Cominius

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Last Updated on September 22, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 429

He is a consul and the commander of the Roman army. A sensible man, he generally speaks in a deliberate, cautious manner, though sometimes he shows a fondness for extravagant language. He is practical rather than idealistic, yet he is devoted to Rome and to his friend Coriolanus. When conflict develops between his country and his friend, Cominius is caught in the middle. His efforts to act as a mediator between them are unsuccessful.

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Like the other patricians in the play, Cominius constantly fears that the delicate balance between social classes will collapse and that Rome will be plunged into civil war. When an ugly brawl erupts in the marketplace in III.i, Cominius scolds the tribunes and the plebeians. "That is the way to lay the city flat, / To bring the roof to the foundation" (III.i.203-04), he warns them. Cominius recognizes that the senate cannot impose its choice for consul on the common people; they must be wooed and won over. At III.ii.93-95, he tells Coriolanus that unless he's prepared to remain calm when he goes back to the marketplace, he shouldn't go at all. When Coriolanus says that he can't possibly play the part of a humble, contrite man, Cominius responds, "Come, come, we'll prompt you" (III.ii.106). Cominius believes that there are times when a politician must compromise in order to be effective and that given the structure of the Roman republic, the power of the common citizens must be respected.

Cominius's tendency to exaggerate is most apparent in his speeches praising Coriolanus. In his address to the senators before they vote on Coriolanus's election to the consulship, Cominius vividly recreates Coriolanus's brilliant military career. "I shall lack voice" (II.ii.82) to adequately describe his merits, says Cominius, but he rises to the occasion. In a lengthy speech filled with vivid descriptions, complex sentences, and images that intensify Coriolanus's valor, he depicts a superhuman hero (II.ii.82-122). Similarly, after Coriolanus has been banished and joined the enemy forces, Cominius reports that the Volscians have made Coriolanus "their god" (IV.vi.90). Once again there is the suggestion that Coriolanus is no mere mortal: "He leads them like a thing / Made by some other deity than nature" (IV.vi.90-91). And when Cominius returns to Rome after trying to persuade Coriolanus not to attack the city, his description of Coriolanus evokes awe: "he does sit in gold, his eye / Red as 'twould burn Rome" (V.i.63-64). The words of Cominius contribute significantly to Coriolanus's image in the play as a superhuman force.

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