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Act IV, Scene 3
This transitional scene reveals the duplicity of Nicanor, the Roman spy, who betrays his country. The scene opens on a highway between Rome and Antium. A Roman on his way to Antium meets a Volscian spy, Adrian. The Volscian does not recognize him immediately until the Roman reminds him that he too is a spy against Rome. When Adrian inquires about the news from Rome, Nicanor informs him that there have been “strange insurrections” by the people against the patricians, but that the situation has been quelled. Adrian is surprised that the rebellion, for the Volscians wanted to attack Rome while they were entangled in their internal conflict. Nicanor tells him that although the main blaze of the rebellion has passed away, a small incident would make it arise again. He explains that the patricians are outraged by the banishment of Coriolanus and are in the mood to curtail the liberties of the commoners and to annul the election of the tribunes forever. Nicanor decides that the time is right for Aufidius to attack since Coriolanus is out of the picture. Both Adrian and Nicanor are happy that they have met each other.
This scene forms a link between Coriolanus’ banishment from Rome and his arrival in Antium. It indicates that a certain quantity of time has elapsed between the two events and depicts how spying and leaking of important information feeds into the vulnerable political situation, where no one except for Coriolanus reveals a true self. Nicanor’s act of betrayal foreshadows the betrayal of Coriolanus. The spy, however, betrays his country for the sake of money and has no qualms about it; in contrast, Coriolanus’ purpose is to seek revenge and make a mark of vindication for himself.