Coriolanus | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Coriolanus | Act 4, Scene 6 | Summary

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Summary

Brutus and Sicinius begin the scene commenting on the peacefulness in Rome since Coriolanus's departure. Menenius enters and agrees, though he wishes Coriolanus could have controlled his temper with the crowd. An aedile (Roman magistrate) enters with news that the Volscians are advancing, likely due to the knowledge of Coriolanus's banishment. A messenger enters with reports that Coriolanus has joined forces with Aufidius, but the tribunes and Menenius find it hard to believe. Cominius declares the tribunes have brought the fall of Rome upon them: when their city is destroyed and their wives and daughters raped, it will be their own fault. Some citizens enter and insist they never really wanted to banish Coriolanus. Brutus and Sicinius are distressed by the news and leave for the capital to learn more.

Analysis

This scene shows the fickleness of the citizens, tribunes, and close friends of Coriolanus. Some of them begin the scene commenting on the positive change in Rome since Coriolanus's departure. But they are all one voice in admitting they made a mistake as soon as they learn he may be allied with the Volscians. This undercuts any credibility they may have had and makes the imperious Coriolanus seem superior by comparison. There is the implication that what ultimately matters is might, will, and power, not ethics. If the tribunes and citizens truly felt Coriolanus was a threat to the state, then they should honor that. However, what is unclear is whether Cominius and the citizens actually regret exiling Coriolanus or simply regret the consequences of that decision.

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