Discuss Octavius in the drama  Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare.

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Octavius Caesar becomes the Emperor of Rome in 27 B.C. After the civil war between Antony and Octavius’s armies and the conspirators, Antony foolishly loses everything because of his love for Cleopatra.  Octavius goes to Egypt and defeats Antony. He changes his name to Augustus Caesar was considered to be a progressive leader.

In the play Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare, Octavius arrives in Rome just as Caesar is assassinated.  He was the adopted son of Julius Caesar.  Octavius did not enter Rome for fear that he too would be murdered. Finally, Antony told him that it was safe and sent for him to come into Rome. 

At the time of the assassination, Octavius was thought to be too young to hold a place of importance in the government; however, because of his relationship with Caesar, Antony included him in all of the major decisions made after the assassination.

When Octavius is first introduced, he appears aloof and arrogant.  He does not defer to Antony, but rather stands on his own and does what he pleases.  This creates problems for Antony as he reminds Octavius that Antony is older and more experience in battle and government issues.

In Act IV, Scene I, Octavius is a part of the second triumvirate along with Antony and Lepidus.  The trio has decided to execute any of the government officials that have said or done something against this new government.  Octavius asserts himself in a disagreement with Antony. 

Antony speaks against Lepidus as unworthy to be a part of the new government.  Octavius disagrees with him and points out that it was Antony who included Lepidus in the government.  Octavius does force Lepidus to write his brother’s name on the execution list.  Octavius tells Antony that he feels that there are many in Rome who are their enemies. He thinks that there are those who smile at them but really wish them harm.

In Act V, Octavius aggressively moves to go against the will of Antony. Realizing that Antony will not let him rule Rome without a fight, Octavius intensified his resistance to allow Antony any domination over the armies or the battle.  He demonstrates his ability to stand up against Antony:

Antony: Octavius, lead your battle softly on

Upon the left hand or the even field.

Octavius: Upon the right hand I; keep though the left.

Antony: Why do you cross me in this exigent?

Octavius also points out that Antony predicted incorrectly that Brutus and Cassius would not come to Philippi.  In addition, he does not follow Antony’s suggestion and does go into battle on the left hand side.   Later, Octavius sees that Antony does understand battle strategy and follows his lead in the defensive positions during the battle and allow the enemy to initiate the battle.

This subtle fight for power between the two leaders foreshadows what will happen between them after they defeat conspirators.  Shakespeare does build the character of Octavius by highlighting those aspects of his personality that will predominate later in his political and military conflicts with Antony and in his role as the Emperor Augustus. Octavius is astute in his political decisions and in his relationship with Antony.

What qualities does Octavius exhibit which will aide him in his rise to the head of the Roman Empire?

Confidence, determination, decisive, clever, aloof, proud, dominant, and fearless.

Read the study guide:
Julius Caesar

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