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Shakespeare: Coriolanus

1. Patricians and Plebeians

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about the conflict between the patricians and the plebeians, as outlined in the opening scene of the play. In particular, we think about the audience's shifting sympathies in the opening scene as we hear from the plebeians themselves, the populist Menenius, and the play's central figure, Caius Martius – later known as Coriolanus.


In this course, Dr Martin Wiggins (The Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham) explores Shakespeare's Coriolanus. We begin by thinking about the political circumstances in which the action of the play takes place, focusing in particular on the tension between the plebeians and patricians, as well as the combination of internal and external threats to the fledgling Roman state. After that, we think about the intersection between war and politics in the play, before moving onto the figure of Coriolanus himself.


Dr Martin Wiggins studied at the University of Oxford in the 1980s, where he was awarded the Violet Vaughan-Morgan Prize, the Mason Lowance Prize, the Leonard Theberge Memorial Prize, and the Charles Oldham Shakespeare Prize, all for work in English Literature. He was a scholar, and later a graduate scholar, of Mansfield College, where he wrote his D.Phil. thesis on ‘The Assassin in English Renaissance Drama’. He was later elected to a Junior Research Fellowship at Keble College, and came to The Shakespeare Institute in 1990. He has also taught at the University of Reading, Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, London, and The Roehampton Institute.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Wiggins, M. (2018, August 15). Shakespeare: Coriolanus - Patricians and Plebeians [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Wiggins, M. "Shakespeare: Coriolanus – Patricians and Plebeians." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,