As several news organizations have pointed out, Trump's appointed chief strategist, Steve Bannon, once co-wrote a hip-hop adaptation of Coriolanus. Linfield professor Daniel Pollack-Pelzner has now obtained a copy of the revised Shakespearean play, and it's basically as weird as you'd imagine.
Shakespeare's original script profiles a hawkish Roman general who is at odds with Rome's population for stuff like claiming the poor deserve to suffer the famine the city is experiencing. But instead of a Roman famine, Bannon's Coriolanus is set in 1992 LA. In the article he wrote for the New York Times, Pollack-Pelzner describes the script:
“The dialogue reads like a parody of gang slang (“I’m an O.G. from the ’hood come to speak with Coriolanus”), but the battle scenes hurtle along, and a characteristic Bannon theme emerges. Coriolanus, the Bloods’ enforcer, becomes an “in-your-face hammer” who won’t deliver the politically correct messages his handlers want.”
The samples of the script that Pollack-Pelzner shares in the article are entertainingly absurd, but as Pollack Pelzner point out, they're also kind of terrifying. He suggests that the script can provide clues to what Trump's administration will look. "At a moment when the question 'What does Bannon want?' has taken on a new urgency, his adaptation of Shakespeare offers an unexpected clue," writes Pollack-Pelzner. Some of those clues are forboding:
“Since the Breitbart site, which Mr. Bannon oversaw before joining Mr. Trump, ran headlines like “L.A. Riots: Thin Veneer of Civilization” and “Media’s Romance With Rodney King Continues in Death,” it’s surprising to see Mr. Bannon’s screenplay exalt black gang leaders like Coriolanus who battle the police: “A black thing for the little black girl and the homie Rodney King.” And when Mr. Bannon defines the alt-right today as “antiglobalist,” it’s even more bizarre to read his framing device for the screenplay (an opening page that Ms. Jones recalled him handing to her, handwritten in full) that links Coriolanus’s gang to black workers in a South African gold mine. Mr. Bannon describes the miners’ song as a “cacophony of voices chanting from the Serengeti for a lost homeland” — an American investment banker’s fantasy of primitive African manhood, a dance of “brothers, slaves and manliness in dying.”
“Mr. Bannon’s thrill at masculine violence still resonates, even as his sympathies have shifted from embattled black communities. In Shakespeare’s play, a Roman patrician rebukes the mob as “mutinous members” of the body politic, insulting their leader as “the great toe of this assembly.” In Mr. Bannon’s rewrite, the patrician, called Mack-Daddy of South Central, walks over to the people’s chief, grabs the man’s crotch and updates the insult by replacing “toe” with a vulgar word for genitals. Crotch-grabbing isn’t just locker-room talk here; it’s the currency of power, settled in what the screenplay calls “the classic mano-a-mano fashion.” “
Read Pollack Pelzner's full article, complete with excerpts from the script, here.