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Antony's Use of Rhetoric

By doobsftw Jan 13, 2013 1058 Words
Antony's Use of Rhetoric
In "The Tragedy of Julius Caesar," William Shakespeare shows the power of rhetoric. Rhetoric is the ability to speak or write effectively. Shakespeare shows this power through Antony, Julius Caesar's best friend. Antony shows this at Caesar's funeral, at which Brutus, one of the conspirators who killed Caesar, allowed him to speak to the public under the condition that he not speak badly of the conspirators. Antony was a powerful speaker and was deeply gifted in the art of rhetoric. He was able to turn the public against the conspirators without breaking his promise to Brutus. Antony did this by using the techniques of ethos, pathos, and logos.

Ethos is the persuasive strategy that gives the speaker credibility. Antony used ethos to make the audience like him. He does this first when he says, "I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him." (Act III, Scene ii, Line 74) By saying this to start his speech, Antony told the audience that he was not about to try and make Brutus look bad, since the public like Brutus at this point due to his previous speech. He said that he is a friend to them, not an enemy. Antony also used ethos when he says, "O masters, 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 honourable men:/I will not do them wrong; I rather choose/ To wrong the dead, to wrong myself and you,/ Than I will wrong such honourable men" (Act III, Scene ii, Line 121-127). When Antony said this, he again said that he had no intention of talking badly of Brutus, Cassius, and the other conspirators. This, again, made the audience like and respect him and what he had to say more. A third time Antony used ethos was when he said, "But, as you know me all, a plain blunt man…" (Act III, Scene ii, Line 219). Antony says this so the audience feels like he is one of them, so they felt more connected. Throughout his speech, Antony tried to separate the rich politicians from the ordinary public, so that he could be seen as one of them, and he could relate. Because he could relate to his audience, he made them feel like he could be trusted. The audience was given more reason to listen to Antony instead of Brutus.

Antony used a wide use of logos in his speech too. Logos is the appeal to the intellect of an argument; Antony used logos numerous times by stating specific facts about Caesar and giving multiple visual displays. Antony used logos when he said that Caesar "hath brought many captives home to Rome/Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill…" (Act III, Scene ii, Line 88-89). By saying this, Antony said that Caesar did everything for the common good of Italy and Rome, and he questioned why a generous man had to die. Antony also uses logos when he said that he, "thrice presented him a kingly crown, /Which he did thrice refuse. Was this ambition?" (Act III, Scene ii, Line 96-97). In saying this, Antony made the people believe that Caesar never wanted to be king, and he was not ambitious. Brutus was honorable, and he said that Caesar was ambitious. Antony showed that Caesar was definitely not ambitious, so Brutus must not be honorable. A third time Antony used logos in his speech was when he said, "I found it in his closet, 'tis his will…" (Act III, scene ii, 131). Antony used the will later on in his speech to show all of the great things he was going to give to each and every one of the citizens of Rome. Caesar had left Rome a generous inheritance, including money and land for everyone. This invoked pathos in the audience as well because it made the public angry that Caesar died.

The last method Antony used in his speech was pathos. Pathos is the cornerstone of a persuasive speech because it causes the audience to become emotional, and they will act on their profound emotions. Pathos makes people accept an argument based on what they feel toward it. Antony moved the people by saying, "My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar, /And I must pause till it come back to me" (Act III, scene ii, 108-109). This made the people feel sorry for him and the loss of his best friend. They would support Antony more now. Antony also used pathos when he said, "Then make a ring about the corpse of Caesar…" (Act III, Scene ii, 158). By showing them the corpse, which was still full of blood and gore, Antony made the people feel sorry, yet horrified about the death of the leader they loved so much. This made the people hate the conspirators even more. A final way Antony used pathos is when he said, "It will inflame you, it will make you mad…" (Act III, Scene ii, Line 144). When he said this, Antony came right out and said that they would be deeply affected by what they were about to see, and they should prepare themselves. They still got infuriated by the will because they started shouting to rebel and mutiny against the conspirators because they wanted revenge for Caesar’s unjust death.

After Antony gave his speech, the public was deeply moved and convinced that he was the good guy and conspirators were evil. Shakespeare makes it obvious that rhetoric is a great power that, if used well, can push people to extremes. Antony has obviously mastered this art of speech, as he was easily able to move the public of Rome. He had the public hooked after his first statement, yet he continued to give them piece after piece of evidence that supported why the conspirators were enemies of the republic of Rome. Because Brutus did not do a good job in persuading the public, Antony was left with a giant opportunity to persuade the public his way, and he took it. Because of his speech, the futures of the conspirators did not look too bright. Antony’s remarkable gift of rhetoric was the key factor in persuading the audience to turn against the conspirators.

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