Compare and contrast Octavius and Antony.

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Antony is always characterized as a man who likes physical activities and physical pleasures. He is first shown in Julius Caesar preparing to participate in a footrace. He likes partying and having fun. This characteristic remains consistent throughout Shakespeare's Julius Caesar and his Antony and Cleopatra. It is Antony's hedonism that leads to his downfall at the hands of Octavius when they have their final falling out in Antony and Cleopatra.

Octavius is a much younger man than Antony. Without Antony, Octavius would never have been able to succeed Julius Caesar as his heir. It was Antony's famous funeral speech that turned things around and enabled Octavius to head the triumvirate which eventually overthrew Cassius and Brutus at the battle of Philippi, recording in the last act of Julius Caesar. Without Antony, Octavius would not have been victorious in that battle because he lacked military experience. He appreciates the help and guidance he received from the older man and is willing to share the rule of the Roman Empire with him, until Antony's lasciviousness and negligence leads to a rift which results in the death of Antony and Cleopatra, as dramatized in that play by Shakespeare.

Octavius' character is just about the direct opposite of Antony's. Octavius is very serious, intelligent, calculating, cerebral, abstemious, and practical. This is why he wins sole rulership of the Roman Empire in the end. In Antony and Cleopatra, there is a scene in which the two men are compared by a soothsayer, who very accurately evaluates Octavius and Antony and their relationship.

Say to me,
Whose fortunes shall rise higher, Caesar's or mine?

Therefore, O Antony, stay not by his side:
Thy demon, that thy spirit which keeps thee, is
Noble, courageous, high, unmatchable,
Where Caesar's is not; but near him thy angel
Becomes a fear, as being o'erpower'd: therefore
Make space enough between you.

Speak this no more.

To none but thee; no more but when to thee.
If thou dost play with him at any game,
Thou art sure to lose; and of that natural luck
He beats thee 'gainst the odds: thy lustre thickens
When he shines by: I say again, thy spirit
Is all afraid to govern thee near him;
But, he away, 'tis noble.

Get thee gone:
Say to Ventidius I would speak with him:--


He shall to Parthia.--Be it art or hap,
He hath spoken true: the very dice obey him;--
And in our sports my better cunning faints
Under his chance: if we draw lots, he speeds;
His cocks do win the battle still of mine,
When it is all to nought; and his quails ever
Beat mine, inhoop'd, at odds. I will to Egypt:
And though I make this marriage for my peace,
I' the East my pleasure lies.        (Act 2, Scene 3)

There is no better comparison between Octavius and Antony to be found anywhere than in this exchange between Antony and the Soothsayer. Many readers will relate to Antony's thoughts and feelings. There are some people who make us feel inferior, even when they are supposedly our friends. The Soothsayer gives us good advice when he says, "Make space enough between you."

Macbeth refers to Banquo as a person like Octavius in Shakespeare's play.

There is none but he
Whose being I do fear; and under him
My genius is rebuked, as it is said
Mark Antony's was by Caesar. .    (Act 3, Scene 1)

By "Caesar," Macbeth means Octavius Augustus Caesar, who became the Roman Emperor and sole ruler of the empire after defeating Antony in a battle at sea and in a land battle in Egypt. 

Mark Antony tries to stay away from Octavius, but perhaps he needs someone like Octavius to exercise some restraint on his reckless and licentious character. In Egypt, Cleopatra is too much like Antony. She encourages him to be lazy and self-indulgent. His close associates deplore the way Antony spends all his time fornicating and partying and neglects the responsibilities of running his half of the Roman Empire. Octavius is remarkably tolerant for some reason, perhaps because he is grateful for the help he received from Antony immediately after Julius Caesar's assassination. In the end, it seems inevitable that the older, dissolute Antony, captivated by the cunning, voluptuous Cleopatra, would be defeated by the younger, more disciplined, more selfish and opportunistic Octavius. It is another case of youth winning out over age.






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