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Compare and contrast Coriolanus and Menenius and their relationship.

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In the play, Menenius Agrippa is a foil for Coriolanus. While Coriolanus is blunt and sometimes callous in his speech, Menenius is ever the smooth-talking, silver-tongued politician.

As an illustration, both men relate to the public in uniquely different ways. In Act 1, Scene 1, Menenius addresses the populace with consummate courtesy and grace. He addresses them as "good friends" and "honest neighbors." When he discovers that the citizens intend to revolt against their leaders, Menenius takes steps to calm the mob down. First, he assures them that the patricians' chief aim in life is to care for the people who rely on them. Then, he tells them a little story that appeals to their emotions (Menenius is, after all, a politician, and he is certainly well-versed in the art of rhetoric).

Basically, Menenius equates the patricians to the stomach in a body; its chief purpose, as the "store-house and the shop of the whole body," is to apportion the body's resources to the rest of the body. Contrast Menenius' skillful gallantry with Coriolanus' brash sullenness as the latter appears before the mob:

What's the matter, you dissentious rogues,
That, rubbing the poor itch of your opinion,
Make yourselves scabs?

What would you have, you curs,
That like nor peace nor war? the one affrights you,
The other makes you proud. He that trusts to you,
Where he should find you lions, finds you hares;
Where foxes, geese...

I'll make a quarry
With thousands of these quarter'd slaves, as high
As I could pick my lance.

And let me use my sword, I'll make a quarry
With thousands of these quarter'd slaves, as high
As I could pick my lance.

Coriolanus loses no time in insulting the populace; he calls them "curs" and insinuates that they are untrustworthy as well as fickle. If he had his way, he would have them all quartered and heaped into a mountain as high as he could pitch his sword. Meanwhile, Menenius tries to persuade Coriolanus to calm down, explaining that "these are almost thoroughly persuaded."

In other words, Menenius is quite willing to manipulate the people to further his own ends. He isn't any more inclined towards the common citizenry; he's just better at hiding his true emotions. Later, in Act 3, Scene 3, it is Menenius who covers for Coriolanus again when the latter insults the plebeians and their tribunes.

It should be noted that Menenius is an extremely ambitious character; he knows that his position as Coriolanus' informal chief public relations officer will benefit him in the long run. After all, to be an aide to a future consul is no small feat. So, Menenius convinces Coriolanus to swallow his pride and to submit himself to the will of the people. Coriolanus reluctantly agrees, and Menenius smooths the way by reminding the plebeians that Coriolanus is a soldier and that he's used to speaking bluntly.

Menenius advises the people not to interpret Coriolanus' "rougher accents for malicious sounds." In Act 2, Scene 1, Menenius draws attention to Coriolanus' war injuries, and in Act 3, Scene 1, he reminds the people that Coriolanus "has been bred i' the wars/ Since he could draw a sword, and is ill school'd/ In bolted language." Menenius tries to portray Coriolanus as a war hero who is worthy to be consul. In short, Menenius sees himself as Coriolanus' mentor; in his mind, Coriolanus needs a steady adviser to help him navigate his way through the political jungle. However, as can be seen in Act 5 (when Menenius tries to warn Coriolanus against invading Rome), Menenius' judgment regarding his protege sometimes proves faulty. He isn't as influential as he thinks he is, especially when Coriolanus is set on a particular path.

In all, the relationship between both men is complex, ambivalent, and sometimes contentious.

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Compare and contrast the characters of Coriolanus and Aufidius as well as their relationship with each other.

Coriolanus and Aufidius begin the play as military leaders from opposing sides. While Coriolanus is a Roman general, Aufidius leads the Volscians. Coriolanus is unyielding, brutal, and relentless in battle; similarly, the same can be said for Aufidius. If there's anything the two have in common at the beginning of the play, it's their prevailing and consuming hatred for each other. Each man's chief goal is to annihilate the other in hand-to-hand combat.

Despite their mutual hatred, however, the two men clearly admire each other. This can be seen in their meeting in Act 4 Scene 5, when Aufidius generously calls his arch enemy "noble Marcius," "worthy Martius," and "Mars" (the god of war). In fact, Aufidius really lays on the compliments, at one point using a sexual analogy and obvious sexual innuendoes to characterize his image of Coriolanus. Indeed, some of Aufidius' words may have made the typical English theatergoer blush:

Let me twine Mine arms about that body...Know thou first,
I loved the maid I married; never man
Sigh'd truer breath; but that I see thee here,
Thou noble thing! more dances my rapt heart
Than when I first my wedded mistress saw
Bestride my threshold.

...thou hast beat me out
Twelve several times, and I have nightly since
Dreamt of encounters 'twixt thyself and me;
We have been down together in my sleep,
Unbuckling helms, fisting each other's throat,
And waked half dead with nothing (from Act 4 Scene 5).

Aufidius maintains that Coriolanus looks better standing before him in his unkempt, savage state than his wife did on the day he (Aufidius) married her. Not only that, Aufidius confesses that he dreams of tackling Coriolanus in combat, where they undress each other in the heat of battle—dreams from which Aufidius wakes up "half dead with nothing."

Earlier in the play, Coriolanus admits that he thinks of Aufidius as a "lion" that he's "proud to hunt." Both warriors openly express their admiration for each other in their meeting. Coriolanus maintains that, had he been a man to fear death, he would have "of all the men i' the world" avoided Aufidius. However, he only comes to Aufidius "in mere spite, To be full quit of those... banishers" who have sentenced him to exile from his Roman homeland. He tells Aufidius that he means to join with him and to fight against his "canker'd country with the spleen of all the under fiends." For his part, Aufidius welcomes his adversary warmly. He intends to use Coriolanus' skills and knowledge (of Rome's strengths and weaknesses) to his advantage.

Here, we can see that Aufidius is more of a tactician than Coriolanus. He knows that Coriolanus has put himself in his grasp, but he doesn't take advantage of his enemy immediately. Instead, Aufidius concentrates on his goal to defeat and subjugate Rome; so, he sees beyond the moment and chooses not to focus on vengeance. On the other hand, Coriolanus is intent only on avenging the loss of his station and power. He fails to see that his alliance with Aufidius may prove to be a double-edged sword. Coriolanus is too focused on the surface, immediate possibilities of the partnership; in the heat of his emotional angst, he has failed to grasp the logistics of such an alliance. This is a major difference between both men.

In the end, at the behest of Volumnia and Virgilia (his mother and wife respectively), Coriolanus withdraws from battle with Rome. Aufidius is none too pleased with his ally's decision and characterizes his lack of fortitude as an act of cowardice. He brands him a "traitor," someone who breaks "his oath and resolution like a twist of rotten silk." Meanwhile, Coriolanus accuses Aufidius of being a liar. The argument between both soldiers end in Coriolanus' death at the hands of Aufidius' men.

Aufidius is ever the master tactician; he uses situations to his advantage. Even after he is betrayed by Coriolanus, he resorts to pointing out Coriolanus' sins before the people (how Coriolanus has "widow'd and unchilded many a one" in Rome) to argue his case. Aufidius cleverly lays the foundation for his final action: the act of presiding over Coriolanus' death. By hook or by crook, Aufidius aims to prevail, and he does. For his part, Coriolanus has definitely underestimated his arch enemy!

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