This is one of Shakespeare’s Roman tragedies, along with Julius Caesar and Titus Andronicus. It’s based on an incident in the legendary early history of Rome — a narrative of loosely documented historical fact, almost certainly better established than the story of Titus Andronicus (which is chiefly Shakespeare’s own fiction, based on the mythological story of Procne and Philomela) and far less accurate than Julius Caesar. It is not considered a history play — that term is normally reserved for the unfolding sequence of plays relating to English history.
Coriolanus is thought to have been written around 1607 — after the death of Elizabeth — and is one of those few plays for which we can not verify a production during its author’s lifetime. This does not necessarily mean that it was not performed: sources are somewhat sketchy, and historical arguments from silence are notoriously problematic.
To understand the setting of the play, it is important to realize that it takes place in about 490 B.C., long before Rome was an imperial city. It is still fighting for survival with other cities and tribes of Italy, among the the Corioli and Volscians. The office of tribune has recently been established to uphold the political rights of the lower classes (generall the plebeians) against the patrician and Senatorial aristocracy.
It has never been one of the most popular of Shakespeare’s plays, and its political discourse remains somewhat difficult and obscure, but there are certainly those who have liked it throughout the years, including Beethoven, who wrote his famous “Coriolan” overture for it. Still, productions of it are fairly rare.