Coriolanus

Type: 
Tragedy
First Performed: 
1607-08
First Printed: 
1623
"

Honour and policy, like unsevered friends,
In the war do grow together.

"

In the years before the rise of the Great Roman Empire, famine in Rome is causing unrest between the citizens and Rome's leaders. Martius despises the people and draws their anger when he calls them cowards. The people rise up, believing the patricians are hoarding food. This uprising is cut short when war breaks out with the neighboring Volscians, and Martius leads the Roman army to a decisive victory. For his bravery, he is given the new title of Coriolanus, named after the defeated capital of Corioli. The Volscians, however, vow revenge.

The returning war hero is still unable to hide his scorn for the common people. When he must seek their populist support to secure his election to the Senate, his efforts fail. Instead of garnering their support, his arrogance and contempt leads to his banishment from Rome.

Seeking revenge, Coriolanus joins up with his former enemies the Volscians. He is eventually granted leadership of half their army and, despite tensions with his new comrades, leads an invasion into Roman territory. Near Rome, his former friends and even his mother, Volumnia, try to persuade him toward peace. Coriolanus returns to the Volscians with the message that Rome will not be conquered and, while he attains some measure of peace, he is dragged before the senate and stabbed to death.