One of Shakespeare's mature tragedies, Coriolanus follows the rise and fall of one of the early Rome's legendary heroes. It's both a Roman history play and a political work that embodies a debate about the relative merits of patrician autocracy versus plebian democracy.
Coriolanus is a Great Man who is brought low by his flaw of excessive pride. He approximates the tragic heroes of an ancient Greek drama more closely than that of any of Shakespeare's other characters.
Dissent is brewing among the citizens of Rome and the hungry people blame the nobleman Caius Marcius, but he enrages them even further with his arrogant manner and lack of concern for their plight. Word arrives that the neighboring Volscians are waging war upon Rome and the Senate sends Marcius, a proven warrior, to put down the insurrection led by his long-time enemy, the general Tullus Aufidius.
When the Romans reach the Volscian capital Corioli, the soldiers run away in fear. Marcius engages the opposition single-handedly and finally wins the battle and takes the city. In honor of his accomplishment he is given the new name of Coriolanus. Aufidius, vows to avenge the defeat.
Coriolanus returns to Rome in triumph and is put forward as a candidate for the position of consul. But after Sicinius and Brutus, two tribunes, goad him into losing his temper and insulting the people, instead of being proclaimed consul, he is proclaimed a traitor and banished from Rome.
Coriolanus joins the army of his former enemy, Aufidius, who grants him the leadership of half the Volscian army. Though Aufidius is constantly irritated by Coriolanus's arrogance, the two generals invade Roman territory, advancing to the very gates of Rome itself. His friends and supporters try to persuade Coriolanus to spare Rome. When Coriolanus returns to the Volscians and explains that Rome will not be conquered he is dragged before the Volscian senators, accused of treason by Aufidius, and unceremoniously stabbed to death. In the final speech of the play, Aufidius speaks of the noble memory the people will hold of Coriolanus.
CHARACTER DESCRIPTION: Tullus Aufidius
A general and the Volsces' preeminent military hero. He is Coriolanus's long-standing rival in warfare and like Coriolanus, his identity is closely tied to his fame as a warrior. Though their hatred of each other is intense, so is their mutual admiration. To a degree Coriolanus considers Aufidius as an ideal, and Aufidius's actual nobility and bravery therefore cannot live up to this unrealistic projection. But it is also true that Aufidius's manipulation of Coriolanus proves the source of his downfall.
Big thanks to Diane for graciously providing the production's programme.
Shakespeare has written a play with an essentially unsympathetic hero (...) who is totally dedicated to war and the concept of class superiority. Yet he is a great conquering hero, defender of his city and a man much misunderstood.
Director Gale Edwards