In Shakespeare’s popular drama Julius Caesar, a group of senators ferociously murder the Roman dictator Julius Caesar at the Capitol in Rome. Marcus Antonius(Antony) is one of Caesar’s most-trusted friends, and one of the few who does not betray him. At Caesar’s funeral, Antony motivates the citizens of Rome to turn against the conspirators and avenge the death of Julius Caesar. His oration at the funeral is packed with persuasive devices including specific evidence, verbal irony, and props to manipulate the minds of the people in the crowd to mutiny against Caesar’s killers.
The contents of this essay look at the persuasive devices Antony uses and evaluates their effectiveness on the crowd. In his speech, Antony uses specific examples to explain how Caesar emulates the qualities of a fine leader. Antony’s choice of details using specific evidence greatly contributes to the crowd’s change in judgement of Julius Caesar. He mentions many of Caesar’s non-ambitious actions, such as, “When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept” (3. 2. 100). This shows that Caesar had empathy for, and felt attached to the people of Rome. This shows Caesar’s unconditional love for the people of Rome.
After all, what kind of ambitious, power-hungry dictator would weep for his people who are in pain? Antony then continues by telling of Caesar’s humbleness, “You all did see that on the Lupercal/I thrice presented him a kingly crown,/Which he did thrice refuse. ” (3. 2. 304-06). By refusing to become the king he refused an immense power, and showed that Brutus was wrong about Caesar and his ambition for control. Antony uses both of these pieces of evidence, because he knows they contradict with what Brutus says about Caesar’s ambition from only moments before.
This sways the plebeians views to feel sympathetic towards Caesar and enraged with Brutus and the other conspirators. The plebeians initially think of Caesar as a tyrant after Brutus’ speech, but when Antony brings specific evidence to the stand showing Caesar as humble and loving they quickly change their opinion and support Caesar. Brutus convinces the mob that Caesar was a cruel and oppressive ruler: FIRST CITIZEN. This Caesar was a tyrant. THIRD CITIZEN. Nay, that’s certain. We are blest that Rome is rid of him. (3. 2. 6-78) They seem happy that Caesar is gone after they learn of his “ambition,” but Brutus makes a mistake in leaving Mark Antony alone to speak to the crowd. When Antony is left to speak to the Romans he provides specific examples, which Brutus had none of, to gain their empathy and support for Caesar: SECOND CITIZEN. If thou consider rightly of the matter, Caesar has had great wrong. THIRD CITIZEN. Has he, masters? I fear there will a worse come in his place.
FOURTH CITIZEN. Marked ye his words? He would not take the crown; Therefore ’tis certain he was not ambitious. 3. 2. 119-125) The plebeians change their opinions almost immediately because Antony is able to give details that show Caesar’s non-ambitious nature, when Brutus cannot even show one example of Caesar’s greediness. Antony not only uses specific evidence to win the citizens’ hearts in favor of Caesar, but he takes it a few steps further by using verbal irony in his speech to make them question the motives of the senators. In Antony’s speech, verbal irony reveals the true nature of the killer senators, and make the plebeians question those senators’ integrity.
Antony calls the conspirators “honorable men” as an insult, spitting it out angrily as he speaks, “If I were disposed to stir / Your hearts and minds to mutiny and rage, / I should do Brutus wrong, and Cassius wrong, / Who, you all know, are honorable men. “(3. 2. 137-139). He points out how these “honorable men” killed a great man who loves the people and would do them no harm, to make them suspicious that they killed Caesar over a personal vendetta or greediness, and not for the better of the people.
Then, Antony describes Brutus’ contribution to the butchering of Caesar, “Through this the well-beloved Brutus stabbed;” (3. 2. 193). He calls Brutus “well-beloved” because by this time of the speech the people are flaming with rage towards Brutus and the other conspirators. They show their newly developed anger and hatred for the assassins in their reaction to Antony’s speech. The plebeians favored Brutus after his speech, but when Antony speaks his thoughts to the crowd with the use of sarcasm they emulated his words and showed their hatred for the killers.
After Brutus’ speech they saw him as the fit replacement for Caesar, and would not tolerate anyone speaking against him: FOURTH CITIZEN. What does he say of Brutus? THIRD CITIZEN. He says for Brutus’ sake he finds himself beholding to us all. FOURTH CITIZEN. ‘Twere best he speak no harm of Brutus here! (3. 2. 71-75) The citizens originally speak well of Brutus before they hear Antony’s speech, shortly after he begins the citizens completely change their opinions of Brutus.
A pair of citizens show Antony’s meaning in his sarcasm when they accuse the conspirators of committing treason, and call them criminals, “They were traitors. Honorable men! “(3. 2. 169). Like Antony, he uses sarcasm calling the conspirators honorable men. Then another stands and shouts, showing their anger towards the conspirators, “They were villains, murderers! “(3. 2. 171). The plebeians are surely on Antony’s side now, but to make sure they mass a revolt against the conspirators he uses one more tool to break the crowd down to tears and move them to hate the murderers more than ever.
The last persuasive device Antony uses in his speech is props that both appeal to the crowd’s self-interest and fuel their disgust towards Caesar’s killers. Props are physical artifacts used to get the audience to visualize something. Antony draws the crowd’s attention by showing Caesar’s dead body and will to show them the horrific things the murderers did to Caesar, and to show Caesar’s love for the citizens of Rome. First, Antony uses Caesar’s mutilated body to show them the wounds inflicted on Caesar by the senators, “Kind souls, what, weep you when you behold / Our Caesar’s vesture wounded?
Look you here! / Here himself, marred, as you see, with traitors. “(3. 2. 212-214). He shows the wounds to make the mob furious at the assassins for the brutality done to Caesar. Antony then reads the will to appeal to their wants and show what Caesar leaves to the people of Rome, “To every citizen he gives, / To every several man, seventy-five drachmas. “(3. 2. 260-261). This attracts the citizens’ attention because Antony tells them that Caesar leaves them all money to show his love for them, and to support the idea that Caesar is not ambitious.
Their reaction to Caesar’s body and will show Antony that he has completely won over the plebeians and that they will revolt against the conspirators, avenging Caesar’s death. The citizens’ are furious after they see Caesar’s mutilated body and seek to avenge their beloved ruler after they hear what he leaves them in his will. When Antony allows the plebeians to look over the injuries they feel empathy for the late Caesar: FIRST CITIZEN. O piteous spectacle! SECOND CITIZEN. O noble Caesar! THIRD CITIZEN. O woeful day! (3. 2. 15-217) They break down to tears and do very irrational things because of their extreme emotions. Their sadness is moved to anger as they have a growing blood lust for the killers: SECOND CITIZEN. We will be revenged. ALL. Revenge! About! Seek! Burn! Fire! Kill! Slay! Let not a traitor live! (3. 2. 220-222) The citizens clearly are looking for more than “oops sorry” from the murderers, they want revenge, they want blood.
They also show their love for Caesar after Antony reads them Caesar’s will: SECOND CITIZEN. Most noble Caesar! We’ll revenge his death! THIRD CITIZEN. O royal Caesar! 3. 2. 262-264) Calling him noble and royal, the citizens praise Caesar and will do anything to seek revenge for his murder. The persuasive techniques that Antony uses changes the views of the crowd almost immediately after he starts his speech, their reactions show his effectiveness as a speaker and spark a civil war in Rome. At Caesar’s funeral, Antony is determined to gain support in Caesar’s favor and turn the citizens of Rome against the criminal senators. Antony uses specific evidence to justify Caesar is not ambitious, because he loved his citizens and is not greedy for power.
Then, verbal irony makes the plebeians question the integrity of the conspirators and make them suspicious Caesar’s death is over a personal vendetta, and not for the better of the Roman people. Lastly, Antony uses props to incite the crowd to a frenzy, which is ironic because they had been just as excited by what Brutus had said just a little while before in justifying the killing of Caesar. Antony’s speaking skills have proven much more powerful than Brutus’ and are highly effective in sparking a revolt against the murderous senators who mercilessly butchered Julius Caesar.