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Coriolanus | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Course Hero. "Coriolanus Study Guide." March 16, 2018. Accessed June 5, 2023.


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Coriolanus | Plot Summary

See Plot Diagram


Act 1

The story takes place in the latter part of the 5th century, perhaps close to 490 B.C. An influential military leader named Caius Martius, who dislikes the Roman commoners, prepares for battle against the Volscians, who are enemies of Rome. Martius is sent to Corioles to defeat the Volscians. They are led by General Tullus Aufidius, who is certain he can lead his people to victory and avenge them for past defeats. During the battle at Corioles, Martius exhibits his bravery and leadership even though he is wounded, and he rouses his exhausted troops. They push back the Volscian advance, which causes Aufidius to retreat. Generals Cominius and Lartius, who witness Martius's power and leadership, move to give him the title of Coriolanus in honor of the place of his victory.

Act 2

In Rome, Caius Martius, now called Coriolanus, agrees to run for consul at his mother's suggestion, but Brutus and Sicinius stir up the people of Rome against him. Coriolanus, furious, denounces the commoners and the idea that they should have any say in government.

Act 3 and Act 4

The tribunes Brutus and Sicinius are successful in persuading the commoners to accuse Coriolanus of treason. He is exiled and insults the commoners by referring to them as curs or dogs. He begins to appreciate Aufidius more than anyone else since he views him as a strong equal. He also sympathizes with Aufidius's contempt for Rome. Therefore, Coriolanus sides with the Volscians and persuades them to attack Rome with himself and Aufidius as leaders.

Act 5

Volumnia, Coriolanus's mother, and Virgilia, his wife, persuade him to spare Rome and return home. He does. However, he must admit his guilt at having betrayed Rome. He is therefore put to death as a traitor.

Coriolanus Plot Diagram

ClimaxFalling ActionRising ActionIntroductionResolution2134675


1 Plebeians revolt against patricians and Martius.

Rising Action

2 Martius battles the Volscians and defeats them.

3 Martius becomes Coriolanus after the defeat of Corioles.

4 Coriolanus sides with the Volscian enemies to attack Rome.


5 Rome fears defeat by the Volscians under Coriolanus.

Falling Action

6 Coriolanus is persuaded to spare Rome.


7 Coriolanus returns to Rome and is put to death as a traitor.

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