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In Act IV of Julius Caesar, Antony, who has seemed so loyal to Caesar, and a loving friend, shows himself an exigent man as he marks Publius, borther of Lepidus, the third member of the triumvirate formed after Caesar's death. While Lepidus has agreed to his brother's death, he only does so on condition that Antony agree to sacrifice his nephew. This Antony does. Then, Antony shows that he is willing to use even Lepidus to achieve his political objectives by having him fetch Caesar's will so that they can reduce some of the legacies that he mentioned in his funeral oration. When Lepidus has departed, Octavius accuses Antony of treachery, saying that he has just gone along with Lepiudus in our "black sentence and proscription" of Publius. To this Antony counters that he is older and knows more. Lepidus is only given honors so that he will carry out important errands for them.
This is a slight unmeritable man,
Meet to be sent on errands; is it fit,
The threefold world divided, he should stand
One of the three to share it? (IV,i,13-16)
Octavius is incredulous; he accuses Antony, pointing to his treachery in taking Lepidus's side in their "black sentence and proscription." But, Antony dismisses this accusation by implying that he is wiser by saying he is older, explaining,
To ease ourselves of divers sland'rous loads,
He shall but bear them as the ass bears gold,
To groan and sweat under the business,
Either led or driven, as we point the way...
Then take we down his load, and turn him off,....(IV,i,22-27)
But, Octavius still demurs, telling Antony that he may do what he wishes, but Lepidus is a "tried and valiant friend." Heartlessly, Antony retorts,
So is my horse, Octavius, and for that
I do appoint him store of provender.
It is a creature that I teach to fight,
To wind, to stop, to run directly on,
His corporal motion governed by my spirit.
And, in some taste, is Lepidus but so....
Do not talk of him
But as a property. (IV,i,32-43)
After Lepidus runs the errand Antony has sent him on, Antony will sacrifice him because, he says, Lepidus is unfit to have so much power. Ironically, Antony has become what Brutus was concerned about in Caesar: hungry himself for power.
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