Study Guide

Coriolanus Act 1, Scene 3

By William Shakespeare

Act 1, Scene 3

Read the full text of Coriolanus Act 1 Scene 3 with a side-by-side translation HERE.

  • Back in Rome, we get to meet Caius Martius' dysfunctional family.
  • His mom (Volumnia) and his wife (Virgilia) are chillaxing with their sewing needles and thread, trying to pass the time while their favorite guy in the world is away.
  • Apparently, there's some tension, because the first thing out of Volumnia's mouth is that her daughter-in-law needs to quit boo-hooing about her husband being off at war.
  • Then Volumnia says something icky like "If my son was my husband, I'd be happier when he was out killing enemy soldiers than I'd be if we were having sex." Because that's not creepy at all.
  • See, Volumnia raised her boy to be a killing machine and she wants him to totally crush the Volscians. In fact, she hopes he gets maimed in the process so he can come home and show off his "bloody brow" and some awesome new scars.
  • Now Virgilia's BFF, Valeria, shows up. (Don't freak if you're confused by all these "V" names because you're not alone. Literary critics often refer to these female characters as the "three V's.")
  • Valeria makes small talk about Virgilia's adorable little boy. He did the cutest thing the other day—he tortured a butterfly before tearing it apart with his teeth.
  • The women are all "How precious! Like father like son."
  • Valeria invites the ladies out for the ancient Roman equivalent of "lunch with the girls."
  • Virgilia refuses. She can't bear to leave the house when her beloved hubby is risking life and limb. She'll just stay at home and keep sewing.
  • Valeria is all "Who do you think you are: Penelope?
  • Brain Snack: Penelope is maybe the most famous wife in literary history. In Homer's Odyssey, she stays at home pretend-weaving while her man is out having an epic adventure. Valeria obviously thinks this is major loser territory.
  • Now Valeria reports that she heard some news about the war—apparently, Caius Martius and Titus Lartius are giving the city of Corioles a good old fashioned Roman beating. Meanwhile, on the battlefields between Rome and Corioles, another general (Cominius) is leading some Roman soldiers against the Volscians.
  • Virgilia is happy to hear all this but she won't budge. Finally, her mother-in-law and BFF leave without her.