Coriolanus Study Guide


Coriolanus by William Shakespeare

Coriolanus is the story of Roman general Caius Martius Coriolanus, an arrogant military hero who despises the common plebeians of Rome. Opposed by his mortal blood enemy the Volscian general Aufidius, Coriolanus struggles with his allegiance to Rome and eventually betrays his city to fight alongside the Volscians. Convinced by his wife and family to spare Rome, Coriolanus is murdered by Aufidius for treachery. The novel deals with themes of populism and violence.

Coriolanus is an historical tragedy by William Shakespeare, probably written around 1607-8. The plot is based on the Roman legend of Gaius Marcius Coriolanus as told by Plutarch and Livy.

Act I

  • Had I a dozen sons,— each in my love alike, and none less dear than thine and my good Marcius, — I had rather had eleven die nobly for their country, than one voluptuously surfeit out of action.
    • Volumnia, scene iii

  • If any think brave death outweighs bad life, and that his country's dearer than himself; let him alone, or so many so minded, wave thus, to express his disposition,
    • Marcius, scene vi

  • Make you a sword of me?
    • Marcius, scene vi

Act II

  • Nature teaches beasts to know their friends.
    • Sicinius, scene i

  • One that loves a cup of hot wine with not a drop of allaying Tiber in’t.
    • Menenius, scene i

  • God-den to your worships. More of your conversation would infect my brain, being the herdsmen of the beastly plebeians.
    • Menenius, scene i

  • Faith, there have been many great men that have flatter'd the people, who ne'er loved them.
    • Second Officer, scene ii

  • Let me o'erleap that custom, for I cannot

Put on the gown, stand naked and entreat them,

For my wounds' sake, to give their suffrage

  • Coriolanus, scene ii[1]

  • Many-headed multitude.
    • First Citizen, scene iii

  • I thank you for your voices,— thank you, —Your most sweet voices.
    • Third Citizen, quoting Coriolanus, scene iii


  • Hear you this Triton of the minnows? mark youHis absolute shall?
    • Coriolanus, scene i

  • Enough, with over-measure.
    • Brutus, scene i

  • But now 'tis odds beyond arithmetic;And manhood is call'd foolery, when it stands

    Against a falling fabric.

    • Cominius, scene i

  • His nature is too noble for the world:He would not flatter Neptune for his trident,

    Or Jove for’s power to thunder.

    • Menenius, scene i

  • If it be honour in your wars to seemThe same you are not, (which, for your best ends,

    You adopt your policy) how is it less or worse,

    That it shall hold companionship in peace

    With honour, as in war, since that to both

    It stands in like request?

    • Voulmnia, scene ii

  • Action is eloquence.
    • Voulmnia, scene ii

Act IV

  • Anger's my meat; I sup upon myself,And so shall starve with feeding.
    • Volumnia, Scene ii

  • O world, thy slippery turns! Friends now fast sworn,Whose double bosoms seems to wear one heart,

    Whose hours, whose bed, whose meal and exercise

    Are still together, who twin, as 't were, in love

    Unseparable, shall within this hour,

    On a dissension of a doit, break out

    To bitterest enmity: so, fellest foes,

    Whose passions and whose plots have broke their sleep

    To take the one the other, by some chance,

    Some trick not worth an egg, shall grow dear friends

    And interjoin their issues. So with me:—

    My birthplace hate I, and my love's upon

    This enemy town.— I'll enter: if he slay me,

    He does fair justice; if he give me way,

    I'll do his country service.

    • Coriolanus, scene iv

  • Third Servant: Where dwellest thou? Coriolanus: Under the canopy.
    • Scene v

  • Aufidius: What is thy name? Coriolanus: A name unmusical to the Volscians’ ears,

    And harsh in sound to thine.

    • Scene v

  • Let me have war, say I; it exceeds peace as far as day does night: it's spritely waking, audible, and full of vent. Peace is a very apoplexy, lethargy; mull'd, deaf, sleepy, insensible; a getter of more bastard children than war's a destroyer of men.
    • First Servant, scene v

  • I think he'll be to RomeAs is the osprey to the fish, who takes it

    By sovereignty of nature.

    • Aufidius, Scene vii

Act V

  • I'll neverBe such a gosling to obey instinct; but stand,

    As if a man were author of himself,

    And knew no other kin.

    • Coriolanus, scene iii

  • The noble sister of Publicola,The moon of Rome; chaste as the icicle,

    That's curded by the frost from purest snow,

    And hangs on Dian's temple:– dear Valeria!

    • Coriolanus, scene iii

  • If you have writ your annals true,’t is thereThat, like an eagle in a dove-cote, I

    Flutter’d your Volscians in Corioli:

    Alone I did it! Boy!

    • Coriolanus, scene vi

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