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Coriolanus (Signet Classics) Mass Market Paperback – July 1, 2002

4.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“A remarkable edition, one that makes Shakespeare’s extraordinary accomplishment more vivid than ever.”—James Shapiro, professor, Columbia University, bestselling author of A Year in the Life of Shakespeare: 1599
“A feast of literary and historical information.”—The Wall Street Journal

About the Author

Arguably the greatest English-language playwright, William Shakespeare was a seventeenth-century writer and dramatist, and is known as the Bard of Avon. Under the patronage of Queen Elizabeth I, he penned more than 30 plays, 154 sonnets, and numerous narrative poems and short verses. Equally accomplished in histories, tragedies, comedy, and romance, Shakespeare s most famous works include Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear, The Taming of the Shrew, and As You Like It.

Like many of his contemporaries, including Christopher Marlowe, Shakespeare began his career on the stage, eventually rising to become part-owner of Lord Chamberlain s Men, a popular dramatic company of his day, and of the storied Globe Theatre in London.

Extremely popular in his lifetime, Shakespeare s works continue to resonate more than three hundred years after his death. His plays are performed more often than any other playwright s, have been translated into every major language in the world, and are studied widely by scholars and students.

Barnet is former Chairman of the English Department at Tufts University.


Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Signet; 2nd Revised edition (July 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451528433
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451528438
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1 x 6.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #244,023 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in April 1564, and his birth is traditionally celebrated on April 23. The facts of his life, known from surviving documents, are sparse. He was one of eight children born to John Shakespeare, a merchant of some standing in his community. William probably went to the King's New School in Stratford, but he had no university education. In November 1582, at the age of eighteen, he married Anne Hathaway, eight years his senior, who was pregnant with their first child, Susanna. She was born on May 26, 1583. Twins, a boy, Hamnet ( who would die at age eleven), and a girl, Judith, were born in 1585. By 1592 Shakespeare had gone to London working as an actor and already known as a playwright. A rival dramatist, Robert Greene, referred to him as "an upstart crow, beautified with our feathers." Shakespeare became a principal shareholder and playwright of the successful acting troupe, the Lord Chamberlain's Men (later under James I, called the King's Men). In 1599 the Lord Chamberlain's Men built and occupied the Globe Theater in Southwark near the Thames River. Here many of Shakespeare's plays were performed by the most famous actors of his time, including Richard Burbage, Will Kempe, and Robert Armin. In addition to his 37 plays, Shakespeare had a hand in others, including Sir Thomas More and The Two Noble Kinsmen, and he wrote poems, including Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece. His 154 sonnets were published, probably without his authorization, in 1609. In 1611 or 1612 he gave up his lodgings in London and devoted more and more time to retirement in Stratford, though he continued writing such plays as The Tempest and Henry VII until about 1613. He died on April 23 1616, and was buried in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford. No collected edition of his plays was published during his life-time, but in 1623 two members of his acting company, John Heminges and Henry Condell, put together the great collection now called the First Folio.

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Format: Mass Market Paperback

This play, written circa 1608, is the last of William Shakespeare's (1564 to 1616) eleven (some say ten) known tragedies. Even though it is known as a "Roman" or "political" play, serious readers will discover that it so much more. I found that it stayed with me long after I read it.

This play is set in ancient Rome. It is essentially the story of warrior Caius Marcius (later known as "Coriolanus") whose honor, pride, and sense of social rank essentially dominates his life and interferes with his ability to function effectively when he's not on the battlefield.

One of the great attributes of this play is that it does not have many characters and thus is easy to follow. The major characters are as follows:

(1) Coriolanus (originally Caius Marcius): a valiant warrior and patrician (nobleman) with a non-overbearing wife. "A soldier to Cato's wish" and a modest hero who "hath deserved worthily of his country" but who lacks tact and refuses to placate "the mutable, rank-scented many."
(2) Volumnia: his overbearing mother. "In anger, Juno-like."
(3) Menenius Agrippa: "a humorous patrician" and an old and true friend of Coriolanus who is trusted by the plebeians (lower class)
(4) Titus Lartius and Cominius: fellow generals with Coriolanus.
(5) Sicinius and Brutus: tribunes (representatives of the plebeians) of the common people and Coriolanus' political enemies. "A pair of strange ones."
(6) Tullus Aufidius: general of Rome's enemies and rival in glory to Coriolanus.

This book (published by Signet Classics in 2002) has some interesting material before and after the play proper. I found the introduction to the play and the six scholarly commentaries especially informative.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
4 stars would probably be more accurate, but seeing that this play is so underrated, I'll be generous. It's not quite "Julius Caesar," "Hamlet," or "King Lear." But like "Timon of Athens," it probably won't ever get the attention it deserves. This play really shows the dark side of war and patriotism. Coriolanus is the central character of this play, and he is first portrayed as fighting valiantly on behalf of Rome vs Aufidius of the Volscians. I'm not sure Shakespeare intended this, but Aufidius almost comes off as the devil incarnate. (But even if this was an accident on Shakespeare's part, it DOES work.) Coriolanus defeats Aufidius and Aufidius has to retreat. (He doesn't like it, but he has to admit under the present conditions he can't beat Coriolanus.) Moving on, we learn of a dark side of Coriolanus. His doting mother who encourages her son's behavior proudly says that Coriolanus enjoyed tormenting butterflies as a child. (Tormenting butterflies?! Talk about a child trait that foreshadows a not so benevolent man!) Well, the people of Rome elect to make Coriolanus part of the Senate. At this point in time, Coriolanus reveals his contempt for the people of Rome. (If we think that someone who is adored of the public will always adore them back, we should THINK AGAIN! Or if we think that people who fight others supposedly under the cause of patriotism always love the people of the country, again we should THINK AGAIN! In fact, these people may only be after feeding their own ego.) Not everyone is a benevolent Rocky! Well, Coriolanus reveals his swollen ego, and as a result he is banished. Well, Coriolanus wants revenge and proving my theory he is willing to make peace with his former enemy Aufidius to destroy the people he supposedly fought on the behalf of!Read more ›
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Politicians and/or military generals get in trouble for all sorts of reasons -- corruption, sex scandals, treachery, being a crack addict, etc.

But you don't often hear about them getting in trouble for being brutally honest about what they think... partly because it never happens. Yet this is what happens in "Coriolanus," Shakespeare's gritty tragedy about a great but unlikeable man who is manipulated into exile, and whose loyalties must be stoked back to Rome. The biggest problem is perhaps that NOBODY in this play is really likable.

Roman general Caius Coriolanus is leading a war against the Volscians, led by his nemesis Tullus Aufidius. After he wins a decisive victory against Aufidius, and gains the city of Corioles for Rome, he's welcomed back as a hero and given the official name of "Coriolanus." His glory-hungry mother encourages him to strike while the iron is hot, and run for consul.

Here's the problem: Coriolanus has a lot of contempt for the common people, and when his political enemies Brutus and Sicinius arrange for the crowds to be filled with... well, the sort of gullible idiots you're confronted with at every election. You know, the people who are shocked when politicians turn out to be liars, and whose convictions are so deep that one heckler can change their minds.

So when the crowds are swayed against him, Coriolanus ends up having a massive public outburst that not only kills his political career, but gets him exiled. He ends up going to the Volscians to serve under his beloved enemy Aufidius (the foe yay between these two is very textually-supported), turning the tide of the war against Rome. Is there any way to bring his old loyalties back?
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