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Characters

Valeria

Character Analysis

Valeria is Virgilia's bestie, and, like any good best friend, she shows up Virgilia's place while Coriolanus is off at war and tries to get her friend out of the house for some fun. But when Virgilia insists on staying home and sewing until her hubby gets home from war, Valeria is not having it. She even cracks a joke that her BFF is acting like Penelope, the famous literary wife from Homer's The Odyssey:

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)

Obviously, Valeria thinks that it's totally dorky for women to stay at home doing busywork while their men are off having exciting adventures and killing fools. In fact, Valeria seems to be accusing Virgilia of being a pathetic stereotype. For a lot of readers, this passage shows that Valeria is witty, well educated, and has a good sense of humor. On the other hand, some critics argue that Valeria is just a tad bit insensitive here. Virgilia is obviously distressed that her husband could be killed in battle, but Valeria just tells her to buck up and stop acting like a wimp.

Either way you read it, one thing is certain: unlike Virgilia, Valeria is a woman who is perfectly okay with the status quo in Rome. And by "status quo," we mean the way most of the Roman characters celebrate military violence and associate warfare with masculinity and strength. In other words, Valeria thinks it's no big whoop for men like Coriolanus to go off to war and risk of dying or being wounded.

Valeria also thinks it's perfectly normal for little boys to imitate their fathers' violent behavior. This explains why she thinks Young Martius' butterfly-torturing ways are absolutely adorable. Remember when she describes how the kid got mad and tore apart a "gilded butterfly" with his teeth? "O, I warrant it, how he mammocked it! [...] Indeed, la, 'tis a noble child!" (1.3.65-67).

Aw.

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