|“||Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.||„|
|~ The beginning of Antony's speech - his most famous line.|
|“||A curse shall light upon the limbs of men; domestic fury and fierce civil strife shall cumber all the parts of Italy; blood and destruction shall be so in use, and dreadful objects so familiar that mothers shall but smile when they behold their infants quarter'd with the hand of war.||„|
|~ Antony's descent into villainy.|
Mark Antony, commonly referred to as simply Antony, is a minor supporting character in the first half, later the main antagonist in the second half of Shakespeare's 1599 historical tragedy play Julius Caesar. And later the protagonist of Antony and Cleopatra.
He has been played by many actors over the years, arguably the most famous being the late Marlon Brando, who also portrayed Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire, Vito Corleone in The Godfather, and Walter E. Kurtz in Apocalypse Now.
Antony is in the beginning of the play shown to be a true and blue supporter of Caesar, being one of his most trusted friends and advisers. Caesar particularly has faith in him because he is "fat", i.e. a sociable and easy-going kidder, who in the second scene of the first act goes out on the town. Caesar contrasts him to Cassius, whom he (rightfully) assumes to be a malicious man, due to his rigidness and deep, sinister thought. Antony doesn't appear a great deal fazed by Cassius's attitude.
Cassius however, has just the opposite view of Antony. He is plotting with his bosom buddy Brutus along with other conspirators wipe Caesar out (obstensibly in fear of the ruler becoming a supreme dictator who knocks down the republic and with it democracy, though it is heavily implied all but Brutus have personal vendettas of envy and the like that fuel them), and fears that Antony may sway the people against them after the assassination, though the more timid and virtuous Brutus stresses they should not kill more than what is necessary.
Antony doesn't play a pivotal part in the story until the halfway point, where the conspirators succeed in stabbing Caesar (who feels strikingly betrayed by Brutus, his intimate friend) to death. Caesar's great-nephew and adopted son, Octavius, travels to Rome to deal with the apparent traitors, to Antony's glee. Brutus, Cassius and Co. realize fast that they need to make a case for themselves, and put it to the people that they did away with the would-be autarch as an act of mercy and love for the country. Antony, horrified at the sight of his lord's blood-soaked corpse, begs permission to speak at the funeral after being spared by the conspirators. Though Cassius is an unwilling bundle of nerves at this prospect, Brutus ever so kindheartedly allows it, while underscoring that Antony cannot speak good of Caesar or badly of the conspirers in his speech.
The former party-goer obliges, but when left alone with the corpse, he goes on a manic speech about his new-found desire to get under way a terrible war of death, sorrow and suffering, all in Caesar's spirit, divulging he considers these republicans butcherers. Meanwhile, Brutus's speech is successful, and he manages to vindicate his actions, at the same time bringing a large portions of the people around to his cause.
Antony enters, putting Caesar's carcass on display, to the horror of the previously content crowd. Operating under the guise of respect and humbleness, and increasing in passive aggression and venom with every word, Antony brings up the points of Caesar's humility and love for Brutus (including the latter's subsequent treachery), the savagery of the actions that transpired and an apparent will Caesar left that demands all who supported his cause be paid a quantity of his very own treasure. Antony implicitly tells the population to go mad, and they do, launching into a horrible civil war, with a 3-person team of Antony, Octavius and another trusted general, Lepidus, at the helm.
Cassius, Brutus and their backers flee, and Antony jots down a list of people to be killed. He rather immediately reveals he needs all the money he can get to raise his army, showing the promised will was a mere fabrication. Furthermore, when he sends Lepidus off to garner the money, he begins to steer Octavius to his advantage, asserting that the general they just ordered off is nothing but a means to an end, and that they should oust him from his seat once he outlives his usefulness. With the wanting to get rid of Lepidus, and the manipulating Octavius, the idea sneaks into notice that Antony is just as (if not more) darkly ambitious than the conspirators maintained Caesar was.
A battle was arranged with Brutus and Cassius's young army at Philippi. However, a series of tragic defeats and misunderstandings lead both Brutus and Cassius into suicide, and when Antony arrives to see the former dead, he admits he judged him to be "the noblest Roman" of all.