What effect does Shakespeare achieve in Julius Caesar by having both Antony and Octavius speak well of Brutus when they find his body on the battlefield?

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Noelle Matteson | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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Octavius’s and Antony’s final comments about Brutus serve several purposes. Their compliments demonstrate respect towards their political enemy. Antony calls Brutus honest, well-intended, and “the noblest Roman of them all.” Octavius offers to take care of Brutus’s servants and to bury him with honor. These statements conclude the play, emphasizing to the audience the story’s tragic nature. Brutus was fundamentally good, but tragically flawed. Audiences can be relieved at the restoration of order even as they grieve for Brutus.

This praise also says a lot about the characters of Octavius and Antony. On the one hand, it shows that they are clear-headed leaders who do not let personal sentiment cloud their judgment. They might have disagreed with Brutus and even waged war against him, but it was for the good of Rome. Even they can recognize the man’s virtues. On the other hand, it may simply demonstrate that they are wily politicians. Speaking well of the dead and honoring one’s enemies makes the speaker look like an unbiased and benevolent leader.

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