Antony’s speech at Caesar’s funeral in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar was more effective than Brutus’ because Antony used a multifaceted emotional argument, instead of relying on one assertion, as Brutus had. Because of this, Antony was able to sway the crowd to his side, against Brutus and the Conspirators. “[Antony] does not… show the insufficiency of any one approach… Rather, his different rhetorical devices play into and strengthen one another” (Wills 46).
The main flaw in Brutus’ speech at Caesars funeral was that his argument had only one source of proof, his reputation. “Brutus’ speech at Caesars funeral hammered home one argument- that his own honor had to be relied on” (Wills 79). During his speech, Brutus gave no tangible proof that Caesar was ambitious: no examples, witnesses, or letters proving that what he was saying was fact. The main weakness to this kind of argument is that if that one source of proof, in this case Brutus’ honor, is disproved, the entire argument falls away.
Another flaw in Brutus’ oration was his failure to ‘read’ the crowd correctly, and because of this, he presented the wrong type of argument, a logical one, when he should have projected a more emotional one, as Antony did. While planning his speech, Brutus did not realize that the crowd would be more reactive to emotional prompts. While presenting a logical argument to more educated people usually has the desired effect, lesser educated people are almost always more responsive to emotional cues. During his address, Brutus only tries to emotionally involve the crowd once, when he tells them he loved Caesar, and was Caesars good friend, but he loved Rome more, and had no choice but to slay him. Although it is a good tactic, he did not emphasize it enough, and seeing that it was the only emotional point in his entire dialogue, the pathos part of his argument left much to be desired. “[Brutus’ oration] is all very cut and dried, pedantically so” (Wills 53). Overall, Brutus uses to much logos, logical points of an argument, for a uneducated mob. They agree with him and cheer him on, and want to crown him king, proving that they do not understand Brutus’ real reason for killing Caesar. Brutus did not want a king.
But Brutus’ most intriguing flaws are the flaws in his personality that blocked him from understanding the crowd. “Brutus is a vain man… an impractical idealist… and lacks the saving sense of humor that springs from an understanding of his fellowman” (Matthews, Web). The way he acts and thinks gives him a terrible disadvantage, because he does not understand or know how to talk to the people. Since Brutus is from the upper class, he didn’t have much interaction with the lower classes of society, and did not realize that common men are not logical, idealistic creatures. If they were, his speech would have been very effective.
Antony, on the other hand, had several examples that Caesar was not ambitious. “[Caesar] hath brought many captives home to Rome,/ Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill” (3.2.90-92 Shakespeare). Antony reminds the people of Rome that Caesar was not ambitious because he gave his war spoils to the people of Rome instead of keeping them for himself. “When the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept;/ Ambition should be made of sterner stuff” (3.2.93-94 Shakespeare). He also tells them of Caesar’s compassion and empathy for the common people. “I thrice presented to [Caesar] a kingly crown,/ Which he did thrice refuse” (3.2.98-99 Shakespeare). He then goes on to say that if Caesar had been ambitious, he would have taken the crown that Antony had presented to him. Caesars refusal proves Antony’s point that Caesar was not ambitious, and Antony begins to gain the approval of the common people as they think about what he has said.
One of the other techniques used by Antony to sway the people was deceit. He lied or talked about things he never could have known to reach the crowd on a more emotional level. For example, Antony tells the crowd how he remembered the first time Caesar put on the cloak that he died in. Antony was not an associate of Caesar during the military campaign that overcame the Nervii, when he said Caesar first put on the cloak. Also, Caesar probably would not be wearing an old cloak he had fought battles in to a ceremony at which he expected to be crowned. Later, Antony points out the various wounds on Caesars body, and assigns each one to a specific conspirator. But how could Antony, who didn’t witness Caesars murder, know who caused the individual wounds? The individual conspirators probably could not find the individual wounds they had caused because of the frenzied way they attacked him. But although it us untrue, this is a very good tactic employed by Antony because it ‘puts a face’ on the conspirators, and gives the now angry mob people to hate.
Antony triumphs because his skills and are strong in every area that Brutus’ are weak, and he has the advantage of speaking after Brutus, he knows what he’s going up against. “The psychology of the crowd that [Brutus] ignored or was ignorant of Mark Antony understands and applies” (Matthews, Web). Antony is able to understand the mob, and tailor an argument full of emotional prompts that involve the mob, and make them feel pity and empathy for Caesar, like when he points out the holes in Caesars cloak. His other advantage, speaking after Brutus, makes Antony’s job easier because now he knows exactly what he has to disprove, and has already seen how the crowd reacted to Brutus. With Brutus gone, Antony can disprove everything Brutus said without interference, and he does so with great ease, citing Caesars past actions and proving his lack of ambition.
The many-pronged attack of Antony was what made his address to the mob much more effective than Brutus’. This was because he only had to disprove Brutus’ reputation as an honorable man to destroy Brutus’ entire argument. He did that easily by proving to the mob that Caesar was not ambitious, and therefore that Brutus was not honorable.
Antony has lots of different examples to prove Caesar was not ambitious, and lied to get the audience more emotionally involved. He also figured out that he should focus more on pathos because the crowd was uneducated and very emotional. In the end, Antony was more effective because he used so many different advantages, proof, and various emotional ‘props’ in such a masterful way that they tied in with each other and mutually supported each other, making him virtually invincible.
Delaney, Bill. “Shakespeare’s JULIUS CAESAR.” Explicator 60.3 (2002): 122. MAS Ultra – School Edition. Web. 11 Apr. 2014.
Wills, Gary. “Rome and Rhetoric: Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.” New Haven, CT : Yale University Press, c2011. Book.
Matthews, Brander. “The Plays from Plutarch.” Shakespeare as a Playwright. Brander Matthews. Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1913. 254-263. Rpt. in Shakespearean Criticism. Ed. Mark W. Scott. Vol. 7. Detroit: Gale Research, 1988. Literature Resource Center. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.
Harley Granville-Barker, “ ‘Julius Caesar’,” in his “Prefaces to Shakespeare, first series, Sidgwick & Jackson, Ltd., 1927, pp. 51-132
Stopford A. Brooke, “ ‘Julius Caeser’,” in his “Ten More Plays of Shakespeare, Constable and Company Ltd., 1913, pp, 58-90
Shakespeare, William. Julius Caesar.
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