Coriolanus

Coriolanus Act 4, Scene 1 Summary & Analysis

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Summary
Analysis
Outside a gate of Rome, Coriolanus is saying farewell to Volumnia, Virgilia, Menenius, Cominius, and the young nobles of Rome. He tells them to leave their tears, asking for a brief farewell. “The beast with many heads” has banished him. He asks his mother to show her ancient courage, and to demonstrate the precept that she always taught him: everyone can deal with commonplace events, but true character is tested during extreme circumstances. Virgilia cries out “O heavens!” and Coriolanus tries to calm her. Volumnia cries out for typhus to strike all of Rome, but Coriolanus says that he’ll be loved when he is missed.
It’s fitting that a man who hates words would wish for a short goodbye. Again, Coriolanus characterizes the common people with the analogy they hate the most. In her sorrow, Volumnia curses Rome, but she won’t be completely turned against the city by her son’s banishment, showing that the connection to home can outweigh even a familial bond.
Themes
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Coriolanus tells his mother to go back to the spirit she had when she said if she were the wife of Hercules, she’d have done six of his tasks herself to save him some of the work. He tells Cominius not to be sad, and says goodbye to his wife and mother. He tells Menenius not to cry, and asks his general (Cominius) to teach the women how to be stern in the face of horror. Coriolanus claims he must go alone, “like to a lonely dragon,” and promises his mother that he’ll be exceptional.
Part of Coriolanus’ goodbye revolves around the notion that the male soldiers should instruct the women on how to deal with adversity, though Volumnia is already characterized as extremely bold. Coriolanus’ aloneness is emphasized in his exile, and so is his heroic transition from man to something more than man – in this case a “lonely dragon.”
Themes
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War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Family and Femininity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon
Volumnia tries to convince Coriolanus to take Cominius with him until he gets settled, and Cominius says he’s happy to go, especially since it will be difficult to locate Coriolanus if the banishment is ever repealed and he is completely alone in the world. Coriolanus denies Cominius’s company, though, and asks for everyone to come with him to the gates and smile when they say goodbye. He promises that they’ll still hear from him. Menenius says if he were seven years younger he’d accompany Coriolanus into his exile, and they all leave to prepare for Coriolanus’s departure.
Coriolanus seems to embrace his solitude in exile, as if this makes him more heroic and honorable, and he opts to head out from Rome without the company of his longtime military companions. It’s also notable that only the men offer to go with him; his family doesn’t seem to even consider the possibility of abandoning Rome, suggesting that they are only his family as far as they are his Roman family.
Themes
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
Language and Names Theme Icon
War, Violence, and Masculinity Theme Icon
Family and Femininity Theme Icon
Heroism vs. Humanity Theme Icon