Rome. A room in Martius Coriolanus’ house.
(Volumnia; Virgilia; Gentlewoman; Valeria; Usher)
Virgilia, Martius’s wife, is terrified that he might die in the wars. Volumnia, his mother, has no patience for this wimpy way of looking at the world. The good lady Valeria tries to shake Virgilia out of her despondency, insisting she continue to live a normal life in Martius’s absence, but is unsuccessful. (57 lines)
Enter Volumnia and Virgilia, mother and wife to Martius; they set them down on two low stools and sew.
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 won honor 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 pluck’d all gaze his way; when for a day of kings’ entreaties a mother should not sell him an hour from her beholding; I, considering how honor would become such a person, that it was no better than picture-like to hang by th’ wall, if renown made it not stir, was pleas’d to let him seek danger where he was like to find fame. To a cruel war I sent him, from whence he return’d, 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 prov’d himself a man.
But had he died in the business, madam, how then?
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 Martius, I had rather had eleven die nobly for their country than one voluptuously surfeit out of action.
Enter a Gentlewoman.
Madam, the Lady Valeria is come to visit you.
Beseech you give me leave to retire myself.
Indeed you shall not.
Methinks I hear hither your husband’s drum;
See him pluck Aufidius down by th’ hair;
As children from a bear, the Volsces shunning him.
Methinks I see him stamp thus, and call thus:
“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.
His bloody brow? O Jupiter, no blood!
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
At Grecian sword, contemning. Tell Valeria
We are fit to bid her welcome.
Heavens bless my lord from fell Aufidius!
He’ll beat Aufidius’ head below his knee,
And tread upon his neck.
Enter Valeria with an Usher and a Gentlewoman.
My ladies both, good day to you.
I am glad to see your ladyship.
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?
I thank your ladyship; well, good madam.
He had rather see the swords and hear a drum than look upon his schoolmaster.
A’ my word, the father’s son. I’ll swear ’tis a very pretty boy. A’ my troth, I look’d upon him a’ We’n’sday half an hour together; h’as such a confirm’d countenance. I saw him run after a gilded butterfly, and when he caught it, he let it go again, and after it again, and over and over he comes, and up again; catch’d it again: or whether his fallen rag’d him, or how ’twas, he did so set his teeth and tear it. O, I warrant, how he mammock’d it!
One on ’s father’s moods.
Indeed la, ’tis a noble child.
A crack, madam.
Come, lay aside your stitchery, I must have you play the idle huswife with me this afternoon.
No, good madam, I will not out of doors.
Not out of doors?
She shall, she shall.
Indeed no, by your patience; I’ll not over the threshold till my lord return from the wars.
Fie, you confine yourself most unreasonably. Come, you must go visit the good lady that lies in.
I will wish her speedy strength, and visit her with my prayers; but I cannot go thither.
Why, I pray you?
’Tis not to save labor, nor that I want love.
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 were sensible as your finger, that you might leave pricking it for pity. Come, you shall go with us.
No, good madam, pardon me, indeed I will not forth.
In truth la, go with me, and I’ll tell you excellent news of your husband.
O, good madam, there can be none yet.
Verily, I do not jest with you; there came news from him last night.
In earnest, it’s true; I heard a senator speak it. 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 Lartius are set down before their city Corioles; they nothing doubt prevailing, and to make it brief wars. This is true, on mine honor, and so I pray go with us.
Give me excuse, good madam, I will obey you in every thing hereafter.
Let her alone, lady; as she is now, she will but disease our better mirth.
In troth, I think she would. Fare you well then. Come, good sweet lady. Prithee, Virgilia, turn thy solemnness out a’ door, and go along with us.
No, at a word, madam; indeed I must not.
I wish you much mirth.
Well, then farewell.
Exeunt Ladies with Usher.