Julius Caesar

by: William Shakespeare


Forget not in your speed, Antonius, To touch Calpurnia, for our elders say The barren, touched in this holy chase, Shake off their sterile curse. . . . I shall remember. When Caesar says, “do this,” it is performed. (1.2.8-12)

This quote comes as the audience first meets Caesar and Antony. Right away, the audience sees Antony’s loyalty to Caesar. Despite Caesar’s rather strange request, Antony does not hesitate to obediently reply. At the same time, Caesar’s request reveals that he thinks highly of Antony’s abilities. Both characters show mutual respect and admiration for one another.

Decius, well urged. I think it is not meet Mark Antony, so well beloved of Caesar, Should outlive Caesar. We shall find of him A shrewd contriver. And, you know, his means, If he improve them, may well stretch so far As to annoy us all; which to prevent, Let Antony and Caesar fall together. (2.1.162-168)

As the conspirators plan the destruction of Caesar, Cassius speaks of why they should also kill Antony, revealing important details about Antony’s character. Cassius describes Antony’s dangerous ability to plot as well as his strong connections, making Antony powerful. Even though Brutus does not heed Cassius’s warnings, the audience will see that Cassius was accurate in his description of Antony.

If Brutus will vouchsafe that Antony May safely come to him and be resolved How Caesar hath deserved to lie in death, Mark Antony shall not love Caesar dead So well as Brutus living, but will follow The fortunes and affairs of noble Brutus Thorough the hazards of this untrod state With all true faith. So says my master Antony. (3.1.140-147)

Antony’s servant delivers this message from Antony to Brutus soon after Caesar is killed. In his message, Antony declares allegiance to Brutus and swears that even though he loved and was loyal to Caesar, if Brutus can explain why Caesar had to be killed, then Antony will be even more loyal to Brutus. While Brutus sees Antony’s intentions as honorable, the audience is wary of Antony’s motives, knowing his ambitious nature.

I shall not find myself so apt to die. No place will please me so, no mean of death, As here by Caesar, and by you cut off, The choice and master spirits of this age. (3.1.170-173)

Here, Antony presents himself to Brutus and Cassius for the first time since they killed Caesar. He immediately lays down his love for Caesar, but also accepts his own death if Brutus and Cassius planned on killing him too. By playing up this honorable sacrifice and declaring that there is no better place to die than alongside Caesar, Antony gets Brutus to trust him.

O, pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth, That I am meek and gentle with these butchers! Thou art the ruins of the noblest man That ever livèd in the tide of times. Woe to the hand that shed this costly blood! Over thy wounds now do I prophesy— Which, like dumb mouths, do ope their ruby lips To beg the voice and utterance of my tongue— A curse shall light upon the limbs of men. (3.1.269-277)

As this scene comes to a close, Antony is left alone where he delivers a speech to the audience. Through these words, Antony declares continued loyalty to Caesar and allegiance only to avenging his death. He apologizes to Caesar for acting polite with Brutus and Cassius and then swears that a curse will come to the men that killed Caesar.

He was my friend, faithful and just to me. But Brutus says he was ambitious, And Brutus is an honourable man. . . . When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept. . . . Yet Brutus says he was ambitious, And Brutus is an honourable man. . . . I thrice presented him a kingly crown, Which he did thrice refuse. Was this ambition? Yet Brutus says he was ambitious, And sure he is an honourable man. (3.2.82-96)

Antony speaks these words in a speech at Caesar’s funeral. Brutus agreed to let Antony speak, thinking that this will make them look unified. However, Brutus underestimated Antony’s ambition and rhetorical power and this speech proves Antony to be a force. By repeating “Brutus says Caesar was ambitious” and “Brutus is an honorable man,” Antony slyly takes credibility from these statements, demonstrating Antony’s resourceful character.

Will you be patient? Will you stay awhile? I have o'ershot myself to tell you of it. I fear I wrong the honorable men Whose daggers have stabbed Caesar. I do fear it. (3.2.148-151)

Antony delivers these words at the end of his speech at Caesar’s funeral. Brutus allows Antony to speak as he believes Antony’s intentions are innocent. But Antony uses the power of words to persuade the people of Rome to see Brutus and Cassius as traitors instead of honorable men. While Antony’s entire speech is evident of his cunning intelligence, this quote highlights his true character.

And though we lay these honors on this man To ease ourselves of divers slanderous 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. And having brought our treasure where we will, Then take we down his load and turn him off, Like to the empty ass, to shake his ears And graze in commons. (4.1.20-27)

In this scene, Antony is speaking with Octavius regarding Lepidus. Antony not only insults Lepidus, but also describes how he plans to use Lepidus to share the blame and do their deeds and then cast him aside. This plan speaks to Antony’s character and how he will use people for his ambitious goals.

And for Mark Antony, think not of him, For he can do no more than Caesar’s arm When Caesar’s head is off. (2.1.188-190)

As Brutus finishes a speech to Cassius and the other conspirators, he references Antony in response to Cassius’s suggestion that they kill Antony at the same time as killing Caesar. Brutus’s quote says that they should spare Antony because he will be useless without Caesar. However, later in the play, it becomes obvious that Brutus should have listened to Cassius and underestimated Antony’s abilities and ambition.

And, in some taste, is Lepidus but so. He must be taught and trained and bid go forth, A barren-spirited fellow, one that feeds On objects, arts, and imitations, Which, out of use and staled by other men, Begin his fashion. (4.1.35-40)

Antony describes to Octavius how he views Lepidus as a man he can easily manipulate to serve his purpose. The fact that Antony later uses Lepidus this way reveals some truth to Antony’s opinion. However, this quote identifies Antony as someone who uses others to accomplish his own ambitious gains. The fact that Antony sees Lepidus as a vapid pawn in his ambitious path reveals Antony as a villainous character.