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Coriolanus Summary

Act 1

An angry mob gathers in Rome's marketplace. They believe the rich are hoarding corn and think that if they kill Caius Marcius, a great war hero, they will be fed.  A respected elder senator, Menenius, soothes them, but Marcius arrives to insult them for not serving their country. Other senators come to announce the Volsces, lead by Marcius' favorite foe, Aufidius, are armed and ready to attack Rome.

General Aufidius warns the Volscian senators that Rome knows their plans and looks forward to his next encounter with Marcius.

Marcius's mother Volumnia and wife Virgilia discuss the coming battle, Volumnia pleased and Virgilia anxious. Senator Valeria invites them to show their confidence about the war in public and informs them that the Romans are prevailing.

Marcius conquers Corioles single-handedly, then fights Aufidius who gets away with help. Marcius  is named Coriolanus to honor him for the victory. The senate votes to make him a consul, one of the highest ranking governors, but he needs to humble himself before the people of Rome.  His mother encourages him to go out and ask for their votes. The people vote for him, but their tribunes (“the voice of the people”) Brutus and Sicinius persuade them Coriolanus was not humble enough. 

When the tribunes tell Coriolanus the people no longer support him, he accuses them of plotting and they accuse him of treason, demanding his immediate execution.  A fight ensues and Menenius promises to bring Coriolanus back to the marketplace to accept the people's judgement.

Act 2

Menenius and Volumnia convince Coriolanus to apologize to the populace. Sicinius and Brutus plot to enrage him. Sicinius insults Coriolanus, who erupts and is banished. The Volscians plan another attack on Rome.

Coriolanus goes to Aufidius, seeking revenge on Rome or death. Aufidius embraces him and incorporates him into the Volscian army.

In Rome Sicinius and Brutus take credit for Rome's new calm and security until messengers report attacks by Aufidius and Coriolanus. All panic.

Aufidius is jealous of Coriolanus’ popularity among the Volscians, and plots to kill him.

The Romans approach Coriolanus to plead for mercy, but he ignores their pleas and tells them he will conquer Rome.  Finally, his family begs him not to destroy Rome and he yields to his mother's words and makes peace instead.

Aufidius sends for Brutus and Sicinius and the three vow to kill Coriolanus.

When he arrives, Aufidius calls him traitor and the conspirators and mob kill him.

In the end, we see a hero’s funeral with only his wife and son standing apart from the spectacle.

Dr. Christine Mather



Coriolanus Summary

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