Prof. Michael Friedman has recently had his article, “’Let me twine / Mine arms about that body’: The Queerness of Coriolanus and Recent British Stage Productions,” accepted for publication in Shakespeare Bulletin, one of the field’s leading journals.
Congrats to him from all of us in the department.
The abstract for it reads:
Shakespeare’s Coriolanus is queer because its portrayal of masculine erotic desire defies traditional categories of sexual identity. The play not only challenges heteronormativity by offering several examples of homoerotically-charged dialogue between male characters, but it also contests homosexual identitfication by including declarations of heterosexual desire by the same figures. The full erotic natures of Martius and Aufidius cannot be confined within the strict parameters of conventional hetero- or homo-sexuality, yet the recent stage history of the play reveals repeated attempts to stamp as either gay or straight a wellspring of eroticism that defies stability and binary classification.
Six British stage productions of Coriolanus since the mid-twentieth century illustrate this trend. Tyrone Guthrie’s Nottingham Playhouse staging in 1963-4 and Gregory Doran’s 2007 RSC production both depticted Martius and Aufidius as homosexual lovers. David Farr’s 2002 staging for the RSC, as well as Josie Rourke’s 2013-14 Donmar Warehouse production, portrayed a one-sided eroticism between a homosexually-inclined Aufidius and a heterosexual Coriolanus. Peter Hall’s 1984 production at the National Theatre incorporated various homoerotic elements, but it stopped short of depicting the two soldiers as homosexuals. Similarly, David Thacker’s 1994 RSC staging featured a mutually homoerotic relationship, but Thacker’s version did not exhibit the same striving toward binary categorization of sexuality that was evident in the rehearsal process for Hall’s production. By representing the erotic relationship between Coriolanus and Aufidius in an intentionally ambiguous manner, Thacker’s production came closest to capturing the queerness of Coriolanus.