The Evil That Men Do: Mark Antony's Machiavellian Nature

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From the beginning of time, when societies were first constructed, certain men always knew exactly how to obtain something every person desires—power. Human beings thirst it, crave it. They love to give orders, love to be on top. Once obtained, power becomes like a drug—a person always wants more. Some achieve control in bloody ways; others acquire it through peaceful behavior. How might one reasonable gain and keep power? Niccolò Machiavelli and William Shakespeare agree that the former is generally the best way to remain in power, should the person in control be careful. Mark Antony’s Machiavellian nature demonstrates that the ideal politician must be a good actor and be careful in order to be powerful. During Caesar’s funeral, Mark Antony proves to be an excellent actor fit for Machiavelli’s prince. He bends the riled crowd to see from his point of view, playing on the crowd’s feelings, cleverly directing their emotions to his advantage through his actions: “Bear with me: / My heart is in the coffin with Caesar, / And I must pause till it come back to me” (Shakespeare III.ii.115 -117). Mark Antony acts as he cries during Caesar’s funeral, manipulating the crowd’s emotions through his own tears. After all, if a man as honorable and brave as Antony sobs over Caesar’s murder, surely it must be true that Caesar did not deserve death? The speech illustrates the ease in which revered people in positions of power easily sway the common man, because although Antony is not crying for the benefit of Caesar, he appears to be. Thus, he effectively shows the people loyalty, humanity, and honesty—three of five qualities Machiavelli recommends appearing to have. When comparing Machiavelli’s writings and Antony’s actions side-by-side, they reveal that Antony is much like the perfect prince Machiavelli describes. Machiavelli advises that a politician plays the tune the crowd wishes to her, saying that “men in general judge more by the eyes than the hands, for everyone can


Cited: Shakespeare, William. Julius Caesar. Eds. Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine. New York: Folger Shakespeare Library, 1992. Print. Machiavelli, Niccolò. The Prince and Other Writings. Trans. Wayne A. Rebhorn. New York: Barnes & Noble Classics, 2003. Print.

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