In Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, is there a noticeable difference between the character of Octavius and those of Antony, Cassius, and Brutus?

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William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The most striking difference in the character of Octavius compared to those of Antony, Cassius, and Brutus is attributable to the difference in their ages. When they meet on the battlefield at Philippi for a parley in Act V, Scene 1, Casssius calls Octavius

A peevish schoolboy, worthless of such honor,
Joined with a masquer and a reveler!

Octavius is a whole generation younger than the other three men. He has never been in a battle and doesn't realize the horrors that are in store. Antony has been a professional soldier for much of his life and has no illusions about the glory of warfare. Earlier when addressing Caesar's dead body in Act III, Scene 1, he speaks of war as he has experienced it:

A curse shall light upon the limbs of men;
Domestic fury and fierce civil strife
Shall cumber all the parts of Italy;
Blood and destruction shall be so in use,
And dreadful objects so familiar,
That mothers shall but smile when they behold
Their infants quartered with the hands of war,
All pity choked with custom of fell deeds;
And Caesar's spirit, ranging for revenge,
With Ate by his side come hot from hell,
Shall in these confines with a monarch's voice
Cry "havoc!" and let slip the dogs of war,
That this foul deed shall smell above the earth
With carrion men, groaning for burial.

"Carrion men groaning for burial" is a marvelous description of the landscape after a major battle.

The three older, more experienced soldiers are willing to stand and converse before giving the signal to start the bloodshed. Brutus obviously would like to talk about a truce. He begins the parley by saying:

Words before blows: is it so, countrymen?

He is reminding them that they are all fellow Romans. But Octavius is young, reckless, and hotheaded, anxious to prove himself as a warrior and a leader. He responds:

Not that we love words better, as you do.

Still hoping for a truce, Brutus replies:

Good words are better than bad strokes, Octavius.

But Antony is not to be won over with friendly words. If he could have been persuaded to join the men of his generation in arranging a truce, young Octavius would have had to go along with it, since he is still dependent on Antony's guidance. But Antony sees the necessity of having a showdown. He perceives Brutus' conciliatory attitude as a sign of weakness. He also feels obliged to side with Octavius because his own future is tied to that of Caesar's young heir. Antony replies:

In your bad strokes, Brutus, you give good words.
Witness the hole you made in Caesar's heart,
Crying "Long live, hail Caesar!"

Then Cassius speaks up:

The posture of your blows are yet unknown;
But for your words, they rob the Hybla bees,
And leave them honeyless.

This is outrageous flattery coming from an enemy on the battlefield between their assembled armies. Cassius, too, would obviously love to settle this conflict peacefully. He is even more motivated to do so because he has repeatedly expressed doubts about the advisability of fighting Antony and Octavius at Philippi.

Octavius is a whole generation younger. He is young, inexperienced, hotheaded, enthusiastic, full of dreams of glory, needing to prove himself; whereas Antony, Cassius, and Brutus have no illusions about war or about life in general. Octavius will  end up becoming emperor of Rome, while Cassius and Brutus will kill themselves at Philippi and years later Antony will commit suicide in Egypt after being defeated in battle by his former friend and protege Octavius Caesar.

buttercup2401 | Student

Cassius killed Caesar because he saw him as a threat to his power

Brutus killed Caesar thinking that it is for the good of Rome (to prevent Caesar from becoming a dictator)

Marc Antony seems like a noble person at the begining of the book. However, his true self is revealed later on in the play.

- he is cunning

- he is manipulative

- he does not keep his promise (steals the commoners money that Caesar left for them

buttercup2401 | Student

Antony is not one of the conspirators

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