Coriolanus

Coriolanus Act 1, Scene 5 Summary & Analysis

Read our modern English translation of this scene.
Summary
Analysis
Some Roman soldiers enter a street in Corioles carrying spoils they intend to bring back to Rome. Martius and Lartius then enter, and Martius curses the soldiers for taking spoils even before the fighting is over. After they exit, a battle alarum is sounded in the distance, which Martius recognizes as Cominius’s. Martius believes that his enemy, “the man of [his] soul’s hate, Aufidius” is the one attacking the Romans on the other side of the city. He instructs Lartius to secure the city while he (along with those bold enough) goes to help Cominius and fight Aufidius.
Again, Martius’ exceptional heroism is pitted against the behavior of the common Roman soldiers, who he sees as dishonorable cowards. He associates this cowardice and greed with the fickle common people of Rome. Martius’ tie with Aufidius is also developed as more than just a rivalry between military foes. Martius doesn’t just hate Aufidius: he hates him with his soul, blurring the lines between violent passion and amorous, sexual, or at least intense fraternal passion.
Themes
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
Lartius points out that Martius is bleeding, saying that he has been injured too much in the first violent episode to continue fighting. But Martius says he has only just gotten started. He reassures Lartius that the blood he is losing is not dangerous but is in fact curative to him. He will appear to and fight Aufidius in his bloodied state. The two men wish each other luck and exit to carry out Martius’s plan of action.
Martius’ heroism and love for violence is so great that he considers his bloody wounds medicinal to him rather than life-threatening. He becomes more and more associated with blood – he’s covered in it – which continues to connect him with (and define him by) death, violence, and warfare.
Themes
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon