Coriolanus | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Coriolanus | Act 5, Scene 2 | Summary

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Summary

Menenius visits the Volscian encampment and pleads with the obstinate guards to let him speak with Coriolanus. After the guards ask Menenius to leave repeatedly, Coriolanus and Aufidius enter. Coriolanus is cold and dismissive to Menenius even though Menenius refers to him as his son and to himself as Coriolanus's father. Coriolanus nevertheless orders Menenius to leave. The scene ends with the guards praising Coriolanus. Menenius dismisses the guards as unimportant and deserving of misery for their actions and allegiance with Coriolanus. The First Watch tells Menenius that the "easy groans of old / women, [and the] virginal palms of your daughters" will not be able to move Coriolanus.

Analysis

Menenius has humbled himself in an attempt to persuade Coriolanus to relent. He is acting as the transition to the completely feminine appeal that will later appear when Volumnia, Virgilia, and Valeria arrive to beg his mercy. The question is how is the guard aware that women will try to make an appeal to Coriolanus? Did the spy learn of this? It is not verified.

Menenius prior to this asks if Coriolanus has eaten and that it would be useful to speak with Coriolanus after dinner. This is a domestic approach to solving a problem —as mentioned in the previous scene.

Blood is mentioned again when the First Watch threatens to "let forth your half pint of [Menenius's] blood." The threat of spilling another's blood is effectively stating the importance of blood as a life force. It also refers to the robbing of one's capacity to sacrifice willingly as Coriolanus has done in the past when his blood was like a badge of honor and courage. The act harms both body and soul of the victim.

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