Coriolanus | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Coriolanus | Act 1, Scene 2 | Summary



The action shifts to the Volscian city of Corioles. The Volsci were an Italic (pre-Roman Italian) tribe who, during the time of the Roman Republic, lived in southern Latium. Tullus Aufidius and the senators learn that there has been a Roman spy in their counsel. Aufidius reads aloud a letter that explains the Romans are aware of the Volscian's present military activity to attack Rome. Aufidius says it is pointless to try to take over the towns they had planned to attack on the way to Rome. They will need to change plans. He learns from the letter that one of the Roman leaders is Caius Martius. Aufidius knows Martius is despised by the Romans, and he has sworn to kill Martius for past defeats.


The preparation for a battle between Romans and Volscians is typical of the constant state of warfare in which Romans existed. The aspect of the play manifests itself in two ways. It is seen in the thirst for conflict. It is also observed in the fierce rivalry made clear between Caius Martius and Aufidius, who have vowed to kill one another the next time they meet.

The action is beginning to rise in this scene. It is noted that Martius is hated not only by his enemy Aufidius but also by the Roman people. The knowledge of Martius's poor social standing is also realized abroad. This foreshadows the isolation Martius will experience from both Roman and Volscian societies. It also indicates the conflict between the two cities is personal as well as political.

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