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The Tragedy of Coriolanus

Plot Summaries

Famine in Rome is kindling unrest between the common people and the patricians. The people particularly resent the arrogant Caius Martius, son of Volumnia, who makes no secret of the fact that he despises them. The citizens rise up against the patricians, whom they suspect of hoarding corn for themselves. They are rewarded with the creation of two people's representatives, or tribunes, who are given new powers to sit in the Senate. War with the neighbouring Volscians halts the rioting, however, and, in the battle for the town of Corioli, Caius Martius leads the Roman army with such spectacular bravery that he is honoured with the title 'Coriolanus'. Back in Rome, the patricians urge Coriolanus to seek the consulship. Reluctantly, he agrees to submit himself to the necessary public display of humility in order to win the assent of the citizens, but once again his inability to mask his contempt turns them against him. Not only do they refuse their assent but, incited by their tribunes, they banish Coriolanus from Rome. In revenge, he joins the Volscians and his former enemy Tullus Aufidius. Together they march on Rome. Coriolanus refuses all attempts at conciliation by his former comrades and only through the intercession of his mother, wife and son is he finally persuaded to spare the city. He establishes a peace, but is killed by the resentful Volscians.


RSC Staging History 1960-2007

1967 RST: John Barton

John Bury, Ann Curtis, Elizabeth Duffield (design); John Bradley (lighting); Guy Woolfenden (music); Mike Leigh (assistant director)

Ian Richardson (Coriolanus), Edward Cicciarelli (Aufidius), Brewster Mason (Menenius), Catherine Lacey (Volumnia), Estelle Kohler (Virgilia), Clive Swift (Sicinius Velutus), Nicholas Selby (Junius Brutus), Patrick O'Connell (Cominius), Jeffery Dench (First Senator), Helen Mirren (Lady), Ian Hogg (Adrian), Bruce Myers (First Aufidius Servant), Richard Moore (Second Aufidius Servant), Peter Geddis (Second Servant)

1972 RST/1973 Aldwych: Trevor Nunn with Buzz Goodbody

Christopher Morley with Ann Curtis (design); John Bradley with Brian Harris (lighting); Guy Woolfenden (music)

Ian Hogg/Nicol Williamson (Coriolanus), Patrick Stewart/Oscar James (Aufidius), Mark Dignam (Menenius), Margaret Tyzack (Volumnia), Rosemary McHale/Wendy Allnutt (Virgilia), Raymond Westwell/John Nettleton (Sicinius Velutus), Gerald James/Philip Locke (Junius Brutus), Clement McCallin/Nicholas Selby (Cominius), Geoffrey Hutchings/Morgan Sheppard (First Citizen), Patrick Godfrey (First Senator), John Bott (Titus Lartius), Tim Piggott-Smith (Lieutenant)

1977 RST/1978 Aldwych/1979 European Tour (Belgium, Paris, Vienna, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Berlin, Zurich): Terry Hands

Farrah (design); Terry Hands with Clive Morris (lighting); Ian Kellam (music)

Alan Howard (Coriolanus), Julian Glover/Charles Dance (Aufidius), Graham Crowden (Menenius), Maxine Audley (Volumnia), Fleur Chandler (Virgilia), Tim Wylton (Sicinius Velutus), Oliver Ford Davies (Junius Brutus), Jeffery Dench (Cominius), Charles Dance (Volscian Lieutenant), Barrie Rutter (First Roman Citizen), Philip Dunbar (Second Roman Citizen), Edward Jewesbury (First Volscian Senator), Bille Brown (Second Volscian Citizen), Ron Cook (Sixth Roman Citizen), Deirdra Morris (Gentlewoman)

1989 RST/1990 Barbican: Terry Hands with John Barton

Christopher Morley (design); Terry Hands (lighting); Terry Davies (music)

Charles Dance (Coriolanus), Malcolm Storry (Aufidius), Joseph O'Conor (Menenius), Barbara Jefford (Volumnia), Amanda Harris (Virgilia), Geoffrey Freshwater (Sicinius Velutus), Joe Melia (Junius Brutus), Frank Moorey (Cominius), Rob Edwards (First Citizen), Jason Flemyng (Servant/Citizen), Steven Waddington (Citizen)

1994 Swan/1995 Barbican: David Thacker

Fran Thompson (design); Alan Burrett (lighting); Adrian Johnston (music)

Toby Stephens (Coriolanus), Barry Lynch (Aufidius), Philip Voss (Menenius), Caroline Blakiston (Volumnia), Monica Dolan (Virgilia), Linal Haft (Sicinius Velutus), Ewan Hooper (Junius Brutus), David Killick (Cominius), Griffith Jones (First Senator), Kenn Sabberton (Adrian), Kevin Doyle (Nicanor), Tanya Moodie (Valeria), Thusitha Jayasundera (Gentlewoman), Daniel Evans (Citizen/Servant), Howard Crossley (Citizen/Servant)

2002-03 Swan/2003 Small-scale Tour/2003 Old Vic: David Farr

Ti Green (design); Hartley T.A. Kemp (lighting); Keith Clouston (music)

Greg Hicks (Coriolanus), Chuk Iwuji (Aufidius), Richard Cordery (Menenius), Alison Fiske (Volumnia), Hannah Young (Virgilia), Tom Mannion (Sicinius Velutus), Simon Coates (Junius Brutus), David Killick (Cominius), Ciaran McIntyre (Volscian Senator), Michael Gardiner (Volscian Senator), Claire Carrie (Valeria), Lucy Tregear (Citizen), Kate Best (Citizen)

2007 RST (Complete Works Festival): Gregory Doran

Richard Hudson (design); Tim Mitchell (lighting); Paul Englishby (music); Martin Slavin (sound); Terry King (fights)

William Houston (Coriolanus), Trevor White (Aufidius), Timothy West (Menenius), Janet Suzman (Volumnia), Eleanor Matsuura (Virgilia), Fred Ridgeway (Sicinius Velutus), Darren Tunstall (Junius Brutus), Michael Hadley (Cominius), Guy Burgess (Volscian Senator), Ricky Champ (Volscian Senator), Darlene Johnson (Valeria), Oliver Senton (Titus), Luke Rutherford (Aedile), Jonathan Melia, Arthur Kohn (Senators), Jonty Stephens, Frances Jeater, Steve Vernom (Citizens), Curtis Flowers, Richard Pepple (Conspirators), Danny Seldon (Messenger), Richard Orme (Servingman), Riann Steele (Gentlewoman), Jonathan Clowes/Edward Statham/Daniel Wilkinson (Young Martius)

For a gallery of nearly 100 production images from a selection of these productions (and some older ones in the pre-RSC Shakespeare Memorial Theatre), together with sample costumes, pages from promptbooks and other visual materials, go to

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