On the road to Antium, a Roman named Niancor and a Volscian named Adrian meet, recognize, and greet each other. Adrian asks for news of Rome, saying he has a note from the Volscian state to deliver. Niancor says that Rome has experienced insurrections of the common people against the patrician class. Adrian says the Volscians believed this turmoil was still ongoing, and had hoped to attack Rome in the midst of the chaos. Niancor responds that while the main drama of the insurrection has passed, it could easily be rekindled, since the nobles are so upset about the banishment of Coriolanus and are therefore likely to try to remove power from the people and the tribunes. The state is almost ready for civil war to break out.
This conversation between spies brings back the notion that the political landscape is filled with espionage, and it reminds audiences that Rome faces the threat of invasion and war as well as the internal threat of civil war. The two spies reinforce the fragmentation between the classes in Rome.
Adrian thanks Niancor for the information (“intelligence”) that Coriolanus has been banished. Niancor believes Aufidius will probably fare well in the coming war now that Coriolanus will not fight for Rome. The two leave for Rome together, planning to discuss the strange events that have been taking place in the city. Niancor is thrilled to hear that the Volscian army is prepared to attack Rome when it is weakened by division.
Coriolanus’ military skills are so significant that his absence might sway the coming war in the Volscians’ favor. As pointed out by Coriolanus in his speech before entering exile, the internal divisions of Rome also make it more susceptible than ever to an outside attack.