Act II, Scene 2
Two officers discuss the upcoming elections for consul. Coriolanus is sure to be one up for nomination. He is, of course, the one they discuss. He’s proud and clearly hates the common people, but at least he’s honest about it. Plus, he’s fought valiantly for Rome. He will probably get the consulship.
The senators and tribunes convene to hear why Coriolanus should be consul. Cominius will deliver the speech. The people’s tribunes, Sicinius and Brutus, are wary of Coriolanus because he, well, hates the people. Menenius wishes they would just be quiet.
As Cominius prepares to make his speech, Coriolanus leaves. He doesn’t want to hear them make a big deal out of his deeds. Cominius delivers a long speech detailing all of the wonderful things Coriolanus has done in battle. Unsurprisingly, they decide to name him consul.
There’s one small problem though, Coriolanus has to speak to the people to get their votes. According to tradition, he has to go to the marketplace and show his wounds while asking the people for their voices. He does not want to do this, but he has to.
Sicinius and Brutus are pretty sure they can make some trouble from this.
Act II, Scene 3
The citizens agree to give their voices to Coriolanus as long as he follows the expected tradition. They can’t very well deny him when he has done so much for his country.
Coriolanus still doesn’t want to ask the people for their favor. Menenius tells him he has to and that many men before him have done the same. Coriolanus wishes the common people were less stinky. Nevertheless, he asks for the people’s favor. Except, he doesn’t show his wounds. He will show them in private, but not publicly. They grant their favor.
The process repeats a few times with Coriolanus complaining between groups of citizens. They all approve of him being consul though. He’s pumped because he can change back into his normal clothes.
Sicinius and Brutus stay behind to change the people’s mind. The crowd realizes, or comes to believe, that they were in fact being mocked AND he didn’t even show them his wounds. They decide to take back their voices and reject him in front of the senate. Sicinius and Brutus tell the people to lay the blame on them and say that they told the people to vote for Coriolanus. This is a pretty sneaky move to be honest.
Sicinius and Brutus are confident that this will send Coriolanus into a rage, which will be good for them.
Act III, Scene 1
Coriolanus and others receive a report about the goings on of the Volces. They are preparing themselves to attack again when the time is right. Coriolanus wants to know if Aufidius said anything about him, which of course he did because they are sworn enemies. Aufidius hopes they get. To fight again so he can kill Coriolanus.
The group of Senators are on their way to the marketplace to finalize Coriolanus’ consulship. The people’s tribunes stop them though. For some reason, the crowd has turned against Coriolanus. Someone put the idea in their head that he mocked them and reminded them of all his past injustices. Coriolanus sees right through their nonsense and pegs the tribunes as the ones who incensed the crowd. They deny it, but we all know it’s true. Coriolanus flies into a long-winded rage about how the common people are stupid and smelly and don’t know what’s good for them. He thinks the Senate is crazy for giving them any sort of power because if they share power with the common people then no one really has any power. His allies try to stop his tirade, but it’s too late. He has proven to the tribunes that he is not worthy to be consul because he hates the people so much.
It all comes to a head when Sicinius and Brutus call Coriolanus a traitor, which – as you can probably imagine – does not do much to quell his rage. They call for Coriolanus to be arrested. He, of course, resists and it turns into quite the scuffle. The plebeians get involved and it gets crazy. Eventually, Menenius is able to calm the crowd enough for Sicinius to speak. He makes it worse. Menenius tries to calm the crowd, but Coriolanus draws his sword and then things get real.
Cominius is all for fighting the plebeians. Coriolanus is pretty sure he can take at least 40 of them. Menenius and the other senators think that slaughtering the people is maybe not the best form of conflict resolution. They convince Coriolanus to take shelter in his home until they figure out what to do.
The plebeians are ready to take Coriolanus and throw him off a cliff. Menenius tries to convince the crowd that Coriolanus is not a traitor, he just has a few faults. Faults that can be mended easily. The people aren’t buying it. Then, he explains that Coriolanus is a soldier, raised in war, and so is much harsher than what they’re used to. The people still want to kill him. Menenius promises to bring Coriolanus to them to face justice in the proper way. They agree.
Act III, Scene 2
Coriolanus is fuming. He cannot believe that just happened. He assumes his mother isn’t too pleased with him and he’s right. The moment she walks into the room he defends himself by asking why she wants him to go against his own nature. She doesn’t want him to go against his nature. She just wants him to be a little less intense about it.
Everyone except Coriolanus is in agreement that he must return to the marketplace to ask forgiveness. He doesn’t want to. Volumnia argues that being humble in a time of peace and winning people over with kind words is the same as charging into battle. Coriolanus disagrees. Even Cominius advises him to speak kindly to the people. He won’t do it though. He refuses to be anything less than what he is. Volumnia guilt trips/scolds him and he agrees to do it.
Act III, Scene 3
Brutus and Sicinius prepare for Coriolanus’ return to face the people. They make it clear that the people should support whatever sentence the tribunes pass down. They’re pretty sure that they can get Coriolanus mad enough that he’ll doom himself.
Coriolanus agrees to face the people and hear the charges. Menenius does his very best to defend Coriolanus by explaining his soldier-like demeanor. It almost works until Sicinius calls Coriolanus a traitor and he loses his cool. They try to remind him that he promised his mother he would play it cool, but it’s too late. Sicinius and Brutus hesitate to heed the people’s call for immediate death because of his military service. Coriolanus doesn’t care what his sentence will be (or what his mom said), he won’t beg for forgiveness.
Coriolanus is banished. Cominius tries to save him, but that darn rage pops up again. Coriolanus tells the people exactly what he thinks of them. They are dumb and smelly and ungrateful for the defense he has provided them. At least if he leaves, he won’t have to see their dumb faces anymore. Brutus and Sicinius call on the people to follow Coriolanus out of the city.