How we cite our quotes:
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
According to Volumnia, her son "proved himself a man" only after she sent him off to a "cruel war," where he became a hero on the battlefields. In other words, Volumnia equates masculinity with the violence of warfare. Coriolanus totally buys into this idea that aggression is the only thing that makes him a "man" instead of a mere "boy." As it turns out, this kind of thinking is very dangerous and leads to our hero's death. This becomes especially clear by the end of the play when Tullus Aufidius accuses Coriolanus of treason and calls him a "boy." Coriolanus flips out and dares the Volscians to kill him … which they do (5.6.111-116) .
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
One on 's father's moods.
Indeed, la, 'tis a noble child. (1.3.57-67)
It's not just the violence and rage of warfare that's associated with masculinity in this play. Here, we see that everyday violence (like young Martius becoming "enraged" and gnashing a butterfly between his teeth) is considered typical behavior for men and young boys.
You would be another Penelope: yet, they say, all
the yarn she spun in Ulysses' absence did but fill
Ithaca full of moths. (1.3.82-84)
Poor Virgilia is so stressed out about the possibility that her husband will be wounded or killed in battle that she can't even leave her own house and stays at home all day with her sewing. In this passage, her BFF (Valeria) comes along and makes fun of her for acting like "Penelope," the famous literary wife who stayed home pretend-weaving while her hubby, Odysseus, was out enjoying an epic adventure. Valeria does not mean this as a compliment. She basically accuses Virgilia of acting like a pathetic stereotype.