Coriolanus is banished from Rome and joins Aufidius, who after regrouping his army, prepares to march on a now vulnerable Rome. Under the Tribunes, Roman citizens enjoy a period of peace and prosperity until the news of the imminent arrival of the Volscian army, and more Coriolanus' presence with them, precipitates further political crisis. Aufidius, struck by envy at Coriolanus' popularity amongst the Volsci, vows to destroy Coriolanus after they have defeated Rome.Act IV, scene i
At the gates of Rome, Coriolanus leaves his family and friends. The tears of the women make him uneasy, and his castigation of the people is as vehement as ever, scorning 'The beast / With many heads butts me away' (ll.1-2). He draws attention that while 'common chances common men could bear' he, 'Will exceed the common, or be caught / With cautelous baits and practice.' (ll.32-3) Coriolanus may exceed the common, but the cautelous baits will mark his end. Cominius offers to accompany Coriolanus (l.38); on parting, the hero makes a declaration of his unchanging beliefs and attitudes:'While I remain above the ground you shall
Hear from me still, and never of me aught
But what is like me formerly.'
Act IV, scene ii
In Rome, the pacific rule of the Tribunes is contrasted with the hard-edged approach of Coriolanus - 'Now we have shown our power, / Let us seem humbler after it is done / Than when it was a-doing.' (ll.2- 5) They are approached by Menenius, Virgilia and Volumnia.
Sicinius asks Volumnia, 'Are you mankind?' (l.16) In effect the Tribune is scorning her politicised, aggressive and violent approach and involvement in Roman civic life. It is unnatural for a woman to be so. Volumnia misunderstands, and retorts - 'Are you human?' Still enraged after bidding farewell to her son at the city gates, Volumnia venomously questions the Tribunes' political cunning and deviousness - 'Hadst thou foxship / To banish him that struck more blows for Rome / Than thou hadst spoken words?' (ll.18-20) Volumnia can never dispel her obsession with martial feats in appraisal of her son, and the effect is to juxtapose the barbaric brutality of Coriolanus and the battlefield with the civility of Roman politics and its oratory; violence against reason. Her language at this point is dominated by violence (e.g. ll. 23- 7). Volumnia makes an allusion to the classical story of Juno but with the emphasis that while Juno destroyed Troy she will save Rome.Act IV, scene iii
This scene prepares the ground for the military union of Coriolanus with Aufidius. A day's travel from Rome, the Roman traitor Nicanor meets a Volscian. The pair talk of the rioting in Rome, of which the Volscian already has been informed, yet is surprised to learn of Coriolanus' banishment. The resultant weakness of Rome will provide the ideal opportunity for a Volscian invasion, already in preparation - alluding to this he declares, 'I have heard it said, the fittest time to corrupt a man's wife is when she's fallen out with her husband' (ll.31-3).Act IV, scene iv
Coriolanus enters in 'mean apparel' and has acquired the 'gown of humility'. The martial hero has become transformed into the tragic hero - the process in comparable to that of Richard III, as we are thrown from political to personal, human drama. The transformation is expressed in Coriolanus' only soliloquy. Arriving in Antium, he stands among the widows of his long-standing enemies. The immediate reflection is his responsibility, 'Tis I that made thy widows'. He acknowledges his vulnerability when deprived of his sword and armies, and stands off the battlefield.
Coriolanus seeks directions to Aufidius' house; on his way he pauses to soliloquise (ll.12-22). The hero manages self-justification for his betrayal of Rome by seeing the past events and the world as in a state of flux. Cast out from Rome, Coriolanus must seek acceptance elsewhere. On his departure from Rome in scene one, we are still under the belief that Coriolanus' commitment to his own idea of Rome - the Rome of the patricians - remains intact. Here we are given insight into the hatred he feels for the city: 'My birthplace hate I' (l.23), total rejection and complete disdain.Act IV, scene v
Coriolanus and Aufidius meet for the first time without drawn swords. Coriolanus is prevented from entering Aufidius' house by the servants, who are concerned by his weathered appearance. The exchange with the Third Servant parallels with the blood- soaked imagery of I.vi, though now Coriolanus rather than
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