Previously on Coriolanus: In the first act, the Roman citizenry–starving–blames a soldier and favored son of the patricians named Caius Martius, despite his service for Rome, because he is arrogant and proud. Martius arrives, hurls insults at them, and intimates that if the senate allowed him, he’d mow down these citizens. Meanwhile, we learn he hates/envies a general from the Volscian army, Aufidius. In Corioles, a major town in Volsca, Aufidius learns that Roman battalions are heading to Volsca, led by Martius, whom Aufidius hates. Next, we meet Martius’ proud mother Volumnia and worried wife Virgilia. The first act continues in Corioles where Martius is victorious, taking the town almost single-handedly. Martius meets Aufidius in battle, but before the fight is decided, Aufidius’ army comes in and rescues/takes him away from battle. In celebration of the Roman victory, Martius is given the name Coriolanus; Aufidius in the Volsce camp laments the loss of Corioles, and continues to state his hatred of Martius. The second act takes place in Rome, where not is happy about Coriolanus’ victory: two plebeian tribunes, Brutus and Sicinius, complain about Coriolanus, and they begin to plot his political demise. In the Senate house, Coriolanus thanks the senate upon his return for their agreement for him to become consul, but first comes the “custom” of Coriolanus speaking to the people, showing his wounds, and asking for their vote. He agrees to do it, while the two plebeian tribunes plan on getting the people to go against Coriolanus. In the Forum, the custom goes well enough for the people to say they will vote for him. After he leaves, however, the plotting tribunes turn the crowd’s lukewarm support for Coriolanus to cold disdain, convincing them to vote against Coriolanus. In Act Three, Coriolanus is confronted by the plebeians tribunes, and is told the people are now “incensed” against him. Coriolanus rages until the tribunes finally state that Coriolanus “has spoken like a traitor.” He returns home where his family is able to calm the raging general. He decides to return to the Forum to meet with his accusers. In the Forum, where the plebeian tribunes again accuse Coriolanus of being a traitor to the people, and the plebeians then banish Coriolanus. In the fourth act, Coriolanus says his goodbyes to his family and friends. And after he leaves, the plebeian tribunes, Brutus and Sicinius, gloat over their victory, only to be accosted by Volumnia and Virgilia. Meanwhile, on the road to Antium, a Roman and a Volscian meet, remember a previous meeting, and discuss the banishment of Coriolanus from Rome–news that both the Volscian and the now deserting Roman will deliver to Aufidius. At Aufidius’ house in Antium, Coriolanus presents himself to Aufidius, and states his intention to serve Aufidius. Aufidius accepts Coriolanus, and since Coriolanus knows the Romans so well, he is given half of the army so he can attack Rome. Back in Rome, word arrives that the Volscian are sending two separate armies toward Rome; then comes word of Martius’ joining with Aufidius and that he’s leading one of the Volscian armies heading toward Rome. Word travels fast, and Cominius and Menenius rail against the two tribunes and it only gets worse for them when a band of citizens arrive to complain that it was the tribunes’ idea to banish Coriolanus. In the Volscian camp of Aufidius, near Rome, we hear that more and more of the Volscian army are joining with Coriolanus, and Aufidius’ reputation is suffering. Aufidius seems taken aback, not only by his troops actions, but by Coriolanus’s pride as well. Yet for the moment, Aufidius is willing to use Coriolanus to defeat Rome, but he has an endgame in mind for Coriolanus.
Act Five of Coriolanus begins with tribunes attempting to convince Menenius to go and talk to Coriolanus in an attempt to save Rome from destruction. Continue reading Coriolanus — act five: backstabbers (and front-stabbers, too)