free booknotes online

Help / FAQ




<- Previous Page | First Page | Next Page ->
MonkeyNotes-Coriolanus by William Shakespeare
Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version

SCENE SUMMARIES WITH NOTES

Act I, Scene 1

Summary

The play opens with a mutinous crowd of Roman citizens on the verge of rebellion due to the scarcity of grain. It is one of the most tumultuous openings of all of Shakespeare’s plays. The citizens are armed with weapons and are hostile towards the patrician, Caius Marcius. The First Citizen emerges out of the crowd as the chief spokesman and tests the mob’s resolve to die rather than endure starvation. He voices the general opinion that Caius Marcius is the “chief enemy to the people ” and incites the mob to kill him so that they can have corn at their own price. The First Citizen further denounces the patricians whose subhuman treatment of the plebeians has become too much to bear. He states that their actions are motivated by “hunger for bread” and not by “thirst for revenge.” The First Citizen derogatorily dismisses Caius Marcius as “a very dog to the commonalty” and says that though he has performed great services to the state. Shouts are heard from within, and the mob realizes that there has been an uprising in another part of the city. This news further incites the mob, which is now about to rush towards the Capitol, but are stopped by the arrival of Menenius Agrippa.


Menenius Agrippa is a friend of Caius Marcius and “one that hath always loved the people.” Even the First Citizen admits that Menenius is “honest enough: would all the rest were so!” Seeing the frenzied mob armed with clubs and staves, he inquires about their purpose. He tries to dissuade the plebeians from attacking the Capitol by pointing out that the patricians have their welfare genuinely at heart. Agrippa blames their suffering and lack of food, not on the government, but on the gods; he tells the crowd that supplication on their knees and not armed rebellion would alleviate their misery. This only serves to further incite the mob, and the First Citizen reiterates their grievances against the patricians, who are supposedly hoarding grain.

Menenius attempts to convince the crowd that the patricians do have their welfare at heart by recounting a fable in which the members of the body revolt against the belly, but eventually realize that the belly sustains them all. He likens the Senate to the belly and the crowd to the mutinous members and alludes to the First Citizen as being “the great toe of this assembly.” At this point Caius Marcius enters and addresses the mob most disrespectfully as “dissentious rogues.” When he learns from Menenius that the crowd is rebelling because grain prices are high, Caius becomes enraged. He criticizes the mob’s presumptive attitude that prompts them to dispute the Senate. He threatens to slaughter them and reveals that the uprising in another part of the city has been quelled. He also explains that five tribunes have been appointed to protect the commoners’ interests. Caius is so infuriated by these appointments that he can only recall the names of two tribunes --- Sicinius Velutus and Junius Brutus.

A messenger rushes onstage with the news that the Volscians are in arms and intend to attack Rome. Marcius is overjoyed at this news and says that a war will disperse the mob. Soon a delegation of Roman Senators and Tribunes arrive. They include Cominius, Titus Lartius, Sicinius Velutus, and Brutus. The Senators reaffirm the news of the Volscian attack and ask Marcius to assist Cominius in the war, which he is eager to do. Marcius then praises the valor of the Volscian leader, Aufidius, describing him as a lion whom he is proud to hunt.

After everyone has departed except two of the tribunes, Sicinius tells Brutus that he is surprised that the proud Marcius is willing to be second in command to Cominius. Brutus shrewdly observes that the second in command is not a bad position; if the Romans are defeated, all the blame will fall on Cominius, and if they emerge victorious, Marcius will receive great praise for his valor and courage. The scene closes as the two tribunes leave for the Capitol.

Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version


<- Previous Page | First Page | Next Page ->
MonkeyNotes-Coriolanus by William Shakespeare

Google
Web
PinkMonkey

Google
  Web PinkMonkey.com   

All Contents Copyright © PinkMonkey.com
All rights reserved. Further Distribution Is Strictly Prohibited.


About Us
 | Advertising | Contact Us | Privacy Policy | Home Page
This page was last updated: 5/9/2017 9:52:34 AM