Caius Martius, called Coriolanus, is a Roman general of aristocratic birth, a deeply proud man of deep integrity and an astounding lack of social skills.
He has been a soldier all his life and does not understand civilian life. Extremely awkward when not fighting, he dislikes being praised for what he has done, refusing monetary rewards and not wishing to hear himself lauded. He expects to be honored for his achievements by being given high office, but he refuses to do anything more for the sake of being nominated, even though this is long-standing tradition. He despises the common people, and since he is unable to hold his tongue, they are well-aware of it. An extreme right-winger, he cannot play politics, as he is incapable of hypocrisy and only once in his life attempts to practice it, with ludicrous results. It is his misfortune to be named Consul at a time when it is necessary for him to attempt to charm the common folk. He is an extraordinary soldier, of unmatched bravery and huge physical power, and despises those who are less than he. He particularly dislikes cowardice, and sees no reason why everyday people should have any say in government when they do nothing for the defense of the city. The only emotion he is truly capable of expressing is anger, though he has an unbounded respect for his mother Volumnia, who can do with him as she pleases. Volumnia brought him up to share her unbending ideals, and many of the character traits that doom Coriolanus can be laid at his mother’s door. His care for his own wife Virgilia, and for his son Young Martius, is much less than his love for his mother. Beyond them, his only friends are his commanding officer Cominius and old Menenius, who has loved him as a father. Perhaps his strongest bond is with his enemy Aufidius, with whom he has fought a dozen times, always winning but never able to put him fully out of action. His respect for Aufidius is so strong that it is to him that Coriolanus flees when he is banished from Rome. Hugely arrogant, unbending, bad-tempered, and deeply self-centered, Coriolanus is nevertheless finally broken by his care for his mother, and gives in to her even when he knows it will destroy him.