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MonkeyNotes-Coriolanus by William Shakespeare
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Act III, Scene 3

Summary

Sicinius and Brutus arrive at the Forum and wait for Coriolanus, plotting his demise. Whatever way Coriolanus deals with the situation, the tribunes have figured out a way for him to be ousted from power. An aedile enters with the news that Coriolanus is coming, accompanied by Menenius and the Senators who favor him. Sicinius instructs the aedile to assemble people according to their tribes and to tell them to listen to the voices of the tribunes. He says that the death sentence may be modified to the imposition of a fine or banishment, and the citizens are to affirm whatever the tribunes say. Brutus adds that the people should be kept in a state of frenzied excitement during the proceedings. After the aedile leaves, Brutus says that the trick is to enrage Coriolanus since “once chaf’d, he cannot / Be rein’d again to temperance; then he speaks / What’s in his heart ; and that is there which looks / With us to break his neck.” These tribunes understand that Coriolanus’ anger can undo him.

Coriolanus enters with his supporters, and Menenius reminds him to remain calm. Coriolanus is irritated by this constant reminder and angrily replies that he will be as modest as an ostler. As Sicinius orders the commoners to draw nearer, Coriolanus inquires whether this meeting will resolve the quarrel once and for all. Sicinius answers that matter will be solved if Coriolanus submits to the people’s demands, allows them to have representatives, and repents for the accusations levied against them. Coriolanus consents to all of the conditions.


Menenius tells the commoners to consider Coriolanus’ former services to the state during war. He further says that Coriolanus has spoken to them as the true soldier that he is and should be forgiven his roughness. Coriolanus then inquires why the people have revoked his election. Sicinius replies that he is a traitor because he harbors tyrannical intentions of curtailing the commoners’ liberties. Hearing this provocative statement, Coriolanus denounces the tribunes and calls Sicinius a liar. Immediately there is an angry response as the crowd yells to put Coriolanus to death. Brutus surprisingly objects and says that Coriolanus’ former services to the state must be considered. Sicinius joins in to suggest immediate banishment. The citizens agree unanimously. Cominius tries to intervene, but Sicinius is firm, saying that the sentence has been passed. Coriolanus accepts his banishment with dignity and predicts that Rome will be conquered by the enemy since its mighty defender is banished.

Coriolanus leaves with his group of supporters. The commoners are happy that the people’s enemy is to be sent from Rome. Sicinius orders the crowd to follow Coriolanus to the city gates and hurl invectives at him. The commoners are eager to do so and depart. At the end of the scene, Sicinius is basking in his triumph and orders that a guard accompany the tribunes through the city.

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