Study Guide

Coriolanus Act 2, Scene 1

By William Shakespeare

Act 2, Scene 1

Read the full text of Coriolanus Act 2 Scene 1 with a side-by-side translation HERE.

  • Back in Rome, Menenius chats up our two scheming tribunes, Sicinius and Brutus, while waiting for news from the battlefield.
  • Sicinius and Brutus start with the Caius Martius hate, but Menenius defends his pal and gives the tribunes a good tongue lashing before storming off.
  • Just then, Volumnia, Virgilia, and Valeria (the three V's) show up and bump into Menenius.
  • Sicinius and Brutus stand off to the side and eavesdrop.
  • Volumnia (Martius' mom) describes all the gory details of the wounds her son has received in battle. So far, the grand total is a whopping 27. (We told you "wounds" are a big deal in this play.)
  • There's some discussion about how Martius will have tons of scars and gashes to show off to the plebeians when he goes before them to ask for their votes. (Apparently, Caius Martius plans to run for office and showing off his scars can help him win.)
  • A Herald shows up and is all "Make way, people, because Caius Martius is in the house and he's got a new nickname: Coriolanus!"
  • (Okay, fine. Since everyone in Rome starts using this new name, we will, too.)
  • Coriolanus enters and kneels before his mother like he's her obedient servant. Then he gets up and greets his wife. In that order.
  • After a quick hello to wife and mommy, Coriolanus rushes off to the Capitol to see the patricians who run the Senate.
  • Alone on stage, the trash-talking tribunes freak out because Coriolanus will probably be elected "consul" now that he's an even bigger war hero than he was before.
  • Brain Snack: Being consul was kind of a big deal, like being the U.S. president. At the time of the story, "Consul" was the highest political office in early Republican Rome, which had only recently set up a government of elected officials after getting rid of the tyrant King Tarquin.
  • The tribunes are all bent out of shape because they think Coriolanus will abuse his power and act like a tyrant. They decide they better hurry up and remind the plebeians that they're supposed to hate the guy.
  • (Sound familiar? In Shakespeare's other Roman play, Julius Caesar], the Conspirators worry that Caesar wants to rule over them like a tyrant king, so they make arrangements to stab him in the back.)
  • Finally, the tribunes figure that Coriolanus is such a jerk that he'll probably refuse to show off his war wounds to the plebeians, meaning that no one will vote for him.
  • Off to the Capitol!