Julius Caesar | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Julius Caesar | Act 4, Scene 1 | Summary

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Summary

Antony, Octavius, and Lepidus meet privately at a house in Rome. They review a list of Romans and mark the names of individuals who will be killed. They also decide to divide the assets in Caesar's will so there's money left for the state.

Lepidus leaves. Antony tells Octavius that he doesn't think Lepidus, a "slight unmeritable man," should be one of the three leaders of the new Roman empire. Octavius agrees that Lepidus isn't bright but says he's a good soldier. Octavius and Antony discuss their plans to form new alliances and deal with their enemies.

Analysis

Antony leverages his newfound favor in the eyes of the Romans to join forces with Octavius, the next in line to succeed Caesar. According to Roman history, these three are the triumvirs who will jointly rule Rome in its new empire. A triumvir is one of three officials forming a triumvirate to share public office in ancient Rome. The audience gets a glimpse of what their rule will be like in this scene.

Their deliberations are brief, to the point, and menacing. They don't think twice about marking a man to die if it benefits them, or of turning on Lepidus once he's out of the room. Antony even agrees to condemn his own nephew. An over-promising politician, he takes the money he just offered the crowd and uses it to further his own ends. He doesn't need their favor anymore—he's already won, and he knows it.

By contrast, Brutus, Cassius, and the other senators repeatedly referenced friendship and love and sought moral justifications for their choices. The men in this scene act differently, as politicians and warriors, willing to be coldhearted. This is Rome's new ruling class: steadfast and filled with ambition, like Caesar, only without Caesar's fervor to please the people.

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