It’s at this point in the tragedy that Antony emerges from his cocoon and becomes a central figure in the drama. Note how this is signaled by the number of lines he is given to speak, and it is through rhetoric that he attempts to control events. He seems genuinely moved by Caesar’s death (after all he was his protege), and his first words are addressed to Caesar’s body. However, his observation that “I shall not find myself so apt to die” maybe no more than a rhetorical ploy. The point is worth pondering as this can determine how Antony is to be performed. The honest Brutus responds as one might expect–“O Antony, beg not your death of us.” He goes on to justify their actions as necessary for the general well being of Rome and its citizens; there is no reason to doubt him. What is an excellent piece of theatre (and probably meant to be so by Antony) is Antony’s request to shake each assassin’s bloody hand, naming each man as he does so. He shows more self-awareness (and this is a pointer as to his character) when he declares that the murderers must now think him “either a coward or a flatterer” for “making his peace” with them. What’s crucial here is Antony slipping into the third-person self-observing mode (“To see Antony making his peace”) rather than the first-person. (There’s not space here to analyze this speech fully, but it does reward such an analysis.) All becomes clear as Antony reveals that he wants to know fully the reasons “why and wherein Caesar was dangerous” and that he wants to give a funeral oration in the market place. Honest Brutus agrees readily, though the wilier Cassius perceives the danger. Brutus thinks he will be able to control the event, and lays out the terms under which Antony will be allowed to speak–herein lies a fatal flaw. The final sub-scene (beginning line 254) provides a retrospective on Antony’s earlier behavior since it is now obvious how much he has been afflicted and affected by Caesar’s death–his soliloquy beginning “O, pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth” and in which he vows, in very bloody language, that he will indeed avenge Caesar’s death and “let slip the dogs of war.”
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