Coriolanus | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Coriolanus | Act 1, Scene 9 | Summary

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Summary

Cominius publicly praises Martius in front of the soldiers, saying he can have a 10th of all the spoils of battle for such a heroic victory. Martius declines by saying he is not deserving of such rewards: he has only done what he can, just as the other men have. Cominius views Martius as extremely humble and is moved further to praise him by bestowing the honorific title of Coriolanus. Now speaking as Coriolanus, he asks Cominius if he would release a prisoner who is an old man who gave him comfort. Cominius consents, and he and Coriolanus return to Cominius's tent.

Analysis

Coriolanus becomes an even more complex character in this scene. His reluctance to receive a justified reward for his valor after expecting it in others can be confusing. The Shakespeare scholar Harold Bloom has commented that Coriolanus sets himself apart from any communal relationship. The character shows an unbelievable level of selflessness while being absorbed with his own honor and hatred for Aufidius. He has shown no compassion before this point, which makes his concern for the old man held prisoner stand out in high relief. His ever-present bloody visage displays his sacrifice. The last two lines of the scene refer to the blood that is drying upon him. Blood for Coriolanus seems to have been as important to his character as his ability to wield a sword.

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