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Coriolanus

As Coriolanus begins, two Roman patricians, Menenius and Martius, calm a revolt by the city's famished plebians. Martius, who despises the plebians, announces that their petition to be represented by tribunes has been granted. When Volscian invaders attack Roman territories, Martius helps lead the Roman forces, and almost single-handedly conquers the Volscian city of Corioles, winning the name "Coriolanus." The Volscian leader, Aufidius, swears revenge.

Victorious in battle, Coriolanus expects to be made a consul, but by custom he must ask for votes from the plebians. He does this so contemptuously that he is rejected as a consul. The tribunes later charge Coriolanus with treason and banish him from Rome. He seeks his former enemy, Aufidius.

Coriolanus and Aufidius join forces to conquer Rome. On the brink of success, Coriolanus is persuaded by his mother, Volumnia, to spare the city, though he knows it may cost him his life. Aufidius and his fellow conspirators plot Coriolanus’s death. Coriolanus returns to Corioles, where he is assassinated. Rome honors Volumnia for saving the city.

Early printed texts

Coriolanus was first published in the 1623 First Folio and that text serves as the source for all subsequent editions of the play.

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The opening of the First Folio edition of Coriolanus
Item Title: 
Works. 1623] Mr. William Shakespeares comedies, histories, & tragedies : published according to the true originall copies.
Item Call Number: 
STC 22273 Fo.1 no.68
Item Creator: 
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.
Item Date: 
1623

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The opening of Coriolanus in the Second Folio
Item Title: 
Mr. VVilliam Shakespeares comedies, histories, and tragedies. : Published according to the true originall copies.
Item Call Number: 
STC 22274 Fo.2 no.07
Item Creator: 
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.
Item Date: 
1632

Picturing Coriolanus

As part of an NEH-funded project, the Folger digitized thousands of 18th-, 19th-, and early 20th-century images representing Shakespeare’s plays. Some of these images show actors in character, while others show the plays as if they were real-life events—telling the difference isn't always easy. A selection of images related to Coriolanus is shown below, with links to our digital image collection. 

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Painting by Richard Westall of Volumnia pleading with Coriolanus (Act 5, scene 3; c. 1800)

Volumnia pleading with Coriolanus (Act 5, scene 3; c. 1800)

Item Title: 
Volumnia pleading with Coriolanus
Item Call Number: 
FPa33
Item Creator: 
Westall, Richard, 1765-1836, artist.
Item Date: 
ca. 1800

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Drawing by George Perfect Harding of Charles Kemble as Coriolanus (late 18th to mid-19th century)

Charles Kemble as Coriolanus (late 18th to mid-19th century)

Item Title: 
Kemble [as] Coriolanus [in Shakespeare's Coriolanus] [graphic].
Item Call Number: 
ART Box H263 no.20 (size S)
Item Creator: 
Harding, G. P. (George Perfect), 1780-1853, artist.
Item Date: 
[late 18th to mid-19th century]

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Ellen Terry as Volumnia (1901)
Ellen Terry as Volumnia (1901)
Item Title: 
Miss Ellen Terry as "Volumnia" [in Shakespeare's Coriolanus] [graphic] / Window & Grove.
Item Call Number: 
ART File T329 no.40 PHOTO (size XS)
Item Creator: 
Window & Grove, photographer.
Item Date: 
[London : s.n., 1901?]

More images of Coriolanus can be seen in our digital image collection. (Because of how they were cataloged, some images from other plays might appear in the image searches linked here, so always check the sidebar to see if the image is described as part of a larger group.)