ACT I
Scene 3
 

Rome. An apartmnet in MARCIUS' house.

[Enter VOLUMNIA and VIRGILIA; they sit 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 honour than in the
embracements 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 pluck'd all gaze his way; when, for a day of
kings' entreaties, a mother should not sell him an hour from her
beholding; I,--considering how honour 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 to find fame. 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 man.

VIRGILIA
But had he died in the business, madam? how 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
good Marcius, 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
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 the hair;
As children from a bear, the Volsces shunning him:
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 mail'd hand then wiping, forth he goes,
Like to a harvest-man that's tasked to mow
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
Than Hector's forehead when it spit forth blood
At Grecian swords contending.--Tell Valeria
We are fit to bid her welcome.

[Exit GENTLEWOMAN.]

VIRGILIA
Heavens bless my lord from fell Aufidius!

VOLUMNIA
He'll beat Aufidius' head below his knee,
And tread upon his neck.

[Re-enter GENTLEWOMAN, with VALERIA and her Usher.]

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. 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
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 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
Indeed, 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
Not 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.

VALERIA
Fie, you confine yourself most unreasonably; 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 labour, nor that I want love.

VALERIA
You 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
No, 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
Verily, 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 whom Cominius the
general is gone, with one part of our Roman power: your lord and
Titus Lartius are set down before their city Corioli; they
nothing doubt prevailing, and to make it brief wars. This is
true, on mine honour; and so, I pray, go 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
In troth, I think she would.--Fare you well, then.--Come,
good sweet lady.--Pr'ythee, Virgilia, turn thy solemness out o'
door and go along with us.

VIRGILIA
No, at a word, madam; indeed I must not. I wish you much mirth.

VALERIA
Well then, farewell.

[Exeunt.]