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From The Creative Review (online): 1965 poster by Ken Briggs

From The Creative Review (online): 1965 poster by Ken Briggs

Story and Reading by Christina Binning Wilson

That asylum seekers are being sent to Papua New Guinea is outrageous outcome and destination. I wonder what outcome can be expected for Papua New Guinea. My heart bleeds.

The election is not only about boats, a flogged horse is still a horse of course, but education, electricity prices, energy use, environment, digital security, broadband and so on e.g. the dole that is starvation, homelessness, risk orientation, policy as similarly cruel and callous and retrogressive. It is about gender and how that is acknowledged. The election is about policy development and every other aspect of the administration. It is about parliamentary processes more than it has ever been, about who is rooting for who-how-whoever you are regardless whether you know the aforementioned poem ‘The Second Coming’ by Yeats* and whether we get it from Malcolm’s reading.

It might have a bearing. I don’t want any hope of Malcolm Turnbull becoming PM and think there is even less real chance.

My reading of The Second Coming


What justifies Malcolm’s isolation, seeking to bond a pod, a cast at a podcast, of a concept that all the men in Coriolanus are very unattractive and we can suppose he means not very nice?

One of the important (all Shakespeare’s characters are important) characters of the male gender is, in fact, a baby, Coriolanus’ infant son and for all we know from Malcolm’s description he is not there. True, who said anything about the baby, about fair (or inclusion). True, it looks as if the kid does not have much hope surrounded by (ipso facto) these less than even half OK fellers (yuk! boy germs).

Playing a contemporary gallery. Nothing is more attractive to men and perhaps women an adviser said than a man who decries the behaviour of men.

Yet, the play has a significant component of domestic drama that is explicit and implicit. No reference to the plight of the war hero on a domestic and political and social front after returning home when the battle is won (I recall at University we thrashed the discussion about the feelings of our own soldiers and especially the effects on them of the cold shoulder they received). Yes, there are riots going down that are pretty severe because Rome in my own recall had emptied its coffers. The proletariat by whom he once was hailed as hero are laid low result of their starvation diets and bearing their fardels (can’t remember where that is, but didn’t forget).

Move in closer. A keynote speech is delivered by a woman in ‘Coriolanus’.  Not a mention of it.

20 years ago, and it is 20 years on, I wrote the poem ‘Coriolanus’, considering what I witnessed in my life experience to the event of the 1987 financial collapse. What I felt.  I would write a series of poems reflecting not the chronology, stories or a specific representation of characters, but a thought image about human behaviour that was direct result of thinking about loved Shakespearian images … where on my psychological map had I arrived.

Coriolanus *

Pulling the wings off butterflies
I am disappointed;
But I must persist.

Watching the butterflies
I am singing
This is a song.
This is the recall.
Savagery has a gossamer thread.

I must paint it.

* cf the play by William Shakespeare; Coriolanus’ son is being reared by his paternal grandmother while the General is at war and [I made the error it was the grandmother] she is recounting watching the boy chase a butterfly, ‘mammocking’ them. She proclaims her grandson, with pride, his father’s son.

‘Coriolanus’ to me -not Shakespeare’s play, but my poem in this reference – is a signifier, a meditation, as much as a diary note. I wrote it equally as proof of my mind map and marker, of an interest in human behaviour and determination.

It was a friend visiting the family, Valeria, who declared (without reproof) the definitive speech revealing the child’s upbringing.

Malcolm has completely removed friendship from the play. I think it is difficult to have a lack of it without its important presence. Coriolanus has a friend who tries on the streets among the people to get information and mediate on his behalf. Not an unattractive trait.  Menenius counsels the proletariat to fear what the power of the administrators can do and employs words of tact by way of contrast to Coriolanus displaying apparently insolent behaviour towards his countrymen in the opening scene. The setting is laid out for us to see civil unrest when the army of Volscians bent on invasion reaches Rome. The economy is already on shaky ground. Coriolanus is sent to engage the Volscians and defeat them.

We however are privy to detail of relationships that are rich between the soldiers of the army, and senators, patricians, between women and men, not one dimensional (whenever to anybody’s knowledge was Shakespeare one-dimensional) including inference again Coriolanus commands respect in banter and joking that is not malevolent. He has purpose, is pumped for war with a band of brothers. When he returns, anxious for his standing, he meets even with protestations in his defence of proletariat who declare him virtuous, worthy of honour and reward. Nothing is black and white regards all men being ‘unattractive’ implied as no other as Malcolm proselytises. Nobody’s descriptive powers could be stripped further from the pages of Coriolanus by Malcolm. A crafted thoroughfare of bustling activity, demonstrations, controversy, trouble; opinion and diversity are deleted from viewpoint by Malcolm’s implication not a man was worth a pinch of salt. Apparently clever remarks at the forum tick boxes. Might we be able to not titter, but instead rise to our feet discarding falsely shallow repartee and point to the emperors?

In Act 3 Volumina and her daughter Virgilia, Coriolanus’ wife, mother of the child are at home in surrounds we soon realise are opulent and comfortable. The signifier is the grouping; the play is a psychological drama about a man of standing because of his military skills and prowess, raised by a mother who values the characteristics of stoic forebearance and a war mongerer and companioned by a compliant wife; the crucial keynote speech is not the death speech by Coriolanus, but the attention the visitor, Valeria draws to the child and the child’s behaviour. Equally important is Shakespeare presents to us Coriolanus’ mother, Volumina discussing the mental state of separation from him with her worried daughter-in-law; her preoccupation is pride in his position as a war hero and the child’s mother’s concern for his safe return, but more questioning the mother’s viewpoint.

We are shown powerfully the generational and societal influences making the boy as it made the man.

Valeria, discussed at length in High School that she could be dispensed with out of the plot (I recall) bulks up numbers visiting Volumina, the mother and Virgilia, the wife with purpose in my view of stage presentation and story, to show the influences surrounding the mother of the baby, Virgilia, dominated by Volumina, their female grouping, their pasttimes not for trivia, not intended for deletion, but the scene is dark predicating the hopelessness of Virgilia’s position whatever it was she may have wanted for herself and her child … even trivial expectations to leave aside work (needlework) displayed by their visitor (the noblewoman, Valeria) of Virgilia, but she begs she will not leave her post loyally waiting for Coriolanus, her husband.

Heed Valeria, her excitement and pride in the destructive future she envisages in store for the small child.


O’ my word, the father’s son: I’ll swear,’tis a
very pretty boy. O’ my troth, I looked upon him o’
Wednesday half an hour together: has such a
confirmed countenance. I saw him run after a gilded
butterfly: and when he caught it, he let it go
again; and after it again; and over and over he
comes, and again; catched it again; or whether his
fall enraged him, or how ’twas, he did so set his
teeth and tear it; O, I warrant it, how he mammocked

Text of Coriolanus

* http://www.opensourceshakespeare.org/views/plays/playmenu.php?WorkID=coriolanus