Osborne, most famous for his ground-breaking work Look Back in Anger (1956), was one of a group of writers in the 1950s known as the ‘angry young men’: a loosely defined group of critical, predominantly working-class and left-wing writers, who were disillusioned with traditional British society. Osborne used anger, contempt and brutal honesty in his writing to rail against the establishment.
Although Osborne keeps the Roman setting, his adaptation takes on the context of contemporary Britain and the labour disputes and strikes that took place in the early 1970s. His suggestions for the staging of the ‘mob’ for example are to include students, trade unionists and camera crews. Coriolanus is himself depicted as an angry young man with aggressive and reactionary opinions. Osborne also draws out some of the potential sexual subtexts in the relationships between Coriolanus and Aufidius, and between Coriolanus and Volumnia.
Osborne wrote this adaptation for the National Theatre, but as he couldn’t find a producer willing to take it on, the play wasn’t staged. The script was published in 1973.
This extract shows Osborne’s first two scenes. Act 1, Scene 1 is a completely new scene showing Coriolanus in bed with Virgilia, awaking from a nightmare about Corioli and Aufidius. He gets up and records his disjointed and racing thoughts in a notebook before returning to bed. Act 1, Scene 2 is Osborne’s rendering of Shakespeare’s opening crowd scene.
- Full title:
- Tynan Archive. A place calling itself Rome, by John Osborne, a reworking of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus made for the National Theatre
- c. 1973
- Manuscript / Playscript
- John Osborne
- © Arvon Foundation (owners of the copyrights in all of John Osborne's works)
- Usage terms
- Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial licence
- Held by
- British Library
- Add MS 87898
- Article by:
- Dan Rebellato
- Gender and sexuality, 20th-century theatre, Exploring identity
Dan Rebellato explains how John Osborne's Look Back in Anger changed the course of British theatre.
- Article by:
- Michael Dobson
Michael Dobson describes the political context in which Shakespeare wrote Coriolanus, and how the play has resonated with later generations of playwrights, directors and actors.
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