Orson Welles


Welles as Othello at the end of his tether: “nothing extenuate”

On this date in 1985 Orson Welles died (born 1915).

Frye’s attitude toward Orson Welles seems to have been somewhat iffy.  He alludes to Welles on a few occasions, but they are not especially friendly.  Frye and Welles were exact contemporaries (Frye born in 1912 and Welles in 1915), but Welles appears to have got under Frye’s skin as a callow interpreter of Shakespeare — a “boy genius” who perhaps earned the title prematurely.

Frye in Fools of Time:

In my own graduate-student days during the nineteen-thirties, there appeared an Orson Welles adaptation of Julius Caesar which required the hero to wear a fascist uniform and pop his eyes like Mussolini, and among students there was a good deal of discussion about whether Shakespeare’s portrayal of, say, Coriolanus showed “fascist tendencies” or not.  But fascism is a disease of democracy: the fascist leader is a demagogue, and a demagogue is precisely what Coriolanus is not.  (18)

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