Shakespeare’s tragedy, Coriolanus, starts in Rome, where rioting is taking place over grain stock that has been withheld from the ordinary citizens, leaving them starved. Two Roman leaders, Caius Martius and Menenius Agrippa, are divided over the issue -- Martius condemns the rebellion, while Agrippa encourages placating the masses. When their enemies, the Volscians, invade Rome, Cominius -- commander of the Roman army -- leads the defensive action, while Martius goes to the Volscian city of Coriolis and defeats Aufidius and that part of the Volscian army there. When Martius returns to Rome, Cominius dubs him with the honorable title of “Coriolanus” for his bravery in battle. Upon receiving such a name, Coriolanus’ mother, Volumnia, encourages him to run for Senate. Reluctant at first, Coriolanus ultimately eschews his reservations, runs for office, and -- riding on his reputation as an accomplished warrior -- wins the support of the Senate and commoners alike. Jealous, Brutus and Sicinius, two Roman tribunes who oppose Coriolanus’ harsh ways, organize another riot, and sweep the public opinion along with them. Coriolanus rages against the rowdy public for their lack of loyalty, and is soon denounced for his ruthlessness and banished. In retaliation, Coriolanus joins forces with Rome’s enemy, Aufidius. Cominius and Menenius attempt to persuade Coriolanus to stop his campaign against his own people, but it is not until his family meets with him that he finally stops the attack, offering a peace treaty between the two groups. When Aufidius finds out Coriolanus has now betrayed the Volscians, he orders him to be killed. A gripping play about politics, war, and compassion, Coriolanus is based on the life of the real historical figure, Caius Martius Coriolanus of Rome.
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