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MonkeyNotes-Coriolanus by William Shakespeare
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Act V, Scene 6

Summary

This concluding scene of the play shows the final downfall of the protagonist in Corioli -- the town where he first won fame. Aufidius enters with his attendants and dominates the entire scene. He first instructs the attendants to assemble everyone in the marketplace, where he will tell about the actions of Coriolanus, before the man actually arrives. Aufidius, speaking to some fellow conspirators against Coriolanus, remarks that he has been grossly wronged by his own generosity. He accuses Coriolanus of seducing his friends with flattery and mock humility. Aufidius also charges Coriolanus with selling the blood and labor of the Volscians for a few worthless drops of women’s tears. The conspirators indicate that they are prepared to kill the enemy, but Aufidius says that they must proceed according to public opinion. The conspirators state that Coriolanus’ peace agreement with Rome has angered the soldiers, who had been looking forward to the spoils of war.

The sound of drums and trumpets and the shout of people are heard in the distance as Coriolanus enters the city. The conspirators comment that Coriolanus does not warrant such a greeting, especially in consideration of his attack on the city of Corioli, when many Volscians died.


As the Volscian lords enter to greet Aufidius, he bids his co- conspirators to remain silent. They have read his letter about Coriolanus and find it inexcusable that he entered into a treaty with Rome when it was ready to surrender, thus depriving the Volscians of a victory. Aufidius is glad that the lords agree with him, and says they will soon have the chance to question Coriolanus, who has just come into the city.

Coriolanus enters and greets Aufidius. He asserts that he has led the Volscians successfully in many wars until they reached the gates of Rome. He has brought the spoils of war to the Volscians, which constitute a third part of the expenses of the army. He then declares he has a peace treaty in hand. Aufidius restrains the lords from reading the treaty and charges Coriolanus of treachery and abuse of power. Coriolanus, greatly provoked by being called a “traitor” and a “boy of tears,” says Aufidius is a liar and makes an insulting reference to his triumph at Corioli. His words only strengthen Aufidius’ argument as he reminds the Volscians of the shame inflicted on them when they lost Corioli. Incited by Aufidius’ conspirators and recalling kinsmen who had died at Roman hands, the citizens demand Coriolanus’ death. The lords attempt to establish order and declare that Coriolanus should have a judicious trial. Coriolanus, however, becomes enraged and insulting, angering the Volscians even more. Aufidius and the conspirators rush at Coriolanus with their swords and kill him. As Coriolanus falls down, Aufidius stands over his body.

The lords reproach Aufidius for doing “a deed where at valor will weep.” Aufidius insists that he has been right in removing such a danger to the Volscian state and says that when the lords know the whole truth they will not accuse him. He begs to be called to the Senate, where after making a report he will submit to their censure as a loyal servant.

The lords order that Coriolanus be accorded a funeral befitting a heroic warrior. His rage now spent, Aufidius helps to carry Coriolanus’ body away and declares that he shall have a “noble memory” in Corioli.

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