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Coriolanus | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Coriolanus | Act 4, Scene 1 | Summary



Coriolanus says goodbye to his wife, mother, Cominius, and Menenius. Cominius offers to travel with Coriolanus for a month so that word can be sent to his family. Coriolanus tells him Cominius is too war weary to follow him. Menenius wishes he were younger so he could come with him. Virgilia is beside herself with grief. Sentenced to exile and saying goodbye to friends and loved ones, Coriolanus still takes time to insult the populace. He calls them the "beast with many heads."


The "beast with many heads" is a reference to the Hydra, which was a multiheaded beast that destroyed anyone in its path.

Exile in ancient Rome was commonly used as a punishment in lieu of the death penalty. This form of punishment also accentuates the isolation of Coriolanus from society more effectively than the death penalty: he would have died a Roman (albeit a traitor), but now he is a man without a country.

Structurally this scene feels like a resolution to the tense, climactic scene at the end of Act 3 when Coriolanus faces the possibility of death.

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