Julius Caesar

Topics: Iambic pentameter, Poetry, Iamb Pages: 10 (2971 words) Published: February 1, 2013
Antony's speech. line-to-line analysis:

/ / - / - - / - - /
Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
From a rhythmic perspective, the trochaic feel of this opening immediately commands attention. The succession of hard stresses is also Shakespeare's way of using the verse to help Antony cut through the din of the crowd. Antony also echoes the opening line that Brutus uses ("Romans, countrymen, and lovers!"), but conspicuously rearranges it; where Brutus begins with "Romans" to reflect his appeal to their reason, Antony begins with "friends," which reflects the more emotional tact he will take throughout the rest of his speech. Remember also that Antony has entered the Forum with Caesar's body in tow and will use the corpse as a prop throughout his oration. - / - / - / - / - / -

I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
Antony follows with a line of straight iambic pentameter punctuated with a feminine ending. Here's the first irony of Antony's speech, in that he is unequivocally here to praise Caesar. Antony is, in fact, lying. This is a calculated tactic to disarm a crowd firmly on the side of Brutus when Antony takes the pulpit. - / - - / / - / - /

The evil that men do lives after them;
This is a line harder to scan than it might seem at first. The hardest word to scan is lives; if you scan it as stressed, you have four consecutive stresses in a row, and the line scans iamb/pyrrhic/spondee/spondee/iamb. While that isn't completely out of the realm of possibility, it's a bit of a stretch. Besides, the real subject of Antony's rhetorical parallelism is good and evil, not living and dying. Also, while Antony is clearly referring to Caesar in the line and the one that follows, it's not hard to imagine him making a subtle innuendo here about the conspirators. - / - / - / - / - /

The good is oft interréd with their bones;
Here is a case where the regular iambic rhythm following the more varied rhythm of the line above aids the contrast that Antony conveys. Oft is a common Elizabethan contraction for often; Shakespeare often uses oft to avoid the extra unstressed syllable in his verse. The marked pronunciation of interréd (Middle English enteren, via French enterrer, which derives from Medieval Latin interrare meaning "within earth") is another trick to keep the meter strict in this line; otherwise, he would have written it as interr'd. Here, only two lines after Antony say he hasn't come to praise Caesar, he already slips in the backhanded implication that some good died with Caesar. / - - / - / - - / - / -

So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
This line is a bit of an oddity, in that it's 12 syllables and doesn't read as an alexandrine or even particularly iambic. Out of the six feet, only two are iambs. Although it's probably overanalyzing Shakespeare's intent, the line marks the point where Antony, satisfied that he has placated the crowd, begins the whittling away at the reasoning behind Caesar's assassination. The irregular meter could be a way of subtly reinforcing that shift. - / - / - / - / -

Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
The regularity of the meter and the nine syllables leads one to believe Shakespeare's intent was that ambitious be pronounced am-BI-shee-US rather eliding the end to SHUS as we do now. Notice how Antony subtly plugs in the language of doubt; "Brutus tells you Caesar was ambitious" is a lot different than "Caesar was ambitious." By the way, ambition originally derives from the Middle English word ambicioun, which comes from French via the Latin stem ambire, meaning "to solicit for votes." Also, for the novice orator who may have to recite this, be very wary of this line. You don't want it to come out as, "The noble Brututh hash told you." Nobody said Shakespeare doesn't take some practice. - / - / - / - / - /

If it were so, it was a grievous fault,...
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