Book review: Coriolanus

Huzzah! Only January 2nd and I've finished my first I also started it on Christmas Eve. Aside from that, I totally read it this year.

So I wanted to read this quite randomly. @MarvellousKaty tweeted a review of Coriolanus, now playing at the Donmar Warehouse (all tickets are sold out). I read the review and as I had never really heard of the play before, I was intrigued. It was 99p or something on Google Play so I impulsively bought it and have mostly read it on my phone.

Anyway, it was AWESOME. On Christmas Eve I watched the recent film version which helped with the read through. It was interesting to see how they combined various people's lines (eg, some of Menenius and Volumnia's lines).

The plot goes vaguely like this: Marcius (aka Coriolanus) is a really good general but somewhat of a dick in all other areas (especially when it comes to being nice to people, basically) most often when it comes to the citizenry.

This kind of attitude might be okay if you are just going to be a soldier but he wants to play politics. It all goes to hell and he eventually gets banished from Rome, the place he had gone to spent his life defending. He has a bit of a strop.

Coriolanus: You common cry of curs! Whose breath I hate as reek o' the rotten fens, whose loves I prize as the dead carcasses of unburied men that do corrupt my air, I banish you; and here remain with your uncertainty! Let every feeble rumour shake your hearts!

He then teams up with his nemesis Aufidius and goes to conquer Rome. A brilliant scene is when Aufidius and Coriolanus have a fight in the first act (I think). In the film it was somewhat daft as it was sent in modern times, so they leave their guns and go at it with knives and fists.

Coriolanus: I'll fight with none but thee; for I do hate thee worse than a promise breaker.

Aufidius: We hate alike: not Afric owns a serpent I abhor more than thy fame and envy. Fix thy foot.

The scene where Coriolanus reveals himself to Aufidius later on (he's a bit disheveled having been banished) is brilliant.

Coriolanus: Now this extremity hath brought me to thy hearth; not out of hope - mistake me not - to save my life, for if I had fear'd death, of all the men i' the would I would have 'voided thee, but in mere spite.

At the gates of Rome he is only talked down from crushing it by his mother, wife and son, after his friend Cominius and Meneninus fail to do so. I think Cominius has my favourite lines in the entire play.

Cominius: Yet one time he did call me by my name: I urged our old acquaintance, and the drops that we have bled together. Coriolanus he would not answer to: forbad all names; he was a kind of nothing, titleless, till he had forged himself a name o' the fire of burning Rome.


Aufidius realises that Coriolanus' fame among the Volsces is greater than his own. So he's betrayed and killed.

Coriolanus: Cut me to pieces, Volsces; men and lads, stain all your edges on me. Boy! False hound! If you have writ your annals true, 'tis here, that, like an eagle in a dove-cote, I flutter'd your Volscians in Corioli: alone I did it. Boy!


AMAZING, right?

It's all power politics and super sly maneurvering. Also Shakespeare, being Shakespeare, it's all couched in such wonderful language. It's kind of like if Frank from House of Cards was in Rome. I think he'd be one of the senators, Brutus, who was one of the scheming bastards who gets Coriolanus banished (mainly becuase he'd lose power if Coriolanus became Consul.)

I've now booked tickets to see the Donmar Warehouse production in the cinema (January 30th!) and I totally recommend watching it. The review said that it's a pretty cut down script (I imagine like the film mentioned above, as it left loads out too) so you might want to familiarise yourself with the plot first.

I give Coriolanus 4.5/5 for sheer bad-assery and stab-in-the-backness. The deduction of 0.5 is because I find Volumnia super creepy.