Was Antony motivated more by personal ambition or love for Caesar?Shakespeare's Julius Caesar

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While Marc Antony hovers over the bloodied body of Caesar and praises him,

Thou art the ruins of the noblest man

That ever lived in the tide of times. (3.1.255

and many critics feel this soliloquy of Antony's demonstrates his genuine love for Caesar as he also vows revenge, Antony's revenge is sought by creating "Domestic fury and fierce civil strife" (3.1.260).  This creation of civil strife, which does result from Antony's funeral oration, seems incongruent with anyone who has loved Rome as Caesar so claimed.  Why, then, would Antony desire civil strife if he so loved Caesar?

The creation of civil strife affords Antony, a professional soldier, the opportunity to advance himself as he forms a triumvirate with Octavius Caesar and Lepidus. He also demonstrates that rather than being a noble Roman who loves his country and his leader, Antony is an exigent man who is willing to exchange the life of his nephew for the life of Lepidus's brother. Then, after this exchange as Lepidus leaves, Antony says this of Lepidus to Octavius:

 This is a slight unmeritable man,

Meet to be sent on errands" (IV.i.12-13)

As he does with his nephew, Antony dismisses Lepidus as a temporarily useful tool.  This scene, known as the "proscription scene" evinces Antony's self-serving and cruel nature which seems to reinforce the interpretation of his self-interest in his persuasive funeral oration and in creating civil strife.  That Antony at the end of the play praises Brutus as "the noblest Roman of all" seems also to be an admission of his exigent and self-serving character.  Indeed, Antony appears to have been motivated by self-interest much more than any love for Caesar in Shakespeare's play, Julius Caesar.

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Julius Caesar

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