William Shakespeare's Coriolanus in the complete original text.
William Shakespeare's plays, sonnets and poems at AbsoluteShakespeare.com
Home Plays Sonnets Poems Quotes Summaries Essays Glossary Links Help

HOME > Plays > Coriolanus


Study Guides
Julius Caesar
King Henry IV
King Lear
Merchant of Venice
Romeo and Juliet
The Tempest
Twelfth Night

Bard Facts
Globe Theatre

Coriolanus Play

Coriolanus, meaning "conqueror of Corioli" tells the story of a Caius Marcius, a heroic Roman soldier in the 5th Century BC who gains this name for a victory at Corioli. Preferring the simple life of a soldier, Caius Marcius shuns fame and the petty politics of Rome. Famine however has gripped Rome and many believe Rome's rulers, the Patricians are responsible and are hoarding food. Caius Marcius in particular is blamed, but crisis is averted when it is learned the Volscians intend to capture Rome. Ever the warrior, Caius Marcius leads the attack on the Volscian city of Corioli, some three days distant.

The war does not go well, the Volscians initially turning the Romans back. Only Caius Marcius keeps fighting, his courage inspiring his troops to rejoin the battle. During this battle, Caius Marcius fights Aufidius, the Volscian leader but he flees, denying Marcus victory over a worthy opponent. Victorious, Caius Marcius brings glory to Rome and in particular his mother Volumnia who sees her son as a means of securing personal prestige in Rome. Caius Marcius' wife Virgilia hates bloodshed and is delighted to have her husband back.

Returning to Rome, and to his ambitious mother's supreme delight, the Senate nominates him to be a consul, one of just two men who have supreme power over Rome. However, to be consul, Caius Marcius must ask the common people for this honor. Supremely proud, Caius Marcius reluctantly asks or in Marcius' eyes begs to be made a tribune representing the citizens of Rome. Unfortunately fellow tribunes Sicinius Velutus and Junius Brutus see Caius Marcius becoming too popular, too powerful and fearing him, incite the citizens of Rome to have Caius Marcius put to death. Enraged at this betrayal, he leaves his Rome for Antium where he decides to help Aufidius and the Volsces conquer Rome and its empire.

Aufidius is touched by Caius Marcius' betrayal, agreeing that this is not how soldiers should be treated.Together the empire is largely defeated and Rome itself is under threat. The Romans try to convince Caius Marcius not to attack, old friend Menenius failing to dissuade the angry soldier. Volumnia, playing on Caius Marcius' love for his wife Virgilia and his son, and on bended knee, however is more successful, convincing her son to make peace rather than war. This earns Volumnia prestige as the savior of Rome.

Now at peace, Marcius with Aufidius returns to Corioli but Aufidius notices that Caius Marcius is more popular with his people and soldiers alike than he is. Aufidius uses the fact that the fact that the Volscians have not conquered Rome to justify murdering the conquerer of Corioli, Caius Marcius right in view of the Lords of Corioli. His rage spent, Aufidius realises what he had done, killed a noble soldier not unlike himself. Overcome with remorse, Aufidius gives Caius Marcius a proper burial, and decides that Caius Marcius shall be remembered as a great soldier, creating a memorial in Caius Marcius' honor.


Dramatis Personæ

Act I
Scene I, Scene II, Scene III, Scene IV, Scene V, Scene VI, Scene VII, Scene VIII, Scene IX, Scene X

Act II
Scene I, Scene II, Scene III

Scene I, Scene II, Scene III

Act IV
Scene I, Scene II, Scene III, Scene IV, Scene V, Scene VI, Scene VII

Act V
Scene I, Scene II, Scene III, Scene IV, Scene V

Copyright 2000-2005 AbsoluteShakespeare.com. All rights reserved.  Contact Us  Privacy  Awards