Does Mark Antony have any internal conflicts in Julius Caesar?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mark Antony’s internal conflict is his struggle with himself over how to avenge Caesar’s death and work with Octavius.

An internal conflict is a character vs. self struggle.  It is usually a difficult decision or a fear that a character has.  Antony’s struggles were only beginning when Caesar was killed.  He had plenty of external conflicts.  As Caesar’s second in command and cousin, Antony worried that he might be next.  He also had the challenge of some people thinking that he might have been involved.  He had to determine the best way to avenge Caesar’s death, acquire power, and handle Caesar’s heir, Octavius.

Antony's internal conflicts revolved around how he would deal with Caesar's death and his killers.  Caesar and Antony were very close.  Antony was Caesar’s cousin, and one of his military aids.  He might have assumed that he was going to be Caesar’s heir, and that Caesar was going to live long enough to elevate him into a position of great power.  Either way, Antony suffered a great personal loss when Caesar was killed.

Deciding to negotiate with Brutus would have been a tough but necessary decision.  It must have been one of the hardest things he had ever done, to humble himself before the man who killed his benefactor.  To kiss up to Brutus and Cassius would have gone against every fiber of his being, but it was what he needed to do in order to get what he wanted.  He even shook hands with Brutus over Caesar’s corpse—a hand covered in blood.

After the conspirators leave, Shakespeare demonstrates Antony’s internal conflict with a bristling soliloquy in which Antony addresses Caesar’s body, promising to avenge his death and predicting civil war.

O, pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth,
That I am meek and gentle with these butchers!
Thou art the ruins of the noblest man
That ever lived in the tide of times.
Woe to the hand that shed this costly blood! (Act 3, Scene 1)

Antony has a lot on his plate.  He has to deal with Brutus and his contingent, who are at this point very dangerous.  Not only have they killed Caesar, but they are poised to take over Rome.  Antony also has Octavius to contend with.   Caesar’s will names him heir, and he will want a share of the power.

Antony has to tread carefully.  He has to decide what to do about Octavius.  Although the boy is young, he is the biggest threat to Antony’s power.  He makes another political move, telling Octavius’s servant to keep him away.

Post back with speed, and tell him what hath chanced:
Here is a mourning Rome, a dangerous Rome,
No Rome of safety for Octavius yet;
Hie hence, and tell him so. (Act 3, Scene 1)

He gives a rousing speech to the people in order to eulogize Caesar and position himself as Caesar’s political heir.  Having cemented the people’s support is not enough though.  Antony has to keep it.  Caesar named Octavius as his heir, and this is not something Antony can ignore.  He has to form a triumvirate with Octavius and Lepidus.

Antony must have had a horrible internal conflict in setting aside his pride to share power with Lepidus, a nobody, and Octavius, a kid.  Yet he did what he had to do.  Shakespeare demonstrates Antony’s unhappiness with this deal by the dismissive way he treats Lepidus and the frustration he feels with Octavius not bowing to his wisdom and experience. 

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Julius Caesar

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