Coriolanus | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Coriolanus | Act 5, Scene 6 | Summary

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Summary

Aufidius shares with three conspirators how angry he is with Coriolanus's betrayal and that the will of the people demands either Coriolanus or himself to die. He laments the loss of his alliance with Coriolanus and is disgusted that he was swayed by women. Coriolanus enters stating he is still against Rome and that he feels success was reached without having to physically conquer the city. Aufidius refuses to call Coriolanus by his honorific title and simply calls him Martius and condemns him to death for treason. Coriolanus still cannot understand the anger of the Volscians. He merely lashes out at them with his sword but is killed by Aufidius's fellow conspirators. The lords nonetheless declare their intention to mourn him, and Aufidius declares himself to be overwhelmed with sorrow. Coriolanus's body is taken away.

Analysis

It is clear that the protagonist, Martius (Coriolanus), never transforms of his own free will. For this reason, the only recourse for the character is death. This is the only resolution that will allow for the continued growth and function of Rome and the Volsces. Coriolanus dies completely ignorant of his own shortcomings and hubris, the quality that brought him to exile and ultimately to death.

Blood continues having symbolic importance as Aufidius regrets the "blood and labor" he and Coriolanus shared. Coriolanus mentions the blood he shed leading the Volscian army to the gates of Rome as if that were more important than his betrayal of Aufidius.

The play seems to end abruptly, with no following action that allows Volumnia, Virgilia, or Menenius to comment on Coriolanus's death.

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