You remember this kid, right? The son of Coriolanus, Young Martius tortures butterflies for funzies … right up until he gets frustrated and tears them apart with his teeth. In other words, the little guy is violent and has a hot temper. Gee.
Who does that remind us of? Let's ask Young Martius' grandma and one of her close family friends:
O' my word, the father's son:
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)
Oh, that's right. Young Martius reminds us of his dad. We'll have more to say about this in a minute, but first, we want to point out that grandma is super proud and thinks this display of violence is awesome. If she had access to Facebook or Instagram, she's be posting pictures of him with the mutilated butterfly #soproud.
Shakespeare sort of beats us over the head with this like-father-like-son idea when he brings up butterflies again. At one point, we're told that Coriolanus leads his army "with no less confidence / Than boys pursuing summer butterflies, / or butchers killing flies" (4.6.93-95).
In other words, when Young Martius grows up, he'll graduate from destroying pretty insects to killing enemy soldiers like his pops. But what do we expect? In Rome, violence is no big whoop. It doesn't matter if young boys are killing insects out of boredom or grown men are killing each other in battle—it's just what men do.
If we have any doubts that Coriolanus' traits will live on in his son, Shakespeare reminds us again later in the play when Young Martius declares "A' shall not tread on me; / I'll run away till I am bigger, but then I'll fight"(5.3.27-28). Wow. That's what the kid says to his own dad after Coriolanus turn against Rome and threatens to destroy the city...with his family still in it.