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The Tragic Tale of Coriolanus: A Summary by William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare’s tragedy, “Coriolanus,” tells the story of a Roman general who is banished from the city he once defended after his pride and arrogance lead to his downfall. In this summary, we will explore the key events and themes of the play, as well as the complex character of Coriolanus and the tragic consequences of his actions.

Background

William Shakespeare’s tragedy, “The Tragic Tale of Coriolanus,” is based on the life of the Roman general Caius Marcius Coriolanus. The play is set in ancient Rome during a time of political unrest and famine. Coriolanus, a skilled warrior, is revered by the people for his military victories but despised for his arrogance and disdain for the common people. The play explores themes of power, pride, and the consequences of one’s actions. Shakespeare’s portrayal of Coriolanus as a tragic hero has made the play a classic in the literary canon.

Plot Summary

In William Shakespeare’s tragedy, “Coriolanus,” the story follows the life of a Roman general named Caius Martius Coriolanus. The play is set in ancient Rome during a time of political unrest and social upheaval. Coriolanus is a proud and arrogant man who despises the common people and believes that they are not worthy of his respect. He is a skilled warrior and has won many battles for Rome, but his disdain for the lower classes makes him unpopular with the citizens. When he is asked to run for political office, he is unable to win the support of the people and is eventually banished from Rome. Coriolanus then joins forces with his former enemies and leads an attack on Rome, but is ultimately betrayed and killed. The play explores themes of pride, honor, and the consequences of political ambition.

Character Analysis

Coriolanus, the tragic hero of William Shakespeare’s play, is a complex character with conflicting traits. He is a skilled warrior and a proud Roman citizen, but he is also arrogant, stubborn, and contemptuous of the common people. Coriolanus’s tragic flaw is his inability to compromise and adapt to changing circumstances, which leads to his downfall. Despite his flaws, Coriolanus is a sympathetic character, as he is torn between his loyalty to his mother and his duty to his country. His tragic end is a result of his own actions and the political machinations of his enemies, but it also reflects the flaws and contradictions of the society he lives in. Overall, Coriolanus is a tragic figure who embodies the tensions and contradictions of human nature and the society in which we live.

Coriolanus

Coriolanus is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare that tells the story of a Roman general named Caius Marcius Coriolanus. The play is set in ancient Rome and explores themes of pride, honor, and betrayal. Coriolanus is a proud and arrogant man who is revered for his military prowess but despised for his disdain towards the common people. Despite his successes on the battlefield, Coriolanus struggles to gain the support of the people and ultimately finds himself exiled from Rome. The play is a powerful exploration of the consequences of pride and the dangers of alienating oneself from society.

Volumnia

Volumnia is the mother of Coriolanus and plays a significant role in the play. She is a strong-willed and ambitious woman who is determined to see her son succeed in his military career. Volumnia is also fiercely patriotic and believes that Rome should always come first, even if it means sacrificing her own son. She is a complex character who is both loving and manipulative, and her influence over Coriolanus ultimately leads to his downfall.

Menenius

Menenius, a patrician and friend of Coriolanus, plays a significant role in the tragic tale. He is known for his persuasive speeches and attempts to mediate between the plebeians and the patricians. Menenius is also the one who convinces Coriolanus to return to Rome and seek forgiveness from the people he had previously insulted. However, his efforts ultimately fail as Coriolanus is unable to control his pride and is banished from Rome. Menenius serves as a reminder of the complex political and social dynamics at play in the story, and the difficulty of finding a resolution that satisfies both the plebeians and the patricians.

Cominius

Cominius, a Roman general and close friend of Coriolanus, plays a significant role in the tragic tale. He is portrayed as a loyal and honorable man who values his duty to Rome above all else. Cominius is instrumental in convincing Coriolanus to seek the consulship, and he is also the one who leads the Roman army against the Volscians in the final battle. Despite his loyalty to Rome, Cominius is not without compassion. He pleads with Coriolanus to spare the city when he has the chance to destroy it, but his pleas fall on deaf ears. In the end, Cominius is left to mourn the loss of his friend and the tragic outcome of the conflict.

Tribunes

The tribunes play a significant role in the tragic tale of Coriolanus. They are the representatives of the common people and are responsible for protecting their interests. In the play, the tribunes are portrayed as cunning and manipulative, using their power to turn the people against Coriolanus. They are the ones who incite the riot that ultimately leads to Coriolanus’ banishment from Rome. The tribunes’ actions highlight the power struggle between the aristocracy and the common people, a theme that is prevalent throughout the play.

Aufidius

Aufidius, the leader of the Volscian army, plays a crucial role in the tragic tale of Coriolanus. He is initially Coriolanus’ enemy, but the two eventually form a bond based on their mutual respect for each other’s military prowess. Aufidius becomes Coriolanus’ ally and helps him lead the Volscian army against Rome. However, their alliance is short-lived as Coriolanus’ arrogance and disdain for the common people ultimately leads to his downfall. Aufidius betrays Coriolanus and has him killed, bringing an end to their brief but intense partnership.

Themes

One of the major themes in William Shakespeare’s tragedy, “Coriolanus,” is the tension between the individual and the state. The play explores the idea of loyalty and duty to one’s country versus personal ambition and pride. Coriolanus, the protagonist, is a skilled warrior who is revered by the people of Rome for his military victories. However, his arrogance and disdain for the common people ultimately lead to his downfall. The play also delves into the themes of class conflict and the power of manipulation and persuasion. Overall, “Coriolanus” is a complex exploration of human nature and the consequences of our actions.

Pride

In Shakespeare’s tragedy, “Coriolanus,” the theme of pride is a central element that ultimately leads to the downfall of the titular character. Coriolanus, a skilled warrior and respected member of Roman society, is known for his arrogance and disdain for the common people. His prideful nature leads him to refuse to show humility and seek the support of the plebeians, which ultimately results in his banishment from Rome. Coriolanus’ pride also blinds him to the manipulations of his enemies, who use his arrogance against him and ultimately lead to his tragic demise. The play serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of excessive pride and the importance of humility and empathy in leadership.

Politics

In William Shakespeare’s play “The Tragic Tale of Coriolanus,” politics plays a central role in the downfall of the titular character. Coriolanus, a Roman general, is a proud and stubborn man who refuses to pander to the common people in order to gain their support for his political ambitions. This ultimately leads to his banishment from Rome and his eventual death at the hands of his former allies. The play serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of political pride and the importance of compromise in a democratic society.

Warfare

The play “Coriolanus” by William Shakespeare is a tragic tale of warfare and political power. The story follows the life of the Roman general Caius Martius Coriolanus, who is known for his bravery and military prowess. However, his arrogance and disdain for the common people lead to his downfall. Coriolanus is banished from Rome and seeks revenge by joining forces with the enemy, the Volscians. The play explores themes of loyalty, betrayal, and the consequences of pride. Shakespeare’s vivid descriptions of battle scenes and political maneuvering make “Coriolanus” a gripping tale of warfare and tragedy.

Betrayal

In the play “Coriolanus” by William Shakespeare, betrayal is a recurring theme that ultimately leads to the tragic downfall of the protagonist. Coriolanus, a Roman general, is betrayed by his own people when they turn against him and banish him from the city. This betrayal is particularly painful for Coriolanus, as he has always been a loyal and dedicated soldier who has fought for Rome with all his heart.

The betrayal begins when Coriolanus is nominated for the position of consul, the highest office in Rome. However, he is not well-liked by the common people, who see him as arrogant and out of touch with their needs. When Coriolanus refuses to pander to the people and show them the respect they feel they deserve, they turn against him and accuse him of being a traitor.

Coriolanus is devastated by this betrayal, and he becomes increasingly bitter and resentful towards the people of Rome. He joins forces with his former enemy, the Volscians, and leads an attack on Rome. However, even this act of revenge is ultimately a betrayal, as Coriolanus is betraying his own country and his own sense of honor and duty.

In the end, Coriolanus is killed by the very people he once fought to protect. His tragic fate serves as a warning about the dangers of pride, arrogance, and the corrosive effects of betrayal. Shakespeare’s play is a powerful reminder that even the strongest and most loyal of men can be brought down by the treachery of others.

Revenge

In the play, revenge is a prominent theme that drives the actions of many characters. Coriolanus seeks revenge against the citizens of Rome who have banished him, while Aufidius seeks revenge against Coriolanus for betraying him. The desire for revenge ultimately leads to the tragic downfall of both characters. Coriolanus’ refusal to show mercy and his thirst for revenge ultimately leads to his death, while Aufidius’ obsession with revenge blinds him to the consequences of his actions. Shakespeare’s portrayal of revenge serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of letting one’s emotions control their actions.

Tragedy

The tragedy of Coriolanus is a tale of pride, honor, and betrayal. The play follows the life of the Roman general, Caius Marcius Coriolanus, as he rises to power and ultimately falls from grace. Coriolanus is a proud and arrogant man, who believes that his military prowess and noble birth make him superior to the common people. However, his disdain for the plebeians leads to his downfall, as he is banished from Rome and ultimately meets a tragic end. Shakespeare’s play explores themes of loyalty, ambition, and the dangers of unchecked pride. The tragic tale of Coriolanus serves as a cautionary tale for those who seek power and glory at any cost.

Symbolism

Symbolism plays a significant role in William Shakespeare’s tragedy, “Coriolanus.” One of the most prominent symbols in the play is the body. The body is used to represent the physical and emotional state of the characters. For example, when Coriolanus is banished from Rome, he declares that he has been “cut off from the body of the commonwealth.” This statement not only reflects his physical banishment but also his emotional separation from the people he once fought for. Additionally, the body is used to symbolize power and control. When Coriolanus is asked to show his wounds to the people of Rome, he refuses, stating that he will not “unrobe his dignity.” This refusal to show his wounds is a symbol of his unwillingness to relinquish his power and control. Overall, the use of symbolism in “Coriolanus” adds depth and complexity to the characters and their motivations.

Language and Style

Shakespeare’s language and style in “The Tragic Tale of Coriolanus” are characteristic of his other works. The play is written in blank verse, which is unrhymed iambic pentameter. This style of writing gives the play a poetic quality and allows for the characters to speak in a more elevated and formal manner. Additionally, Shakespeare uses a variety of literary devices such as metaphors, similes, and allusions to enhance the language and add depth to the characters and their motivations. The language and style of “The Tragic Tale of Coriolanus” are integral to the play’s success and contribute to its enduring popularity.