Julius Caesar Act 4 Scene 1 - Antony meets with Octavius
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Julius Caesar

Please see the bottom of the page for full explanatory notes and helpful resources.

ACT IV SCENE I A house in Rome. 
 ANTONY, OCTAVIUS, and LEPIDUS, seated at a table. 
ANTONY These many, then, shall die; their names are prick'd. 
OCTAVIUS Your brother too must die; consent you, Lepidus? 
LEPIDUS I do consent-- 
OCTAVIUS Prick him down, Antony.
LEPIDUS Upon condition Publius shall not live, 
 Who is your sister's son, Mark Antony. 5 
ANTONY He shall not live; look, with a spot I damn him. 
 But, Lepidus, go you to Caesar's house; 
 Fetch the will hither, and we shall determine
 How to cut off some charge in legacies. 
LEPIDUS What, shall I find you here? 10 
OCTAVIUS Or here, or at the Capitol. 
ANTONY 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? 
OCTAVIUS So you thought him; 
 And took his voice who should be prick'd to die, 
 In our black sentence and proscription.
ANTONY Octavius, I have seen more days than you: 
 And though we lay these honours on this man, 
 To ease ourselves of divers slanderous loads, 20 
 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, 25 
 Like to the empty ass, to shake his ears, 
 And graze in commons.
OCTAVIUS You may do your will; 
 But he's a tried and valiant soldier. 
ANTONY So is my horse, Octavius; and for that 
 I do appoint him store of provender: 30 
 It is a creature that I teach to fight,
 To wind, to stop, to run directly on, 
 His corporal motion govern'd by my spirit. 
 And, in some taste, is Lepidus but so; 
 He must be taught and train'd and bid go forth; 35 
 A barren-spirited fellow; one that feeds
 On abjects, orts and imitations, 
 Which, out of use and staled by other men, 
 Begin his fashion: do not talk of him, 
 But as a property. And now, Octavius, 40 
 Listen great things:--Brutus and Cassius
 Are levying powers: we must straight make head: 
 Therefore let our alliance be combined, 
 Our best friends made, our means stretch'd 
 And let us presently go sit in council, 45 
 How covert matters may be best disclosed,
 And open perils surest answered. 
OCTAVIUS Let us do so: for we are at the stake, 
 And bay'd about with many enemies; 
 And some that smile have in their hearts, I fear, 50 
 Millions of mischiefs.

Next: Julius Caesar, Act 4, Scene 2


Explanatory Notes for Act 4, Scene 1
From Julius Caesar. Ed. Samuel Thurber. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.



After the first scene the entire act is devoted to the unfolding of the character of Brutus, whom we see placed in the most interesting and moving situations, -- the quarrel and reconciliation with Cassius, the reception of the news of Portia's death, the night scene with the boy Lucius, the interview with the ghost. Every detail is meant to exalt our estimate of the nobility of Brutus. Historically this is not an accurate picture of the man as he was. In making him his hero Shakespeare naturally exaggerates his virtues and overlooks many of his faults.

Scene 1

Some time has evidently elapsed since Caesar's death. In reality this meeting of the three men, who formed the Second Triumvirate, occurred in November, 43 B.C., nineteen months after the events of Act III.

A house in Rome. History tells us that the actual meeting place was on an island in the river Rhenus near Bononia (now Bologna). Do you see any particular reason for Shakespeare's transferring it to Rome?

1. their names are pricked: marked.

Will you be pricked in number of our friends,
Or shall we on, and not depend on you?
(III, I, 217, and note.)
6. with a spot I damn him: with a mark (a prick) I condemn him to death.

9. charge: expense. Antony proposes to use some of Caesar's legacies, of which he spoke in his oration to the people, for war expenses against Brutus and Cassius.

11. Or here, or. Notice other uses of this expression for either ... or in these last two acts.

12. slight: insignificant. Cf. Brutus' "Away, slight man!" (IV, 3, 37.) unmeritable: without merit.

14. The three-fold world: Europe, Asia, and Africa.

16. took his voice who: took his vote as to who, etc.

20. divers slanderous loads: various disagreeable charges.

22. business: Here pronounced in three syllables, bus-i-ness. So sol-di-er in line 28 below.

27. commons: The commons of an English village in Shakespeare's time were the pasture lands held in common by the townspeople for their cattle. Boston "Common" was originally such a public grazing field.

30. appoint him store of provender. That is, provide him with an abundance of corn and hay.

32. wind: turn, wheel.

33. His corporal motion: the movements of his body, his physical motion.

34. in some taste: in a sense, in some ways.

36. barren-spirited: lacking spirit, or character.

37. abjects: things thrown away, leavings. orts: scraps, broken fragments, -- about the same as "abjects."

37-39. "Lepidus is a man," says Antony, "who is always interested in things that everybody else has grown tired of and thrown aside." [The Folio reading of "abjects, orts " is "objects, arts," changed by Staunton, and generally adopted by later editions.]

38. staled: made stale or common.

39. Begin his fashion: "Are the newest fashion with him." (Clarendon.)

40. a property: a piece of property, a tool, -- which we can use as we wish.

41. Listen great things. Later in the play we have "list a word," and in "Much Ado about Nothing," "To listen our purpose." The omission of prepositions was common in Elizabethan English.

42. powers: forces. straight make head. That is, we must raise an army at once.

44. our means stretched. We must exert ourselves to the utmost. The line is defective; it will not scan. Many alterations have been suggested, one of which will do for a sample: "Our best friends made secure, our means stretched out."

45. presently: at once, -- as often in Shakespeare.

46. How covert matters, etc. As to how secret, hidden matters, etc.

47. answered: faced, met.

48. 49. at the stake, and bayed about, etc. The figure is from the old sport of bear-baiting, in which a bear was tied to a stake to be "bayed" at, bitten, and tormented by a pack of dogs. When besieged in his castle and attacked on every side by his enemies, Macbeth exclaims
They have tied me to a stake ; I cannot fly,
But, bear-like, I must fight the course.

How to cite the explanatory notes and scene questions:
Shakespeare, William. Julius Caesar. Ed. Samuel Thurber. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1919. Shakespeare Online. 26 Feb. 2013. < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/julius_4_1.html >.

Scene Questions for Review

microsoft images 1. Discuss Antony's reasons for sending Lepidus to Caesar's house.

2. What opinion do you form of Lepidus from this scene?

3. In what ways does Antony seem to have changed since we last saw him in Act III?

4. Does Octavius give any indications of being the man who is later to oppose and conquer Antony?


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 Julius Caesar Study Questions (with Detailed Answers)
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Thoughts on Brutus... Shakespeare "has endowed him with a nature as profound and with feelings as powerful and excitable as Hamlet and Macbeth, but the poet has concealed the uncommon intensity of these emotions under the veil of heroic calmness, and behind the accepted character of the determined politician. We scarcely perceive the uneasiness which disturbs him within those passages where, at the beginning of the conspiracy and towards the conclusion of it, he envies the careless sleep of his boy Lucius." (G. Gervinus. Commentaries. Trans. Fanny Elizabeth Bunnett)


 Adjectives to Describe the Characters in Julius Caesar
 Julius Caesar Quotations (Full)
 All About Et tu, Brute?
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 Sources for Julius Caesar: Important Excerpts from Plutarch
 Shakespeare’s Adaptation of Plutarch's Julius Caesar
 Plutarch's Influence on Shakespeare
 What is Tragic Irony?
 Seneca's Tragedies and the Elizabethan Drama
 Characteristics of Elizabethan Drama