ACT IV – Scene.i
The second Triumvirate is formed, being Antony,
Octavius and Lepidus. They are deciding the fate of many Romans – who will live, and who will die.
Antony also decides to alter Caesar’s Will and reduce the bequests made to
the citizens of Rome.
The aim of the Triumvirate is to divide the Empire three-ways, but Lepidus is only needed for his money, and Antony says of him, “And though we lay these honors on this man to ease ourselves of divers slanderers loads, he shall but bear them as the ass bears gold, to groan and sweat under the business, either lead or driven as we point the way; and having brought our treasure where we will, then take we down his load and turn him off like to an empty ass to shake his ears and graze in commons.” (Divers means various).
Octavius is alarmed at the way Antony speaks about Lepidus and he comes to
his defense by saying that Lepidus is a brave soldier who has proved his valor on many occasions. Antony responds by saying that his horse has those qualities as well. Lepidus will be trained and used.
The two agree that they must draw up their battle plans and pursue Brutus
We see in what disdain Antony regards Lepidus,
indicating that he will be cut off when Antony’s purpose has been served. Lepidus has been quickly eased out of the Triumvirate and is reduced to being Antony’s messenger.
The power struggle will be between Octavius and Antony, and it is not made
clear in the play, who wins, but Shakespeare is renowned for leaving loose ends in his work, and this is one of them.
We also see how ruthless Antony is. One of the main planks of his
speech was the fact that Caesar was the people’s benefactor. One of Antony’s first decisions is to revoke Caesar’s Will and keep the property for himself.
Shakespeare paints a picture of chaos.
The mob are running riot in the streets. Those in power struggle to outdo one another for the ultimate prize, and as will be shown later, the conspirators also argue amongst themselves. This chaos has arisen out of the death of one man, Caesar, and Shakespeare clearly wishes to show that Elizabethan England would be the same without their beloved Queen.
This situation suits Antony who is the only character in control. He
uses this chaos to assert his authority. He is a many faceted man, a drunkard, a womanizer, a great speaker, a manipulator and a leader.
There is further symbolism using animals when Lepidus is likened to an ass, a beast of burden.