Caius Marcius, afterward Caius Marcius Coriolanus (KAY-yuhs MAHR-shuhs kohr-ee-oh-LAY-nuhs), a great warrior of the Roman Republic, a man of immense valor and equally great pride. He does not desire public acclaim for his achievements; his own knowledge of their worth is sufficient. He violently resents having to beg for the voices of the common people, whom he has watched flee from the battlefield in fear, and he is ultimately unable to stifle his contempt long enough to win the consulship. For his arrogance, he is banished from Rome. His alliance with Aufidius to avenge the wrongs he has received from Rome is a manifestation of his fierce pride. The dominant force in his life is the personality of his mother, who has shaped him into the confident, arrogant, and single-minded man he is. Although he cannot obey her injunction to betray himself to win the favor of the people, he is ultimately broken by her will and agrees to make peace between the Volscians and the Romans. There is, after this submission, no course for him but death, and he perishes, branded a traitor by both nations and taunted as “boy” by the Volscians.
Volumnia (vohl-LUHM-nee-uh), his mother, a noble Roman matron who has instilled in her son a strong sense of personal pride, integrity, and a streak of brutality. She dominates both Coriolanus and his wife and speaks proudly of the ruthlessness of her young grandson. Apparently oblivious to the effects of her pressure on her son, she rejoices in having saved Rome from a bloody destruction.
Menenius Agrippa (meh-NEE-nee-uhs uh-GRIHP-uh), a witty Roman senator who uses his reputation as something of a buffoon to communicate with the people and their tribunes. He loves Coriolanus like a son, and the younger man almost breaks his heart when he sends him unheeded from the Volscian camp.
Tullus Aufidius (TUHL-uhs oh-FIHD-ee-uhs), the Volscian general and Coriolanus’ great rival, who welcomes him as an ally when he appears at the Volscian camp. He comes to regret his decision when he finds the allegiance of his army transferred to the Roman who had defeated him each time they met on the battlefield. Coriolanus’ submission to his mother enrages him, for he had hoped to march victorious through Rome. He conspires to have Coriolanus killed as a traitor to the Volscians; however, he pays tribute to the nobility of his adversary as he stands over his body at the end of the play.
Cominius (ko-MIHN-ee-uhs), a general of the Roman army, a man of dignity and wisdom who recognizes and praises the great gifts of Coriolanus, to whom he is devoted. He mourns his banishment and offers to accompany him into exile.
Virgilia (vehr-JIHL-ee-uh), Coriolanus’ gentle wife, whom he calls “my gracious silence.” She avoids her husband’s public triumphs when she can, but she joins her mother-in-law at the Volscian camp to seek the salvation of Rome.
Sicinius Velutus (sih-SIHN-ee-uhs veh-LEW-tuhs) and
Junius Brutus (JEWN-yuhs BREW-tuhs), the tribunes of the people, possessive of their prerogative and fearful of the effects of Coriolanus’ pride and power on those they represent. Disregarding the advice and the pleas of Menenius and Cominius, they initiate the popular uprising that results in the great soldier’s banishment.
Titus Lartius (TI-tuhs LAHR-shuhs), another of the Roman generals.
Young Marcius, Coriolanus and Virgilia’s son, who has inherited his father’s intense, amoral valor.
Valeria (va-LIHR-ee-uh), a noble lady, Virgilia’s sympathetic friend.
Nicanor (ni-KAY-nohr) and
Adrian (AY-dree-ehn), representatives, respectively, of the Romans and the Volscians. They meet between Rome and Antium and discuss the probable results of Coriolanus’ banishment.