Lepidus in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar: In your coalition, are you the donkey carrying cargo?

Marcus Aemilius Lepidus joined Marc Antony and Octavius in their war against Julius Caesar’s killers. Historians differ in evaluating his weight in the Second Triumvirate, but Shakespeare was unambiguous in his judgment of Lepidus as a lightweight.
Here’s the text from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.

Exit LEPIDUS

ANTONY
This is a slight unmeritable man,
Meet to be sent on errands: is it fit,
The three-fold world divided, he should stand
One of the three to share it?
OCTAVIUS
So you thought him;
And took his voice who should be prick’d to die,
In our black sentence and proscription.
ANTONY
Octavius, I have seen more days than you:
And though we lay these honours on this man,
To ease ourselves of divers slanderous loads,
He shall but bear them as the ass bears gold,
To groan and sweat under the business,
Either led 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 the empty ass, to shake his ears,
And graze in commons.
OCTAVIUS
You may do your will;
But he’s a tried and valiant soldier.
ANTONY
So is my horse, Octavius; and for that
I do appoint him store of provender:
It is a creature that I teach to fight,
To wind, to stop, to run directly on,
His corporal motion govern’d by my spirit.
And, in some taste, is Lepidus but so;
He must be taught and train’d and bid go forth;
A barren-spirited fellow; one that feeds
On abjects, orts and imitations,
Which, out of use and staled by other men,
Begin his fashion: do not talk of him,
But as a property.

Nearly all movements involve coalitions whose memberships might, in other situations, oppose each other. When I saw this scene in a BBC production of Julius Caesar, I thought of Mohamed Morsi, whose partners in government disposed of him as casually as Marc Antony discusses disposing of Lepidus.

In the United States, I frequently vote for Democratic candidates I dislike out of fear of Republican candidates I despise. I know the Democratic Party views my vote the same way Antony views Lepidus.

Shameless plug: I’m selling the BBC DVD on ebay!

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