Coriolanus

Coriolanus

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Jul 27-Aug 7, 2022

Coriolanus

What is the city but the people?

Follow the tumultuous career of one of ancient Rome’s super soldiers in Shakespeare’s white-hot war play. An enduring, resonant tale, "Coriolanus" raises questions about the power of common people, the efficacy of leaders who always speak their mind and the strength of a democracy run by polarizing political schemes.

Since 1958, the Colorado Shakespeare Festival has delighted audiences with professional theatre on the CU Boulder campus. Complete your Colorado summer with Shakespeare in the elegant indoor University Theatre.

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Performance dates and times

Wednesday, Aug. 3, 7:30 p.m.  $22-$54
Thursday, Aug. 4, 7:30 p.m.  $24-$59
Sunday, Aug. 7, 2 p.m.  $22-$72

View full CSF 2022 calendar

Buying options and discounts

Save big with season tickets! This show is available in the Full, Pick 2 or 3, Weekday Will, and Choice Option packages or as an add-on to other season ticket orders. Learn more

Single ticket discounts are available for preview night, groups (10+), youth (K-12), seniors (65+), students, active military and CU employees. Volunteer ushers get to see the show for free. Learn more

More about the show

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Plot synopsis

Rome is in crisis. The starving citizens blame the patricians for the high cost of food, and a gang of them come looking for the imperious war hero Caius Martius. The altercation is interrupted by news of military threat by the Volscians, an enemy at the edges of Rome. Martius heads to war while his wife Virgilia worries and his mother Volumnia celebrates his bravery. After victory against the Volscian general Aufidius at Corioli, Martius is renamed Coriolanus.

In Rome, the Senate chooses Coriolanus for consul and he controls his unruly tongue long enough to win over the citizens to his election. Tribunes of the people Brutus and Sicinius, however, plot against him and convince the citizens he was mocking them with faux humility. The citizens change their minds; Coriolanus is enraged at their fickleness and ignorance. The tribunes accuse him of treason against the people and succeed in banishing him from Rome. As Volumnia curses the tribunes, Coriolanus leaves Rome and seeks out Aufidius in Antium. The former enemies agree to conquer and destroy Rome together. Rumors of the alliance reach Rome, causing general panic and regret over the banishment. As the armies make their way to Rome’s gates, Aufidius questions the alliance, suspecting his own men’s loyalty may have shifted to Coriolanus.

Coriolanus and Aufidius arrive outside Rome; the Romans ask Menenius, a former friend and confidante to Coriolanus, to visit the camp and beg for mercy for Rome. His pleas fail to sway Coriolanus. Volumnia, Virgilia and Young Martius (Coriolanus’ son) arrive at the camp. His mother convinces him to spare Rome and Volumnia returns to the city in triumph. Coriolanus returns to Antium with Aufidius, and to a final confrontation when Aufidius names him a traitor to their cause.

 —Heidi Schmidt, dramaturg

Director's note

Part political satire and part portrait of an utterly driven army veteran returning to civilian life, Coriolanus is a strange and powerful work that defies easy categorization. George Bernard Shaw puckishly called this play “the greatest of Shakespeare’s comedies,” and while there’s no denying that the script is filled to brimming with deliciously sly humor, Coriolanus moves back and forth between hilarity and heartbreak with dizzying speed. 

Unsettling family dynamics abound, and Coriolanus himself—”a thing of blood,” as he is called—remains one of Shakespeare’s most troubled (and troubling) creations. He’s a man who thrives on carnage, a military hero unable to function normally during peacetime. And while Coriolanus is widely acknowledged as being one of Shakespeare’s most explicitly political dramas, the Bard’s personal views prove stubbornly difficult to pin down. 

Coriolanus was probably the last tragedy Shakespeare ever wrote, and for much of its production history the play has been successfully co-opted by both the political right and left. Members of each camp have routinely claimed Coriolanus for their own, but Shakespeare himself wisely abstains from taking sides and simply lets the satiric arrows fly. But then, that’s the essential nature of this fierce and funny tragicomedy: Nothing is sacred and everybody’s fair game—even if his name happens to be “Caius Martius Coriolanus.”          

—Anthony Powell, director

Please note: This production contains adult themes and effects, including simulated graphic violence.