Marc Antony is presented as a young military man who must quickly grow up in a very challenging situation, and he becomes an accomplished commander and worthy successor to Caesar.
His activities during the wars, under Julius Caesar’s command, had included revelry in celebrations in camp, yet Caesar clearly trusts him in battle. His trusting side, unfortunately, lets Caesar down, as he speaks in Cassius’s favor. Then, unbeknownst to Antony, his reputation for merely being an appendage to Caesar actually saves his life: Brutus convinces Cassius he is not enough of a threat to kill along with Caesar.
After the assassination, Antony begs Brutus to kill him, as that would be an honorable death. When they spare him and allow him to speak at the funeral, he pretends to be on friendly terms even as he plots the counter-uprising. While several of his speeches make him seem mild-mannered, once he is alone, he passionately commits to war and vengeance. Italy will be so terrible, he vows, with “blood and destruction” so common that mothers will actually be glad to see their babies killed. He will join with Caesar’s spirit, which will “cry ‘Havoc’ and let slip the dogs of war. . . .”
While Antony is planning his oration, he also begins plotting the armies’s actions and sends a message to Octavius to delay his return, as Rome in mourning is “a dangerous Rome, / No Rome of safety for Octavius yet.” In the funeral speech itself, he begins slowly and respectfully toward Brutus and the rest, calling them—especially Brutus—“honourable.” This speech more than any other text or action shows Antony’s incredible political skills. He stirs the people up by saying he is doing the opposite—that he thinks more highly of the conspirators than he does of Caesar, the audience, or even himself:
O masters, if I were disposed to stir
Your hearts and minds to mutiny and rage,
I should do Brutus wrong, and Cassius wrong,
Who, you all know, are honourable men:
I will not do them wrong; I rather choose
To wrong the dead, to wrong myself and you. . . .
Even after he calls their deeds “bloody treason” and the men “traitors,” he denies that he wants them to “rise and mutiny.” Finally, after the people do take to the streets, he knows he has accomplished his purpose. Antony steps up to share command of the opposition forces only with Octavius, and he shows his ruthless side when he resolves to cut out Lepidus. After they emerge victorious in the wars and Brutus takes his own life, Antony does not quite forgive him but shows he understands his motives and praises his nobility.