Here is a short plot summary of Coriolanus:

Rome is in a mutinous mood. The citizens are protesting about their rulers’ incompetence and the shortage of food. A popular senator, Menenius Agrippa, has just managed to calm them when the arrogant and fiery young general, Caius Martius, arouses their emotions again by confronting them. He tells them that tribunes, including Sicinius Velutus and Junius Brutus, have been appointed to speak on their behalf.

Martius leads the Roman army against the Volscian forces, led by Tullus Aufidius, which are threatening Rome. Martius defeats the Volscians in their own city, Corioli, with great personal valour, and is given the title of ‘Coriolanus’. When he returns to Rome the senate elect him to succeed Cominius as Consul. He accepts the honour but refuses to subject himself to the endorsement of the common people in the market place. He finally very reluctantly agrees to it but although he achieves the people’s approval, it is not a ringing endorsement. Urged on by the tribunes, Sicinius and Brutus, they reverse their endorsement. Coriolanus shows his contempt for them by denying their right to corn. His mother, Volumnia, and some senators, do everything they can to smoothe matters between him and the people but they are unsuccessful. He is expelled from Rome.

He goes to to the Volscian city of Antium in disguise and is welcomed by his former enemy, Aufidius. The Roman tribunes celebrate Coriolanus’ departure until the news arrives that he has joined forces with Aufidius to challenge the city. All diplomatic attempts to stop him fail until his mother, his wife, Virgilia, and his young son, approach him. He is unable to resist their entreaties and agrees to make peace.

Aufidius, filled with a sense of betrayal, kills Coriolanus.

 

See summaries of Shakespeare’s other plays >>

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