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Shakespeare's Characters: Antony (Julius Caesar)

From Julius Caesar. Ed. Henry Norman Hudson. New York: Ginn and Co., 1908.

Shakespeare's completed characterization of Antony is in Antony and Cleopatra. In the later play Antony is delineated with his native aptitudes for vice warmed into full development by the great Egyptian sorceress. In Julius Cæsar Shakespeare emphasizes as one of Antony's characteristic traits his unreserved adulation of Cæsar, shown in reckless purveying to his dangerous weakness, -- the desire to be called a king. Already Cæsar had more than kingly power, and it was the obvious part of a friend to warn him against this ambition. Here and there are apt indications of his proneness to those vicious levities and debasing luxuries which afterwards ripened into such a gigantic profligacy. He has not yet attained to that rank and full-blown combination of cruelty, perfidy, and voluptuousness, which the world associates with his name, but he is plainly on the way to it. His profound and wily dissimulation, while knitting up the hollow truce with the assassins on the very spot where "great Cæsar fell," is managed with admirable skill; his deep spasms of grief being worked out in just the right way to quench their suspicions, and make them run into the toils, when he calls on them to render him their bloody hands. Nor have they any right to complain, for he is but paying them in their own coin; and we think none the worse of him that he fairly outdoes them at their own practice.

But Antony's worst parts as here delivered are his exultant treachery in proposing to use his colleague Lepidus as at once the pack-horse and the scape-goat of the Triumvirate, and his remorseless savagery in arranging for the slaughter of all that was most illustrious in Rome, bartering away his own uncle, to glut his revenge with the blood of Cicero; though even here his revenge was less hideous than the cold-blooded policy of young Octavius. Yet Antony has in the play, as he had in fact, some right noble streaks in him; for his character was a very mixed one; and there was to the last a fierce war of good and evil within him. Especially he had an eye to see, a heart to feel, and a soul to honor the superb structure of manhood which Rome possessed in Julius Cæsar, who stood to him, indeed, as a kind of superior nature, to raise him above himself. He "fear'd Cæsar, honour'd him, and lov'd him"; and with the murdered Cæsar for his theme, he was for once inspired and kindled to a rapture of the truest, noblest, most overwhelming eloquence. Noteworthy also is the grateful remembrance at last of his obligations to Brutus for having saved him from the daggers of the conspirators.

How to cite this article:

Shakespeare, William. Julius Caesar. Ed. Henry Norman Hudson. New York: Ginn and Co., 1908. Shakespeare Online. 20 Aug. 2009. (date when you accessed the information) < >.


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