Coriolanus | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Coriolanus | Act 5, Scene 1 | Summary

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Summary

Meeting with Brutus and Sicinius, Menenius and Cominius describe their unsuccessful attempt to convince Coriolanus to forego his attack on Rome. Cominius says Coriolanus did not appear to recognize him. He also did not respond to the title of Coriolanus—or any other name—and Cominius speculates he wants to forge a new name from "th' fire / Of burning Rome." Menenius blames the tribunes, but they are equally concerned with avoiding Coriolanus's wrath. Brutus and Sicinius persuade Menenius, who has been loved by Coriolanus, to plead with him to relent. Menenius reluctantly agrees. Cominius feels the only ones able to reach him are Volumnia and Virgilia.

Analysis

From what Cominius says about Coriolanus's behavior, it is apparent Coriolanus has undergone a transformation. This change wipes out the character that has been constructed up to this point and ushers in a new identity. Coriolanus's title and respect for Cominius have become valueless. This signals a complete break from Rome and all of which Coriolanus has been so proud up to this point.

The scene implies an admission that all may be lost due to the politics and manipulation of men. Menenius's reference to blood relates to how a good meal stimulates blood flow and how that would be the best context in which to speak with Coriolanus. Here is a more conciliatory, quiet, perhaps traditionally feminine approach. This approach no longer relates to sacrifice and war but to home and the domestic connotation of a good meal. Menenius has portrayed characteristics of kindness, patience, and calmness throughout the play. The conventionally male (warlike) characters are seeing their effectiveness come to an end. This scene becomes an important narrative transition since Cominius's final lines suggest a change of strategy: to have Volumnia and Virgilia, Coriolanus's female relatives, plead with him.

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