In Act V of "Julius Caesar", what is the purpose of the parley in which Antony et. al. insult and taunt each other?Discuss what this parley reveals about each character.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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"Words before blows; is it so, countrymen?"  Brutus reacts after hearing that Antony would parley with his side.  Even before this parley, the growing tensions between Octavius and Antony, who are supposed allies, are evidenced in their words.  For, when Antony tells Octavius to take the left battlefied, Octavius opposes him:  "Upon the right hand I; keep thou the left" (V,i,18).

Also rife with conflict are the words between Antony and Brutus.  When Brutus tells Antony that "good words are better than bad strokes" (V,i,28), Antony, with old bitterness, alludes to the murder of Brutus, indicating that the fires of his enmity toward Brutus are still flaming.  As Antony continues to insult Brutus and his brother-in-law, Cassius tells Brutus "I told you so":

Flatterers! Now Brutus, thank yourself;/This tongue had not offended so today,/If Cassius might have ruled. (V,i,47)

This statement seems at the heart of the parley:  All are dissatified with aftermath of Caesar's death.  The conflicts have caused many Roman lives and the republic is in a much worse state than when Caesar was alive.  And, indications are that if Octavius gains rule, he will be tyrannical.  For, his cruelty is evident in his words:

Come, Antony; away!/Defiance, traitors, hurl we in your teeth,/If you dare fight today, come to the field;/ If not, when you have stomachs (V,i,63-66).

Indeed, Cassius, who heretofore has not been supersitious, now feels the omnious threat to him by such as Octavious:

You know that I held Epicurus strong,/And his opinion; now I change my mind....Two mighty eagles fell,.../And in their steads do ravens, crows, and kites/Fly o'er our heads and downward look on us/As we were sickly prey; their shadows seem/A canopy most fatal, under which/Our army lies, ready to give up the ghost. (V,i, 76-88)

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