A-Z Shakespeare: Coriolanus

“What custom wills, in all things should we do’t,
The dust on antique time would lie unswept,
And mountainous error be too highly heapt
For truth to o’er-peer.”

William Shakespeare

Awesomeness: 6/10

Because…it’s very sparse, very lean, very pared-back (for Shakespeare), but it does have some beautiful, energetic, elegiac moments.

Colour: Grey

Date: 1605-1610

Events: There’s a grain shortage in Rome, and the people are angry, blaming a leading aristocrat, Caius Marcius, for the famine. News comes to the town that an army of Volscians is attacking; Caius Marcius leads an army against them, wins valiantly, and is given the name “Coriolanus” after the city he defeated, Coriolis. Despite his overweening pride, he runs for consul in the aftermath of his success, and is initially greeted by the people. Then, however, the tribunes of Rome stir up popular unrest against him; he rails at the people, calling them all sorts of lovely names, and is banished from the city. Angrily, he goes to the Volscians and offers them his services, leading their army back to Rome in revenge; however, he’s finally convinced by his wife and mother to leave off the attack. The leader of the Volscians is understandably annoyed, and murders Coriolanus. The End.

First line: “Before we proceed any further, hear me speak.”

Genre: Tragedy

High point: Coriolanus’ terrific, passionate speech offering his services (or his neck) to the Volscian leader Aufidius.

Interesting fact: Coriolanus was briefly suppressed in France in the 1930s because of its Fascist associations.

Joke: Um. I can’t find any. It’s really very sparse.

Killed: For a tragedy, it’s relatively bloodless: only Coriolanus among the named characters dies.

Laughed at: Ha. See “Joke”.

Musical: Nope.

Number of scenes: 29 spread over 5 acts.

Obscurity: 3/10

Place: Rome

Quote: “Despising/For you, the city, thus I turn my back:/There is a world elsewhere.”

Role I’d play: Volumnia, Coriolanus’ mother, who’s gutsy, stern and proud.

Stolen from Plutarch’s Lives.

Time: Ancient Rome


Voiced in my head by: Juliet Stevenson as Volumnia.

Would I see it in a theatre? Probably not. It feels like it would work better as a play to be read rather than a stage-play; it’s not particularly theatrical.

X: The Tenth Line: “One word, good citizens.”

“Yes? Hello? What?” (The Snappy Quip): “He wants nothing of a god but eternity and a heaven to throne in.”

Z: The Last Line: “Yet he shall have a noble memory. Assist.”

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