Patrick Pearse was the leader of the Irish Republican Brotherhood Volunteers, one of the two volunteer groups who took part in the uprising. Before the uprising, Pearse was a scholar of Irish history, including mythology and languages. He joined the uprising to combat commercialism that threatened his native culture.
James Connolly was the leader of the Irish Citizen Army Volunteers, one of the two volunteer groups who took part in the uprising. Like Pearse, Connolly rejected capitalism and adhered to the socialist belief that a country's wealth should be controlled by the people.
Although Yeats glorifies the executed rebels as martyrs, he actually despised John MacBride, whom he calls a "drunken, vainglorious lout" in the poem. MacBride was a known drunk who abused his wife, Maud Gonne, who happened to be the love of Yeats's life.
Thomas MacDonagh joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood Volunteers in April 1915. He did not become a member of the Military Council until April 1916, so he did not have a major role in planning the rebellion. However, as a poet, writer, and playwright, it is believed that he influenced the content of the Proclamation that outlined a temporary government for the Irish Republic.