Julius Caesar

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Julius Caesar is a play deeply concerned with the idea of rhetoric, or persuasion. The play is driven by persuasion. Cassius convinces Brutus that Caesar must die, setting the story in motion. The resolution of the plot is decided by Antony's speech to the plebeians. Shakespeare sees rhetoric as one of the most powerful forces in the world; able to topple kings and crown them. The play, Julius Caesar, examines what gives rhetoric its power by pitting Brutus's speech against Mark Antony's. Shakespeare shows Antony's rhetoric to be superior by the effect he has on the plebeians. Brutus's speech fails to convince permanently win over the crowd because he does not understand them. His first failure is at the beginning of his speech when he asks the plebeians to, "Censure me in you wisdom, and awake your senses". It seems as though he does not realize that he is speaking to an angry mob. His argument is based on cold and calculating reason. He argues that the love of freedom is stronger than the ties of friendship. "Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more". This logic cannot sink deeply into an emotional mob. He asks the plebeians to "Believe me for mine honor, and have respect to mine honor that you may believe". He cannot use his honor as a reason for belief in his story when his honor is in question. Brutus fails to offer any proof of Caesar's ambition, the central point of his argument. He ends his speech with a verbal attack on any who disagree with him, essentially calling them cowards. This silences dissension temporarily but when the other side is presented it does not help his cause. Brutus's argument fails because he much less a man of the people than he would like to think. Mark Antony's argument is a great piece of rhetoric. He successfully accomplishes his object of convincing the plebeians that Brutus is a traitor. He has mastered the use of emotion, subtlety and logic. He uses emotional phrases such as, "My heart is in the coffin...
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