Critical Analysis of Mark Antony's Funeral Speech

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JULIUS CAESAR , a critical analysis

Introduction

Of all Shakespeare’s works , Julius Caesar is a play that hinges upon rhetoric - both as the art of persuasion and an artifice used to veil intent. The most striking of Shakespeare is his command of language. In Mark Antony’s funeral oration for Caesar, we have not only one of Shakespeare’s most recognizable opening lines but one of his finest examples of rhetorical irony at work. The speech could serve as a thematic synopsis to Julius Caesar. One of the most important and significant parts in the play is the funeral speech given by both Brutus and Mark Antony. At first, the funeral speeches seem to have no true significant meaning. However in further investigation it is established that the speeches ultimately serve as the basis for the final outcome of the play. By exploring the speeches of both Brutus and Mark Antony we are able to focus on the important details which alter one from the other. Through this analysis we are also able to realize why Brutus's speech becomes one of his justifications and explanations, while Antony's becomes one of manipulation and skill. It is known that both Brutus and Antony desired to appeal to the common people. However, the way in which each man went about it differs drastically. Not only did it influence the outcome of the play, but each speech also offers a unique insight on each of the speakers.

Brutus’s speech

Brutus's speech becomes one of acquittal, not only for the people of Rome, but for Brutus himself. He uses his "honor and nobility" as a shield to defend and justify his actions to the crowd. Brutus states that he has carried out this horrendous act because of his love for Rome, and for the good of the people. "This is my answer, not that I have loved Caesar less, but that I love Rome more..." (3.2.21-22). In his speech he requests that the people use their "reason" to judge him. Although this seduces the crowd, it is not until after one of the common people cry "Let him be Caesar." (3.2.51) that it is realized the speech is "merely too good for them." Brutus begins to realize that liberty is not what the people wanted, but rather that they desire a powerful leader. Although his speech serves the purpose for its practical effectiveness, Brutus later comes to discover that his lack of insight of human nature aided in the apparent hopelessness of his cause.

In comparison Mark Antony fully understands human nature and uses his awareness of it in his speech. Antony appeals to the passion and the grief of the people. What Brutus failed to recognize in the people, Antony used to his best interest. He realized that the people of Rome were completely incapable of acting with "reason" and he employed this inability to manipulate and control their emotions and actions. By using Brutus' own explanations for Caesar's death to begin his speech, Antony proves his validity to the crowd. By questioning Caesar's ambition, yet never actually humiliating the conspirators; He succeeds in purposely leading the crowd away from any rational defense provided by Brutus. Antony uses his own grief along with a series of lies to remove the sympathy of the people. Through his powerful and honest speech he is able to cast a shadow of doubt into the minds of the people, and the crowd begins to gaze at the true motive behind Caesar's murder. Antony understands the needs and wants of the people and uses this to prey upon their emotions and passions. He dangles Caesar's Will in front of the people and then quickly puts it away again, knowing that the crowd will demand that it be read. Antony also recalls memories of the cloak Caesar now wears, while revealing his bloodied body, fully aware of the havoc it will reek, but unrelenting in his quest for revenge. Antony’s Speech

Antony’s performance on the bully pulpit came as no surprise. To be sure, Antony does not have it easy. He is already a man distrusted by the conspirators for his...
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