- Published: September 6, 2022
- Updated: September 6, 2022
- Language: English
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I totally disagree with Mark Antony’s summing up of himself to be a ‘ plain, blunt, man’. In fact he is quite the opposite and he shows us this right through the play in all of the scenes following Caesar’s death. In act 3 scenes 1 & 2 and act 4 scene 1, Mark Antony shows us a totally new side to his character that we had never seen before. He shows us that he is sly, cunning and devious and that he can use his emotions to get people (namely the Roman citizens) to do what he wants- to a certain extent.
He is also a very good with words and has such talent, he can put his point across very well without actually saying what it is. We also see that Mark Antony is totally committed to being as loyal and as good a friend to Caesar as he possibly can. He shows us these particular qualities of loyalty and love towards Caesar as soon as he discovers Caesar has been murdered in act 3 scene 1:
‘ O mighty Caesar! dost thou lie so low?
Are all thy conquests, glories, triumphs, spoils,
Shrunk to this little measure? Fare thee well.’
What Antony is saying is that he is saddened to see that all of Caesar, the man in control of the known world’s power, glory and triumphs should be shrunk to a shrivelled up corpse. Other strong evidence to suggest his loyalty is when he offers the conspirators his life while their hands are still bloody:
‘ If I myself, there is no hour so fit
As Caesar’s death’s hour, nor no instrument
Of half worth as those your swords, made rich
With the most noble blood of all this world…
Now, while your purple hands do reek and smoke,
Fulfil your pleasure, live a thousand years’
Basically, what Antony is means, is that if the conspirators plan to kill him then they should do it now, as he cannot think of a better time or place for him to die than with his master, by the same instruments and by the same men. This proves that he is about as loyal as men come.
But, just because he is sad about the death of Caesar, he does not let it affect his thinking.
He shows us this when he introduces his sly side. He does this when after listening to Brutus’s reasons for killing Caesar he tells them that he understands their reasoning totally and agrees with them. He tells them that although he agrees with them Caesar was his friend and master and that he misses him greatly and asks if he can speak at the funeral aeration purely as a friend. At first, Cassius is unsure, but Brutus, being extremely naï¿½ve, tells him that Antony can as long as he does not leave the stage on which he stands to speak. He also tells Cassius that he, himself will speak first to give the crowd the reasons for the assassination of Caesar:
‘ I will myself into the pulpit first,
And show the reason of our Caesar’s death:
What Antony shall speak, I will protest
He speaks by leave and by permission’
What Brutus is saying is that not only shall Antony speak on his terms, he shall tell the crowd that the conspirators allowed him to speak and that he does not speak ill of them so they see the whole situation in a better light. Also, in the same speech, he foolishly allows Mark Antony to take the corpse of Caesar before the people of Rome. He says:
‘ Mark Antony, here, take you Caesar’s body
You shall not in your speech blame us,
But speak all good you can devise of Caesar
And say you do’ t by our permission;
Else you shall not have any hand at all
About his funeral;’
The one thing that Brutus does not realise though is that by allowing Mark Antony to take Caesar’s body up to the pulpit, he is giving Antony another weapon in his armoury with which to whip the crowd up into a frenzy and get them on his side. The next major section of the play in which we find out a lot about Antony is his soliloquy from act 3 scene 1 lines 254 to 275:
‘ 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 lived in the tide of times…
To beg the voice and utterance of my tongue,
A curse shall light upon the limbs of men;
Domestic fury and civil strife
Shall cumber all the parts of Italy…’
What Antony is doing in this soliloquy is easing his conscience, by attempting to apologise to Caesar. He is apologising for being friendly to the conspirators and not rebelling against them. He says how Caesar is the noblest man who had ever lived. He goes on to say how the people who killed Caesar will pay for the deed and how he will start the civil war that will engulf all of Italy. He says how blood, destruction and dreadful objects will become so common in Italy that mothers will smile when they see their babies cut to pieces as a result of the war. Cruel deeds being so common, everyone will be choked.
He then says how Caesar’s spirit will come roaming about, searching for revenge and with vengeance and ruin personified at his side, he will give order for pillaging slaughter and ‘ let slip the dogs of war’, causing civil war within Italy. It will be so terrible that corpses will be groaning for burial. Everything that Antony says here, he means and passionately believes in with all his heart. We know this for certain, but the one question that does need answering, is why? We know that he had great respect and admiration for Caesar, but is that the reason why he wants to start a war? Maybe it is, or maybe he wants the war to help him gain power himself. We do not know this but I believe that it is somewhat of a combination of the two.
This soliloquy tells us a great deal about the personality and totally contradicts everything he said about himself being a ‘ plain, blunt, man’. He shows us an extremely fiery, passionately loyal side to his character, which is the exact opposite to what he described himself as. He speaks of civil war, which is the opposite of what he has told Brutus and Cassius about agreeing with them. He talks of gruesome, bloody, scenes and chopped up infants, whatever this tells us about his character, it does not portray anything ‘ blunt’ or ‘ plain’.
The next and probably the most revealing part of the play, in terms of Antony’s character is the funeral in act 3 scene 2. It begins with Brutus speaking to the crowd and telling them how Caesar had to die and giving them lots of reasons why it had to come to his murder. But Brutus’s two downfalls are that he speaks first, and does not stay to listen to Antony, and that he uses a lot of rhetorical questions to put across his point. This is not very clever as we have already fond out and therefore do not take in what he is telling them and they get totally the wrong end of the stick and call for Brutus to become king, the next Caesar, as we see in act 3 scene 2:
‘ Live, Brutus! live! live!…
Bring him with triumph home unto his house…
Give him a statue with his ancestors…
Let him be Caesar…
Caesar’s better parts
Shall be crown’d in Brutus.’
When Antony speaks however, he gets it exactly right. He allows his tears to do the talking and saves himself the trouble of using many complicated rhetorical questions and the only some of the only ones we see are in his funeral speech in act 3 scene 2. He weeps and asks the crowd to spare him a moment as he is so overcome with grief. The crowd reacts to this with sympathy and pity. What Antony says is that he is not calling the ‘ noble’ Brutus a liar, but instead states facts that contradict what Brutus says.
He contradicts what Brutus says about Caesar being ambitious and wanting to be king, by saying how Caesar was wearing an old battle robe, hardly the type of clothing you would wear if your about to be crowned king of all of the known world is it. To this, the crowds have no answer. Of course the crowd do not know that this is an old battle robe they just believe it because He also reminds the crowd that all of the riches that Caesar retrieved from other countries had been given to the empire and not kept them himself. Of course, the crowds do not know this, but are so naï¿½ve, they again believe it anyway. Antony has told them.
He then introduces the body of Caesar, throwing back the robe covering the body and begins naming the person who inflicted each wound. He eventually gets to the biggest wound of all- the one to the heart. He names this one as being the wound that Brutus inflicted. Of course he is not certain but for the 3rd successive time, the crowd believes him anyway. He calls it the ‘ most unkindest cut of all’ he uses these words to emphasise the fact that that it was unkind and not just because he has such a poor vocabulary he cannot think of anything else to say as some people might think at first. He says:
‘ And this was the most unkindest cut of all’
He says the cut by Brutus (supposedly) is the ‘ most unkindest’ of all because Brutus was his best friend. He continues to, undermining everything Brutus has said, until the crowds are ready to go off and kill the conspirators. When he tests how successful his speech has been by announcing the will. Instantly, the crowds respond, proving his plan has worked. He just uses the will to get them to stay and then starts talking about something else telling the crowd not to mutiny (mentions mutiny again). He talks about how he is not a clever man, but a ‘ plain, blunt’ man is just saying what he feels. Eventually, Antony mentions the will again and tells the crowd that it is a good job that they do not know that they are his heirs. He says:
‘ Tis good you know not that you are his heirs;’
On hearing this, they call for the will, and at first, Antony will not show them it he says:
‘ Will you be patient? Will you stay a while?’
To this the crowd reply impatiently:
‘ The will! The testament’
Antony then asks the crowd if they are forcing him to do it. Of course they say yes and he agrees to do it. Of course, it was just another rhetorical question, like those used by Brutus, as he knew that they would say yes. He then tests the crowd’s obedience again as he asks if he may stand down from the pulpit and if they will stand back so he can go and get the will. This is a test because Brutus had told him not to step down from the pulpit. The crowds agree straight away and reply:
You shall have leave…
Room for Antony; most noble Antony.’
Antony then descends from the pulpit and fetches the will. But, before he reads it out, Antony tells the people:
‘ If you have tears, prepare to shed them now,’
This is virtually telling the people to cry. After this, he reads out the will, telling the people that he had left them seventy-five drachmas each. Of course, nobody knows if this is really the will and this could also be another example of Antony’s slyness and cunning. On hearing the will, the people are enraged, they respond by shouting and chanting:
‘ Revenge! About! Seek! Burn!
Fire! Kill! Slay! Let not a traitor live.’
Antony then goes on speaking to the crowd, as if trying to pacify them again telling them not to mutiny, telling them he is a ‘ plain, blunt ‘ man not wanting to cause civil unrest. But, even so, putting the word into their minds. He not to fight and shed blood, continuing to slowly pacify them, until he again mentions mutiny, for the last time. The citizens reply to this with even greater passion and anger than before they say:
‘ We’ll mutiny.
We’ll burn the house of Brutus.’
This then continues until the people finally put their words into action, lighting torches and running through the streets waving them.
In act 4 scene 1, we see Antony trying to go back on everything that he has said to the citizens about the will. We see him talking to Octavius Caesar and Lepidus and talking about how the three of them should join forces to avenge Caesar’s killers. Also, when Lepidus has left the room, Antony talks to Octavius about the will and power over the empire that was once Caesar’s. He asks Octavius if he is really willing to share the power and wealth of the known world between three men, and if Lepidus is worthy of being one of the three richest and most powerful men or if he would be happy if the two of them took everything and did not give anything to Lepidus:
‘ This is a slight unmeritable man,
Meet to be sent on errands: is it fit,
The three- fold world divided, he should stand
One of the three to share it?’
This is going totally against everything that Antony has said up till now about the wealth of Caesar and who it will go to. Up till this point, Antony has said about how all of Caesar’s wealth has been left to the citizens of Rome and how they will all receive considerable sums of money. This again shows us the cunning, devious, side to Antony, as he uses the will to trick the people of Rome into joining forces with him and rebelling against the conspirators. This puts his summing up of himself into more doubt and makes us think as to if there is any truth in it at all. This also goes someway to helping us decide why Antony means everything he says in his soliloquy, it leads us to believe he did it for the power more than his feelings of love and respect for Caesar.
Overall, I believe that Mark Antony is the most devious, treacherous character in the play up to act 4 scene 1. He denies all of these characteristics throughout the play, but as he does so, they become even more obvious. I disagree totally with Antony’s summing up of himself as a ‘ plain, blunt man ‘ as I have said throughout this essay and as you can see, I have plenty of evidence to back up these claims.
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