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An Audition Monologue, part the Third

Your Humble Blogger was talking about an audition monologue. I’m just going to continue talking about it—not that I have any special insights, I’m just typing up what is more or less the thinking that I would be doing anyway. I hope it’s at least moderately interesting for y’all.

Anyway, the first paragraph:

My name is Caius Marcius, who hath done to thee particularly and to all the Volsces great hurt and mischief; thereto witness may my surname, Coriolanus: the painful service, the extreme dangers and the drops of blood shed for my thankless country are requited but with that surname; a good memory, and witness of the malice and displeasure which thou shouldst bear me: only that name remains. The cruelty and envy of the people, permitted by our dastard nobles, who have all forsook me, hath devour’d the rest; and suffer’d me by the voice of slaves to be whoop’d out of Rome.

The trick here will be to punch that first line. As with anything of this kind, while in theory I have two minutes to make a favorable impression, really if by five seconds in I haven’t got him, that’s the end of it. The other minute-fifty-five helps to distinguish the people who haven’t been rejected already after five. Of course, it’s not just the first five seconds—there’s the walking in part, too, that is usually another ten seconds or so, and proportionately does probably make two-thirds of the impression. But as far as this monologue goes (as YHB would have to walk in no matter what monologue was prepared), the key is my name is Caius Marcius.

Which is going to be a bit tricky. In the play, it’s a bit of a big deal: Coriolanus enters with his face partly hidden (muffled, actually) and refuses to identify himself to the servants (at least one of which he thrashes). Aufidius (the general to whom the speech is addressed) comes in and says

Whence comest thou? what wouldst thou? thy name? Why speak'st not? speak, man: what's thy name?

Coriolanus unmuffles himself and says, essentially, if you don’t recognize me, then I will name myself (a bit of a pun, there, for complicated plot-related reasons, but never mind), and Aufidius asks again, What is thy name?. Coriolanus warns him that he won’t like it, and again Aufidius asks Say, what's thy name? Coriolanus still stalls, asking once more if he recognizes him and Aufidius says I know thee not: thy name? And then Coriolanus says: My name is Caius Marcius.

It’s a build-up that I don’t get the benefit of in the monologue, alas. Nor can I expect that the casting director will know the play well enough to supply that build-up without having seen it, and even so, that sort of thing simply can’t be assumed. So. I have to make the line work without it.

How? I don’t really know yet. The situation calls for mingled emotions: Coriolanus is afraid that he will be cut down without a chance to present his plan, he is defiant and unwilling to apologize for his history, he is proud, he is embarrassed, he is aggrieved, he is uncertain and he is clearly a man used to certainty. That’s a lot to get in to five words.

Once he gets his name out—particularly once he hits Coriolanus, on a lower pitch I think, he senses that he will be allowed to continue, and feels his way into the meat of the speech. From that point on, he is attempting to persuade, and the first part of that is to convince Aufidius that he is sincere in his offer, sincere, that is, in his hatred and bitterness. And, perhaps, indulging himself in that bitterness more than he expects to, or realizes. But, you know, without going over the top, because it’s only the first third of the monologue.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,