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MonkeyNotes-Coriolanus by William Shakespeare
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Aufidius

Aufidius is the Volscian war leader and Coriolanus’ hated rival and enemy. At the beginning of the play he appears to be Coriolanus’ mirror image. He is a courageous warrior who hates the common people. Coriolanus’ very first words establish this link --- “I sin in envying his (Aufidius’) nobility, / And were I anything but what I am, / I would wish me he.” Aufidius is respected by the Volscian lords and Senators, as Coriolanus’ courage is admired by the Roman patricians and Senators. Aufidius is the only match for Coriolanus even though he falls a bit short. He is not propelled by his mother’s ambition as Coriolanus is yet he shares Coriolanus’ ambition only his ambition is vitiated by malicious envy. He has been defeated by Coriolanus five times and feels that he must establish his superiority over his rival by defeating him. But the question of superiority is deliberately left unclarified when his encounter with Coriolanus ends abruptly in the middle. When Aufidius meets Coriolanus for the first time on the battlefield, his remarks --- “Not Afric owns a serpant I abhor / More than thy frame I envy”--- reveal the intense hatred that he harbors for his rival. He is angry when the Antiate soldiers come to his aid while he is fighting with Coriolanus and wishes to establish his superiority by fair play. But his character undergoes a moral decline after this battle and he vows to defeat Coriolanus at any cost and by any means--- “Mine emulation / Hath not that honor in’t it had; for where / I thought to crush him in an equal force -- / True sword to sword -- I’ll potch at him some way / Or wrath or craft may get him.”


In the light of this mutual hatred of the rivals, his friendly welcome after Coriolanus has been banished from Rome is surprising and cannot be taken at mere face value. Even the servants comment on this “strange alteration” in Aufidius. Aufidius welcomes him because he sees Coriolanus as being somewhat vulnerable. He offers Coriolanus the joint command of the Volscian army and urges him to seek his revenge against Rome. His jealousy increases when Coriolanus gains popularity among the Volscians and soldiers flock to his part of the army to fight under his command. Coriolanus emerges as the better leader even though he has betrayed his country. But Coriolanus attacks Rome out of a sense of righting his wrongs. After Aufidius has killed him, he shows regret and concedes that Coriolanus was a noble warrior and that he is “struck with sorrow.”

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