William Shakespeare

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Coriolanus: Act 1, Scene 8 Summary & Analysis

Read our modern English translation of this scene.
Caius Martius and Aufidius enter at opposite sides of the battlefield near the Roman camp. Martius says that he will fight with no one other than Aufidius, whom he despises. Aufidius hates Martius equally. The first to flee or try to escape the battle, they agree, will die the other’s slave or will be hunted down like an animal. Martius brags that he fought for three hours within the walls of Corioles and was able to do so easily; the blood that covers his body is not his own. He goads Aufidius to try his best for revenge, and Aufidius says he will not let Martius escape no matter what. The two begin to fight, and Volscian soldiers come to aid Aufidius, but Aufidius complains that their support shames him. Martius fights them all and beats them back, and he Aufidius exit separately.
Finally Aufidius and Martius meet face to face, and it’s clear that the two love to hate each other. Again, Martius emphasizes his heroism alongside of his isolation while bragging about the capture of Corioles. While his heroism makes him more than human – like a god or a force of nature – running away from a battle would make him less than human – like a slave (in his worldview) or an animal. Martius’ isolation is further emphasized by the assistance that Aufidius receives, and Aufidius’ shame in getting support shows the bold heroism of fighting alone. For all their talk and oaths of fighting to the death, their battle ends with both alive, adding drama and leaving audiences hoping that they meet and fight again.
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