Act I, Scene 1
The plebeians are hungry. Grain (referred to as corn) costs too much and they blame the patricians (leaders), especially Caius Marcius. They have decided to revolt and hopefully kill Marcius. Their reasoning being: if they kill Marcius, they can have grain at whatever price they want.
One citizen mentions that Caius Marcius has done great service to his country in war. That’s all well and good to the rest of the plebeians, but they’re hungry and he’s too proud. Plus, he has made very clear that he disdains the common people, as we will soon see.
Menenius Agrippa tries to calm the crowd and explains to them that the patricians take care of the common people. That every benefit the common people have has been granted to them by the patricians. He tells a long winded story about the rest of the body rebelling against the belly because it gets all the food. The belly explains that it provides all the nourishment and benefit of that food to the rest of the body and is left with nothing. The plebeians find the story entertaining, but not entirely convincing.
Enter Caius Marcius. He thinks the common people are the worst and scolds they for daring to rebel. Menenius explains that the people think there is enough grain in the city stores to lower the price and keep them from, you know, starving. Marcius doesn’t care what the people think because they are smelly and dumb. He tells them to go home. The other group of revolutionaries was appeased and went home. The people were granted five tribunes, but only two worth naming: Junius Brutus and Sicinius Velutus. Marcius can’t believe the state has been so weakened by seceding any power to the plebeians.
Good news for Marcius though: it’s time for a new war! The Volces are taking up arms against Rome. They are being led by Tullus Aufidius, Marcius’ sworn enemy. Apparently the people are good enough to fight for Rome, but only barely.
Sicinius and Brutus are left to discuss their disdain for Marcius. They find him, like most people, to be too proud. They also resent the faces he made when they were named tribunes and the taunts that followed. They’re worried that the wars will only result in Marcius receiving more unearned honors. They can’t have that.
Act I, Scene 2
Aufidius is bummed that the Romans already know they’re coming. He wanted to take some cities before they found out. If he faces Marcius, it will be a fight to the death. Aufidius will go out and only return to Corioles if they need him.
Act I, Scene 3
Volumnia, Marcius’ mom, is pumped that he is going to war and thinks his wife, Virgilia, should be too. There is nothing better, in her opinion, than to fight, be wounded, or die in honor of your country. Virgilia would rather he didn’t die, like a crazy person. Volumnia would be happy to have Marcius’ valiant memory be her some instead of the real thing because she’s a normal person.
The Lady Valeria has come to see them. Virgilia doesn’t want to see her. She would rather pine away for her husband. Volumnia thinks that is silly. As it turns out, so does Valeria. She wants to take the ladies out, but Virgilia doesn’t want to. Virgilia has to repeatedly insist on her desire to stay home before they finally give up.
Act I, Scene 4
Marcius bets that their general has met the Volces army. Latius bets they haven’t. Marcius loses and Latius gets his horse. Latius immediately “lends” the horse to Marcius for fifty years making it a silly bet.
The Volces pour from the city to fight rather than deal with a siege. The Romans are quickly pushed back. Marcius curses his useless soldiers and then runs into the city behind the Volces. No one follows him, so now he’s alone in an enemy city. When Latius finds out, he assumes Marcius will be killed. Marcius doesn’t though and the Romans quickly gain entrance into the city.
Act I, Scene 5
The Romans have pretty much won and many soldiers steal treasure to take home. Marcius scolds them for prematurely pillaging the city. It’s not quite over yet. Despite his wounds, he intends to hunt down Aufidius. Latius goes to secure the surrender of the city.
Act I, Scene 6
Cominius congratulates his men for a valiant fight. He receives word from a messenger that Marcius and Latius were pushed back to the trenches. It turns out he was delayed for a while to avoid Volces spies.
Marcius shows up with the news that they in fact took Corioles. Cominius is ready to put the messenger to death for his bad information, but Marcius tells him not to. The messenger was correct and Marcius recounts the whole thing. He also throws in some insults about the common people just for good measure.
Marcius asks if he can go take on Aufidius, which Cominius grants. Marcius gets some volunteers (more commoners that he hates) and goes to get Aufidius.
Act I, Scene 7
Latius sets up defenses to make sure they keep the city.
Act I, Scene 8
Aufidius and Marcius met on the field and fight. Aufidius is pulled away by some of his men, against his will.
Act I, Scene 9
Cominius bestows praises and honors on his men. Marcius doesn’t like to be praised, so he doesn’t want to receive the high honors and be paraded back to Rome. They don’t care what he wants because he earned it. They name him Caius Marcius Coriolanus (I will now refer to him as Coriolanus). He still doesn’t want it, but seems resigned to the praise. He wants to make sure that a citizen of Corioles is taken care of for helping him, but he doesn’t remember his name.
Act I, Scene 10
Aufidius swears to fight Marcius again and kill him or be killed. They wrap up some war stuff like hostages.
Act II, Scene 1
Menenius is confident they will hear good news. Brutus and Sicinius think it will be good for Marcius, but not the people. Menenius stands up for Marcius by insisting that the tribunes are just as proud and selfish as Coriolanus, but they hide it.
Volumnia, Virgilia, and Valeria enter with the exciting news that Coriolanus returns victorious. They have received letters, as has the Senate and Menenius. Menenius is pumped to find out that he was worthy of a letter. Volumnia is happy to report that Coriolanus is wounded. Virgilia is less excited.
Coriolanus is welcomed home. He thanks his mother for praying to the gods on his behalf. He asks why his wife is crying. Menenius is super pumped that Coriolanus has returned. They set out to let the people dote on Coriolanus.
Brutus and Sicinius are worried that the people will forget that they hate Coriolanus and name him consul. If that happens, the tribunes will surely lose power and they can’t be having that. They decide to stoke the people’s anger again to make sure Coriolanus never gets any real power. They’re pretty sure he won’t be nice to the people or show them his wounds, as is expected to be voted to the consul. They’ll use that to their advantage.