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MonkeyNotes-Coriolanus by William Shakespeare
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Notes

This scene begins with an assurance that Coriolanus will surely become consul and ends with a strong premonition of his downfall. Although the commoners see Coriolanus as a great advocate of Rome, fighting with a fury that can only reveal his loyalty to the republic, they resent the disdainful way that he treats them. In truth, Coriolanus is not so much loyal to Rome as he is single- minded in becoming the ultimate warrior, as Volumnia has taught him.

Coriolanus’ encounter with the common citizens reveals his pride and inflexibility, as well as his inability to be humble before them. It is clear that Coriolanus thinks that he is being hypocritical to solicit the commoners’ votes and feels it is more painful than the wounds he has received. In spite of the disdainful manner in which he answers their questions, the citizens vote for him because he has been a brave soldier, faithfully serving Rome. The uneasy alliance between Coriolanus and the commoners is domed to fail, for both parties are merely going through formalities rather than being genuinely supportive of one another.


Coriolanus’ soliloquy, in his brief respite from greeting the commoners, reveals his hatred of wearing the cloth of humility and begging for votes and questions why he must be so shamed. In truth, rather than asking why he has to participate in so vile an act, Coriolanus should be asking why he finds it so distasteful; but Coriolanus is unable to analyze himself off the battlefield. He is first and foremost a soldier, and the clothes of protocol and politics do not fit him well. His discomfort is shown when he asks Menenius whether he may change his clothes so that he may “know himself” again. To him the market place episode has been an unreal fiction, distanced from his true warrior self.

As expected, Brutus and Sicinius take full advantage of the doubts assailing the citizens of their decision to support Coriolanus. Not only do they remind the citizens of Coriolanus’ hatred for them, they suggest that his consulship presents a horrendous danger to the liberties of the common people. The tribunes cleverly and deceitfully blame themselves for misleading the citizens to vote for Coriolanus. This subterfuge will result in their being cast from blame for Coriolanus’ downfall.

The scene closes with the people wanting to revoke their vote and marching off to the Senate. Sicinius justifies his actions by saying that the people themselves have determined to rebel, and the tribunes have only goaded them on.

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