death.' (ll.284-6) If they expel Coriolanus they risk his wrath from an outside army, but if he is allowed to stay they know he will repeal the grant of the Tribunes' constitutional rights. Typical to Shakespearean drama, we are presented with the dilemma, but given no right or wrong answer.Act III, scene ii
We meet Coriolanus who emphasises his steadfastness:
'Let them pull all about mine ears, present me
Death on the wheel, or at the wild horses' heels,
Or pile ten hills on the Tarpeian rock,
That the precipitation might down stretch
Below the beam of sight: yet will I still
Be thus to them.'
Coriolanus lacks the political skills of guile and duplicity; Volumnia is more cynical and recognises her son's error - 'if / You had not show'd them how ye were dispos'd, / Ere they lack'd power to cross you.' (ll.21- 3) She argues that Coriolanus still has time to impose his position on Rome and outmanoeuvre the Tribunes. Menenius concurs: 'why, their hearts were yours: / For they have pardons, being ask'd, as free / As words to little purpose.' (ll.87-9)
Coriolanus, however, is appalled at the prospect of returning to the marketplace: 'To th' market-place! / You have put me now to such a part which never / I shall discharge to th' life.' (ll.104-6) Following from earlier theatrical imagery or association with duplicity, Coriolanus' nature is unwilling to act the part, and moreover he does not possess the necessary capabilities to retain power through the political art of deception. Following this, Shakespeare has ascribed to the marketplace prominence in Roman social- political life. As a place where interaction between several classes can be seen, the Shakespearean Roman marketplace resembles Elizabethan and Jacobean public theatres.
Coriolanus invokes imagery of 'selling' or 'prostituting' himself; stating, 'Well, I must do't / Away my disposition, and possess me / Some harlot's spirit!' (ll.110-12), it is clear that to Coriolanus' retention of dignity is more important than political necessity. Volumnia castigates Coriolanus for his pride - the matriarchal influence proving successful, the hero resolves himself to take on the politic mantle once again, even though it is against his character (ll.132-4). Answering observations that the Tribunes will be resilient in their accusations, Coriolanus is adamant, 'Let them accuse me by invention: I / Will answer in mine honour' (ll.143-4).Act III, scene iii
An important scene occurs, in which Coriolanus is tried and banished from Rome by the Tribunes. The determination of the Tribunes to topple Coriolanus is clear from the beginning of the Act: Brutus advises, 'In this point charge him home, that he affects / Tyrannical power. If he evades us there, / Enforce him with his envy to the people.' (ll.1-3) The Tribunes are intent on whatever sentence will settle on Coriolanus and that it carries with it the collective 'authority' of the people; moreover they want to provoke Coriolanus to condemn himself, enticing him so 'he speaks / What's in his heart' (ll.28-9).
While the Tribunes are bent on exposing Coriolanus' true prejudices, his friends among the patricians require him to lie. Though Shakespeare balances the two sides of the socio-political struggle, we are drawn most to Coriolanus, despite the shortfalls of his character, because of the way in which he is trapped between them. Before Coriolanus stands before the Tribunes, Menenius asks they accommodate his soldierly manner, and following this seeks to emphasise the martial heroism he has brought and the importance he serves to Rome's external security (ll.49-51). The rhetorical ability that allowed Menenius to intercede between the patricians and the plebeians in the first act has now eluded the aged politician, and even Cominius tells him to hold his tongue (l.57).
Scinius moves onto the proceedings; the charge against Coriolanus is clear - he is cast as 'traitor to the people' (l.66), which remains unacceptable despite Brutus' acknowledgement of his martial endeavours (ll.83-4). However Brutus' comparison of serving Rome on the battlefield to his own civic duties has been calculated, and Coriolanus' outburst predicted, and even counted upon.
The sentence of Coriolanus' banishment from Rome is pronounced; Cominius interrupts with a declaration of his allegiance to the state in a manner that moves towards fulfilling the description offered by Menenius' belly fable in act one. The Tribunes however cut Cominius short because it is an aside from the task at hand - Coriolanus' expulsion. The Tribunes, unlike the mob Menenius diffuses, are not interested in the patricians' rhetoric
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