Antony’s Rhetorical Superiority Analysis Essay
In Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, Mark Antony proves himself to be the most effective manipulator. This feat was the product of many factors that Antony both took into account, and employed to a greater effect than his counterparts. Using the illustrative Rhetorical Triangle of Aristotle, Antony was able to convey the three main ingredients of good rhetoric to convince the Roman mob to turn upon the conspirators, mere moments after being told by Brutus that they had acted with “honor”. Using Logos, Antony’s logical argument that Caesar was not ambitious made the mob begin to doubt their current suppositions that Caesar deserved death for his ambition. With the emotive appeals of Pathos, Antony used a wide variety of props, rhetorical tricks and cleverly worded lies to incense the mob against the conspirators whom had killed the apparently unambitious Caesar. Most importantly, however, Antony’s greatest ability was the way that he presented himself almost simultaneously as both a common man and the mighty noble that he was, using Ethos to its utmost effect and connecting to the mob in ways that Brutus and even Cassius could not.
When Antony insisted that Brutus tell him why they had killed Caesar, his motive was not to see if their cause was justified or not. Antony’s real aims were to decipher their logical argument behind killing Caesar, in order to understand how to combat it in his upcoming monologue. He then paid close attention during Brutus’ speech, to reaffirm his knowledge of how to refute the shallow logic that Brutus unknowingly used. From these two sources, Antony was able to construct a counter-argument that was both precise and effective. Brutus had claimed, speaking for all the conspirators, that they had killed Caesar for his ambition that threatened to enslave all of Rome, leading to destitution and sadness for all. Antony knew the way to respond, however, in his “Friends, Romans, Countrymen…” speech. He stated his refrain early on: “[Caesar] was my friend, faithful and just to me; but Brutus says he was ambitious, and Brutus is an honorable man” (III.ii.86). He would then proceed by providing factual evidence that Caesar was in fact not ambitious, and then return to his theme by stating that in spite of all the proof to the contrary, Brutus still accused Caesar. Using parallelism, and continuing to juxtapose the incontrovertibility of Caesar’s innocence to Brutus’ drastic and unnecessary actions, Antony was able to defeat the arguments of the conspirators. Despite this, Brutus had used other reasons why they had killed Caesar in his speech, which Antony did not address within his own. Wherein lies one of his greatest victories: the ability to recognize the essential, underlying argument that was the lifeline of all other logic that the conspirators used, that Caesar’s death was warranted by his ambition. Antony reasoned that if he could disprove just this one point, all the other points that the conspirators had made would be immediately invalidated, granting him a complete victory. The mob’s sudden loss of confidence in the conspirators and Caesar’s guilt would leave the crowd with a void of trust, unsure why “honorable” Brutus, Cassius, and the others would kill Caesar, if not for his ambition. Antony, anticipating this void, planned to fill it with anger and rage against his enemies, by harnessing the subtle and powerful art of Pathos.
The turbulent and powerful qualities of emotion have the capacity to control its host entirely. To translate the anger he was creating from the crowd into action, Antony needed to stoke it much as one does a fire. Many times, Antony played with the emotions of the crowd, and he began by reinforcing his victory of logic. He states in his first speech, “You did all love [Caesar] once, not without cause; what cause withholds you then to mourn for him?” (III.ii.103) Since he had already convinced his audience...
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