Menenius is an aged patrician. He opposes the demands of the people for grain or political power. Nevertheless, he attempts to remain a gentleman in his confrontations with them. He is a friend of Coriolanus, but is rebuffed by him when he pleads with him to spare Rome.
Aufidius is the general of the Volscian army. The Volsces are the enemies of Rome. Aufidius and Coriolanus are personal enemies who have often fought against each other in battles; each longs for the opportunity to kill the other. While Coriolanus admires Aufidius as a rival, Aufidius is jealous of Coriolanus and contrives to destroy him even if he cannot defeat him in combat.
Junius Brutus is one of the tribunes of the people. Along with Sicinius, the other tribune, he directs the people’s wrath against the patricians and is particularly influential in shaping the defeat of Coriolanus in his bid to obtain the office of consul and in banishing him from Rome. Those opposed to Brutus may see him as a manipulator rather than as a leader.
Cominius is the Roman general under whom Coriolanus serves. He has tremendous regard for Coriolanus. It is Cominius who confers upon Marcius the name Coriolanus after his victory at Corioles.
Caius Marcius Coriolanus
Coriolanus is a soldier of the patrician class who is dearly attached to his class and to his mother, who has formed his character. He is proud, stubborn, prone to anger, and detests the people. He sees them as irresponsible and idle. He earns the honorary name Coriolanus by reversing the tide of battle at Corioles and single-handedly leading the Romans to victory after their near defeat. His pride leads him to greatly alienate the Roman plebeians when he seeks the office of consul that they threaten to kill him and in fact banish him. After banishment, he joins forces with Aufidius to avenge himself on Rome, but at the last minute accedes to his mother’s pleas for mercy, spares Rome, and is assassinated by Aufidius’s henchmen in Antium.
Titus Lartius is a Roman general.
Young Marcius is Coriolanus’s son. He has the same fierce temper and warlike inclination as his father; he appears to Coriolanus and others as the mirror of Coriolanus as a boy.
Nicanor is a Roman spying for the Volscians.
Sicinius, along with Brutus, is a tribune of the people. He feeds the people’s indignation against Coriolanus, engineers his defeat in becoming consul, and is instrumental in banishing him. Brutus is portrayed as manipulative and concerned more with his own power than the people’s good.
Valeria is a matron of Rome, and a friend of Volumnia, who shares her enthusiasm for war.
Virgilia is Coriolanus’s wife. Unlike his mother, she does not celebrate his military prowess but is fearful for his safety. When he is at war, she refuses to leave the house or amuse herself with the other women.
Volumnia is Coriolanus’s mother. She has raised him to be a soldier and, in his soldiership, to reflect her glory. She is proud of his heroism, takes pride in his wounds, revels in the sight of him bloodied and values his honor over his life. She is cold and stern. She prods him to seek the consulship when he would rather not, and she persuades him to spare Rome, at the expense of his very life, when no one else could.
Shakespeare for Students:Critical Interpretations of Shakespeare’s Plays & Poetry, Second Edition, Volume 1, authored by Anne Marie Hacht & Cynthia Burnstein, published by Thomson-Gale, 2007