Coriolanus minimized

This is a story of 500 B.C. Rome, when Rome was becoming Rome, having control over very little in the way of territory, not considered by anyone to be an empire. This is a story of Rome’s plebeians (the common people) and its patricians (the aristocrats). 

1. The play opens with the plebeians complaining about the lack of corn provided to them by the patricians. Martius, a patrician, says “Hang ‘em” when told of their complaint. We learn the Volsces, Rome’s enemy, “are in arms.” Martius, a Roman general, is sent to capture the Volscian city of Corioles. He does. Martius is sent to take Antium, the Volscian’s principal city. He does. Aufidius, the Volscian general, is shamed by the defeat. Martius is given the honorary title of Coriolanus.

2. Tribunes are elected by the plebeians to protect their interests. Two of them say the people “love not Martius.” Coriolanus vows to treat all alike, “my way.” Martius Coriolanus lectures the Senate, receiving mixed reviews, advising the Senate that the common people must be kept in their place. After some prodding, Martius reluctantly agrees “to speak to the people.”

3. Martius’ mother advises him to be “milder” with the people.  Menenius, Martius’ close friend, advises him to speak “calmly, I do beseech you.” As Coriolanus begins his talk, a plebeian cries “power tyrannical;” another cries “traitor.”  He angrily erupts. The tribunes banish him from Rome. His response: “Curs, I banish you!”  He exits.

4. In an emotional farewell, Coriolanus leaves Rome. He arrives in Antium, enters Aufidius’ home and finds a way to meet with the Volscian general who is entertaining the Volscian Senators with a dinner party.  Aufidius and Coriolanus hit it off like best buddies. Coriolanus accepts the offer to co-lead a war party against Rome. They sack “Roman territories, and destroy what lies before ‘em,” so Roman leaders are told. Aufidius is told Coriolanus “has eclipsed you in this action.” Aufidius responds “I understand thee well.”

5. Menenius enters the Volscian camp near Rome.  He fails to convince Coriolanus to back off.  Coriolanus’ mother has better luck, giving her son quite the stern mother-to-son lecture. Coriolanus listens and says “I’ll frame convenient peace.” Coriolanus and Aufidius return to Corioles. Coriolanus tells the crowd “we have made peace.” From the crowd Aufidius shouts “Traitor.” Coriolanus erupts. A group in the crowd kills him.