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Octavius (Augustus) in Julius Caesar

Instructor: Bryan Cowing

Bryan is a freelance writer who specializes in literature. He has worked as an English instructor, editor and writer for the past 10 years.

Shakespeare's plays can be intimidating for modern audiences, but we can begin to understand them by focusing on their characters. This lesson takes a look at the most important actions and conversations of Octavius in ''Julius Caesar''.

Octavius Who?

Let's tackle one thing real quick. William Shakespeare based Julius Caesar on real events. A Roman leader named Caesar was killed by conspirators in 44 BC. There are some similarities between real life and the play, but Shakespeare changed details and used his imagination throughout the play. In real life, Augustus was Caesar's adopted son and heir. One minor difference is that in the play Augustus is called Octavius.

Nice to Meet You

The very first time Octavius is mentioned is more than halfway through the play in act 4, scene 1. After Caesar is assassinated, Antony, Octavius, and Lepidus decide to avenge his murder and make a list of who should be assassinated in retaliation. So, the very first time we hear Octavius speak, he says 'Your brother too must die; consent you, Lepidus?' In other words, he is saying 'Sorry, Dude. We are going to kill your brother. Cool?' This paints Octavius as a straightforward guy who wants justice to be served. He is not overly emotional, and he is not sensitive to Lepidus's plight. He simply tells it how it is. Lepidus agrees and leaves the room.

Time to talk about Lepidus, obviously. As soon as Lepidus leaves, Antony says that it is a bad idea to let Lepidus work with them. Antony compares Lepidus to a dumb donkey who will help carry the burden of their work, but who should not share in their victories. Octavius points out that Antony listened to Lepidus about who should be assassinated, so he can't be that much of a jackass. Antony says that he is older and wiser than Octavius and doesn't need to listen to him. Octavius responds 'You may do your will; But he's a tried and valiant soldier.' In other words, he tells Antony to do what he wants, but Lepidus deserves respect. This reflects Octavius's honorable character.

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