by William Shakespeare

There is a differency between a grub and a butterfly; yet your butterfly was a grub. This Martius is grown from man to dragon. He has wings; he's more than a creeping thing. . . . When he walks, he moves like an engine, and the ground shrinks before his treading. He is able to pierce a corslet with his eyes, talks like a knell and his hum is abattery. He sits in his state, like a thing made for Alexander. What he bids be done is finished with his bidding. He wants nothing of a god but eternity and a heaven to throne in.

Menenius (V.4.11-24)

Coriolanus is one of four plays that Shakespeare wrote about Rome. The others were Titus Andronicus, Julius Caesar, and Antony and Cleoptartra. While the latter two were set at the time of the transition from the republic to the empire, (and Titus Andronicus during the late Empire), Coriolanus was set during the days of the republic. At the beginning of Coriolanus, the plebians (the commoners) revolt, and the patricians, the noble class represented in the Roman Senate that ruled Rome, granted them officers called tribunes to speak for them and to represent their interests. Martius, who later is given the name of Coriolanus as a result of his valor during war, opposes any concessions to the people. The conflict between the classes in Rome is interrupted by the revolt of Volscians against Roman rule, and Martius is called to war. Our first scene opens outside the Roman camp during this war.

Scenes 1-2 (Coriolanus at war; and Coriolanus in Rome)

Scenes 3 and 4 (Honor and Policy; and Coriolanus Attacks Rome)


Coriolanus Questions

Guide to unit 2

back to unit 2