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This play concerns a legendary Roman hero from the 5th century B.C. named Caius Marcius. Marcius is very proud of his deeds and considers himself better than all other men, though he prefers to be fairly anonymous about it. He lead the Roman army to attack the city of Corioli, held by the Volsces, who are led by Lucius Aufidius. Marcius considers Aufidius to be his only worthy opponent. Single-handedly, Marcius defeats the Volscan defenders of the city of Corioli, and nearly beats Aufidius in hand-to-hand combat, though Aufidius flees. For his deeds, Marcius is named Caius Marcius Coriolanus. When Coriolanus returns to Rome, the noble class (the Patricians) wish to make him a tribune (representative) of the common people (the Plebeians). Though Coriolanus' friend Menenius and Coriolanus' fellow army generals Cominius and Titus Larcius support Coriolanus, the evil tribunes Sicinius Velutus and Junius Brutus fear Coriolanus has become too proud and too popular, and may become too powerful. Sicinius and Brutus convince the common people to condemn Coriolanus to death. Coriolanus, outraged, refuses to submit to death (Coriolanus claims he has killed over 20,000 men in his lifetime, and a few Roman citizens would be little match for himself), and instead flees Rome, leaving his wife Virgilia and mother Volumnia in Rome without him.
Out of rage, Coriolanus heads to the city of Antium to find Aufidius to help Aufidius and the Volsces defeat the Roman Empire and seize Rome itself. Led by Coriolanus, the Volsces seize and plunder all of the outlying Roman towns and approach Rome itself. Menenius tries to dissuade Coriolanus from attacking his own people and family in Rome. Though this does not work, Volumnia succeeds in convincing Coriolanus to make peace rather than attack. Volumnia uses Virgilia and Coriolanus' own son to play on Coriolanus' emotions. After making peace, Coriolanus does, however, return to Corioli with Aufidius. Aufidius, furious because Coriolanus did not attack Rome and because Coriolanus has become more powerful than Aufidius himself with Aufidius' own armies and men, murders Coriolanus in a fit of rage in front of the Lords of the city of Corioli. Aufidius, though pleased that Coriolanus is dead, orders that he be given a noble memorial.
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