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MonkeyNotes-Coriolanus by William Shakespeare
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Act IV, Scene 2

Summary

This scene opens on a street in Rome near the city gates. Sicinius and Brutus enter and are dismayed to find that Coriolanus has already left, spoiling their plans of hurling abuses at him. Sicinius remarks that Coriolanus’ supporters are liable to be angry; Brutus answers that the two of them must appear humble for awhile. The tribunes order the commoners to go home since their “great enemy” has left and they have regained their “ancient strength”.

Volumnia, Virgilia, and Menenius enter after bidding Coriolanus their tearful farewell. The tribunes do not want to see them, especially Volumnia, since they know of her foul temper. Brutus remarks, however, that they have already been noticed and advises Sicinius to continue walking. Volumnia approaches and curses the tribunes for their actions; Menenius assumes his role as a mediator and attempts to restrain Volumnia’s wrath, to no avail. Even the silent and soft-spoken Virgilia joins her mother-in-law in criticizing the tribunes. Sicinius attempts to pacify the women by wishing that Coriolanus had only remained a soldier and “not unknit himself/The noble knot he made.” Volumnia will not be placated and accuses the tribunes of causing all the trouble. Brutus, quite terrified of her, begs permission to leave. Volumnia bids them to be gone and sarcastically praises them for having done a great deed.

After the tribunes have left, Volumnia wishes that the gods had nothing to do but carry out her curses. Menenius attempts to comfort her by saying that she has nobly rebuked the tribunes and invites her to have dinner with him. Volumnia, however, is inconsolable and says that “Anger’s my meat; I sup upon myself,/and so shall starve with feeding.”


Notes

The two wily tribunes try to avoid Virgilia and Volumnia, but to no avail. The two women approach them and cannot contain their anger. Volumnia correctly blames much of what has happened to her son on the tribunes. Even the mild-manner Virgilia joins in the accusations. Brutus and Sicinius try to escape the blame, saying that Coriolanus undid himself, which is only partially true. The tribunes anticipated his responses and made their devious plans. Volumnia is too clever to be placated with the hypocrisy of the tribunes; she knows the two men are responsible for Coriolanus’ banishment and openly accuses them. Brutus, fearful of her great ire, begs for permission to leave and quickly departs with his friend.

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