While Volumnia cherishes the masculine thirst for combat in her maternal breast, her daughter-in-law, Virgilia, typifies the traditional Roman wife. In the play, Virgilia is quiet and unassuming; she says very little (as befits a good Roman wife) and often capitulates to the whims of her domineering mother-in-law.
Shakespearean critics have often commented on the seeming discrepancy between how a Roman wife was expected to act in her time (as characterized by Virgilia) and how a woman like Volumnia managed to transcend the expectations of her time. Certainly, Volumnia is no typical Roman mother. She is the main power and inspiration behind Coriolanus' war exploits, and she definitely dominates both her son and daughter-in-law in the domestic sphere as well.
In ancient Rome, women were expected to derive their greatest satisfaction from the home; mothers especially were viewed as the preservers of Roman civilization and culture. Youthful marriages were...
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