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Free Study Guide-Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare-Free Booknotes
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ACT IV, SCENE 1

Summary

Antony, Octavius Caesar, and Lepidus have formed a second triumvirate to share the leadership of Rome. They meet to discuss their strategy for defeating the escaped conspirators. Antony sends Lepidus to Caesar's house to bring his will so that they can devise some way of paying for the expenses of the campaign against the conspirators. As soon as Lepidus leaves, Antony openly expresses his contempt for him, saying he is a "slight unmeritable man," who is only fit to run errands, not to rule one third of the Roman Empire. When Octavius defends Lepidus, Antony says they will use Lepidus like a tool until he has served his purpose. Antony then turns to more pressing matters and tells Octavius that they must combine their military resources and enlist the support of their best friends in their campaign against Brutus and Cassius. He also suggests that they immediately decide how things that are not known to the general public be revealed and how the imminent danger facing them may be countered. Octavius readily agrees to Antony's suggestions.

Notes

The main thrust of the play in the first three acts was the planning of Caesar's assassination. The last two acts of the play will chart the personal tragedy of Brutus, ending in his suicide and the resolution of the civil war now tearing Rome apart.


In this first scene of the fourth act, the passion and emotion of Caesar's death has been replaced by seemingly callous calculations on the part of Antony as to how to effectively wage war against the conspirators. He, along with the other two members of the newly formed Triumvirate, is deciding the fates of several Roman citizens by making a list of those that will die and those that will live. Lepidus agrees to the death of his brother, and Antony consents to the death of his nephew; both are shocking examples of the lack of feeling that goes into this meeting. The entire incident is replete with cold calculation as the men readily scratch off the lives of human beings.

The change in Antony is remarkable. He is no longer the same man who wept copiously over Caesar's death. His emotion has been replaced with ruthlessness; his total motivation is to liquidate every potential enemy and protect his own power. He seems no longer to have a concern for the good of the citizens. With intense calculation, he sends Lepidus to bring Caesar's will, planning to find a way to use some of Caesar's money to wage war on the conspirators. Further, Antony reveals himself to be somewhat duplicitous. As soon as Lepidus departs to fetch the will, Antony derides him and tells Octavius he is not fit to share in their rule; he plans to use Lepidus only as a tool.

In this scene, Octavius emerges as a more rational man than Antony. Young and intelligent, he seems to grasp the political uncertainty that surrounds him. He is not sure of Antony, for he realizes that the man is simply hungry for power. In fact, Octavius closes the scene with his cynical observation that no one in Rome can be trusted.

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