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MonkeyNotes-Coriolanus by William Shakespeare
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Act IV, Scene 4

Summary

Coriolanus enters and stops before Aufidius’ house, reflecting on the number of widows he has made in Antium. He is dressed in beggar’s clothes, for he does not want to be recognized by the citizens. A passer-by informs him that Aufidius is entertaining the nobles and Senators of Antium. After the man leaves, he soliloquizes on the transience of friendship and enmity in the world; he also acknowledges that sworn enemies may become friends. Accepting that his fate is precarious, Coriolanus resolves to enter Aufidius’ house and will either die at the hands of Aufidius or join him in the Volscian army.


Notes

The scene shows Coriolanus in Antium, acting on his own desires for glory by attempting to throw himself at the mercy of his archenemy, Aufidius. Clad in rags, worse than the gown of humility that he had to wear in Rome, Coriolanus does not feel uneasy in assuming this humble disguise because he is doing it for himself and not at the command of others. He has decided to enter the house of Aufidius and offer to fight with Volscians against Rome, in order to gain his revenge. He knows his plan is precarious, for Aufidius may decide to kill him immediately. Before entering the house, Coriolanus speaks another soliloquy, one of few he has in the play. This one reveals a deepening of Coriolanus’ character as he accepts that nothing in life is certain; since hatred and friendship are transient, he hopes to find that sworn enemies can become friends. He hopes that Aufidius will accept him and help him to exact his revenge on Rome.

Coriolanus is obviously a man who thrives on adversity. First, he fought the war against the Volscians; then he pitted his strength against the commoners; now he is determined to undo his own country. Rather than admit defeat and retire to a more peaceful existence, Coriolanus must once again make himself a mark for himself, one that he feels will avenge him.

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