Coriolanus | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Coriolanus | Act 2, Scene 2 | Summary

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Summary

An officer comments that Coriolanus is "vengeance proud and loves not the common people." Another feels he is a worthy man. The two exchange more opposing views before agreeing Coriolanus is indeed a fit person to be consul. In the Senate, Menenius asks Cominius to speak of the honorable service for which Martius has been bestowed the honorific of Coriolanus. Before Cominius can speak, Brutus and Sicinius remind the audience of Coriolanus's poor relation to the people. Menenius asks they be silent so Cominius can speak. Coriolanus rises and prepares to leave, but one of the senators asks him to stay. Coriolanus downplays his achievement as he has done before. He says he would rather not have his wounds than to hear them discussed. He also professes to love the people. At this point he exits. Menenius continues by stating Coriolanus would gladly sacrifice all his "limbs for honor" rather than hear others talk about the sacrifice.

Cominius finally speaks by sharing Coriolanus's battle history, including the recent victory at Corioles. Coriolanus returns and is proclaimed consul but does not want to address the people and display his wounds as is customary. Menenius tells him to perform the duty that is expected of him. Coriolanus reluctantly agrees but does not want praise for his scars and feels he may fail the people. Brutus tells Sicinius to mark Coriolanus's words. After Coriolanus exits, Brutus and Sicinius decide to inform the people of Coriolanus's disregard for the custom. They will remind the people of their right to have an audience with him.

As seen before, wounds are symbolic of honor and sacrifice. Coriolanus desires to keep his war scars to himself and not display them for the citizens' judgment. This means he still cares nothing for the Roman tradition of humbling oneself before the public. This suggests he is placing himself above all others, separate from them.

The plan Brutus and Sicinius mentioned in the previous scene comes to fruition in this one. They indeed attempt to undermine Coriolanus's achievement by reminding the citizens of their dislike for the man. Herein lies another example of what some critics consider the masculine, warlike actions of the play, masculinity being the forceful, headstrong, unapologetic approach to existence. There appears to be no room for forgiveness or for a change in the public's attitude. The destruction of Coriolanus appears to be a foregone conclusion. This scene provides no uplift for the main character, no hint that there might be a renewed relation with the people.

Analysis

Coriolanus's self-infatuation is again made evident in the comments of the officers. Coriolanus appears oblivious to the seething hatred that surrounds him. Instead his concern is on himself and his view of what is important in a society. By grudgingly agreeing to present himself to the people he is again displaying his contempt for the very social traditions for which he fights so valiantly. This can raise a question. Why does he fight? The only person he bows to is Volumnia, who instilled in him the Roman virtues of sacrifice and honor. But Coriolanus appears to be more concerned with his interpretation of the virtues than with society's interpretation. This is the root of the hatred the public has shown for him even in the first act. He derides the commoners and feels no responsibility or connection with them. This creates a situation mentioned earlier that the main character rises in importance, while plans for undoing his status loom in the background.

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