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''Coriolanus'' ( or ) is a
tragedy Tragedy (from the grc-gre, τραγῳδία, ''tragōidia'', ''tragōidia'') is a genre of drama Drama is the specific Mode (literature), mode of fiction Mimesis, represented in performance: a Play (theatre), play, opera, mime, ball ...

tragedy
by
William Shakespeare William Shakespeare (bapt. 26 April 1564 – 23 April 1616) was an English playwright, poet and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's greatest dramatist. He is often called England's national p ...

William Shakespeare
, believed to have been written between 1605 and 1608. The play is based on the life of the legendary
Roman Roman or Romans most often refers to: *Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map of comune of Rome (metropolitan city of Capital Rome, region Laz ...
leader Caius Marcius Coriolanus. Shakespeare worked on it during the same years he wrote ''
Antony and Cleopatra ''Antony and Cleopatra'' (First Folio title: ''The Tragedie of Anthonie, and Cleopatra'') is a Shakespearean tragedy, tragedy by William Shakespeare. The play was first performed, by the King's Men (playing company), King's Men, at either the ...

Antony and Cleopatra
'', making them the last two tragedies written by him. Coriolanus is the name given to a Roman general after his military feats against the
Volsci The Volsci (, , ) were an Italic Osco-Umbrian The Osco-Umbrian, Sabellic or Sabellian languages are a group of Italic languages, the Indo-European languages that were spoken in Central and Southern Italy by the Osco-Umbrians before being replaced ...

Volsci
ans at
Corioli Corioli was a town in ancient times in the territory of the Volsci The Volsci (, , ) were an Italic Osco-Umbrian The Osco-Umbrian, Sabellic or Sabellian languages are a group of Italic languages, the Indo-European languages that were spoken in Ce ...
. Following his success he seeks to be
consul Consul (abbrev. ''cos.''; Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the powe ...
, but his disdain for the
plebeians In ancient Rome, the plebeians (also called plebs) were the general body of free Roman citizenship, Roman citizens who were not Patrician (ancient Rome), patricians, as determined by the capite censi, census, or in other words "commoners". Both ...

plebeians
and the mutual hostility of the
tribunes Tribune () was the title of various elected officials in ancient Rome In historiography, ancient Rome is Roman people, Roman civilization from the founding of the Italian city of Rome in the 8th century BC to the collapse of the Western R ...
lead to his banishment from Rome. He presents himself to the Volscians, then leads them against Rome.


Characters

''Romans'' * Caius Marcius – later surnamed Coriolanus *
Menenius Agrippa Agrippa Menenius Lanatus (died 493 BC) was a consul Consul (abbrev. ''cos.''; Latin plural ''consules'') was the title of one of the two chief Roman magistrate, magistrates of the Roman Republic, and subsequently also an important title under th ...
Senator of Rome
Senator of Rome
* Cominius
consul Consul (abbrev. ''cos.''; Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the powe ...
and commander-in-chief of the army * Titus Larcius – Roman general *
Volumnia Volumnia is a character in William Shakespeare William Shakespeare (bapt. 26 April 1564 – 23 April 1616) was an English playwright, poet and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's greate ...
– Coriolanus' mother (historically,
Veturia
Veturia
) * Virgilia – Coriolanus' wife * Young Martius – Coriolanus' son * Valeria – chaste lady of Rome and friend to Coriolanus' family * Sicinius Velutus
tribune Tribune () was the title of various elected officials in ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the ...

tribune
* Junius Brutus – tribune * Roman Citizens * Roman Soldiers * Roman Herald * Roman Senators ''Volscians'' * Tullus Aufidius – general of the
Volsci The Volsci (, , ) were an Italic Osco-Umbrian The Osco-Umbrian, Sabellic or Sabellian languages are a group of Italic languages, the Indo-European languages that were spoken in Central and Southern Italy by the Osco-Umbrians before being replaced ...

Volsci
an army * Aufidius' Lieutenant * Aufidius' Servingmen * Conspirators with Aufidius * Adrian – Volscian spy * Nicanor – Roman traitor * Volscian Lords * Volscian Citizens * Volscian Soldiers ''Other'' * Gentlewoman * Usher * Volscian senators and nobles * Roman captains * Officers * Messengers *
Lictor A lictor (possibly from la, ligare, "to bind") was a Ancient Rome, Roman civil servant who was an attendant and bodyguard to a Roman magistrate, magistrate who held ''imperium''. Lictors are documented since the Roman Kingdom, and may have origi ...

Lictor
s *
Aedile Aedile ( ; la, aedīlis , from , "temple edifice") was an elected office of the Roman Republic The Roman Republic ( la, Rēs pūblica Rōmāna ) was a state of the , run through of the . Beginning with the of the (traditionally dated to ...
s


Synopsis

The play opens in Rome shortly after the expulsion of the Tarquin kings. There are riots in progress, after stores of grain were withheld from ordinary citizens. The rioters are particularly angry at Caius Marcius, a brilliant Roman general whom they blame for the loss of their grain. The rioters encounter a
patrician Patrician may refer to: * Patrician (ancient Rome), the original aristocratic families of ancient Rome, and a synonym for "aristocratic" in modern English usage * Patrician (post-Roman Europe), the governing elites of cities in parts of medieval a ...
named Menenius Agrippa, as well as Caius Marcius himself. Menenius tries to calm the rioters, while Marcius is openly contemptuous, and says that the
plebeians In ancient Rome, the plebeians (also called plebs) were the general body of free Roman citizenship, Roman citizens who were not Patrician (ancient Rome), patricians, as determined by the capite censi, census, or in other words "commoners". Both ...
were not worthy of the grain because of their lack of military service. Two of the
tribunes Tribune () was the title of various elected officials in ancient Rome In historiography, ancient Rome is Roman people, Roman civilization from the founding of the Italian city of Rome in the 8th century BC to the collapse of the Western R ...
of Rome, Brutus and Sicinius, privately denounce Marcius. He leaves Rome after news arrives that a
Volsci The Volsci (, , ) were an Italic Osco-Umbrian The Osco-Umbrian, Sabellic or Sabellian languages are a group of Italic languages, the Indo-European languages that were spoken in Central and Southern Italy by the Osco-Umbrians before being replaced ...

Volsci
an army is in the field. The commander of the Volscian army, Tullus Aufidius, has fought Marcius on several occasions and considers him a blood enemy. The Roman army is commanded by Cominius, with Marcius as his deputy. While Cominius takes his soldiers to meet Aufidius' army, Marcius leads a rally against the Volscian city of Corioli. The siege of Corioli is initially unsuccessful, but Marcius is able to force open the gates of the city, and the Romans conquer it. Even though he is exhausted from the fighting, Marcius marches quickly to join Cominius and fight the other Volscian force. Marcius and Aufidius meet in single combat, which ends only when Aufidius' own soldiers drag him away from the battle. In recognition of his great courage, Cominius gives Caius Marcius the
agnomen An ''agnomen'' (; plural: ''agnomina''), in the Roman naming convention Over the course of some fourteen centuries, the Romans Roman or Romans usually refers to: *Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , fou ...
, or "official
nickname A nickname (also moniker) is a substitute for the proper name of a familiar person, place or thing. Commonly used to express affection, a form of endearment, and sometimes amusement, it can also be used to express defamation of character De ...
", of ''Coriolanus''. When they return to Rome, Coriolanus's mother Volumnia encourages her son to run for
consul Consul (abbrev. ''cos.''; Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the powe ...

consul
. Coriolanus is hesitant to do this, but he bows to his mother's wishes. He effortlessly wins the support of the
Roman Senate
Roman Senate
, and seems at first to have won over the plebeians as well. However, Brutus and Sicinius scheme to defeat Coriolanus and instigate another riot in opposition to his becoming consul. Faced with this opposition, Coriolanus flies into a rage and rails against the concept of
popular rule
popular rule
. He compares allowing plebeians to have power over the patricians to allowing "crows to peck the eagles". The two tribunes condemn Coriolanus as a traitor for his words and order him to be banished. Coriolanus retorts that it is he who banishes Rome from his presence. After being exiled from Rome, Coriolanus makes his way to the Volscian capital of
Antium Anzio (, also , ) is a city and ''comune The (; plural: ) is a Administrative division, local administrative division of Italy, roughly equivalent to a township or municipality. Importance and function The provides essential public se ...
, and asks Aufidius's help to wreak revenge upon Rome for banishing him. Moved by his plight and honoured to fight alongside the great general, Aufidius and his superiors embrace Coriolanus, and allow him to lead a new assault on Rome. Rome, in its panic, tries desperately to persuade Coriolanus to halt his crusade for vengeance, but both Cominius and Menenius fail. Finally, Volumnia is sent to meet her son, along with Coriolanus's wife Virgilia and their child, and the chaste gentlewoman Valeria. Volumnia succeeds in dissuading her son from destroying Rome, urging him instead to clear his name by reconciling the Volscians with the Romans and creating peace. Coriolanus concludes a peace treaty between the Volscians and the Romans. When he returns to the Volscian capital, conspirators, organised by Aufidius, kill him for his betrayal.


Sources

''Coriolanus'' is largely based on the "Life of Coriolanus" in
Thomas North Sir Thomas North (28 May 1535c. 1604) was an English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England ...

Thomas North
's translation of
Plutarch Plutarch (; grc-gre, Πλούταρχος, ''Ploútarchos''; ; AD 46 – after AD 119) was a Greek Middle Platonist Middle Platonism is the modern name given to a stage in the development of Platonic philosophy, lasting from about 90 BC&nbs ...

Plutarch
's '' The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans'' (1579). The wording of
Menenius The gens Menenia was a very ancient and illustrious Patrician (ancient Rome), patrician house at ancient Rome from the earliest days of the Roman Republic to the first half of the fourth century BC. The first of the family to obtain the Roman consul ...
's speech about the
body politic The body politic is a medieval In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and collection, the study, organization and presentation and the interpretation of past events and affairs of the peopl ...

body politic
is derived from
William Camden William Camden (2 May 1551 – 9 November 1623) was an English antiquarian 's cabinet of curiosities, from ''Museum Wormianum,'' 1655 An antiquarian or antiquary (from the Latin: ''antiquarius'', meaning pertaining to ancient times) is an fan ...

William Camden
's ''Remaines of a Greater Worke Concerning Britaine'' (1605), where
Pope Adrian IV Pope Adrian IV ( la, Adrianus IV; born Nicholas Breakspear (or Brekespear); 1 September 1159, also Hadrian IV), was head of the Catholic Church The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the , with 1.3 billi ...

Pope Adrian IV
compares a well-run government to a body in which "all parts performed their functions, only the stomach lay idle and consumed all"; the fable is also alluded to in
John of Salisbury John of Salisbury (late 1110s – 25 October 1180), who described himself as Johannes Parvus ("John the Little"), was an English author, philosopher, educationalist, diplomat and bishop of Chartres A bishop is an ordained Ordination is the pr ...
's '' Policraticus'' (Camden's source) and William Averell's ''A Marvailous Combat of Contrarieties'' (1588).University of Michigan, The Royal Shakespeare Company, Michigan Residency, 2003
Retrieved 15 March 2013.
Other sources have been suggested, but are less certain. Shakespeare might also have drawn on
Livy Titus Livius (; 59 BC – AD 17), known in English as Livy ( ), was a Ancient Rome, Roman historian. He wrote a monumental history of Rome and the Roman people, titled , covering the period from the earliest legends of Rome before the traditiona ...
's ''
Ab Urbe condita 300px, Antoninianus of Pacatianus, Roman usurper, usurper of Roman emperor Philip the Arab, Philip in 248. It reads ''ROMAE AETERANMIL ESIMOET PRIMO'', 'To eternal Rome, in its one thousand and first year.' ''Ab urbe condita'' ( ...
'', as translated by
Philemon Holland Philemon Holland (1552 – 9 February 1637) was an English schoolmaster, physician and translator. He is known for the first English translations of several works by Livy Titus Livius (; 59 BC – AD 17), known in English as Livy ( ), was a ...
, and possibly a digest of Livy by Lucius Annaeus Florus; both of these were commonly used texts in Elizabethan schools.
Machiavelli
Machiavelli
's ''
Discourses on Livy The ''Discourses on Livy'' ( it, Discorsi sopra la prima deca di Tito Livio, literally "Discourses on the First Ten of Titus Livy") is a work of political history and philosophy written in the early 16th century (c. 1517) by the Italian writer and ...
'' were available in manuscript translations, and could also have been used by Shakespeare. He might also have made use of Plutarch's original source, the '' Roman Antiquities of Dionysius of Halicarnassus'', as well as on his own grammar-school knowledge of Roman custom and law".


Date and text

Most scholars date ''Coriolanus'' to the period 1605–10, with 1608–09 being considered the most likely, although the available evidence does not permit great certainty. The earliest date for the play rests on the fact that Menenius's fable of the belly is derived from
William Camden William Camden (2 May 1551 – 9 November 1623) was an English antiquarian 's cabinet of curiosities, from ''Museum Wormianum,'' 1655 An antiquarian or antiquary (from the Latin: ''antiquarius'', meaning pertaining to ancient times) is an fan ...

William Camden
's ''Remaines'', published in 1605. The later date derives from the fact that several other texts from 1610 or thereabouts seem to allude to ''Coriolanus'', including
Ben Jonson Benjamin Jonson (c. 11 June 1572 – c. 16 August 1637) was an English playwright and poet. Jonson's artistry exerted a lasting influence upon English poetry and stage comedy. He popularised the comedy of humours The comedy of humours is a ge ...
's '' Epicoene'',
Robert Armin Robert Armin (c. 1568 – 1615) was an English actor, and member of the Lord Chamberlain's Men The Lord Chamberlain's Men was a company of actors, or a " playing company" (as it then would likely have been described), for which Shakespeare ...

Robert Armin
's ''Phantasma'' and John Fletcher's '' The Woman's Prize, or the Tamer Tamed''. Some scholars note evidence that may narrow down the dating to the period 1607–09. One line may be inspired by
George Chapman George Chapman (Hitchin, Hertfordshire Hertfordshire (; often abbreviated Herts) is one of the home counties in southern England. It is bordered by Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire to the north, Essex to the east, Greater London to the sout ...

George Chapman
's translation of the ''
Iliad The ''Iliad'' (; grc, Ἰλιάς, Iliás, ; sometimes referred to as the ''Song of Ilion'' or ''Song of Ilium'') is an ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Moder ...

Iliad
'' (late 1608). References to "the coal of fire upon the ice" (I.i) and to squabbles over ownership of channels of water (III.i) could be inspired by Thomas Dekker's description of the freezing of the
Thames The River Thames ( ), known alternatively in parts as the River Isis, is a river that flows through southern England Southern England, or the South of England, also known as the South, is an area of England consisting of its southernm ...

Thames
in 1607–08 and
Hugh Myddleton Sir Hugh Myddelton (or Middleton), 1st Baronet (1560 – 10 December 1631) was a Welsh clothmaker, entrepreneur, mine-owner, goldsmith A goldsmith is a Metalworking, metalworker who specializes in working with gold and other precious metals. ...
's project to bring water to London by channels in 1608–09 respectively. Another possible connection with 1608 is that the surviving text of the play is divided into acts; this suggests that it could have been written for the indoor
Blackfriars Theatre Blackfriars Theatre was the name given to two separate theatres located in the former Blackfriars Dominican Dominican may refer to: * Someone or something from or related to the Dominican Republic The Dominican Republic ( ; es, Repúb ...
, at which Shakespeare's company began to perform in 1608, although the act-breaks could instead have been introduced later. The play's themes of popular discontent with government have been connected by scholars with the Midland Revolt, a series of peasant riots in 1607 that would have affected Shakespeare as an owner of land in
Stratford-upon-Avon Stratford-upon-Avon (), commonly known as just Stratford, is a market town A market town is a European that obtained by custom or royal charter, in the , a market right, which allowed it to host a regular ; this distinguished it from ...

Stratford-upon-Avon
; and the debates over the charter for the
City of London The City of London is a city A city is a large .Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. London: Penguin.Kuper, A. and Kuper, J., eds (1996) ''The Social Science Encyclopedia''. 2nd edition. London: Routledge. It ...

City of London
, which Shakespeare would have been aware of, as it affected the legal status of the area surrounding the Blackfriars Theatre. The riots in the Midlands were caused by hunger because of the enclosure of common land. For these reasons, R.B. Parker suggests "late 1608 ... to early 1609" as the likeliest date of composition, while Lee Bliss suggests composition by late 1608, and the first public performances in "late December 1609 or February 1610". Parker acknowledges that the evidence is "scanty ... and mostly inferential". The play was first published in the
First Folio ''Mr. William Shakespeare's Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies'' is a collection of plays by William Shakespeare, commonly referred to by modern scholars as the First Folio, published in 1623, about seven years after Shakespeare's death. It is cons ...

First Folio
of 1623. Elements of the text, such as the uncommonly detailed stage directions, lead some Shakespeare scholars to believe the text was prepared from a theatrical
prompt book Prompt may refer to: Computing * Command prompt A command-line interface (CLI) processes command (computing), commands to a computer program in the form of lines of text. The program which handles the interface is called a command-line interpr ...
.


Analysis and criticism

A. C. Bradley described this play as "built on the grand scale," like ''King Lear'' and ''Macbeth,'' but it differs from those two masterpieces in an important way. The warrior Coriolanus is perhaps the most opaque of Shakespeare's tragic heroes, rarely pausing to soliloquise or reveal the motives behind his proud isolation from Roman society. In this way, he is less like the effervescent and reflective Shakespearean heroes/heroines such as
Macbeth ''Macbeth'' (, full title ''The Tragedie of Macbeth'') is a Shakespearean tragedy, tragedy by William Shakespeare. It is thought to have been first performed in 1606 in literature, 1606. It dramatises the damaging physical and psychological ...

Macbeth
,
Hamlet ''The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark'', often shortened to ''Hamlet'' (), is a tragedy Tragedy (from the grc-gre, τραγῳδία, ''tragōidia'', ''tragōidia'') is a genre of drama Drama is the specific Mode (litera ...

Hamlet
,
Lear Lear or Leir may refer to: Acronyms * Liga de Escritores y Artistas Revolucionarios, a Mexican association of revolutionary artists and writers * Low Energy Ion Ring The Low Energy Ion Ring (LEIR) is a particle accelerator at CERN The Eur ...

Lear
and
Cleopatra Cleopatra VII Philopator ( grc-gre, Κλεοπάτρα Φιλοπάτωρ}; 69 BC10 August 30 BC) was queen of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Ancient Egypt, Egypt from 51 to 30 BC, and its last active ruler.She was also a diplomat, Ancient ...

Cleopatra
, and more like figures from ancient classical literature such as
Achilles In Greek mythology Greek mythology is the body of myth Myth is a folklore genre Folklore is the expressive body of culture shared by a particular group of people; it encompasses the tradition A tradition is a belief A be ...

Achilles
,
Odysseus Odysseus ( ; grc-gre, Ὀδυσσεύς, Ὀδυσεύς, OdysseúsOdyseús, ), also known by the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken ...

Odysseus
, and
Aeneas In Greco-Roman mythology, Aeneas (, ; from Greek language, Greek: Αἰνείας, ''Aineíās'') was a Trojan hero, the son of the Trojan prince Anchises and the goddess Aphrodite (equivalent to the Roman Venus (mythology), Venus). His father ...
—or, to turn to literary creations from Shakespeare's time, the conqueror
Tamburlaine ''Tamburlaine the Great'' is a play in two parts by Christopher Marlowe. It is loosely based on the life of the Central Asian emperor, Timur (Tamerlane/Timur the Lame, d. 1405). Written in 1587 or 1588, the play is a milestone in English litera ...
, whose militaristic pride finds its parallel in Coriolanus. Readers and playgoers have often found him an unsympathetic character, as his caustic pride is strangely, almost delicately balanced at times by a reluctance to be praised by his compatriots and an unwillingness to exploit and slander for political gain. His dislike of being praised might be seen as an expression of his pride; all he cares about is his own self-image, whereas acceptance of praise might imply that his value is affected by others' opinion of him. The play is less frequently produced than the other tragedies of the later period, and is not so universally regarded as great. (Bradley, for instance, declined to number it among his famous four in the landmark critical work ''Shakespearean Tragedy.'') In his book ''Shakespeare's Language'',
Frank Kermode Sir John Frank Kermode, FBA (29 November 1919 – 17 August 2010) was a British literary critic best known for his 1967 work '' The Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction'' and for his extensive book-reviewing and editing. He was ...
described ''Coriolanus'' as "probably the most fiercely and ingeniously planned and expressed of all the tragedies".
T. S. Eliot Thomas Stearns Eliot (26 September 18884 January 1965) was a poet A poet is a person who creates poetry. Poets may describe themselves as such or be described as such by others. A poet may simply be a writer of poetry, or may perform the ...
famously proclaimed ''Coriolanus'' superior to ''Hamlet'' in '' The Sacred Wood'', in which he calls the former play, along with ''
Antony and Cleopatra ''Antony and Cleopatra'' (First Folio title: ''The Tragedie of Anthonie, and Cleopatra'') is a Shakespearean tragedy, tragedy by William Shakespeare. The play was first performed, by the King's Men (playing company), King's Men, at either the ...

Antony and Cleopatra
'', the Bard's greatest tragic achievement. Eliot wrote a two-part poem about Coriolanus, "Coriolan" (an alternative spelling of Coriolanus); he also alluded to ''Coriolanus'' in a passage from his own ''
The Waste Land ''The Waste Land'' is a poem by T. S. Eliot Thomas Stearns Eliot (26 September 18884 January 1965) was a poet A poet is a person who creates poetry. Poets may describe themselves as such or be described as such by others. A poet ma ...
'' when he wrote, "Revive for a moment a broken Coriolanus." ''Coriolanus'' has the distinction of being among the few Shakespeare plays banned in a democracy in modern times. It was briefly suppressed in France in the late 1930s because of its use by the fascist element, and
Slavoj Žižek Slavoj Žižek ( ; ; born 21 March 1949) is a Slovenian philosopher, a researcher at the Department of Philosophy of the University of Ljubljana The University of Ljubljana ( sl, Univerza v Ljubljani, , la, Universitas Labacensis), often refe ...
noted its prohibition in Post-War Germany due to its intense militarism.


Performance history

Like some of Shakespeare's other plays (''
All's Well That Ends Well ''All's Well That Ends Well'' is a play by William Shakespeare William Shakespeare ( 26 April 1564 – 23 April 1616) was an English playwright, poet and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the wo ...

All's Well That Ends Well
''; ''
Antony and Cleopatra ''Antony and Cleopatra'' (First Folio title: ''The Tragedie of Anthonie, and Cleopatra'') is a Shakespearean tragedy, tragedy by William Shakespeare. The play was first performed, by the King's Men (playing company), King's Men, at either the ...

Antony and Cleopatra
''; ''
Timon of Athens ''Timon of Athens'' (''The Life of Tymon of Athens'') is a play written by William Shakespeare William Shakespeare (bapt. 26 April 1564 – 23 April 1616) was an English playwright, poet and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writ ...

Timon of Athens
''), there is no recorded performance of ''Coriolanus'' prior to the
Restoration Restoration is the act of restoring something to its original state and may refer to: * Conservation and restoration of cultural heritage * Restoration style Film and television * ''The Restoration'' (1909 film), a film by D.W. Griffith starr ...
. After 1660, however, its themes made it a natural choice for times of political turmoil. The first known performance was
Nahum Tate Nahum Tate ( ; 1652 – 30 July 1715) was an Irish poet A poet is a person who creates poetry Poetry (derived from the Greek language, Greek ''poiesis'', "making") is a form of literature that uses aesthetics, aesthetic and often ...
's bloody 1682 adaptation at
Drury Lane Drury Lane is a street on the eastern boundary of the Covent Garden area of London, running between Aldwych and High Holborn. The northern part is in the borough of London Borough of Camden, Camden and the southern part in the City of Westmins ...
. Seemingly undeterred by the earlier suppression of his ''
Richard II Richard II (6 January 1367 – c. 14 February 1400), also known as Richard of Bordeaux, was King of England from 1377 until he was List of deposed politicians, deposed in 1399. Richard's father, Edward the Black Prince, Edward, Prince of ...
'', Tate offered a ''Coriolanus'' that was faithful to Shakespeare through four acts before becoming a bloodbath in the fifth act. A later adaptation,
John DennisJohn Dennis may refer to: *John Dennis (dramatist) (1658–1734), English dramatist *John Dennis (1771–1806), Maryland congressman *John Dennis (1807–1859), his son, Maryland congressman *John Stoughton Dennis (1820–1885), Canadian surveyor *J ...

John Dennis
's '' The Invader of His Country, or The Fatal Resentment'', was booed off the stage after three performances in 1719. The title and date indicate Dennis's intent, a vitriolic attack on the Jacobite 'Fifteen. (Similar intentions motivated James Thomson's 1745 version, though this bears only a very slight resemblance to Shakespeare's play. Its principal connection to Shakespeare is indirect;
Thomas SheridanThomas Sheridan may refer to: *Thomas Sheridan (divine) (1687–1738), Anglican divine *Thomas Sheridan (actor) (1719–1788), Irish actor and teacher of elocution *Thomas Sheridan (soldier) (1775–1817/18) *Thomas B. Sheridan (born 1931), American ...
's 1752 production at Smock Alley used some passages of Thomson's.
David Garrick David Garrick (19 February 1717 – 20 January 1779) was an English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early med ...
returned to Shakespeare's text in a 1754 Drury Lane production.
Laurence Olivier Laurence Kerr Olivier, Baron Olivier, (; 22 May 1907 – 11 July 1989) was an English actor and director who, along with his contemporaries Ralph Richardson and John Gielgud, was one of a trio of male actors who dominated the British stage ...
first played the part at
The Old Vic The Old Vic is a 1,000-seat, not-for-profit A nonprofit organization (NPO), also known as a non-business entity, not-for-profit organization, or nonprofit institution, is a legal entity organized and operated for a collective, public o ...

The Old Vic
in 1937 and again at the
Shakespeare Memorial Theatre File:Royal Shakespeare Theatre east.jpg, The theatre in 2018 viewed from the old Tramway Bridge, tramway bridge across the River Avon The Royal Shakespeare Theatre (RST) is a 1,040+ seat thrust stage theatre owned by the Royal Shakespeare Comp ...
in 1959. In that production, he performed Coriolanus's death scene by dropping backwards from a high platform and being suspended upside-down without the aid of wires. In 1971, the play returned to the Old Vic in a National Theatre production directed by
Manfred Wekwerth Manfred Wekwerth (né Weckwerth; 3 December 1929 – 16 July 2014) was a German theatre and film director and writer. He was the director of the Berliner Ensemble theatre from 1977 to 1991. He was also an informant for German Democratic Republic, ...
and Joachim Tenschert with stage design by
Karl von Appen Karl von Appen (12 May 1900, Düsseldorf - 22 August 1981, Berlin) was a German Scenographer, stage designer and member of the Association of Revolutionary Visual Artists. Theatre * 1954: ''The Caucasian Chalk Circle'' by Bertolt Brecht; directed ...
.
Anthony Hopkins Sir Philip Anthony Hopkins (born 31 December 1937) is a Welsh actor, director, producer, composer, and painter who holds both British and American citizenship. He is the recipient of multiple accolades, including an Academy Award Th ...

Anthony Hopkins
played Coriolanus, with
Constance Cummings Constance Cummings CBE The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is a British order of chivalry An order of chivalry, order of knighthood, chivalric order, or equestrian order is an order of knights typically founded during or ins ...
as Volumnia and
Anna Carteret Anna Carteret (born 11 December 1942) is an Indian-born United Kingdom, British stage and screen actress. Biography Carteret was born in Bangalore, British India, India, the daughter of Peter John Wilkinson and his wife Patricia Carteret (Strah ...
as Virgilia. Other performances of Coriolanus include
Alan Howard Alan MacKenzie Howard, CBE (5 August 1937 – 14 February 2015) was an English actor. He was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) is a major British theatre company, based in Stratford-upon-Avon ...
,
Paul Scofield David Paul Scofield (21 January 1922 – 19 March 2008) was an English actor. During a career that spanned seven decades, Scofield achieved the Triple Crown of Acting, winning an Academy Awards, Academy Award, Emmy Award, Emmy, and Tony Award, ...
,
Ian McKellen Sir Ian Murray McKellen (born 25 May 1939) is an English actor whose career spans six decades. He has performed in genres ranging from Shakespearean and modern theatre to popular fantasy and science fiction File:Imagination 195808.jpg, S ...

Ian McKellen
,
Ian Richardson Ian William Richardson, (7 April 19349 February 2007) was a Scottish people, Scottish actor of film, stage and television. He portrayed the Machiavellian Tory politician Francis Urquhart in the BBC's ''House of Cards (UK TV series), House of ...

Ian Richardson
,
Toby Stephens Toby Stephens (born 21 April 1969) is an English stage, television, radio and film actor who has appeared in films in both the UK and US as well as in India India (Hindi: ), officially the Republic of India (Hindi: ), is a country in South ...

Toby Stephens
,
Robert Ryan Robert Bushnell Ryan (November 11, 1909July 11, 1973) was an American stage, film, and television actor who most often portrayed hardened cops and ruthless villains. Ryan performed for over three decades and received one nomination for an Acad ...
,
Christopher Walken Christopher Walken (born Ronald Walken; March 31, 1943) is an American actor and comedian, who has appeared in more than 100 films and television programs, including '' Annie Hall'' (1977), '' The Deer Hunter'' (1978), '' The Dogs of War'' (1980) ...
,
Morgan Freeman Morgan Freeman (born June 1, 1937) is an American actor, director, and narrator. Noted for his distinctive deep voice, Freeman is known for his various roles in a wide variety of film genres. Throughout his career spanning over five decades, ...
,
Colm Feore Colm Joseph Feore (; born August 22, 1958) is a Canadian actor An actor is a person who portrays a character Character(s) may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''Character'' (novel), a 1936 Dutch novel by Ferdinan ...
,
Ralph Fiennes Ralph Nathaniel Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes ( ; born 22 December 1962) is an English actor, film producer, and director. A Shakespeare William Shakespeare (bapt. 26 April 1564 – 23 April 1616) was an English playwright, poet and actor, ...

Ralph Fiennes
and
Tom Hiddleston Thomas William Hiddleston (born 9 February 1981) is an English actor. He made his film debut in the drama '' Unrelated'' (2007) but gained international fame portraying Loki Loki (, often Anglicized as ) is a Æsir, god in Norse mythology. ...
. In 2012,
National Theatre Wales National Theatre Wales (NTW) is the English-language national theatre of Wales Wales ( cy, Cymru ) is a country that is Countries of the United Kingdom, part of the United Kingdom. It is bordered by England to the Wales–England border, e ...
produced a composite of Shakespeare's ''Coriolanus'' with
Bertolt Brecht Eugen Berthold Friedrich Brecht (10 February 1898 – 14 August 1956), known professionally as Bertolt Brecht, was a German theatre practitioner A theatre practitioner is someone who creates theatrical performances and/or produces a theoretica ...

Bertolt Brecht
's ''Coriolan'', entitled Coriolan/us, in a disused hangar at
MOD St Athan Ministry of Defence St Athan or MOD St Athan (Welsh Welsh may refer to: Related to Wales * Welsh, referring or related to Wales * Welsh language, a Brittonic Celtic language of the Indo-European language family, indigenous to the British Isles, ...
. Directed by Mike Brookes and Mike Pearson, the production used
silent disco A silent disco or silent rave is an event where people dance to music listened to on wireless headphones. Rather than using a speaker system, music is broadcast via a radio transmitter with the signal being picked up by wireless headphone recei ...
headsets to permit the text to be heard while the dramatic action moved throughout the large space. The production was well received by critics. In December 2013,
Donmar Warehouse The Donmar Warehouse is a 251-seat, not-for-profit A nonprofit organization (NPO), also known as a non-business entity, not-for-profit organization, or nonprofit institution, is a legal entity organized and operated for a collective, public ...
opened their new production. It was directed by
Josie Rourke Josie Rourke (born 3 September 1976) is an English theatre and film director. She is a Vice-President of the London Library and was the artistic director of the Donmar Warehouse theatre in London from 2012 to 2019. Early life and education Rourk ...
, starring
Tom Hiddleston Thomas William Hiddleston (born 9 February 1981) is an English actor. He made his film debut in the drama '' Unrelated'' (2007) but gained international fame portraying Loki Loki (, often Anglicized as ) is a Æsir, god in Norse mythology. ...
in the title role, along with
Mark Gatiss Mark Gatiss (; born 17 October 1966) is an English actor, comedian, screenwriter, director, producer and novelist. His work includes writing for and acting in the television series ''Doctor Who'', ''Sherlock (TV series), Sherlock'', and ''Dracu ...

Mark Gatiss
,
Deborah Findlay Deborah Findlay (born 23 December 1947 in Leatherhead Leatherhead is a town in the Mole Valley District of Surrey, England, about south of London. The settlement grew up beside a ford on the River Mole, from which its name is thought to de ...
,
Hadley Fraser Robert Hugh "Hadley" Fraser (born 21 April 1980) is an English stage actor An actor is a person who portrays a character in a performance (also actress; #The term actress, see below). The actor performs "in the flesh" in the traditional ...
, and Birgitte Hjort Sørensen. The production received very strong reviews. Michael Billington with ''
The Guardian ''The Guardian'' is a British daily newspaper. It was founded in 1821 as ''The Manchester Guardian'', and changed its name in 1959. Along with its sister papers ''The Observer ''The Observer'' is a British newspaper published on Sun ...

The Guardian
'' wrote "A fast, witty, intelligent production that, in Tom Hiddleston, boasts a fine Coriolanus." He also credited Mark Gatiss as excellent as Menenius, the "humorous patrician". In ''
Variety Variety may refer to: Science and technology Mathematics * Algebraic variety, the set of solutions of a system of polynomial equations * Variety (universal algebra), classes of algebraic structures defined by equations in universal algebra Hort ...
'', David Benedict wrote that
Deborah Findlay Deborah Findlay (born 23 December 1947 in Leatherhead Leatherhead is a town in the Mole Valley District of Surrey, England, about south of London. The settlement grew up beside a ford on the River Mole, from which its name is thought to de ...
in her commanding maternal pride, held beautifully in opposition by Birgitte Hjort Sørensen as Coriolanus's wife Virgilia. Helen Lewis, in her review of ''Coriolanus'', along with two other concurrently running sold-out Shakespeare productions with celebrity leads—
David Tennant David John Tennant ( McDonald; born 18 April 1971) is a Scottish actor. He is best known for his roles as the Tenth Doctor, tenth incarnation of The Doctor (Doctor Who), The Doctor in the BBC sci-fi series ''Doctor Who'' (2005–2010), Giaco ...

David Tennant
's ''
Richard II Richard II (6 January 1367 – c. 14 February 1400), also known as Richard of Bordeaux, was King of England from 1377 until he was List of deposed politicians, deposed in 1399. Richard's father, Edward the Black Prince, Edward, Prince of ...
'' and
Jude Law David Jude Heyworth Law (born 29 December 1972) is an English actor. He has received several accolades throughout his career, including a British Academy Film Award The British Academy Film Awards or BAFTA Film Awards are presented in an an ...
's ''
Henry VHenry V may refer to: People * Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor (1081–1125) * Henry V, Count Palatine of the Rhine (1173–1227) * Henry V, Count of Luxembourg (1216–1281) * Henry V, Duke of Legnica (c.  1248 – 1296) * Henry V of Iron (c. 1319 ...
''—concludes "if you can beg, borrow or plunder a ticket to one of these plays, let it be ''Coriolanus''." The play was broadcast in cinemas in the U.K. and internationally on 30 January 2014 as part of the
National Theatre Live National Theatre Live is an initiative operated by the Royal National Theatre The Royal National Theatre in London, commonly known as the National Theatre (NT), is one of the United Kingdom's three most prominent publicly funded performing ar ...
programme.


Adaptations

Bertolt Brecht Eugen Berthold Friedrich Brecht (10 February 1898 – 14 August 1956), known professionally as Bertolt Brecht, was a German theatre practitioner A theatre practitioner is someone who creates theatrical performances and/or produces a theoretica ...

Bertolt Brecht
adapted Shakespeare's play in 1952–55, as '' Coriolan'' for the
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Berliner Ensemble
. He intended to make it a tragedy of the workers, not the individual, and introduce the
alienation effect The distancing effect, more commonly known (earlier) by John Willett John Willett (24 June 1917 – 20 August 2002) was a British translator Translation is the communication of the Meaning (linguistic), meaning of a translation#sour ...
; his journal notes showing that he found many of his own effects already in the text, he considered staging the play with only minimal changes. The adaptation was unfinished at Brecht's death in 1956; it was completed by Manfred Wekwerth and Joachim Tenschert and staged in
Frankfurt Frankfurt, officially Frankfurt am Main (; Hessian dialects, Hessian: , "Franks, Frank ford (crossing), ford on the Main (river), Main"; french: Francfort-sur-le-Main), is the most populous city in the States of Germany, German state of Hess ...

Frankfurt
in 1962. In 1963 the BBC included Coriolanus in '' The Spread of the Eagle''. Slovak composer Ján Cikker adapted the play into an opera which premiered in 1974 in
Prague Prague ( ; cs, Praha ; german: Prag, ; la, Praga) is the capital and largest city A city is a large human settlement In geography, statistics and archaeology, a settlement, locality or populated place is a community in which people ...

Prague
. In 1983, the ''
BBC Television Shakespeare The ''BBC Television Shakespeare'' is a series of British television adaptations of the plays of William Shakespeare William Shakespeare (bapt. 26 April 1564 – 23 April 1616) was an English playwright, poet, and actor, widely regar ...
'' series produced a version of the play. It starred
Alan Howard Alan MacKenzie Howard, CBE (5 August 1937 – 14 February 2015) was an English actor. He was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) is a major British theatre company, based in Stratford-upon-Avon ...
and was directed by
Elijah Moshinsky Elijah Moshinsky (8 January 1946 – 14 January 2021) was an Australian opera director, theatre director and television director who worked for the Royal Opera House The Royal Opera House (ROH) is an opera house An opera house is a thea ...
. In 2003 the
Royal Shakespeare Company The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) is a major British theatre Theatre of United Kingdom plays an important part in British culture, and the Countries of the United Kingdom, countries that constitute the UK have had a vibrant tradition of thea ...
performed a new staging of ''Coriolanus'' (along with two other plays) starring
Greg Hicks Greg Hicks (born 27 May 1953) is an English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has even ...
at the
University of Michigan , mottoeng = "Arts, Knowledge, Truth" , former_names = Catholepistemiad, or University of Michigania (1817–1821) , budget = $8.99 billion (2018) , endowment = $17 billion (2021)As of October 25, 2021. ...

University of Michigan
. The director, David Farr, saw the play as depicting the modernization of an ancient ritualized culture, and drew on
samurai were the hereditary military nobility and officer caste of History of Japan#Medieval Japan (1185–1573/1600), medieval and Edo period, early-modern Japan from the late 12th century to their abolition in 1876. They were the well-paid retainer ...

samurai
influences to illustrate that view. He described it as "in essence, a modern production. The play is basically about the birth of democracy." In 2011,
Ralph Fiennes Ralph Nathaniel Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes ( ; born 22 December 1962) is an English actor, film producer, and director. A Shakespeare William Shakespeare (bapt. 26 April 1564 – 23 April 1616) was an English playwright, poet and actor, ...

Ralph Fiennes
directed and starred as Coriolanus with
Gerard Butler Gerard James Butler (born 13 November 1969) is a Scottish actor and film producer. After studying law, Butler turned to acting in the mid-1990s with small roles in productions such as ''Mrs Brown ''Mrs Brown'' (also theatrically release ...
as Aufidius and
Vanessa Redgrave Dame Vanessa Redgrave (born 30 January 1937) is an English actress and activist. Regarded as one of the greatest actresses of her generation, Redgrave has received numerous accolades, including an Academy Award The Academy Awards, popu ...
as Volumnia in a modern-day film adaptation ''
Coriolanus ''Coriolanus'' ( or ) is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1605 and 1608. The play is based on the life of the legendary Roman Republic, Roman leader Gaius Marcius Coriolanus, Caius Marcius Coriolanus. Sh ...
''. It was released on DVD and Blu-ray in May, 2012. It has a 93% rating on the film review site Rottentomatoes.com, giving it a Certified Fresh award.
Slavoj Žižek Slavoj Žižek ( ; ; born 21 March 1949) is a Slovenian philosopher, a researcher at the Department of Philosophy of the University of Ljubljana The University of Ljubljana ( sl, Univerza v Ljubljani, , la, Universitas Labacensis), often refe ...
argued that unlike preceding adaptations, Fiennes' film portrayed Coriolanus without trying to rationalize his behaviour, as a raw figure for the "radical
left Left may refer to: Music * ''Left'' (Hope of the States album), 2006 * ''Left'' (Monkey House album), 2016 Direction * Left (direction) Body relative directions (also known as egocentric coordinates) are orientation (geometry), geometri ...
", a figure who represents contempt for a decadent liberal democracy and the willingness to use violence to counter its latent imperialism in alliance with the oppressed, someone he compares to Che Guevara (who justified himself as a revolutionary killing machine).


Parody

While the title character's name's pronunciation in
classical Latin Classical Latin is the form of Latin language Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. ...
has the a pronounced " ː in the
IPA IPA commonly refers to: * India pale ale, a style of beer * International Phonetic Alphabet The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is an alphabetic system of phonetic notation based primarily on the Latin script Latin script, also ...
, in English the a is usually pronounced " ɪ"
Ken Ludwig Ken Ludwig is an American playwright A playwright or dramatist is a person who writes play Play most commonly refers to: * Play (activity), an activity done for enjoyment * Play (theatre), a work of drama Play may refer also to: Computers an ...
's ''
Moon Over Buffalo ''Moon Over Buffalo'' is a 1995 comic a Media (communication), medium used to express ideas with images, often combined with text or other visual information. It typically the form of a sequence of Panel (comics), panels of images. Textual ...
'' contains a joke dependent upon this pronunciation, and the parody '' The Complete Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged)'' refers to it as "the
anus The anus (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in ...

anus
play". Shakespeare pronunciation guides list both pronunciations as acceptable.
Cole Porter Cole Albert Porter (June 9, 1891 – October 15, 1964) was an American composer and songwriter. Many of his songs became Standard (music), standards noted for their witty, urbane lyrics, and many of his scores found success on Broadway thea ...
's song "Brush Up Your Shakespeare" from the musical ''
Kiss Me, Kate ''Kiss Me, Kate'' is a musical written by Bella and Samuel Spewack with music and lyrics by Cole Porter Cole Albert Porter (June 9, 1891 – October 15, 1964) was an American composer and songwriter. Many of his songs became standards n ...
'' includes the lines: "If she says your behavior is heinous,/Kick her right in the Coriolanus." Based on ''Coriolanus'', and written in blank verse, "Complots of Mischief" is a satirical critique of those who dismiss conspiracy theories. Written by philosopher Charles Pigden, it was published in ''Conspiracy Theories: The Philosophical Debate'' (Ashgate 2006).


References


Further reading

* Krajewski, Bruce. "Coriolanus: 'Unfit for Anyone's Conversation,'" in ''Traveling with Hermes: Hermeneutics and Rhetoric'' (1992), . *


External links

* Text of the play by Shakespeare: *
Full text of Shakespeare's play
*

– Transcription of First Folio. *
''Coriolanus''
at
Project Gutenberg Project Gutenberg (PG) is a volunteer Volunteering is a voluntary act of an individual or group freely giving time and labour for community service. Many volunteers are specifically trained in the areas they work, such as medicine, educati ...
.
''Coriolanus''
at the British Library * *

– Scene-indexed and searchable version of the play. * Plutarch's ''Life of Coriolanus'' : *

– 17th century English translation by
John Dryden '' John Dryden (; – ) was an English poet, literary critic Literary criticism (or literary studies) is the study, evaluation, and interpretation of literature. Modern literary criticism is often influenced by literary theory, which i ...

John Dryden
*
Plutarch's ''Life of Coriolanus''
– 19th century English translation by Aubrey Stewart and George Long * {{Authority control 1608 plays English Renaissance plays Plays set in ancient Rome Shakespearean tragedies British plays adapted into films Adaptations of works by Plutarch Plays set in the 5th century BC