Coriolanus: the fly in the solo ointment

Remember how I’ve been going on and on about Martius’ one (ok, maybe technically two, really just one) soliloquy in Coriolanus? And remember how I said this says something about his anxiety when he’s around others and his calm alone? And remember how I’ve tied this to his homosociality with Aufidius?

Well, shoot. Damn, there’s another soliloquy.

I found it when I doing another deep dive, looking for more “people”-based evidence.

Well, in the midst of Act Two, Scene Three, when Martius is out among the people, showing them his worthiness (and scars…at least he’s supposed to), the fourth and fifth Citizens leave him. And for twenty-three glorious lines, he’s alone onstage until three more Citizens arrive.

And guess what? It’s not so calm. It starts off so, but four of the last five lines are iambically challenged at best. So that kind of shoots both my anxious/calm and homosociality arguments all to hell.

But, I did find something interesting.

The last four lines of this newly discovered soliloquy are comprised of two rhyming couplets (so/go, through/do).

Why is this so important? Well, there’s not exactly a boatload of rhyming couplets in Coriolanus. A look at my spreadsheet tells me there are only 39 rhyming lines in the play, fourth fewest in the Canon (behind Henry the Fourth, Part One [31], Antony and Cleopatra [30], and Julius Caesar [only 10]).

And that got me wondering…and looking back.

So what exactly is a rhyme? A correspondence of sounds at the end of words/lines. But when is a rhyme not a rhyme? Well, I’ve been counting repetitions at the end of lines as rhyme…but what if we didn’t?

Suddenly, the rhyme count drops to a mere 16. But since Coriolanus is a much longer play than Julius Caesar, their rhymed lines to total lines ratios are almost equal with the repetitions removed.

And here’s the interesting thing: only three characters speak those 16 rhyming lines: Volumnia (2), Coriolanus (8), and Aufidius (6). We know the familial connection between mother and son. But Martius and Aufidius? Is this another homosocial link between the two generals?

I may have found a new soliloquy and lost one theory…but another theory pops up in its place…

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