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Coriolanus – Angry Traitor

Greek Parallel – Alcibiades

Important People

Volumnia – Coriolanus’s mother and, because his father died young, the woman on whom Coriolanus will pour all his filial piety.

Tullus Aufidius – The leader of the Volscians against the Romans. When Coriolanus switches sides, it is Tullus who is eclipsed.

The Senate – Yes, the Senate acts as a character in this Life, so much so that they represent those with all the power and control, even though they don’t do all the fighting. Coriolanus represents their interests primarily, even over Rome’s. There’s a reason the Roman ideal becomes SPQR and Coriolanus’s story has a lot to do with that development.

The People or Plebs – Also a character seen as a body, with no one to represent them. They fight and die in Rome’s wars but often do not see the political fruits of their sacrifices. As such, they secede from Rome and refuse to fight in wars the Senate votes for. This enrages Coriolanus and is one of the major turning points in his life.

Important Places

Corioli – The town which Marcius takes nearly single-handedly after a risky choice, earning him the agnomen Coriolanus.

Rome – Really just a city-state at this time. As a young Republic, the people are probably more sensitive to attitudes of hubris and condescension in their leaders. Coriolanus will be put on trial for tyranny, though the charges morph as the trial progresses.

The Sacred Mount – The plebes are many generations away from full political involvement in this fledgling Republic. As such, they have to force the patricians to notice them. One tactic available to them is secession, and they flee to the Sacred Mount to show the Roman Senators that they will not just be dictated to about what wars they will and will not fight in. They demand justice and the sacred mount shows how closely woven were military, religious, and political interests of the Roman people.

Key Virtues and Vices

Gravity – ἐμβριθής – We might call this virtue steadiness since it implies the ability to see a task through even as everyone around you changes his mind or runs around like an electrocuted chicken. Coriolanus is too reactionary, and gravity allows a leader to stick with the good plan even in the moments when everyone else thinks its a bad one.

Mildness – πραότης – This virtue, coupled with the previous one, were what Plutarch (and Thucydides for that matter) admired so much about Pericles.

Anger – ὀργή – What seems more to us like an emotion, and Plutarch, when pressed would call a passion (παθή) he often treats as a vice, particularly in this Life. One interesting thing to note, though, is that the words for anger and indignation are used more often in the English translations where the Greek has a word with much greater semantic range: θυμός – listen to the podcast to find out more about this fascinating word.

Ambition – φιλοτιμία – Plutarch examines this from many angles, but Coriolanus’s appetite for glory is unquenchable. It also seems only to be tempered by his love for his mother… almost.

Love of Strife/Victory – In Greek, the difference between the love of victory (φιλονικία) and the love of strife (φιλονεικία) is one letter, an epsilon. That slippery little letter has caused a lot of strife among Plutarch scholars, but I think we can safely say here that Coriolanus had a love of strife that sat deeper in his soul than a love of victory, particularly when he disregards Rome’s victories as he fought for them and chooses to fight for her defeat.

Justice (δικαιοσύνη) – Who owes what to whom? When the Senate and People disagree, Rome is brought to a standstill. When Coriolanus thinks he receives less than he deserves, he storms off to fight for someone who will appreciate him.

A Study in Hubris and Obstinacy

C. 1 – Background and Virtues

  1. Marcii family – lineage including the Kings of Rome (Ancus Marcius), aqueduct builders (Aqua Marcia, third aqueduct contructed see here), and the only person ever to be chosen as Censor twice (because he passed a law forbidding the practice in the future).
  2. Orphaned as a kid (etymology), though growing up without a father was difficult, it did not prevent his becoming a worthy and excellent man.
  3. Vehement Temper (ἀκράτοις – lacking control) obstinate pertinacity (φιλονεικίαις ἀτρέπτοις – immovable fondness for competition/strife) made him a difficult and unsuitable associate (οὐ ῥᾴδιον οὐδʼ εὐάρμοστον ἀνθρώποις συνεῖναι παρεῖχε – not easily harmonized to living with men)
Good (Gains for Roman People)Bad (Interaction with Fellow Citizens)
Insensibility to Pleasure —> Self-Control (ἐγκράτειαν)Ungracious (ἄχαριν)
Toils —> Fortitude (ἀνδρείαν)Burdensome (ἐδυσχέραινον)
Mercenary Gains —> Justice (δικαιοσύνην)Arrogant (ὀλιγαρχικὴν)
  1. The greatest thing that culture and discipline give us is MODERATION. The (early?) Romans saw military valour (ἀνδρεία – andreia) as virtue—ἀρετὴ—in general (aretē) (quote Plutarch… SO GOOD!)

C. 2 – Physically Impressive

Impressive in all feats of arms and shrinking from no bodily exertion, he proved himself in all contests with all weapons.

C. 3 – The Oak Crown

Early in battle at Lake Regillus (Ides of July 498 BC?) against Tarquin by defending a Roman who had fallen. For this bravery, he earned the crown of oak leaves (denoting one who has saved the life of another in battle). Plutarch tries to trace to oak back to Greece through the Arcadians or the god Apollo or Jupiter. It’s also a strong tree (Latin word for oak (robur) and strength (robustus) related, cf. Spanish and Italian too). It’s also cognate with ῥώμη which is a pun Plutarch loves because it contains almost the same letters as the word Roma. [The eta and the alpha were often interchanged in different dialects of Greek].

C. 4 – Deep-Seated Ambition

Plutarch describes two types of ambition: the first is too-easily satisfied by early achievements, but the second always wants to surpass previous achievements. Marcius was the second and he returned from every battle showered in honors, which he gladly showed his mother (Volumnia) who was quite proud of him. He loved his mom so much, he allowed her to influence his choice of wife and continued to live in the same house as he grew his new family.

C. 5 – The Plebeian Debt

The regular people feel crushed under debt, many of them losing their freedom even though they had fought for their homeland. In the most recent battle against the Sabines, the money lenders had promised leniency for those who served in the Roman army, but the creditors lied. As their enemies watched the confusion grow in the city, they began raiding the countryside, but this time no regular citizen responded to the call to arms. A few suggested compromise with the plebeians, but Marcius absolutely refused to negotiate and encouraged everyone else to ignore them and teach them to follow the laws (which aren’t even written down yet).

C. 6 – The Plebeians Secede

The plebeians then leave the city and camp out on the Sacred Mountain (Mons Sacra) about 3 miles outside of Rome. Some Romans sent to negotiate, and Menenius Agrippa (later important in the Shakespeare play) ends with the famous fable about the parts of the body revolting against the belly, which made no contribution to the rest of them. The Senate is the belly… it’s deliberation brings you what is useful and helpful.

C. 7 – The People Return and Elect Tribunes

The people now given the right to elect five tribunes to defended the rights of the people. They chose some of their leaders from the secession. Marcius still wants the aristocrats to be best in all things, and the regular people have a great zeal for war. To Coriolanus, to be superior in war (the only virtue is martial virtue) is what earns superiority in politics.

C. 8 – Marcius and the Corioli

When the Romans are besieging the town of Corioli as part of their war on the Volscians, the Volscians bring a large army to relieve the town. The Romans split, some attacking the oncoming Volscians and some continuing the siege. Since the force is smaller, the Volscians sally forth and beat the Romans back to their camp. Marcius takes a small group with him and leads the counter-attack all the way back to and through the city gates of Corioli. No one had ever seen a man fight more miraculously against such odds, and Coriolanus, as he now came to be called, single-handedly set the Roman army up to succeed against Corioli.

C. 9 – The Battle With the Rest of the Volscians

Marcius refuses to loot the city but Marcius wants to zealously connect with the other Roman army and finish the victory. Marcius announces to the consul that the city has been taken and then asks to join the battle-line for this battle in the place where the fighting will be hardest. Marcius rushes out hastily and finds himself surrounded by enemies; while the Romans come to his relief, though he still refuses to retire to the camp after being rescued.

C. 10 – Spoils and Prisoners of War

The consuls publicly thank the gods, and then Marcius for the victory they achieved the previous day, he is offered 10% of the spoils and a new horse, but he denies everything except the praise and the horse. He asks for a friend of his among the Volscians to be freed from captivity, and his nobility found him more admirers than his bravery. “For the right use of wealth is a fairer trait than excellence in arms; but not to need wealth is loftier than to use it.”

C. 11 – What’s in a Nickname? Cognomen

Gaius Marcius Coriolanus, and Plutarch points out the origins of the cognomen, which was not yet an agnomen, generally coming from exploit (savior – Σωτῆρ or beautiful victory – Καλλίνικος), bodily feature—Φύσκων (physkōn) – pot-belly or Γρυπός (Grypos) – hook-nosed)—or excellence (Εὐεργέτης – good-deed doer or Φιλάδελφος – brotherly-lover), or good fortune (Εὐδαίμονα – blessed by the genius, happy). The Greeks even give mocking surnames (Δώσων – the “giver”, Λάθυρος – chickpea (cf. Life of Cicero). Many of these examples were succesors of Alexander, often told apart by their nickname. One can only keep track of so many Antigonuses and Ptolemies and Cleopatras and Berenices. Among the Romans, two Metelli earned nicknames that stuck: the “crowned one” (diadematus) famous for the bandage across his head, and Celer for funeral games offered swiftly after his father’s death. Proculus from procul if the child is born while the father is far away; Postumus (cf. another Shakespeare play – Cymbeline); Vopiscus for surviving twin (etym unknown). Sulla – meaning uncertain, Niger – dark; Rufus – red; Caecus – blind; Claudius – limper.

C. 12 – Grain, Colonists, War

United for war, when it’s over, the Romans fall back to squabbling under their particular fractious politicians. But the risks and rigors of war had prevented anyone from planting food that season and they faced something worse than political discord: famine. The poor blame the rich, and another neighboring city (Velitrae) even offers grain in exchange for colonists since the city’s population had been wiped out by plague. The consuls approve to send away some citizens, and then choose those most interested in colonization, who also overlap with the most politically fractious group. They restart the war against the Volscians to keep the people united

C. 13 – Coriolanus Steps In…

Some popular leaders resist the colonization plan, since it sounds like certain doom to send colonists to a city with unburied dead and unsure that the plague has left their midst. Since famine and plague weren’t enough, now the consuls wanted war again too!? Marcius leads the resistance against these rabble, and the colonists are forced out under pain of penalties. Marcius musters his own clients and allies and sets forth on a expedition to secure food. Returning not just with grain, but with cattle and captives, he distributes his goods to the Roman people taking none for himself. Unlike his past actions, though, this one fills many with hostility toward Coriolanus, since he acted so unilaterally and wanted to bend everyone to his will.

C. 14 – Coriolanus as Candidate (and Bribery)

Coriolanus then stands for Senate (not in Livy), and enters the Forum wearing just a toga (no tunic underneath). This would, of course, expose more skin, particularly the right side of the body, and Plutarch provides some perspective on this odd custom. Perhaps, he says, it was to show off wounds earned in war or to dress more humbly as a way of showing they needed votes. It was not to prevent bribery, though, because that corrupted the Roman voting much later than Coriolanus’s time. Bribery is what turned the Republic into an Empire “He first breaks down the power of the people who first feasts and bribes them” (14.3). The first bribe is unrecorded in Rome, but Athens knows who and when.

C. 15 – Coriolanus Rejected

First wooing the Roman people with his war wounds, Coriolanus mis-steps by coming into the Forum with a huge entourage of all the wealthiest and most important Romans, which shows who he will really support as consul and just comes across as pompous to the regular people. Coriolanus didn’t take it very well, being rejected from the consulship. Plutarch tells us he lacked the “chief virtues of a statesman: gravity and mildness” (cf. Plutarch). Plato also gave good advice in telling (Epistle 4, link to Dion episode) Dion that he should avoid the willfulness that leads only to solitude. He left in bitterness and anger. The young men who had followed him from the beginning further fanned the flames of his anger (his thumos (θυμός) literally).

C. 16 – Grain and the Tribunate

Grain comes from Italy, and as a gift from tyrant Gelo in Sicily. The people expect the grain to be distributed for free, not sold, but Coriolanus gives a speech that argues vehemently against giving the ungrateful plebeians anything: comparing them to Greeks where democracy is extreme and saying those who are rude to the Senate, refuse to fight in the army, and demanded their own leaders should not be treated so generously as it will mean the plebes will walk all over the patricians later. Destroy the tribunate, for one city has become two and we can never be unified again. (Plato’s Republic… How to make ONE city instead of MANY cities?)

C. 17 – People v. Senate

The tribunes attempt to save their position by calling an assembly of the people, which is roused to anger. The tribunes attempt to call Coriolanus before the people to explain himself, but the Senate defends him to the point of beating the aediles and driving away the tribunes. Evening falls, tempering the kerfuffle for now. The next morning, most of the Senate realizes how angry the people are and that the only solution is reasonable compromise, which they eventually broker with an angry commons.

C. 18 – The Riot

The Tribunes are willing to compromise, if Marcius can be brought to trial for inciting civil rebellion. Plutarch even admits that they’re purposely giving him a difficult choice: public groveling or another incendiary and prideful over-reaction. In his speech before the people, he starts boldly and ends actually denouncing them, with a look of near disdain and contempt in his eye (ὑπεροψίας καὶ ὀλιγωρίας). One tribune condemns him to death and the aediles almost immediately carry it out (throwing him from the Tarpeian Rock). The Senators come to his aid and many of the people get cold feet at such a hasty and horrible act. The tribunes give up Marcius on the condition that the people will put him on trial (not the Senate).

C. 19 – Should the Senate Surrender Marcius?

The Senators unsure whether to give Marcius up to trial as the time approaches, and a short skirmish doesn’t provide enough of a distraction. One Senator (Appius Claudius) thinks the government will be destroyed if the regular people can condemn a Senator. Others point out that the commons respects the Senate, but feels disrespected by it, and their respect could be restored if allowed to condemn a wrong-doer in the Senate.

C. 20 – The Trial

Marcius discovers that he is charged with tyranny (τυραννίς) and thinks he can easily defend himself on that charge. Once the Tribunes have him before the people, they change the procedural rules: [sidebar to explain voting centuries vs. voting as tribes – footnote from Perseus (Out of the 193 centuries, the richest class alone had 98, against 95 of all the other five classes put together.) In addition to the procedural change, they alter the charge from tyranny to improper distribution of spoils and his earlier threats to destroy the tribunate. He is convicted and sentenced to perpetual banishment, the only harsher punishment would have been death. The plebeians rejoice more than over any military victory; the patricians are dejected.

Coriolanus Takes Leave of His Family – Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson (1786) – National Gallery of Art

C. 21 – Rage Turns to Revenge

Coriolanus handles it all with outward equipoise, but seethes with rage underneath. After saying goodbye to his wife and mother, and encouraging them to handle it well too, he leaves Rome accompanied by just a few clients. Asking for nothing and receiving nothing, he stays outside the city and mulls over many plans for revenge on the Roman people, until he lights on one: The Volscians, enemies with a great grudge and greater resources whom he could lead to destroy the Romans who so thoughtlessly attacked him.

C. 22 – To The Enemy City

Coriolanus goes to the de facto leader of the Volscians. As a tribe, it’s not clear who the leader might be, but Coriolanus has been paying attention and knows his enemy: Tullus Aufidius leads the Volscians, standing out for his bravery, good family, and wealth. Notice that Coriolanus continues to ally himself with the elites and those who seem to be elites. But they’d faced each other in battle before and the hatred was intense! But even Coriolanus noticed that he had a certain greatness of spirit/judgment (μέγεθός τι φρονήματος). Heraclitus fragment: It is difficult to fight with anger, because it buys whatever it wants even at the cost of its own life. —Heraclitus, frag 105. And so, he enters the city of his enemies, disguised as a regular man, like Odysseus had done (cf. Odyssey Book IV, line 246).

C. 23 – Allied with a Former Enemy

Unrecognized, he sneaks into Tullus’s house and takes his seat by the hearth, silently covering his head (cf. Pyrrhus who as a baby had been placed near the hearth as the place of supplication; cf. also Odysseus Book 7). Tullus informed and comes to him. Coriolanus immediately reveals his identity, claiming the Romans took everything from him but his name (which show his enmity to the Volscians) and drove him into exile. Not here for safety, but for vengeance. “I shall fight better for you than I have against you, but if you don’t want my services, just kill me.” Tullus gladly accepts this windfall and they dine and plan for the next few days.

C. 24 – Jupiter’s Rites Sullied

Back in Rome, signs from heaven pile up. A decent and quiet man dreamed that Jupiter appeared to him and disapproved of a dancer they’d chosen to head a procession for Jupiter. He ignored the dream, but then himself lost a son and grew diseased (palsy?)/arthritic. His strength returned as soon as he relayed the dream to the Senate. A slave was being harshly punished by being whipped through the streets, and the procession for Jupiter came up behind this cruel punishment. Romans in those days “treated their slaves with great kindness, eating and working alongside them.” A typical severe punishment of the time would be to carry the yoke from the wagon on their backs through the neighborhood, and people thereafter would call him furcifer, earning a bad reputation for himself.

C. 25 – Roman Religious Observance

Some thought the scourged slave was the person Jupiter referred to as “the dancer at the head” so they punished the slave’s master and re-did the processions (typical of Roman religion to restart, from the beginning, anything that had gone awry. Numa’s hoc age helps call attention to sacred things going on or processions going by and stops all business in the city. The Romans will pause a procession for anything: if a horse gives out, or the charioteer grabs the reins with his left hand. More recently, a sacrifice was performed 30 times before it was done correctly.

C. 26 – Festivals, Banishments, and Broken Treaties

Coriolanus urges Volscians to break the treaty and attack the Romans now, while they were at odds with each other, but the Volscians want to honor the treaty, until all Volscians were expelled from the city of Rome. Rumor had been running around that the Volscians would use an upcoming festival to attack the Romans (cf. Romulus stealing the Sabine women at a feast). Tullus inflames the Volscians and they ultimately choose their former enemy, Coriolanus, to lead them against his own people.

C. 27 – The First Foray – Divide and Conquer

Once the Volscians heard Coriolanus speak, they saw his eloquence and intelligence as clearly as they’d seen his battle prowess, so they give him full powers to conduct the war (αὐτοκράτωρ τοῦ πολέμου). His plan: attack immediately with whoever was ready to go now. In this first attack, his strategy further inflames the internal divisions of the Roman people: he leaves the lands and homes of the patricians untouched.

C. 28 – Four Latin Cities Sacked

Now the full force of the Volscians was assembled, and part left behind to protect Volscian territory. Coriolanus leads the attackers, and Tullus stays back with the defenders. Circeii, a colony of Rome, surrenders without a fight. Then he turns to attack the Latins, but the Romans ignore their calls for aid. Coriolanus attacks four of their cities and takes their citizens as slaves. Only those who resisted were treated like this.

C. 29 – Lavinium and the Roman Reaction

Bola, the last city he took, was 12 miles from Rome and he put almost all the adults to the sword. The Volscians who had stayed at home were so eager for a share in the victories that they marched out too and put themselves under Coriolanus’s leadership, and all wondered at the drastic change in the war from just one man switching sides (leadership lesson).

The Romans were more interested still in fighting each other than Coriolanus, until they heard that Coriolanus was besieging Lavinium, a city founded by Aeneas and containing the household gods of Rome. Now the two sides switch: the common people want to forgive him and recall him and the Senate rejects it (why? Obstinacy or hatred of what Coriolanus was doing). Without the Senate’s approval, no law was passed.

C. 30 – Coriolanus’s Terms for Roman Peace

Coriol, upon hearing of the law that didn’t pass, left Lavinium and marched straight on Rome, camping five miles from the city. This was close enough to force unity onto the factions. They agree to send ambassadors whom Coriolanus knows but these high ranking men fail in their design. Coriol greets them coldly and makes many demands for the Volscians to be accepted as citizens and have their cities restored to them. No peace would be lasting without just and equal rights (τὴν ἐπὶ τοῖς ἴσοις καὶ δικαίοις). Giving them 30 days to consider, Coriol withdraws from the immediate vicinity.

C. 31 – 30 Days Later…

Tullus already growing jealous (because he is “all too human” the Greek – μηδὲν ἀδικούμενος, ἐν δʼ ἀνθρωπίνῳ πάθει γεγονώς) of being eclipsed by Coriol. His thirty-day withdrawal caused them to publicly attack him as wasting opportunities, though Coriol was capturing seven cities among the Roman allies during this time. A second set of envoys comes out after 30 days, still not willing to give the Volscians equality or citizenship. Coriol tells them this is still unacceptable.

C. 32 – An Inspired Intervention

Romans have played their last cards, now they send to him every priest from the city. Receiving this group of leading men, Coriol changes nothing about his demands. And then, a Homeric moment of the inspiration of the gods (some already complaining in Plutarch’s time that Homer’s stories weaken human agency, but Plutarch defends Homer by quoting examples of men making their own choices, and shows that the gods prompt and inspire “concepts which lead to impulses” (φαντασίας ὁρμῶν ἀγωγους), without controlling and deciding and “courage and hope are added to sustain him” (καὶ τὸ θαρρεῖν καὶ τὸ ἐλπίζειν προστίθησιν)). Either the gods never help us, or their help has to come somehow. The gods either “rouse the active and elective powers of our spirits or, on the other hand, divert and check them” (ἀλλὰ τῆς ψυχῆς τὸ πρακτικὸν καὶ προαιρετικὸν ἀρχαῖς τισι καὶ φαντασίαις καὶ ἐπινοίαις ἐγείροντες ἢ τοὐναντίον ἀποστρέφοντες καὶ ἱστάντες)

C. 33 – Turning to the Family

Valeria, sister of Publicola (Publius), inspired by the gods gathered the women of the city and brought them to Volumnia’s house, the mother of Marcius. Valeria speaks on behalf of all the women to mother and wife of Coriolanus: They come as “woman to woman” (γυναῖκες ἥκομεν πρὸς γυναῖκας). Come to Coriolanus with us and point out that, in spite of all the wrong he has done to Rome, look at how the Romans have left his family in peace, even though the Romans can’t receive similar treatment from Coriol. Volumnia agrees, pointing out that the greatest misfortune is that her city’s safety lies in her hands. Not sure he won’t kill us, since he used to put Rome before even us and he won’t anymore…

C. 34 – Volumnia Arrives

The Volscians fell into a reverent silence when Coriolanus’s mother, wife, and children enter the camp. Even Coriolanus is moved, he gets up from the tribunal (explain what this would have looked like) and runs to them and embraces each for a long time, weeping.

C. 35 – Volumnia’s Plea

After tears and hugs, he brings together the Volscian council and hears his mother’s request: We cannot ask for safety for our country and victory for Rome… what a predicament? Your wife and children will either lose you, or Rome. You will not conquer your country before walking over the corpse of the woman who gave you life, for I shall not live to see the day when my son either triumphs over his fellow citizens or is led in triumph, a captive in his own city. We do not ask you to betray the Volscians; it is evil to betray trust once given, but we ask for an honorable end: peace and concord between the nations.”

C. 36 – Volumnia from Words to Actions

Coriolanus long stood in silence, so that Volumnia spoke again: “You have already punished your country, now is the time to show your mother gratitude! But if words like these can’t persuade you, I move to my last resort” and at that she fell at his feet and grabbed his knees with his wife and children. Coriolanus says “You have won, good fortune for my country but death for me, I am conquered by you alone.” After sending his mother back, he led the Volscians away the next morning. All the Volscians obey him for the time being more out of respect for his virtue than regard for his power (τὴν ἀρετὴν μᾶλλον αὐτοῦ θαυμάζοντες ἢ τὴν ἐξουσίαν).

Volumnia Pleading with Coriolanus – Richard Westall (1800) – Folger Shakespeare Library Collection

C. 37 – The Temple of Woman’s Fortune

As the Romans watched the Volscians march away, the temples were opened in a festive atmosphere of thanksgiving and the women were called the saviors of the city. The Senate granted them any favor, and they asked for a temple to Women’s Fortune which they would help fund the building of, if the city promised to pay for the priestesses and sacrifices due to the gods. The Senate did so, without accepting the donations of the women, who later added a second image of the goddess in the temple with their funds. The second image spoke its approval as it was being set up in the temple (so the Romans say).

C. 38 – Excursus – Signs from the Gods

Sure, it’s hard to believe, and easier to believe that statues sweat or bleed. Though the gods could still use such signs. Statues could even groan or whistle, but human speech from a lifeless thing is impossible without a body suited to speech. Imagination can be confused for sensation, though, and when many witnesses attest to a miraculous impossibility perhaps the imaginations are being impressed by the gods rather than the actual phenomena happening. God-ship is nothing like humanity in nature, activity, skill, or strength (φύσιν οὔτε κίνησιν οὔτε τέχνην οὔτʼ ἰσχύν)

C. 39 – Coriolanus’s End and the Volscians too

Tullus meets him with a large posse of support demanding that Coriolanus lay down his leadership of the Volscians. Coriolanus says he will only listen to the people, who first put him in charge. As Coriolanus stands up to speak, the entire crowd quiets down out of respect, even those who disagree with him. Tullus and his conspirators fall upon him, worried that his influence is still too strong and this is the only way to stop a man. But since most Volscians didn’t want him dead, he was given honorable burial among the Volscians as a leader and general. The Romans allowed the women of his family to mourn for the customary time – 10 months [time tangent – mourning for a family member is the same amount of time it takes to gestate a family member] (cf. Life of Numa Pompilius). Volscians immediately fall out with their allies (mirroring the Roman political situation), Tullus dies in battle against the Romans, and the Volscians become subject to Rome for the rest of history…

Helpful Links for Coriolanus’s Life of the Web

Coriolanus’s Life in Paint

Thomas North and William Shakespeare – It has been known for centuries that William Shakespeare had access to Plutarch in English through Thomas North’s translation from the French. This website thoroughly examines the North-Shakespeare connection, not only in the Roman plays, but in all the plays. Beware, this is a Shakespeare-authorship rabbit trail!

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