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MonkeyNotes-Coriolanus by William Shakespeare
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Act V, Scene 2

Summary

Menenius goes to the Volscian camp to plead for Rome but is prevented by the guards from meeting Coriolanus. Menenius attempts to humor the guards by praising them for doing their duty and then declares that he is an officer of the state of Rome and has come to speak with Coriolanus. The guards refuse to believe him and mock him, hurling abusive statements. They tell him that by banishing Coriolanus, the Romans have given their shield to their enemy. Menenius is ruffled by the guardís disrespect and warns him that if Coriolanus were here he would be received with dignity. The guards remain adamant and refuse to admit him. They even threaten to hurt him if he does not leave. At this point, Coriolanus and Aufidius happen to pass by.

Menenius is extremely relieved by Coriolanusí arrival and rebukes the guards for their impudence and disrespectful behavior. He threatens the guards with losing their lives for detaining him from meeting Coriolanus. He then turns to Coriolanus and tearfully addresses him as his son and says that he was fearful of coming here, as others before him have not had any luck. He asks him to pardon Rome, but Coriolanus remains unmoved and bids Menenius to leave. Aufidius praises him for his resolute firmness.

After Coriolanus and Aufidius leave, the guards taunt the dejected Menenius, reminding him of his claims of greatness and the supposed value of his name with Coriolanus.


Notes

Scene two proves that Cominius had been right in his skepticism about the success of Meneniusí endeavor. At this point, the steely resolve of Coriolanus and the victory of the Volscians seem certain.

The encounter between Menenius and the guards is yet another variation of the confrontation between the patricians and the commoners, but this time Meneniusí flattery does not get him anywhere. It only works within Rome where his power is assumed rather than tested. His feigned geniality toward the guards only results in undisguised contempt for him.

On seeing Coriolanus, Menenius thinks he will be able to appeal to him as one patrician to another, or as a father-figure to his son; the appeals fall on deaf ears, for if Menenius were truly a father figure, he never would have betrayed Coriolanus as he did. Coriolanus knows of his hypocrisy and treats him cavalierly, with no trace of emotion for the man. In order to retain his power within the Volscian army, Coriolanus knows he cannot be seen as being the least bit conciliatory. As a result, he treats Menenius almost like a stranger. Aufidius praise him for his firmness.

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