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Coriolanus
Act 1, scene 3

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Characters in the Play

Entire Play

As Coriolanus begins, two Roman patricians, Menenius and Martius, calm a revolt by the city’s famished plebians. Martius, who despises the plebians,…

Act 1, scene 1

Rome’s famished plebeians threaten revolt, and the patrician Menenius attempts to placate them. Martius announces that the plebeians, whom he…

Act 1, scene 2

Aufidius and Volscian senators discuss the Roman preparations for war.

Act 1, scene 3

Volumnia, Martius’s mother, and Virgilia, his wife, are visited by Valeria, who brings news of Martius at Corioles.

Act 1, scene 4

Before the Romans can besiege Corioles, the Volscians emerge to attack them. Martius rallies the troops to beat the Volscians…

Act 1, scene 5

Leaving Lartius to secure Corioles, Martius goes to the aid of the Roman general Cominius on the battlefield near the…

Act 1, scene 6

Martius joins Cominius and inspires the Roman troops to further combat.

Act 1, scene 7

Having secured Corioles, Lartius leaves to join Cominius.

Act 1, scene 8

Martius defeats Aufidius and his Volscian supporters.

Act 1, scene 9

Cominius awards Martius the name Coriolanus for his service at Corioles.

Act 1, scene 10

Aufidius vows to destroy Coriolanus by any means possible.

Act 2, scene 1

Coriolanus is welcomed back to Rome by his family and Menenius, and is expected to be elected consul. (Coriolanus’s entry…

Act 2, scene 2

The Senate meets to hear Cominius praise Coriolanus in a formal oration and then to choose Coriolanus as its nominee…

Act 2, scene 3

According to custom, Coriolanus asks a number of individual plebeians for their votes. Although he mocks them, they consent to…

Act 3, scene 1

Learning that the plebeians have revoked their votes, Coriolanus publicly attacks the decision that had given the people tribunes. Accusing…

Act 3, scene 2

The patricians and Volumnia persuade Coriolanus to pretend to tolerate the plebeians and their tribunes.

Act 3, scene 3

When the tribunes call Coriolanus a traitor, he angrily insults them, and they first impose a death sentence and then…

Act 4, scene 1

Coriolanus says goodbye to his family and closest supporters.

Act 4, scene 2

Meeting the tribunes, Volumnia and Virgilia curse them.

Act 4, scene 3

A Roman informer tells a Volscian spy of Coriolanus’s banishment.

Act 4, scene 4

Coriolanus comes to the Volscian city of Antium in search of Aufidius.

Act 4, scene 5

Coriolanus offers to join Aufidius in making war on Rome.

Act 4, scene 6

The tribunes’ delight in Coriolanus’s banishment is interrupted by news that an army led by him and Aufidius has invaded…

Act 4, scene 7

Aufidius, offended by the Volscian soldiers’ preference for Coriolanus, begins plotting against him.

Act 5, scene 1

After Cominius fails to persuade Coriolanus not to destroy Rome, Menenius agrees to try.

Act 5, scene 2

Menenius fails to shake Coriolanus’s determination to destroy Rome.

Act 5, scene 3

Volumnia, accompanied by Virgilia, Valeria, and young Martius, persuades Coriolanus to spare Rome.

Act 5, scene 4

News arrives in Rome of Volumnia’s success.

Act 5, scene 5

The Romans honor Volumnia as she returns.

Act 5, scene 6

Aufidius and his fellow conspirators, on their return to Corioles, publicly assassinate Coriolanus.

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Scene 3
Enter Volumnia and Virgilia, mother and wife
to Martius. 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 honor than in the embracements
5 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,
10 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 pleased to let him seek danger where he
 was like to find fame. To a cruel war I sent him,
15 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.

33
Coriolanus
ACT 1. SC. 3

VIRGILIA But had he died in the business, madam, how
20 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
25 good Martius, 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 
30 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 th’ hair;
 As children from a bear, the Volsces shunning him.
35 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 mailed hand then wiping, forth he goes
 Like to a harvestman that’s tasked to mow
40 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, looked not lovelier
45 Than Hector’s forehead when it spit forth blood
 At Grecian sword, contemning.—Tell Valeria
 We are fit to bid her welcome.Gentlewoman exits.

35
Coriolanus
ACT 1. SC. 3

VIRGILIA 
 Heavens bless my lord from fell Aufidius!
VOLUMNIA 
 He’ll beat Aufidius’ head below his knee
50 And tread upon his neck.

Enter Valeria with an Usher and a Gentlewoman.

VALERIA My ladies both, good day to you.
VOLUMNIA Sweet madam.
VIRGILIA I am glad to see your Ladyship.
VALERIA How do you both? You are manifest housekeepers.
55 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 look upon his schoolmaster.
VALERIA 60O’ 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. H’as such a confirmed
 countenance. I saw him run after a gilded
 butterfly, and when he caught it, he let it go again,
65 and after it again, and over and over he comes,
 and up 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 how he mammocked it!
VOLUMNIA One on ’s father’s moods.
VALERIA 70Indeed, la, ’tis a noble child.
VIRGILIA A crack, madam.
VALERIA Come, lay aside your stitchery. I must have
 you play the idle huswife with me this afternoon.
VIRGILIA No, good madam, I will not out of doors.
VALERIA 75Not 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.

37
Coriolanus
ACT 1. SC. 3

VALERIA Fie, you confine yourself most unreasonably.
80 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 labor, nor that I want love.
VALERIA 85You 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.
VIRGILIA 90No, 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 95Verily, I do not jest with you. There came
 news from him last night.
VIRGILIA Indeed, madam!
VALERIA In earnest, it’s true. I heard a senator speak it.
 Thus it is: the Volsces have an army forth, against
100 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
105 with us.
VIRGILIA Give me excuse, good madam. I will obey you
 in everything hereafter.
VOLUMNIA Let her alone, lady. As she is now, she will
 but disease our better mirth.
VALERIA 110In 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.

39
Coriolanus
ACT 1. SC. 4

VIRGILIA No, at a word, madam. Indeed, I must not. I
115 wish you much mirth.
VALERIA Well, then, farewell.
Ladies exit.