LAST TIME ON CORIOLANUS: Coriolanus's attack on Rome is forestalled when his mother Volumnia successfully intercedes with him on behalf of Rome. Coriolanus agrees to make peace with Rome and orders the Volscian army to retreat back to Corioles.
"There is no more mercy in him than there is milk in a male tiger" is one of those great lines that just sums up everything.
Note that the people have completed their cycle of fickleness. First they didn't like Coriolanus. Then they banished Coriolanus. Then they were all "Oooh, we didn't really mean to banish him". And now they're ready to lynch one of their own representatives for banishing him.
Coriolanus has been staged as both pro-democracy and pro-fascist, and both interpretations (and a host of other interpretations along the political spectrum) are valid and can work. However, if you look purely at the text, the people do come off looking like idiots.
Another candidate for "shortest scene in Shakespeare". What's interesting here is Volumnia's reaction to receiving the accolades of Rome. She isn't given any lines in this scene, so we don't know how she reacts. Is she happy about saving Rome and getting the glory that she has previously only received vicariously through her son? Is she sad because she knows her son is probably doomed? Is she angry at the fickleness of the population? All of the above?
A couple points:
- "Kill kill kill kill kill him!" is a direct quote. Shakespeare sure has a way with words, no?
- In the text, Aufidius is not one of the people who actually kills Coriolanus; the conspirators do all the dirty work. However, in just about every performance I have seen, Aufidius most certainly gets his hands dirty.
And that's the end of Coriolanus! I hope you've enjoyed it. I have a couple more short pieces that I will post tomorrow and on Friday, totalling up the number of deaths and summing up the entire play in one page.
Remember, check your local cinemas to see if they will be showing the National Theater Live broadcast of the Donmar Warehouse production of Coriolanus. It doesn't get performed very often, so this is your best bet to see it "on stage", as it were. If you can't see it, you can always rent/buy the 1983 BBC TV production, starring Alan Howard (not a great production, although the acting is good), or the modern-dress 2011 film adaptation, starring Ralph Fiennes (which works brilliantly in the updated setting and is my top pick).