Coriolanus

Volumnia Character Analysis

Read our modern English translation.
Volumnia is the bold and domineering mother of Caius Martius Coriolanus. She cares about her son, but mostly seems to care about his honor and his success, almost like an early modern stage mother. She sent him into battle when he was only sixteen years old, and when he is set to return from Corioles, Volumnia hopes that he has wounds to show the people in order to advance his political campaign. Part of the reason that Volumnia is able to control Coriolanus is an inversion of the typical Shakespearean dynamic between fathers and daughters, where fathers are described as sculptors who created (and therefore have control over) their daughters. But Volumnia constantly reminds Coriolanus that she “framed” him, showing both maternal pride and a sense of maternal possession over her son. Ultimately, though, she chooses Rome over her son; she convinces Coriolanus to spare the city of Rome, and therefore she becomes a hero, but she also probably knows that this decision will result in her son’s death.

Volumnia Quotes in Coriolanus

The Coriolanus quotes below are all either spoken by Volumnia or refer to Volumnia. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Politics, Class, and Rome Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Simon & Schuster edition of Coriolanus published in 2009.
Act 1, Scene 3 Quotes

The breasts of Hecuba,
When she did suckle Hector, looked not lovelier
Than Hector’s forehead when it spit forth blood
At Grecian sword, contemning.

Related Characters: Volumnia (speaker), Caius Martius / Coriolanus, Virgilia
Related Symbols: Body Parts, Wounds and Blood
Page Number: 1.3.43-46
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 2, Scene 1 Quotes

MENENIUS: Is he not
wounded? He was wont to come home wounded.
VIRGILIA: O no, no, no!
VOLUMNIA: O, he is wounded, I thank the gods for ’t.
MENENIUS: So do I too, if it be not too much. Brings he
victory in his pocket, the wounds become him.

Related Characters: Volumnia (speaker), Virgilia (speaker), Menenius Agrippa (speaker), Caius Martius / Coriolanus
Related Symbols: Wounds and Blood
Page Number: 2.1.122-127
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 3, Scene 2 Quotes

MENENIUS: Return to th’ Tribunes.
CORIOLANUS: Well, what then? What then?
MENENIUS: Repent what you have spoke.
CORIOLANUS: For them? I cannot do it to the gods.
Must I then do ’t to them?
VOLUMNIA: You are too absolute,
Though therein you can never be too noble
But when extremities speak.

Related Characters: Caius Martius / Coriolanus (speaker), Volumnia (speaker), Menenius Agrippa (speaker), Sicinius Velutus, Junius Brutus
Related Symbols: Voices
Page Number: 3.2.46-3
Explanation and Analysis:

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For in such business
Action is eloquence, and the eyes of th’ ignorant
More learnèd than the ears—waving thy head,
Which often thus correcting thy stout heart,
Now humble as the ripest mulberry
That will not hold the handling. Or say to them
Thou art their soldier and, being bred in broils,
Hast not the soft way, which thou dost confess
Were fit for thee to use as they to claim,
In asking their good loves; but thou wilt frame
Thyself, forsooth, hereafter theirs, so far
As thou hast power and person.

Related Characters: Volumnia (speaker), Caius Martius / Coriolanus, Roman Citizens
Related Symbols: Body Parts, Voices
Page Number: 3.2.94-105
Explanation and Analysis:

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To beg of thee, it is my more dishonor
Than thou of them. Come all to ruin. Let
Thy mother rather feel thy pride than fear
Thy dangerous stoutness, for I mock at death
With as big heart as thou. Do as thou list.
Thy valiantness was mine; thou suck’st it from me,
But owe thy pride thyself.

Related Characters: Volumnia (speaker), Caius Martius / Coriolanus, Roman Citizens
Related Symbols: Body Parts, Voices
Page Number: 3.2.150-158
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 4, Scene 2 Quotes

Anger’s my meat. I sup upon myself
And so shall starve with feeding.
Come, let’s go.
Leave this faint puling, and lament as I do,
In anger, Juno-like. Come, come, come.

Related Characters: Volumnia (speaker), Caius Martius / Coriolanus, Virgilia, Sicinius Velutus, Junius Brutus
Related Symbols: Hunger, Food, and Cannibalism
Page Number: 4.2.68-72
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 5, Scene 3 Quotes

There’s no man in the world
More bound to ’s mother, yet here he lets me prate
Like one i’ th’ stocks. Thou hast never in thy life
Showed thy dear mother any courtesy
When she, poor hen, fond of no second brood,
Has clucked thee to the wars and safely home,
Loaden with honor. Say my request’s unjust
And spurn me back; but if it be not so,
Thou art not honest, and the gods will plague thee
That thou restrain’st from me the duty which
To a mother’s part belongs.

Related Characters: Volumnia (speaker), Caius Martius / Coriolanus
Related Symbols: Body Parts
Page Number: 5.3.180-190
Explanation and Analysis:

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Volumnia: This fellow had a Volscian to his mother,
His wife is in Corioles, and his child
Like him by chance.—Yet give us our dispatch.
I am hushed until our city be afire,
And then I’ll speak a little.
(He holds her by the hand, silent.)
CORIOLANUS: O mother, mother!
What have you done?

Related Characters: Caius Martius / Coriolanus (speaker), Volumnia (speaker), Virgilia, Young Martius, Valeria
Page Number: 5.3.200-206
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Act 5, Scene 6 Quotes

AUFIDIUS: Tell the traitor in the highest degree
He hath abused your powers.
CORIOLANUS: “Traitor”? How now?
AUFIDIUS: Ay, traitor, Martius.
CORIOLANUS: Martius?
AUFIDIUS: Ay, Martius, Caius Martius. Dost thou think
I’ll grace thee with that robbery, thy stol’n name
Coriolanus, in Corioles?
You lords and heads o’ th’ state, perfidiously
He has betrayed your business and given up
For certain drops of salt your city Rome—
I say your city—to his wife and mother,
Breaking his oath and resolution like
A twist of rotten silk, never admitting
Counsel o’ th’ war, but at his nurse’s tears
He whined and roared away your victory,
That pages blushed at him and men of heart
Looked wond’ring each at other.
CORIOLANUS: Hear’st thou, Mars?
AUFIDIUS: Name not the god, thou boy of tears.

Related Characters: Tullus Aufidius (speaker), Volumnia, Virgilia, Volscian Senators and Lords
Page Number: 5.6.101-120
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Volumnia Character Timeline in Coriolanus

The timeline below shows where the character Volumnia appears in Coriolanus. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 3
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In Caius Martius’s house, Volumnia, his mother, and Virgilia, his wife, sew. Volumnia tells her daughter to be more comfortable.... (full context)
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Virgilia asks Volumnia what would have happened if Martius died as a child in that first war. Volumnia... (full context)
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Virgilia asks Volumnia to let her leave, but Volumnia tells her to stay. She thinks she hears her... (full context)
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Valeria enters, greets Volumnia and Virgilia, and asks how Virgilia’s son Young Martius is doing. He prefers swords and... (full context)
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...will be over soon. At the good news Virgilia agrees to go with Valeria, but Volumnia tells her to just stay home because her bad mood will ruin their mirth. (full context)
Act 2, Scene 1
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...any more conversation with them would “infect [his] brain.” Menenius begins to exit, but then Volumnia, Virgilia, and Valeria enter. (full context)
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Menenius greets the ladies, and Volumnia reports that Martius is coming home. Menenius celebrates this news, and Volumnia says that there... (full context)
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Menenius wonders if Martius has fought with Aufidius, and Volumnia tells him that Lartius reported they fought indeed, but Aufidius escaped. Menenius remarks that he... (full context)
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Volumnia says that Martius has been wounded in the shoulder and the left arm, noting that... (full context)
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...to her, but she tells him to rise and comments on his new name. When Volumnia mentions his wife, who is crying, Coriolanus lauds Virgilia as his “gracious silence,” and jokes... (full context)
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Volumnia welcomes everyone home from war, and Menenius echoes her sentiment, saying he could weep or... (full context)
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...needs to visit the good patricians to thank them for the promotion he has received. Volumnia boasts that she has lived to see all her desires for him come true, excepting... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 2
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...awe when someone of a higher class (like Coriolanus himself) speaks about peace or war. Volumnia then enters, and Coriolanus says he was just talking about her. He asks why she... (full context)
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Volumnia says she would have had her son assume his position of power smoothly by hiding... (full context)
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Volumnia counsels her son, saying she has the same grievances with the common people that he... (full context)
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Volumnia reminds Coriolanus of his philosophy that honor and strategy grow together in war. Why, then,... (full context)
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Coriolanus asks why Volumnia is forcing this point, to which she responds that Coriolanus must now speak to the... (full context)
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...which, he believes, might still calm the rabble and restore Coriolanus’s hopes of becoming consul. Volumnia hands Coriolanus a cap and gives him detailed instructions about how to hold it and... (full context)
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...or not show up at all, since the people are extremely angry. Menenius, Cominius, and Volumnia all agree that Coriolanus will be fine if he can speak fairly and “frame his... (full context)
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Cominius reassures Coriolanus that he will be prompted on what to say. Just like Volumnia first made her son a soldier years ago, she now hopes to make him perform... (full context)
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Volumnia responds that it’s Coriolanus’s choice, and that to beg him would be more dishonorable than... (full context)
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...speak the people into loving him, and return beloved by everyone in Rome. He tells Volumnia to commend him to his wife, and promises to return as consul, or else they... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 3
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...point Coriolanus chides him for knowing nothing of service. Menenius reminds Coriolanus that he promised Volumnia to be mild, and Cominius tries to calm him, but he will not be calmed.... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 1
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Outside a gate of Rome, Coriolanus is saying farewell to Volumnia, Virgilia, Menenius, Cominius, and the young nobles of Rome. He tells them to leave their... (full context)
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Volumnia tries to convince Coriolanus to take Cominius with him until he gets settled, and Cominius... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 2
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...aedile should tell the people that “their great enemy is gone.” The aedile exits, and Volumnia, Virgilia, and Menenius enter the street. Sicinius wants to avoid them, since Volumnia is apparently... (full context)
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Sicinius asks Volumnia “are you mankind?” to which she responds that her father was a man. She calls... (full context)
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Volumnia laments the banishment of her son, especially given the wounds that he received for Rome.... (full context)
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After they exit, Volumnia prays that the gods have nothing to do but enact her curses, and she wishes... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 6
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...Coriolanus were willing to compromise. He has no idea where Coriolanus is, and neither do Volumnia or Virgilia. (full context)
Act 5, Scene 1
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...Coriolanus sent a letter promising not to yield. Cominius thinks the only hope is that Volumnia and Virgilia are able to convince Coriolanus to spare Rome. (full context)
Act 5, Scene 3
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...makes Coriolanus question if he’ll have to break the vow he just made, and Virgilia, Volumnia, Valeria, and young Martius enter attended by servants. Coriolanus says that his wife is in... (full context)
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...as [his] revenge.” He then solutes “the most noble mother of the world” by kneeling. Volumnia tells him to rise, and then she kneels to him. He’s surprised that she’d kneel... (full context)
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Volumnia says, “thou art my warrior; I [helped] to frame thee,” and asks if Coriolanus knows... (full context)
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Volumnia knows Coriolanus has already denied what they will ask for, but they will ask anyway,... (full context)
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Coriolanus requests their prayers, but Volumnia says they cannot pray. They are bound to their country as well as to Coriolanus,... (full context)
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Volumnia herself will not wait to see how the war turns out. If she cannot persuade... (full context)
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Continuing her lengthy speech, Volumnia repeatedly asks why Coriolanus will not speak to her, invoking both Virgilia and young Martius... (full context)
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Coriolanus turns away, and Volumnia instructs Virgilia and Valeria to kneel with her to shame him. They kneel, and Volumnia... (full context)
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...“O mother, mother! What have you done!” He calls out to the heavens and tells Volumnia she has “won a happy victory to Rome,” a victory that is “most mortal” to... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 4
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...street in Rome. Menenius thinks there is only a slight chance that the ladies (especially Volumnia) will be able to save Rome, but he believes it won’t happen. Sicinius doesn’t understand... (full context)
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...attack. Trumpets celebrate the news and signal that the ladies are returning. Menenius comments that Volumnia “is worth of consuls, senators, patricians, a city full.” They all go to meet and... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 5
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In a street in Rome, a senator praises Volumnia, Virgilia, and Valeria as they pass by with other lords, calling Volumnia the “patroness, the... (full context)