Nevertheless, there is one significant difference between the two productions. While Fiennes’ appearance may resemble a high-ranking Marine, his portrayal seems basically generic. We are at liberty to “fill in the blanks” as we wish. Hirsch, on the other hand, had the luxury (if you can call it that) of modeling Coriolanus on a specific individual. The actor performing the role bore a disturbing resemblance to Oliver North, almost as if Hirsch was trying to use Shakespeare’s character to get us to think beyond the pre-digested news reports about North and get under the man’s skin to hypothesize all those motives behind not only what he actually did with regard to our adventures in Nicaragua but also how he conducted himself under Congressional review. He further exploited our sense of history by modeling Menenius Agrippa (who delivers the wonderful parable of the revolt against the belly staged by the other parts of the body) to resemble one of the great champions of Congressional review, the late North Carolina Senator (and “country lawyer”) Sam Ervin. In other words Hirsch managed to take on two major scandals under Republican Presidents in a single play!
On the other hand I can appreciate Fiennes’ more generic approach. One could not really enjoy Hirsch’s interpretation of Coriolanus without catching the references to these two major figures of recent American history. However, in a culture that no longer seems to care very much about history, references to recent events do not signify as much for any purpose other than that of a cudgel that one candidate can take to another’s head.