In Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, is Antony a genuine person— highly skilled in speaking publicly—or another person inside?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, I believe that Antony does care for Rome—he is deeply saddened by Caesar's death. One of his gifts is his ability to speak publicly to move the hearts of the Roman people. However, he has a shrewd, self-serving, and even vicious side as well.

When Brutus, Cassius and the other assassins have murdered Caesar, Antony agrees to meet with them—promising to hold his judgment. Brutus, our tragic hero, deeply loved Caesar, but loved Rome more, and was fearful that he would agree to be king, which Brutus believes would hurt the Rome. Brutus is a man of conviction, but he does take part in Caesar's death.

After Caesar is killed, Antony's servant comes with a message. If Brutus will guarantee Antony's safety, Antony will listen to Brutus, and if Brutus can convince Antony that Caesar needed to die, Antony will follow Brutus.

If Brutus will vouchsafe that Antony
May safely come to him and be resolved
How Caesar hath deserved to lie in death,
Mark Antony shall not love Caesar dead
So well as Brutus living, but will follow
The fortunes and affairs of noble Brutus… (III.i.143-148)

Brutus agrees, knowing that Antony would prove a valuable ally in how things play out. (Cassius does not trust Antony.) Antony arrives—they talk. Antony asks to take Caesar's body for a furneral, and Brutus agrees; but when the rest leave, Antony promises to avenge Caesar's death and predicts that civil war will soon follow.

Woe to the hand that shed this costly blood!
Over thy wounds now do I prophesy
Which like dumb mouths do ope their ruby lips
To beg the voice and utterance of my tongue,
A curse shall light upon the limbs of men... (278-282)

First Brutus addresses the crowd and they agree with his reasons for killing Caesar, but then Antony, with his gift of rhetoric, rouses the Roman people against Brutus and the others. Not only does Antony not put off judging the men, but he turns the people of Rome against them, secretly promising his revenge against them all.

Antony is also willing to use death to further his own ambitions. The new Triumvirate, consisting of Antony, Octavius and Lepidus, are compiling of list of those they will kill to make their transition into their leadership roles easier. Octavius wants Lepidus' brother to die. Lepidus agrees as long as Antony agrees to have his sister's son—his nephew—murdered. Antony does not hesitate in offering his consent.

Another side to Antony that I do not admire is his treatment of one of the members of the new Triumvirate. Antony comments upon Lepidus who is older and more experienced, but Antony shows no respect for him. Should this old man, good only for running errands, have a third of the power in ruling Rome?

ANTONY:This is a slight unmeritable man,
Meet to be sent on errands. Is it fit,
The three-fold world divided, he should stand
One of the three to share it? (IV.i.13-16)

Octavius says he will abide by whatever Antony chooses to do, but Octavius is quick to point out:

…[Lepidus is] a tried and valiant soldier (31)

Antony says that his own horse is the same, and therefore, should do nothing but carry out their orders. He tells Octavius to treat him like a piece of property. Though older, it seems Antony's personal opinion is that Lepidus is unfit. His lack of respect for a proven soldier does not suit Antony.

Antony is an excellent speaker, but he has his own agenda, and seems only slightly better than Brutus, who was governed by his love of Rome, not his love of himself.

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Julius Caesar

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