Please see the bottom of this page for explanatory notes and related resources.
|ACT I SCENE III. Rome. A room in Marcius' house.|
Enter VOLUMNIA and VIRGILIA they set them down
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|
|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|
|sell him an hour from her beholding, I, considering|
|how honour would become such a person. that it was||10|
|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|
|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|
|VIRGILIA||But had he died in the business, madam; how then?|
|VOLUMNIA||Then his good report should have been my son; I||20|
|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|
|Marcius, 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.|
|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:|
|'Come on, you cowards! you were got in fear,||30|
|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.|
|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|
|At Grecian sword, contemning. Tell Valeria,||40|
|We are fit to bid her welcome.|
|VIRGILIA||Heavens bless my lord from fell Aufidius!|
|VOLUMNIA||He'll beat Aufidius 'head below his knee|
|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.|
|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?||50|
|VIRGILIA||I thank your ladyship; well, good madam.|
|VOLUMNIA||He had rather see the swords, and hear a drum, than|
|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|
|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||61|
|VOLUMNIA||One on 's father's moods.|
|VALERIA||Indeed, la, 'tis a noble child.|
|VIRGILIA||A crack, madam.|
|VALERIA||Come, lay aside your stitchery; I must have you play|
|the idle husewife with me this afternoon.|
|VIRGILIA||No, good madam; I will not out of doors.|
|VALERIA||Not out of doors!|
|VOLUMNIA||She shall, she shall.|
|VIRGILIA||Indeed, no, by your patience; I'll not over the|
|threshold till my lord return from the wars.||71|
|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.|
|VOLUMNIA||Why, I pray you?|
|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|
|were sensible as your finger, that you might leave|
|pricking it for pity. Come, you shall go with us.||82|
|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.|
|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.|
|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 Corioli; they nothing doubt|
|prevailing and to make it brief wars. This is true,|
|on mine honour; and so, I pray, go with us.|
|VIRGILIA||Give me excuse, good madam; I will obey you in every|
|VOLUMNIA||Let her alone, lady: as she is now, she will but|
|disease our better mirth.||101|
|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.|
|VALERIA||Well, then, farewell.|
Next: Coriolanus, Act 1, Scene 4
Explanatory Notes for Act 1, Scene 3
From Coriolanus. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan.
STAGE DIRECTION. Volumnia and Virgilia, the real names of
the mother and the wife of Coriolanus were respectively Veturia
2. more comfortable sort, more cheerful manner.
4. would show, desired to show.
6, 7. when youth ... way, when his youthful beauty made everyone turn to look at him; his way, in his direction: for an hour, in return for an hour, or, in order to secure an hour.
7, 8. should not ... beholding, would certainly refuse to part
with him for a single day; sell, the price given being an hour of
8, 9. how honour ... person, in what way honour would best
lend a charm to one so comely in appearance; what kind of
honour would be most in keeping with his look and bearing.
9-11. that it was ... stir, that such comeliness would be no better than a picture to hang on the wall, unless it were set
aglow, roused into animation, by the pursuit of renown; cp. A.
C. i. 1. 43, "Cleo. Antony will be himself. Ant. But stirr'd by Cleopatra." Schmidt and Wright take to hang by the wall as = to be neglected, as in M. M. i. 2. 171, "which have, like unscour'd armour, hung by the wall"; Cymb. iii. 4. 54, "Poor I am stale, a garment out of fashion; And, for I am richer than to
hang by the walls, I must be ripp'd"; but in both cases the
things spoken of are out of date, and picture-like seems to show
that it is the want of animation due to a stay-at-home, monotonous,
existence that would take from his comeliness; and it is probably
rather with the lifeless tapestry hangings, with their pictorial
designs, that the comparison is made. Cp. for the idea Coleridge's Ancient Mariner, ii. 35, 6, "As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean."
12. cruel, bloody, fierce.
13. his brows bound with oak, the oaken garland was an
honour granted to one who had saved the life of a Roman citizen
in battle and slain his opponent. It ensured the wearer a place
next the senators in public assemblies, where all rose as he
entered. Coriolanus obtained the garland at the battle of the
Lake Regillus, B.C. 498.
13, 4. I sprang ... joy, my heart did not leap with great exultation: a man-child, a male child, a boy; cp. Macb. i. 7. 72, "Bring forth men-children only."
16. how then? what would have been your feelings in that
17. Then his ... son, then the fame he had earned would have
been to me in the place of my son; should expresses her determination.
17, 8. I therein ... issue, I should have cherished his fame as though it were the outcome of my womb.
19, 20. each in my love ... Marcius, each of them equally dear
with the Marcius whom we both love so dearly.
20-2. I had rather ... action, I should have been more glad that
eleven of them should perish than that one of them should live a
life of inactive indulgence.
24. to retire myself, to retire to my own chamber, "The
predilection for transitive verbs was perhaps one among other
causes why many verbs which are now used intransitively, were
used by Shakespeare reflexively. Many of these were derived
from the French" (Abb. § 296).
26. Methinks ... drum, it seems to me as though I hear the
sound of your husband's drum (as he causes it to be beaten for
the assault) borne hither; for the use of forth, hence, hither,
without a verb of motion (motion being implied), see Abb. § 41.
28. As children ... him, the Volscians scuttling away before
him like children running for their lives from a bear.
29. call thus, thus shout to his own troops afraid to follow
30, 1. 'you were ... Rome,' you may have been bom in Rome,
but you have nothing of the Roman about you; your sires were
a pack of cowards.
32. mail'd hand, hand gauntleted in mail; armour made of
links of steel.
33, 4. Like to ... hire, like a labourer hired for the harvest on
the condition that he shall get in the whole crop, or receive no
wages for his labour; for the transposition of or, which belongs
properly to to mow, see Abb. § 420.
35. Jupiter, no blood! Jove forbid that a drop of his blood
should be spilled!
36. becomes, adorns.
37. Than gilt his trophy, than the plating of gold adorns a
monument erected to a man; trophy, literally a monument
erected at the spot where the enemy turned and fled.
39, 40. when it spit ... contemning, when, as though in scorn
of their blows, the blood spurted from his wounds in the face
of his foes; the blood is spoken of as though animated with the
contempt felt by him from whom it was drawn. The folios read
'At Grecian sword. Contenning,' or 'At Grecian swords Contending'; the reading in the text is a conjecture of Collier's,
adopted by most modem editors.
41. fit, prepared, ready.
42. Heavens ... Aufidius! may the heavens show their love for
my lord by preserving him from the cruel Aufidius; fell, A. S.
fel, cruel, fierce.
43, 4, He'll beat ... neck, the strong-minded Volumnia is
ashamed that Virgilia's fear should prompt such an unworthy
48. you are manifest housekeepers, you are thorough stay-at-homes; keep, in the sense of remain, abide, is frequent in Shakespeare, e.g. Cymb. iii. 5. 46, "She pray'd me to excuse her keeping close," i.e. remaining in her room; Macb. iii. 2. 8, "How now, my lord, why do you keep alone; below, v. 1. 7, "I'll keep at
home"; for manifest, = notorious, well known, cp. M. M. v. 1. 303, "The duke's unjust, Thus to retort your manifest appeal."
49. What ... here? what needle-work are you engaged upon?
A fine spot, a pretty pattern of embroidery; so, Oth. iii. 3. 435,
"Have you not sometimes seen a handkerchief Spotted with strawberries in your wife's hand?", i.e. embroidered with strawberries.
54, 5. O' my word ... son, a true son of his father's, I declare; a
'chip of the old block,' as we say colloquially; 'tis a very pretty
boy, cp. A. C. iii. 2, 6, "'Tis a noble Lepidus"; Tim. iii. 1. 23,
"a noble gentleman 'tis."
55. O' my troth, I assure you; literally on, i.e. by my truth: looked upon him, watched him playing about.
56. has, on the omission of the pronoun before has, is, was, see Abb. § 400: confirmed, resolute, determined; cp. M. A. v. 4. 17, "Which I will do with confirmed countenance"; Lucr. 1513, "like a constant and confirmed devil."
58, 9. and after it again, and immediately he was in pursuit of it again: over ... again, down he comes, head over heels, and in a
moment up he gets upon his legs again in full chase.
59. catched, here only as a preterite, though used as a participle in L. L. L. V. 2. 69, A. W. i. 3. 176, R. J. iv. 5. 48.
59-61. or whether ... tear it, whether his tumble had made him
angry, or what was the reason, I don't know, but, etc. For the
superfluous or before whether, see Abb. § 136.
61. O, I warrant ... it! I can't tell you how viciously he tore
it to pieces; mammocked, from mammock, a fragment. Halliwell (Arch. and Prov. Dict.) quotes Optick Glasse of Humors, 1639, "Small mammocks of stone"; and The School of Vertue, "Salt with thy knife, then reach to and take. Thy bread cut
faire and no mammocks make." He also refers to Major Moor's Suffolk Words and Phrases, "to cut and hack victuals wastefully."
62. One on's father's moods, just like his father in one of his
fits of passion.
64. A crack, "a slightly contemptuous phrase applied to a
child, and used by Valeria to qualify the compliments of her
visitor" (Wright); cp. ii. H. IV. iii. 2. 34, "I see him break
Scogan's head ... when a' was a crack not this high." Grant
White thinks that "boys may have been so called on account of
their talkative, boastful dispositions."
65. stitchery, your stitching; the work upon which you are
engaged as stitchers.
65, 6. I must ... afternoon, I am determined to make you give
up your household cares this afternoon and take a holiday; huswife, house-wife; now used only in the corrupted form hussy, a
pert girl. Cp. Oth. i. 3. 273, "Let housewives make a skillet of
70. by your patience, if you will pardon me: I'll not ... threshold, I will not stir a step from home.
73. go visit, for the omission of to, see Abb. § 340: that lies
in, who is in child-bed, who has just had a child born to her.
77. want love, am lacking in good feeling.
78. You would ... Penelope, you wish to show your loyalty to
your husband as strongly as Penelope; who when Ulysses was at
the siege of Troy, and she was pestered by suitors, promised to
make her choice among them as soon as she finished a web she
was weaving, but, to gain time, undid at night the work she had
done by day.
80. I would, I could wish: cambric, a kind of fine white linen.
"A corruption of Cambray, a town in Flanders, where it was
first made" (Skeat, Ety. Dict.). Cp. arras, from Arras, in Artois; jane, from Genoa; frieze, from Friesland, etc. etc.:
sensible, capable of feeling pain; cp. J. C. i. 3. 18, "his hand Not sensible of fire"; L. L. L. iv. 3. 337, "Love's feeling is more
soft and sensible."
81. leave ... pity, cease thrusting your needle into it out of
92. the Volsces ... forth, the Volscians have marched an army
out of their territories into ours.
94. set down, see note on i. 2. 28.
95, 6. they nothing ... wars, they have no doubt of overcoming
them and making short work of the war; for this indefinite use
of it, see Abb. § 226.
96, 7. and so ... us, i.e. since I have been able to give you news
which may set your heart at rest.
98. Give me excuse, allow me to excuse myself; little more
than a periphrastical way of saying 'excuse me,' though with a
flavour of greater courtesy.
100, 1. as she is ... mirth, in her present fraine of mind, she
would, if she accompanied us, only spoil our enjoyment, which
will be greater without her; better, used proleptically, as
dearer. Temp. v. 1. 68, "so their rising senses Begin to chase
the ignorant fumes that mantle Their clearer reason," i.e. their
reason which is made clearer by the chasing, etc.; so, "these
quartered slaves," above, i. 1. 189.
102, 3. you ... thy, on the change from you to thy, see Abb. § 231.
103, 4. turn ... door, banish your sadness; cp. Temp. iii. 2. 78,
"by this hand, I'll turn my mercy out o' doors and make a stock-fish of thee."
105. at a word, in a word; cp. M. W. i. 1. 109, "He hath wronged me: indeed he hath; at a word, he hath"; M. A. ii. 1.
118, "Urs. I know you well enough; you are Signior Antonio. Ant. At a word, I am not"; and 1. 125: I must not, I am compelled to refuse you.
How to cite the explanatory notes:
Shakespeare, William. Coriolanus. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan, 1900. Shakespeare Online. 20 Feb. 2010. (date when you accessed the information) < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/corio_1_3.html >.
Roman Life: The Ideal of the State in Shakespeare's Coriolanus
Shakespeare's Sources for Coriolanus
Coriolanus: Plot Summary
Top 10 Shakespeare Plays
Shakespeare's Metaphors and Similes
Characteristics of Shakespeare's Plays
Seneca's Tragedies and Elizabethan Drama
Shakespeare's Blank Verse