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MonkeyNotes-Coriolanus by William Shakespeare
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Act IV, Scene 5

Summary

Without too much hesitation, Coriolanus forces his way into the house of Aufidius, entering the hallway between the kitchen and the dining room. The servants are surprised to find a poorly dressed stranger in their company and ask him who he is and how he managed to get past the guard outside. They then order him to get out; but Coriolanus refuses to leave, pushes one of the servants away, and beats another. In the meantime, a servant has gone to inform Aufidius of the altercation.

When Aufidius arrives to find out the cause of the trouble, a servant says that he would have resolved the matter himself by beating the stranger, but it would have caused a commotion and disturbed the party. Aufidius asks the stranger his name and his reason for coming. Coriolanus throws away his disguise and tells Aufidius that he should be able to recognize him. When Aufidius does not know him, Coriolanus introduces himself and says that he is the one who had done great injuries to the Volscians and received the honorific title for his deeds. Explaining that he has been banished from Rome by the cruel and envious commoners, he says that he has come to Aufidius in order to join the Volscians so that he may revenge himself on the banishers. He offers to fight against Rome alongside Aufidius; but he also understands if the Volscian decides to kill him for personal revenge.

Aufidius declares himself overjoyed to greet Coriolanus as a comrade and declares that his love is as strong and powerful as his earlier hatred. After he tells him about the Volscian plan of attack, he offers to share his command with Coriolanus since he is thoroughly acquainted with Rome’s strengths and weaknesses and can be of great help. The two men then go inside to introduce Coriolanus to the Senators.

After Coriolanus and Aufidius leave, the servants discuss in amazement what they have witnessed. They argue about who is the better and more formidable man of the two soldiers. They all agree, however, that the Volscians are certain now to be victorious over Rome and that the enemy will be scared away by the very sight of Coriolanus. The scene draws to a close with the servants agreeing that war is preferable to peace.


Notes

Since Coriolanus has decided to join the Volscian army if permitted, he forces his way into Aufidius’ house, much like he forces himself on to a battlefield. Even though he is stopped by the servants, Coriolanus still retains his pride and sense of arrogance. When the servants ask him where he lives, he replies that he lives in “the city of kites and crows.” In truth, Coriolanus can give no permanent dwelling; he has no home, since he has been banished. The servants in the scene provide some degree of comic relief both before and after the meeting between Aufidius and Coriolanus, a meeting filled with tension on the part of the banished Roman warrior.

Amazingly, the scene shows an extremely smooth reconciliation between the two bitter rivals, Coriolanus and Aufidius. Upon learning of Coriolanus’ desire for revenge on Rome, Aufidius almost immediately gives him a joint command of his army, knowing that Coriolanus’ knowledge of Rome and the Romans will help to insure a Volscian victory. Although Aufidius must be totally shocked that Coriolanus is going to join his side, he does not act surprised, but smoothly accepts Coriolanus’ offer of help and says that his love for Coriolanus now equals the greatest emotion that he has ever felt.

The conversation among the servants serves to comment on the preceding action as well as revealing that the glorification of war pervades all aspects of society. While the three servants discuss the odd alliance taking place, they evaluate who is the better warrior. One of the servants accurately estimates that Aufidius is “Cut i’the middle, and but one half of what he was yesterday.” In truth, because Aufidius has accepted Coriolanus into his army and given him joint command, the Volscians will loose the attack on Rome.

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