William Shakepeare’s Julius Caesar Mark Antony proves to be the most skilful politician in the play. Do you agree? Power is the ability to influence the behaviour of others – whether this is achieved with or without resistance, for good or for bad. Some would go as far as to say that all human behaviour is propelled by the want of power. One can conclude, however, that power is inevitable in the human society. It’s natural.
William Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar, is brimming with humans fighting for power, and the one who stands out as the most skilful of these is not the play’s tragic hero Brutus, but Mark Antony, Caesar’s confidant and friend. During Lupercal, Caesar shows his keen insight by remaking to Antony that Cassius “reads much; he is a great observer and he looks quite through the deeds of men. ” However, Caesar is not fearful of Cassius because he believes himself to be beyond the reach of mere humans. He explains his incapability to experience fear by saying “for always I am Caesar. However, in that same scene he makes a reference to his deafness, and we see through his vain conceptions that the man who believes himself to be godlike is in actual fact an aging man in imminent danger of assassination. This faith in his own permanence eventually proves Caesar’s undoing. He ignores the many people, including his wife, who try to warn him of danger. On top of this, his arrogance and pride offset his ability to reason. When Decius comes to persuade Caesar to go to the Senate (and to his assassination), he ignores all the signs not to go because of Decius’ challenge to his sense of pride and ambition.
So perceptive in his analysis of Cassius, he is unable to look “quite through the deeds” of a calculating deceiver. In response to Caesar’s remark that Cassius is dangerous, Antony replies, “Fear him not, Caesar; he’s not dangerous, He’s a noble Roman and well given. ” In this statement he expresses the general sentiments that were surrounding Cassius at the time, proving that Cassius is able to cultivate a positive public image, indispensible to a man who wishes to command the public sphere.
He’s also impulsive and unscrupulous, and has no misconceptions on the way the political game is played, enabling him to see the motives behind men’s actions. He is unconcerned with using unethical means to further his own cause, such as ruthlessly raising taxes. Cassius’ most significant characteristic is the one Caesar had observed in him, that is, his ability to perceive the true motives of men. He uses his sharp insight to deceive Brutus, by means of a long and passionate argument and fake letters, into joining his conspiracy to assassinate Caesar.
He knows that Brutus’ noble nature will serve as a catalyst to recruit more nobles into his conspiracy. Ironically, his success leads to his own decline in influence within the group of conspirators. A costly mistake of Cassius is his relenting to Brutus, even though he disagrees with most of Brutus’ decisions, as most of the tactical decisions that Brutus makes eventually proves disastrous. Brutus’ strict moral and ethic code and rigid idealism is both his greatest virtue and his most deadly flaw, as he assumes a naive view of the world.
He doesn’t see through the roles played by Cassius, Casca and Antony, and is unable to recognise the fictitious letters that would tip off a more perceptive man. In a world of self-serving ambition, his qualities are fatal when competing in public with those who do not have the same moral standards as himself. He repeatedly makes miscalculations, such as ignoring Cassius’ suggestion to kill Antony as well as Caesar, and ignoring Cassius again by allowing Antony to speak a funeral oration over Caesar’s body. As a result, Antony gives the final word on the murder, and incites the plebeians to riot against the conspirators.
Nevertheless, he quickly took control of the conspiracy, makes crucial decisions resulting in the success of the assassination and once committed to a plan, Brutus does not waver. The opposite of Brutus, Antony is improvisatory, shrewd and not so scrupulous that he is unable to stoop to deceit. Antony uses gestures and rhetoric, responds to subtle cues and knows exactly how to conduct himself at any particular moment to gain the most advantage. Following the assassination, he takes advantage of Brutus’ naivete, such as flattering him by calling him “noble, wise, valiant and honest,” and gains permission to speak at Caesar’s funeral.
He is exceptionally skilled at tailoring his words and actions to his audience’s desires. In his funeral oration at Caesar’s funeral, he stirs the plebeians up so much that they rebel against the republicans; giving him the chaotic situation he needs in order for him and Octavius to seize control of Rome. He is ruthless, as shown in Octavius’ and his plan to slaughter their opponents in order to solidify their control. He is even willing to put a nephew to death, and Antony openly acknowledges that he will remove Lepidus as soon as he is no longer of any use to him.
He also has some conflicts with Octavius, but he is able to ignore it so as to not interfere with the success of their scheme. An adept politician who only emerges later, Octavius is not to be overlooked. He is willing, along with Antony, to conduct the assassination of potential threats. He knows that he will have to battle with Antony for power, especially after their enemies are defeated, but he is able to grasp Antony’s thirst for power and protect himself from being dominated by him. However, this independence doesn’t stop him from taking Antony’s advice, as he knows that Antony speaks from experience.
For example, he accepts Antony’s decision that they fight from defensive positions at Philippi and let their enemies come towards them. In his relationship with Antony, Octavius demonstrates that he is shrewd in his political assessments. In conclusion, it is clear that Mark Antony is the most consummate politician in the play. Caesar is assassinated early in the play, for his pride and arrogance is too great to allow him see past his belief in his infallibility and realise the conspiracy going on around him.
Cassius is an acute judge of human nature, but he is also highly emotional, threatening suicide repeatedly and finally choosing to kill himself because of a hasty conclusion arising from a misunderstanding. Brutus’ inflexible sense of honour makes him an easy target to manipulate. However, he is the only one who truly believes that Caesar’s death will benefit Rome, but each time he tries to limit the immoral nature of an action, he dooms the very cause he is fighting for.
Despite the fact that Octavius eventually wins the power struggle between Antony and himself, this is not explored in the play. In the context, Antony is the most skilful in the world of politics. He was able to turn the tide of events from unfavourable to him coming out on top. Even at the conclusion of the play, when Brutus and Cassius are dead and the republicans are defeated, he begins the healing process by publicly praising Brutus, calling him the “noblest Roman of them all. ”