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Act I, Scene 9
This scene shows the reassembling of the victorious Roman forces. As an alarm is sounded, Cominius and Marcius enter with the Roman soldiers. The battle against the Volscians has been won, and the mood is jubilant. Cominius extols Marcius for his show of valor and courage in single-handedly capturing the city of Corioli. Cominius can hardly wait to praise him publicly and proclaims that he will sing his praises to all of Rome. He takes pleasure in the thought that even the plebeians will be compelled to “thank the gods/ Our Rome hath such a soldier.” Marcius modestly asserts that he has done the same as anybody else would for his country.
Cominius offers a tenth of the spoils of war to Marcius; he declines by saying that his heart cannot accept “a bribe to pay my sword.” Such nobility results in a renewed cry of commendation for Marcius from the Roman soldiers. He resists the praise, but Cominius persists in acknowledging Marcius’ bravery and gives him his own horse and bestows the honorific title of Coriolanus on him in memory of his triumph. There is a general roar of approval and the sounding of drums and trumpets. Marcius is humble and says that he must go and wash his face with blood so they cannot see that he is blushing.
Cominius takes charge and orders Lartius to go back to Corioli; he is to send some Volscian Senators as hostages to Rome so that the terms of the peace treaty can be favorably drawn up. Marcius then begs a favor of Cominius; he pleads for the release of a poor Volscian prisoner who had provided him refuge during the battle. Cominius instructs Lartius to set the Volscian free, but Marcius is too worn to recall the man’s name. He asks for a drink of wine and retires to his tent as Cominius reminds him of his wounds, which need to be cleaned and dressed.
This scene shows a preoccupation with praising Marcius for his unforgettable bravery. Cominius insists that Marcius’ deeds must be recognized and implies that his fame as a warrior will placate the plebeians and impress the Senators and the patricians back home. He also bestows the title of Coriolanus upon him in honor of his defeat of the city. Marcius humbly resists all the attention, saying he only did what any brave countryman would do. He honestly believes that any good Roman would fight to the bitter end, impervious to injuries or exhaustion. Marcius also refuses any of the spoils or war, saying that the battle is his reward.
This scene proves that Marcius, now Coriolanus, is truly a dedicated and selfless soldier. It also serves to isolate him from all the others, including Cominius, who cannot live up to his bravery. Unfortunately, Marcius, by nature, cannot help but look down in disdain upon those who cannot live up to his code of honor. It is this isolation, coupled with his inflexibility and pride, that will cause his eventual downfall.
A humane side of Marcius’ character is revealed when he pleads for the release of a Volscian prisoner, who aided him during the siege of Corioli. This is the first and only time in the entire play when Marcius shows any concern for a commoner; unfortunately, his wish cannot be carried out, for Marcius cannot remember the man’s name.