“Coriolanus” is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1605 and 1608. Set in ancient Rome, the play explores themes of politics, power, pride, and loyalty. Here is a summary of Shakespeare’s play “Coriolanus”:
The play opens during a time of political unrest in Rome. Caius Martius, a skilled and courageous soldier, is highly respected for his military prowess but despised by the common people due to his disdain for them. Martius is given the honorary title of Coriolanus after his victory in the city of Corioles. As Rome faces a food shortage, tensions rise between the patricians (the ruling class) and the plebeians (the common people). The plebeians demand greater representation and an equal share in the grain supply. Coriolanus’s contempt for the plebeians escalates, and he clashes with them, worsening the conflict. In an attempt to secure political power, a group of senators persuades Coriolanus to run for consul, the highest office in Rome. However, to become consul, he must gain the support of the plebeians. Coriolanus reluctantly attempts to win their favor, but his haughty nature and inability to pander to their demands cause him to fail miserably. Manipulated by his political opponents, particularly the tribunes of the people, Sicinius Velutus and Junius Brutus, the plebeians turn against Coriolanus, accusing him of being a traitor to the common people. In a fit of anger, Coriolanus delivers a scathing speech against the plebeians, which leads to his exile from Rome. Banished and filled with bitterness, Coriolanus joins forces with Rome’s enemies, the Volscians, led by Aufidius. He pledges to seek revenge on Rome and plans to march on the city with the Volscian army. Volumnia, Coriolanus’s mother, his wife Virgilia, and his son attempt to dissuade him from his destructive path, but he remains resolute. Before the Volscian attack on Rome, Volumnia, Virgilia, and Coriolanus’s son plead with him one last time. Moved by their pleas and overwhelmed by his emotions, Coriolanus relents and decides to spare Rome. However, his change of heart angers Aufidius, who accuses him of betrayal and ultimately orders his execution. In the final act, Coriolanus faces his fate with honor and stoicism. His death brings a sense of reconciliation and a realization of the tragic consequences of pride, stubbornness, and political manipulation.
“Coriolanus” delves into the complex character of its eponymous protagonist, exploring the clash between personal integrity and political expediency. It raises questions about the nature of power, the role of the individual in society, and the consequences of pride and arrogance. The play offers a searing critique of political manipulation and the volatility of public opinion, ultimately presenting a tragic tale of a flawed hero undone by his own hubris and the machinations of others.