In Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, both Anthony and Brutus are friends of Caesar. Why does Brutus betray his friend when Anthony displays true loyalty towards Caesar? Is it significant that the conspirators approach Brutus, but not Anthony? Was Brutus' friendship with Caesar of true value? Is Anthony a true friend or only protecting himself from the mob?
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All the conspirators do not approach Brutus. Only Cassius, who is the ringleader, sounds Brutus out about his feelings and gradually draws him in. Without Brutus there might never have been an assassination, because Cassius uses him to enlist many other conspirators who might not have liked or respected Cassius sufficiently to follow him.
In Act I, Scene 2, Antony displays his complete devotion to Caesar. When Caesar calls to him, he responds, "Here, my lord." And when Caesar tells him to be sure to touch Calpurnia in the coming race, Antony replies:
I shall remember:
When Caesar says "Do this," it is performed.
Cassius hates and fears Mark Antony. When the conspirators are discussing their plot in Brutus's home in Act II, Scene 1, Cassius says:
I think it is not meet
Mark Antony, so well beloved of Caesar,
Should outlive Caesar. We shall find of him
A shrewd contriver.
But the noble, reasonable, kindly Brutus tells him:
Our course will seem too bloody, Caius Cassius,
To cut the head off and then hack the limbs,
Like wrath in death and envy afterwards--
For Antony is but a limb of Caesar.
Let's be sacrificers, but not butchers . . .
Cassius is right, of course. He is a much better judge of men than Brutus, who tends to judge others by his noble self. Antony is steadfastly loyal to Caesar, even after Caesar has been assassinated. And Antony becomes loyal to Caesar's heir Octavius, who would hever have been able to defeat Brutus and Cassius on the battlefield without the professional generalship of Antony. When the commanders meet for a parley before the battle of Philippi, Antony expresses his feelings feelings face to face for the first time since Caesar's death:
You showed your teeth like apes, and fawned like hounds,
And bowed like bondmen, kissing Caesar's feet,
Whilst damned Casca, like a cur, behind,
Struck Caesar on the neck. O you flatterers!
And Cassius reminds Brutus of his earlier warnings about Antony:
Flatterers? Now, Brutus, thank yourself.
This tongue had not offended so today
If Cassius might have ruled.
Brutus was a true friend of Caesar and only acted against him after much soul-searching, having decided that Caesar was a threat to the Rome's democratic government. Antony very wisely and craftily pretended to become friends with Brutus and all the other assassins. But he hated them and was only waiting for an opportunity to turn against them.
Before making his famous funeral speech, Antony addresses the dead Caesar in a marvelous soliloquy in Act III, Scene 1, beginning with:
O pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth,
That I am meek and gentle with these butchers.
And ending with:
And Caesar's spirit, ranging for revenge,
Witht Ate by his side come hot from hell,
Shall in these confines with a monarch's voice
Cry "havoc!" and let slip the dogs of war,
That this foul deed shall smell above the earth
With carrion men, groaning for burial.
Antony is a deadly enemy of all the conspirators, and Cassius was right in wanting him killed along with Caesar. Cassius was right in persuading and manipulating Brutus to become the leader of the conspiracy, but he was wrong in believing he could control him. Partnerships are always very sensitive relationships. Brutus was a true friend of Caesar, but his character changed after the assassination. Brutus found himself temporarily the most powerful man in Rome because of his charisma and his family background, but he lacked Caesar's, Antony's, and Cassius's worldliness and practicality.
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