‘Coriolanus’ by William Shakespeare [Book Review]

Today I finally plucked up the courage to finish reading Coriolanus by William Shakespeare for my next MA English essay (and the 2016 Reading Challenge). I have always had a bad relationship with Shakespeare: the only two other plays I have studied for school – The Tempest and The Merchant of Venice – I really didn’t enjoy, and as a result I have ardently proclaimed not to like any of his works. Unfortunately my third foray into his repertoire did nothing to alleviate my distaste.

Title: Coriolanus
Author: William Shakespeare
Released: 1609
Pages: 315
Favourite character: Volumnia
Category: #8 A book set in Europe
Rating: 3/10

“Nature teaches beasts to know their friends.”

Coriolanus by William Shakespeare is believed to be the playwrights final tragedy. The play is set in early Republican Rome, and the ruling King has been replaced by a government run by elected officials. It follows soldier-turned-politician Caius Martius who wishes to represent Rome – he is of the belief that his noble standing and military excellence should automatically bestow on him the honour of the consulship. However, when the senate inform him that he must win the people’s approval by asking them for their vote, Coriolanus’s true nature comes to light – he is an arrogant, insolent individual, concerned only with personal glory.

The play features several strong and influential characters, most notably Coriolanus’s mother, Volumnia, who captures the early voice of feminism, along with her ready belief in her noble status. One of the primary themes of the play is class divide: the noble patricians versus the common plebeians. The people have won their way into power through a select few tribunes, who act as the voices of the masses, much to the dismay of many of noble blood. As a result of these tribunes being elected there is a power struggle between the classes, which ultimately leads to Coriolanus’s banishment and eventual demise.


I found the play extremely difficult to get into, though thankfully after struggling through two Acts I found an audiobook on YouTube, which lessened the strain somewhat. The plot was interesting enough and there were some characters I found noteworthy, but I still maintain that I have no interest in Shakespeare – how am I going to write a 2,500 word essay?!

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6 thoughts on “‘Coriolanus’ by William Shakespeare [Book Review]

  1. Can your essay be about anything to do with Coriolanus or have they given you a question to answer?
    If you can do anything maybe watch the recent film version directed by and starring Ralph Fiennes and write about how it was adapted and how they interpreted the text?
    Just trying to think of any way to make it more interesting! 🙂

    1. Un/fortunately, it’s very specific “The central conflict is between patrician and plebeian. Discuss with reference to two or more of the following, Plutarch, Shakespeare or Brecht.” I’m going to watch the movie and the BBC adaptation just to gain a more holistic picture of the play, but I’ve got to say I think this is the worst module of my course!
      Thanks for the suggestions 🙂

      1. I’m assuming it requires tackling the plebeian/patrician conflict, along with one or two others. Hopefully I go in the right direction, my tutor isn’t exactly forthcoming about essay questions!

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