by: William Shakespeare

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Modern Text

Rome. A room in Martius’ house.
A room in Martius’ house in Rome.
Enter VOLUMNIA and VIRGILIA they set them down on two low stools, and sew
VOLUMNIA and VIRGILIA enter. They sit down on two low stools and sew.
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
5he would show most love. When yet he was but
tender-bodied and the only son of my womb, when
youth with comeliness plucked all gaze his way, when
for a day of kings’ entreaties a mother should not
sell him an hour from her beholding, I, considering
10how honour would become such a person. that it was
no better than picture-like to hang by the wall, if
renown made it not stir, was pleased to let him seek
danger where he was like to find fame. To a cruel
war I sent him; from whence he returned, his brows
15bound 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
Please, my daughter-in-law, sing or express yourself more cheerfully. If my son were my husband, I would be happier with him away winning honors than lovingly embracing me in bed. Before he was full grown, when he was still my only child, when he was boyishly handsome and attracting much attention, when even if the king begged me I shouldn’t have let him out of my sight for an hour, I considered how honored he would become, and that unless he were inspired to make a name for himself, he would be no better than a picture hanging on the wall, so I happily let him face danger, because that’s how he was likely to find fame. I sent him to a cruel war from which he returned crowned with garlands of oak. I tell you, daughter-in-law, I jumped for joy more to see that he had proven himself as a man than I did when I first heard he was a boy child.
But had he died in the business, madam; how then?
But if had he died in the war, madam, how would you feel then?
20Then 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
Martius, I had rather had eleven die nobly for their
25country than one voluptuously surfeit out of action.
Then his noble deeds would have been my son—in them I would have found my legacy. Listen to me seriously: if I had a dozen sons and loved them equally, as much as I love our Martius, I would rather that eleven of them die nobly for their country than one choose the pleasures of making love over doing his duty.