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Ocatavius Caesar is both a menacing adversary for Antony
and a rigid representation of Roman law and order. He is not a two-dimensional
villain, though, since his frustrations with the ever-neglectful
Antony seem justified. When he complains to Lepidus that he resents
having to “bear / So great weight in [Antony’s] lightness,” we certainly
understand his concern (I.iv.24–25). He does not
emerge as a particularly likable character—his treatment of Lepidus,
for instance, betrays the cruel underside of Caesar’s aggressive
ambitions—but he is a complicated one. He is, in other words, convincingly
human. There is, perhaps, no better example of Caesar’s humanity
than his conflicted feelings about Antony. For a good deal of the
play, Caesar seems bent, rather ruthlessly, on destroying Antony.
When he achieves this desired end, however, he does not relish the
moment as we might expect. Instead, he mourns the loss of a great
soldier and musters enough compassion to be not only fair-minded
but also fair-hearted, commanding that the lovers be buried beside
Ace your assignments with our guide to Antony and Cleopatra!