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How should the reader react to Octavius by the end of the play Julius Caesar?

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jessicamartin... | Student, Undergraduate | Salutatorian

Posted March 2, 2013 at 5:58 PM via web

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How should the reader react to Octavius by the end of the play Julius Caesar?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 2) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 2, 2013 at 8:12 PM (Answer #1)

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The adopted great-nephew and heir to Julius Caesar, Octavius Caesar certainly displays leadership qualities during Shakespeare's drama.  In Act IV, for instance, he acts as a counterpoint to the unscrupulous Antony who is willing to sacrifice Lepidus to his ends and wants to reduce the legacies of Caesar's will in order to profit the triumvirate. For, Octavius defends Lepidus as "a tried and valiant soldier."

Furthermore, Octavius disagrees with Antony's rules of conduct for battle at Philippi; instead, he generates his own military strategy which is more aggressive than Antony's orders to meet the advance of the enemy's troops.  Confronting Brutus and Cassius, he tells them that he seeks revenge for the death of Caesar,

Look, I draw a sword against conspirators;
When think you that the sword goes up again?
Never, till Caesar's three and thirty wounds
Be well avenged, or till another Caesar
Have added slaughter to the sword of traitors. (5.1.53-57)

In the final scene of the play, although Octavius is the enemy of Brutus, he does possess integrity as exemplified by his arguments with Antony in Act IV. Thus, as one who is noble himself, Octavius also recognizes the nobility of Brutus who has acted by his principles and conscience. Therefore, he affords Brutus the respectful burial deserving of a noble man. Clearly, then, the reader of Shakespeare's play should feel respect for the character Octavius Caesar, who has never compromised himself in the interests of self-gain. 

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