Antony has been described as “a self-seeking politician of no scruples.” Do you agree? Support your answer with close reference to the text.
Antony appears to be loyal to Caesar, but his loyalty hides his underlying deceitful nature. Antony uses Caesar’s death to his advantage. Antony capitalises on the opportunity it presents and progresses to become the victor and ruler of Rome.
There is no doubt that early in the play Antony is portrayed as a very loyal and trustworthy character. Caesar trusts him and holds him as a close friend. As seen when Caesar calls on Antony’s opinions about Cassius “tell me truly what thou think’st of him” as at the time Caesar was ruler, and it was very rare that rulers ask people for their opinions unless they were a close friend. Antony’s loyalty is shown when Caesar asks him to touch Calphurnia on the holly chase. Antony replies “When Caesar says ‘Do this,’ it is perform’d” this shows Antony is loyal, and obedient to Caesars will.
After Caesar’s death Antony again shows his loyalty, and asks if he is to be killed, he would like to be killed by the side of the noble Caesar. “If I myself, there is no hour so fit As Caesar’s death’s hour” “No place will please me so, no mean of death, As here by Caesar” this shows that he holds Caesar as a very noble man, and that he loved him.
However, Antony then appears to make friends with the conspirators when he addresses them after Caesars death “Friends I am with you all, and love you all”. Here Antony shows true deceit, for Antony is not their friend, but rather their enemy. “Woe to the hand that shed this costly blood!” and pronounces that he will create war among the people to revenge Caesars death. “Domestic fury and fierce civil strife Shall cumber all parts of Italy Caesar’s spirit raging for revenge Cry ‘Havoc!’ and let slip the dogs of war” Antony is the one who creates the war, this plays to his advantage because he eventually becomes king.
It is necessary to analyse both Brutus’s speech and Antony’s to see how Antony ’s appeals to the crowd cause a civil war. Brutus justifies conspiring against Caesar by stating that Caesar’s ambition would have hurt Rome. However, in Antony’s speech, he focuses on Caesar’s positive traits, and cunningly disproves Brutus’ justification for killing Caesar. The fickle Romans waver between leaders, responding emotionally, rather than intellectually, to the orators.
Brutus seeks to explain why he conspired against Caesar. He begins his speech with “Romans, countrymen…”, appealing to them as citizens of Rome, who, he later says, will benefit as freemen with Caesar’s death. This shows that Brutus knows how to lure the crowd, appealing to their better judgement as Romans. He declares that he is an honourable man, and tells them that he will let them judge the validity of his claims. That is, he will allow the truth to speak for itself. This encourages the crowd to believe him, as they believe him to be an “honourable man”. He says that he wants them to know the facts; “Censure me in your wisdom, and awake your senses that you may the better judge.” Sharing information with the people is flattering and it almost guarantees acceptance. He gets their sympathy by saying that he loved Caesar, daring the people to find anyone who loved Caesar more. Brutus declares that he never wronged Caesar, that he cried for Caesar’s love, was happy for his greatness, honoured him for his courage, but had to kill him because of Caesar’s ambition. He says that the reason for killing Caesar was his great love for Rome. He justifies his actions by saying that he loved Caesar but, “Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more.” He then asks rhetorically if the people would want to live their lives as slaves under Caesar’s rule, or would they prefer to live as freemen with Caesar dead. To anyone insulted by his speech he wonders if, as Romans who love their freedom, they could be offended or reject what he, Brutus, says. He poses the question, “Who is here so base that would be a bondman?” He stresses the point, repeating the line, “If any, speak, for him have I offended.”. “I pause for a reply.”, allows them to respond to his rhetorical questions, giving them an even greater sense that he cares about them and their opinions. They can only respond, ” None, Brutus, none.” That is, none are offended, they do not disagree or argue with his words or his actions.
Antony’s speech utilises a different approach. He starts out by addressing the crowd as “Friends” because he wants to come to them as a friend rather than a ruler trying to gain power. He does this for the crowd’s benefit only. He then says, “I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.” thus he can ease the praises of Caesar into his speech without the crowd stopping him. He sounds very sincere when he says; “The noble Brutus hath told you Caesar was ambitious…. For Brutus is an honourable man.” He repeats that statement three more times becoming increasingly sarcastic, saying finally, “Yet Brutus says he was ambitious, and sure he was an honourable man. ” Since the people responded positively to Brutus’ speech, Antony could not insult Brutus’ honesty in a direct manner. Yet, Antony disproves Caesar’s ambition with three examples. One is when he gave the ransom of captives to the public treasury and not his own, another when he cried with the poor people, and finally when he refused the kingship that Antony offered him, three times. Anyone who was ambitious would never have done any such things. Antony says, “I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke.”, but that is exactly what he does. Antony is using a dramatic effect on the people, first by entering on the stage with the body of Caesar, and at the end stating that his heart is still with the body of Caesar, ending his speech weeping. In justifying Caesar and disproving Brutus, the people see Antony as a potential successor to Caesar. They are swayed to him by his dramatics, his underhanded way of making a point, his repetition, and compelling proof of Caesar’s concern. He is able to get the people to question the rightness of killing Caesar. He has planted doubt in the people’s minds, in all areas except that he, Antony, is a “poor soul”, and an honourable man. The difference between the speeches shows us the importance of style of each. Both try to appeal to the people, and both use repetition, but Brutus takes a defensive approach, leaving the people to their own conclusions. However, Antony takes a prosecuting approach against Brutus, so sneaky that it is almost subliminal. Furthermore, Antony’s examples give him an advantage over Brutus because he backs up statements while Brutus leaves his statements more open-ended. The people seem to find it easier to accept Antony, an emotional and sincere speaker, than Brutus who appears arrogant and forceful. This shows the manipulative nature of Antony in full. The brilliant speech of Antony gives us the overall impression that Antony has thought this through, and that he should appeal to the emotions of the crowd, not just present his version of the story. Antony’s motives for doing this are obvious, he wishes to create strife and war (Shown before). This is why he tries to sway the crowd, not just present the facts.
The reading of the will reinforces the idea that Caesar was noble. Antony knew what would be in the will beforehand, and he purposely left it till the end after he had thrilled the crowd with his speech. He does not immediately read it, but tells the crowd of it, so they will make him read it. “I do not mean to read” “we will hear Caesars will!” He makes the crowd clear a place so he may speak to them, not read the will, he then incites the crowd to scream “mutiny” and “We’ll burn the house of Brutus” and then reads the will which gives all romans “seventy-five drachmas”. This reinforces the idea that Caesar was noble, and makes the crowd revengeful. Again this shows another tactic of Antony’s to get rid of Brutus.
The inclusion of the scene about the death of the poet Cinna is to show what Antony’s speech has done to the crowd. It shows that Antony’s tactic has worked, and eventually the conspirators will die.
The next scene shows us how unscrupulous Antony can be. Antony tries to get rid of an “valiant soldier” (Lepidus) this shows Antony trying to get rid of people who will challenge his ways. This is a very interesting scene because Antony say that Lepidus is useful, but at the same time he tells Octavius that he wishes to get rid of him. “Meet to be sent on errands” “This is a slight unmeritable man” This makes the reader think about what Antony’s motives are for killing this poor man. Octavius hints that Antony and the others are in danger, this ends up being the motive for Antony to kill the conspirators. It is also interesting that this scene gives no mention to the word Caesar, but talks about the triumvirate and whom they will kill.
At the start of act five, Octavius Tells Antony that the army’s have gone the opposite way to what they had planned for. Antony says that the soldiers are just trying to scare them. After a messenger has given them news that the battle is approaching, Antony assumes the role of the leader, and orders Octavius to “lead the army on”. This shows how Antony is assuming the role of the leader, and that Octavius does not like this, for he puts Antony on his left hand. “I; keep thou the left” (this is a sign of disrespect)
In the confrontation of the conspirators and the triumvirate Cassius touches on a point that Antony’s motives are going to rob the people. “Your blows are yet unknown” “they rob the Hybla bees, and leave them honeyless.” Antony retaliates and says what he has done (by manipulating crowds) is by far a little act to the one of killing Caesar. Cassius has recognised Antony’s true motives, to gain power, and become king.
In the end Antony is the only one left to rule the people. The surface of the play portrays a man who is loyal to his king, and who wished to revenge his death. However, there is underlying evidence that Antony was a very cunning man, and that he uses the other characters to gain power, and eventually rule Rome.