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Act I, Scene 3

Rome. A room in CORIOLANUS’ house.


[Enter VOLUMNIA and VIRGILIA. they set them down] [p]on two low stools, and sew]

  • Volumnia. I pray you, daughter, sing; or express yourself in a
    more comfortable sort: if my son were my husband, I
    should freelier rejoice in that absence wherein he 365
    won honour than in the embracements of his bed where
    he would show most love. When yet he was but
    tender-bodied and the only son of my womb, when
    youth with comeliness plucked all gaze his way, when
    for a day of kings' entreaties a mother should not 370
    sell him an hour from her beholding, I, considering
    how honour would become such a person. that it was
    no better than picture-like to hang by the wall, if
    renown made it not stir, was pleased to let him seek
    danger where he was like to find fame. To a cruel 375
    war I sent him; from whence he returned, his brows
    bound with oak. I tell thee, daughter, I sprang not
    more in joy at first hearing he was a man-child
    than now in first seeing he had proved himself a
    man. 380
  • Virgilia. But had he died in the business, madam; how then?
  • Volumnia. Then his good report should have been my son; I
    therein would have found issue. Hear me profess
    sincerely: had I a dozen sons, each in my love
    alike and none less dear than thine and my good 385
    CORIOLANUS, I had rather had eleven die nobly for their
    country than one voluptuously surfeit out of action.

[Enter a Gentlewoman]

  • Gentlewoman. Madam, the Lady Valeria is come to visit you.
  • Virgilia. Beseech you, give me leave to retire myself. 390
  • Volumnia. Indeed, you shall not.
    Methinks I hear hither your husband's drum,
    See him pluck Aufidius down by the hair,
    As children from a bear, the Volsces shunning him:
    Methinks I see him stamp thus, and call thus: 395
    'Come on, you cowards! you were got in fear,
    Though you were born in Rome:' his bloody brow
    With his mail'd hand then wiping, forth he goes,
    Like to a harvest-man that's task'd to mow
    Or all or lose his hire. 400
  • Virgilia. His bloody brow! O Jupiter, no blood!
  • Volumnia. Away, you fool! it more becomes a man
    Than gilt his trophy: the breasts of Hecuba,
    When she did suckle Hector, look'd not lovelier
    Than Hector's forehead when it spit forth blood 405
    At Grecian sword, contemning. Tell Valeria,
    We are fit to bid her welcome.

[Exit Gentlewoman]

  • Virgilia. Heavens bless my lord from fell Aufidius!
  • Volumnia. He'll beat Aufidius 'head below his knee 410
    And tread upon his neck.

[Enter VALERIA, with an Usher and Gentlewoman]

  • Valeria. My ladies both, good day to you.
  • Virgilia. I am glad to see your ladyship. 415
  • Valeria. How do you both? you are manifest house-keepers.
    What are you sewing here? A fine spot, in good
    faith. How does your little son?
  • Virgilia. I thank your ladyship; well, good madam.
  • Volumnia. He had rather see the swords, and hear a drum, than 420
    look upon his school-master.
  • Valeria. O' my word, the father's son: I'll swear,'tis a
    very pretty boy. O' my troth, I looked upon him o'
    Wednesday half an hour together: has such a
    confirmed countenance. I saw him run after a gilded 425
    butterfly: and when he caught it, he let it go
    again; and after it again; and over and over he
    comes, and again; catched it again; or whether his
    fall enraged him, or how 'twas, he did so set his
    teeth and tear it; O, I warrant it, how he mammocked 430
  • Valeria. Indeed, la, 'tis a noble child.
  • Valeria. Come, lay aside your stitchery; I must have you play 435
    the idle husewife with me this afternoon.
  • Virgilia. No, good madam; I will not out of doors.
  • Virgilia. Indeed, no, by your patience; I'll not over the 440
    threshold till my lord return from the wars.
  • Valeria. Fie, you confine yourself most unreasonably: come,
    you must go visit the good lady that lies in.
  • Virgilia. I will wish her speedy strength, and visit her with
    my prayers; but I cannot go thither. 445
  • Virgilia. 'Tis not to save labour, nor that I want love.
  • Valeria. You would be another Penelope: yet, they say, all
    the yarn she spun in Ulysses' absence did but fill
    Ithaca full of moths. Come; I would your cambric 450
    were sensible as your finger, that you might leave
    pricking it for pity. Come, you shall go with us.
  • Virgilia. No, good madam, pardon me; indeed, I will not forth.
  • Valeria. In truth, la, go with me; and I'll tell you
    excellent news of your husband. 455
  • Virgilia. O, good madam, there can be none yet.
  • Valeria. Verily, I do not jest with you; there came news from
    him last night.
  • Valeria. In earnest, it's true; I heard a senator speak it. 460
    Thus it is: the Volsces have an army forth; against
    whom Cominius the general is gone, with one part of
    our Roman power: your lord and Titus TITUS are set
    down before their city Corioli; they nothing doubt
    prevailing and to make it brief wars. This is true, 465
    on mine honour; and so, I pray, go with us.
  • Virgilia. Give me excuse, good madam; I will obey you in every
    thing hereafter.
  • Volumnia. Let her alone, lady: as she is now, she will but
    disease our better mirth. 470
  • Valeria. In troth, I think she would. Fare you well, then.
    Come, good sweet lady. Prithee, Virgilia, turn thy
    solemness out o' door. and go along with us.
  • Virgilia. No, at a word, madam; indeed, I must not. I wish
    you much mirth. 475