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Coriolanus | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Coriolanus | Act 5, Scene 4 | Summary



Menenius tells Sicinius there is likely no hope for Rome and the women will probably not be able to sway Coriolanus. A messenger enters saying the plebeians have Brutus and threaten to "give him death by inches" if the women fail to broker a peace. Another messenger enters saying the women have been successful.


Menenius makes the most condemning statement in the play regarding Coriolanus. To Sicinius he refers to Coriolanus as having transformed from a butterfly to a grub, from a "man to dragon." The butterfly symbolized the soul in ancient Rome, so one can interpret Menenius's statement as Coriolanus having lost his soul.

The tension of the climactic previous scene is still evident until the second messenger arrives with the good news. Indeed, the prior messenger brought the news that Brutus would be killed by inches, meaning he would be killed slowly. The citizens appear to be unwitting participants who are looking for a scapegoat for Coriolanus's exile. The result of the domestic intervention has not yet had time to soothe the vengeful hot-headedness among the Roman citizens, who are angry with their own poor decision making.

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