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Soldier of Rome

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Here is the image of the Roman Soldier from Coriolanus -- Autocracy vs. Democracy, designed by Charles Hawkins for the Federal Theatre Project. It is a striking image reminiscent of the comic book super heroes from that era. Like so many of the amazing images in The New York Pubic Library's vast holdings, it invites closer consideration.

The full set of designs are based on Roman historic sources and make clear distinctions between the autocrats and the crowd with togas and rags. Hawkins's costume drawings are solid, columnar, reminding us of pillars on a Roman temple. The soldier is more frontal and is drawn from slightly below, so he seems to be above the viewer. His stance and flag seem to refer to Italian Fascist heroic poses.

There is an additional visual reference in the costume that was probably meaningful to the audiences at the Experimental Theater Unit. The C on the armor straps stands for Coriolanus, but the left-wing audience would also think C for Corpo, the militia that supported the American Fascist government in It Can't Happen Here, which had been presented by most of the Federal Theatre Project units.

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