Coriolanus : Act Four

PLOT UPDATE: The people of Rome, riled by the tribunes, decide to revoke their support of Coriolanus as consul. The tribunes confront him and, in typical Coriolanus style, he totally loses his rag and goes off on a long rant about how lousy and useless the people are and how their tribunes are a blight upon the noble senate of Rome. The tribunes are furious, and declare him a traitor who should be put to death. Menenius and his mother plead for him to apologize and make peace with the people, but this backfires and Coriolanus is banished from Rome, effective immediately.

 

Coriolanus does not waste time with long goodbyes. He barely speaks to his wife in this scene, apart from asking her to stop lamenting so loudly. He does, however, have a great line to say to his mother:

Resume that spirit, when you were wont to say,
If you had been the wife of Hercules,
Six of his labours you'd have done, and saved
Your husband so much sweat. 

That's Volumnia for you. I can just see her now... "Hercules, you're slaying that Nemean Lion all wrong, you let me do that! .... Hercules, that's not how you behead a Hydra! This is how you behead a Hydra!"

In case you think my portrayal of Volumnia is over the top, I just want to point out that the reaction of the tribunes when they see her coming is, in fact, "Let's not meet her." Everyone in Rome knows how intense Coriolanus's mum is.

Shakespeare sticks this little scene with the Roman spy and the Volscian spy in to remind people what's going on, in case they fell asleep earlier in the play. It also reminds people that the Volscians are still around, even though we haven't seen them since Act 1. 

One has to hand it to Coriolanus: he's got guts. The first thing he does after being banished is walk into the stronghold of the Volscians. 

It is worth noting that "O world, thy slippery turns!" is Coriolanus's only soliloquy. Normally I would say that it is therefore the only time we hear exactly what Coriolanus is thinking, but actually Coriolanus is a pretty straight-talking fellow, so I'm pretty sure 90% of the time his non-soliloquies are accurate representations of his inner thoughts. 

The first thing Coriolanus does in Antium is head straight to Aufidius's house and get into a shoving match with the servants there. He's consistent, our Coriolanus is. 

This is another one of the great scenes, with Coriolanus revealing his desire to take revenge on Rome by teaming up with Rome's enemies, the Volscians. Aufidius is just beside himself with delight here. It's really very adorable. What should we call this new celebrity power couple? Marfidius? 

Why is it so endearing to hear Shakespearean characters say "thwack"? I love it. Anyways, these are Aufidius's servants, and, like all good servants, they stick around and gossip a bit after Coriolanus and Aufidius leave. They're all really, really excited about the prospect of war.

Coriolanus is a massive prick for most of the play, but you really do have to agree with his assessment of the people. "Well, yes, we said "banish him", but really we thought it was a terrible idea at the time." I suppose it's an accurate depiction of an electorate as any.

Oh dear, the first cracks in the promising "Marfidius" bromance are starting to show. Poor old Aufidius. He welcomes his arch-enemy into his life with open arms, envisioning a glorious future together, only to see Coriolanus walking away with everyone's hearts and minds. Perennial second banana, that's our Aufidius.