Action is eloquence.
Coriolanus, Act III, Scene ii
As the commander prepares to attack, he proclaims "Action is eloquence." The Tragedy of Coriolanus is eloquent in its dialogue, eloquent in its plots, and eloquent in its staging.
If you love Shakespeare's use of language, this is the play for you. If you like drama and intrigue, this is the play for you. If you like lots of sword fighting action, this is the play for you.
Performances of The Tragedy of Coriolanus are April 23-28 in the McGinnis Theatre on the ECU campus.
As the story begins, there are food riots in Rome. The rising price of grain means only the wealthy aristocracy, the patricians, are without hunger.
Rome is also preparing to attack the neighboring Volscians. Lead by Coriolanus, he is facing his sworn enemy, Tullus Aufidius. In Rome's victory, Coriolanus is welcomed home as the conquering hero.
His mother encourages Coriolanus to take advantage of his celebrity and run for Senate Consul but he must get the support of the citizenry, the plebeians. This he finds a most onerous task as he despises popular rule. He compares allowing plebeians to have power over the patricians to allowing "crows to peck the eagles". When this is discovered by the populace, Coriolanus is banished.
In exile, Coriolanus seeks out his former rival, Titus Aufidius. The Volscians are planning an attack on Rome and Aufidius can use Coriolanus's inside knowledge of the city and army. Coriolanus, leading the Volscian army, can have his revenge against Rome's plebeians.
While they are camped outside Rome's walls, Coriolanus's mother visits him and pleads for peace. He relents and he and the Volscian army withdraw but Aufidius sees the capitulation as treason and plots the murder of Coriolanus.
The Tragedy of Coriolanus probably garners as much political discussion today as when it was written.It has been adopted by every political side with equal gusto and its subtle ambiguities continue to fuel debate.
Shakespeare's previous Roman tragedies (such as Antony and Cleopatra and Julius Caesar) were set in Imperial Rome. This play is set more than two centuries earlier when Rome was just another Italian city fighting for its survival. The ECU/Playhouse interpretation is in a post-apocalypse world also fighting for its survival.