Act IV Scenes i-iv
Act IV, scene i
At the city gates, Coriolanus says goodbye to his wife, mother, and friends. Volumnia curses Rome for banishing him. Menenius is in tears. Cominius wants to go with him and see him settled somewhere, but Coriolanus refuses to let him, and leaves alone.
Act IV, scene ii
Sicinius and Brutus send the plebeians home. They notice Volumnia approaching and try to avoid meeting her, but she sees them and curses them. She angrily tells them they have banished the man who did more for Rome than any other. Sicinius dismisses her as mad, and he and Brutus leave.
Act IV, scene iii
Adrian, a Volscian, meets Nicanor, a Roman spying for the Volscians, on the road. Nicanor reports that the Roman people have revolted against the patricians, and the patricians are so shocked by the banishment of Coriolanus that they are eager to seize the people's powers. The two men agree that Coriolanus's absence from Rome will give Aufidius a good chance of gaining revenge for his former defeat by the Romans. Adrian says that the Volscian army is ready to attack Rome.
Act IV, scene iv
Coriolanus arrives at Antium and stops in front of Aufidius's house. He tells the audience that he intends to ally himself with Aufidius against his native city and become Rome's enemy.
The exchange between Adrian and Nicanor both shows the deceptiveness of a society where little is what it seems (Nicanor is a Roman spying for the Volscians). It also prepares the audience for the coming attack by Aufidius on Rome, and makes clear that this time the odds are very different. The last battle was won for Rome almost single-handedly by Coriolanus, and this time he will not be there. The next scene heightens the tension by showing Coriolanus's intention to ally himself with Aufidius, his former foe. Coriolanus's tragic decline continues, as he turns his back on all that is dear to him ?his homeland, mother, wife, son, and friends ?and becomes Rome's bitterest enemy. His inward transformation is symbolized by his change of garments; he is disguised "in mean apparel,?signifying a departure from his true self.
Coriolanus's soliloquy in Act IV, scene iv draws attention to the "slippery turns?or fickle changes of the world. This is a major theme of the play. The plebeians showed fickleness in changing their minds about supporting Coriolanus, and now Coriolanus is enacting revenge by deliberately fickle behavior ?making friends with his former enemy and attacking the homeland that he previously risked his life for. His description of bosom friends who fall out and become bitter enemies both describes recent events in his life and foreshadows the twists and reverses that will mark his relationship with Aufidius from this point on.