Shakespeare moves our attention to a council of the Volscian leaders. We are given insight into the espionage and counter-espionage between the two states, a deceitful activity Martius approves of in war but not during peacetime. This is recalled later when Martius is accused of inconsistency by his mother Volumnia (III.ii.41-5) for this belief. Aufidius resolves to settle his personal animosity with Caius Martius as well as upholding Volscian honour against Rome.

Act I, scene iii

Martius' mother, Volumnia, and his wife, Virgilia, are at their embroidery. The First Citizen has already provided the audience with a hint of the maternal power that governs Martius, and will ultimately seal his tragic end. One of Shakespeare's principal reasons for the inclusion of this scene is an exploration of this influence. While Volumnia is engaged with her embroidery, she speaks easily of slaughter and her pride in Martius' heroism and militarism. Temperamentally, mother and son are very close. The contrast with Virgilia is immediately apparent; while Volumnia speaks of the battlefield, the pacific Virgilia is distressed by any reference to bloodshed. While Virgilia concerns herself with Martius' safety, Volumnia is occupied of hopes he will bring glory to himself, his family and Rome. Shakespeare favoured investigating delusions about honour, and for Volumnia honour obscures the suffering of war and social prejudice. She imagines her son valiantly defeating his foe Aufidius, or leading the citizens in the Roman army - 'Come on you cowards, you were got in fear / Though you were born in Rome.' (ll.30-4)

In Volumnia's speech the imagery of war is closely intertwined with sexuality (ll.2-5, 40-3). Further unification of imagery occurs with the fusion of the idea of Martius as warrior and harvester (ll.34-7). Death was frequently depicted as a harvester. As the scene progresses we become more aware that Volumnia is a representation of the classic idea of Roman virtue. Virgilia, with her humanity, reveals a moral virtue that is more of Shakespeare's own time than valour and military endeavour. In consequence, in contrast to Volumnia, Virgilia exerts a very different force over her husband and her humanity and small part in the play emphasises the absence of that virtue in Rome.

Act I, scene iv

The senators address the Romans from the walls of the Corioli. Meanwhile the Volscian army leaves the city gates and attacks the Romans. As the Roman soldiers are forced to retreat, Martius scorns them for their cowardice and recalls the diseased imagery of inferior classes (ll. 30-33). Martius decides the army must turn and re- engage the Volsci. When pursuit of the Volsci, Martius finds himself alone. Believed dead by his comrades, he valiantly fights off his foes. Under Lartius's leadership, the Romans storm the city gates and seize the town.

Act I, scene v

Inside the Roman army plunder and lay waste to Corioli. Martius is contemptuous of the soldiers' behaviour. Playing down the extent of his wounds, Martius gives his attentions to Cominius, who confronts the main army of the Volsci. This may be more through determination to engage Aufidius and settle personal animosity than loyalty to Cominius.

Act I, scene vi

Martius plays down the extent of his wounds. Cominius welcomes Martius, who is keen to pursue the battle, and abruptly interrupts the former's enquiry into his deeds at Corioli:

'Where is the enemy? Are you lords o'th' field?
If not, why cease you till you are so?'
(ll. 47-8)

Martius asks Cominius to put him into the field opposite Aufidius. That he is intent on mixing the glory of Rome with personal vendetta is apparent. In asking for volunteers, Martius requests only men who 'think brave death outweighs bad life, / And that his country's dearer than himself.' (ll.71-2)

Act I, scene vii

Shakespeare switches location to Lartius inside Corioles and eager to join Cominius and Martius in the battle against Aufidius.

Act I, scene viii

This scene focuses on a duel between the arch-rivals Aufidius and Martius. Aufidius receives support from his army, which enrages the Volscian commander: 'Officious, and not valiant, you have sham'd me / In your condemn'd seconds' (ll.14-15).

Act I, scene ix

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