Article Title

Drama, Politics, and the Hero: Coriolanus, Brecht, and Grass


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

I want to look at Brecht's adaptation and criticism of Shakespeare's Coriolanus1 and at Günter Grass' creative response to these in his play The Plebeians Rehearse the Uprising (Die Plebejer proben den Au/stand);2 furthermore, I want to raise some questions about the role of the hero in all three plays. Brecht's attitude to the cult of the hero in "bourgeois" drama is well known: it was his contention that the emphasis on the hero, particularly in Shakespeare, was a large part of what was wrong with current drama both socially and aesthetically. The conventional way of seeing the hero led in his view to an over-romanticizing, an exaggerated stress on audience identification with the hero, and a resulting lack of critical detachment. From a political point of view, this in turn· had dangerous affinities with the cult of hero worship and led in the direction of fascism. What I want to suggest by looking at Brecht's version of Coriolanus is that, in addition to more obvious psychological dimensions which Brecht was expressly content to omit, there are important political dimensions of the play which the Brechtian version cannot accommodate-- and that some of these are illuminated with striking wit and subtlety in Grass' play.

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