chose to portray the scene.)
While Caius considers Aufidius almost an equal, someone he desires to impress, whose approval he needs, as he does his own mother’s, Aufidius does not, aside from the sexual overtones carried by his desire for dominance over his enemy, appear to share any real fondness for his adversary. There is no friendship in Aufidius’ attitude toward Caius, only the strivings of a soldier to best his adversary.
I would say Aufidius’s statements aren’t that different from Caius’s intial remarks about how he would like to be Aufidius AND, if they were allies, he would switch teams (ahem) in order to have the pleasure and challenge of fighting against Aufidius. Aufidius loses him as a friend but gets to finally defeat Caius, the way Caius imagined fighting against Aufidius if he were on his side.
Aufidius also does seem pretty insulted when Caius changes his mind. To these two men, best friends/worst enemies are almost indistinguishable. Coriolanus knows that he is undone by not invading Rome, but he is still angry at Aufidius. It seems as though Aufidius is also disappointed by his war hero’s softness.
He is glad to finally have the ability and reason to kill Caius, but he also seems angry at himself for having welcomed Caius into his home and onto his side. As soon as he gets what he wants, he immediately feels grief. His long contemplation over Coriolanus a few scenes back further emphasize how interested Aufidius is in his frenemy.
His admiration mingles with his jealousy and old enmity, and he does indeed keep thinking about how he could get one over on Caius, even when they are close, even in an unfair battle. Still, I don’t think this cancels out his desire for Coriolanus.
Coriolanus, William Shakespeare.
A few favorite soundtracks that are mostly compilations of composed works.
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Per usual, director Quentin Tarantino includes a cheeky array of music already featured in other films. The selection gives this epic WWII fantasy a timeless feeling. The highlight is David Bowie’s Cat People which plays as the Jewish heroine dons makeup and weapons before orchestrating revenge against the Nazis.
Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
This magical film about two “troubled” children who run away together features a beautiful soundtrack. Alexandre Desplat, Benjamin Britten, Saint-Saens, Mozart, Hank Williams, and others contribute to a charming sense of otherworldly innocence and dramatic suspense.
Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht (1979)
This mixture of used and unused works includes Georgian folk music and pieces by Popol Vuh, Richard Wagner, and Charles Gounod. A sublime and atmospheric soundtrack underlines this slow, melodramatic, and visually beautiful depiction of the titular vampire.
The Shining (1980)
The Shining begins with an ominous Bartok piece. Eerie music by Eastern European composers and others help make this terrifying masterpiece about a family taking care of an isolated hotel a classic.
Tree of Life (2011)
Mahler, Berlioz, Bach, Schumann, Mozart, and Brahms are a handful of composers that accompany the original score, again by Alexandre Desplat, though the most haunting pieces are by less-known names. A movie I respected rather than loved, The Tree of Life features a gorgeous combination of visuals and music, particularly in the stunning interstellar creation sequence.
This production has an incredible fight scene in it. How were the fights created?
oh my god, i googled the picture
and this was the suggestion:
Get on it Disney, I want Disney Hipster Princess Chris Pine.
zachary MUST be chris’s prince charming
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