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Mark Antony's Funeral Oration

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A Manipulative Speaker: Marc Antony’s Funeral Oration
George Bernard Shaw once said “Words are the postage stamps delivering the object for you to unwrap.” After the death of Caesar, Brutus and Antony give a funeral speech for Caesar. Both are excellent orators, and convince the crowds very well. However, Brutus made Antony promise that he “shall not in your funeral speech blame us, but speak all good you can devise of Caesar.” (pg. 106-7, 247-8). Marc Antony uses many persuasive devices such as specific evidence, verbal irony, rhetorical questioning and loaded words to anger the Roman citizens. This leads to mutiny against the savage conspirators who had assassinated Caesar. Marc Antony uses his oratory skills to do so without breaking his promise to Caesar.
The first line itself shows Antony’s persuasive power. It is in trochaic meter, which is very attention grabbing, as the crowd immediately calms down. Antony reiterates Brutus’s opening, changing only a few words. The line “Friends, Romans, Countrymen” (pg. 17, line 75) show Nomos, as Antony wants to find common ground with the people. The second line displays irony, as Antony is indeed here to praise Caesar. So here he is already proven manipulative, even though he has just started speaking. In the fourth line, Antony states, “The good is oft interred with their bones” (pg. 117, line 78). It is ironic, because he had just stated that he was not there to praise Caesar, he does. On the 5th line, the meter change may hint at the fact that he is trying to shift from praising Caesar to proving that Caesar was unfairly murdered. He then states …”the noble Brutus” and repeats this throughout the speech. He is causing the people to question or doubt if Brutus is noble or not. His quote, “The noble Brutus/Hath told you Brutus was ambitious”, subtly puts doubt into the listener’s minds. He then repeatedly says that Brutus is honorable, which is also a way of making the people doubt if Brutus is truly honorable. Antony reminds the commoners that Brutus said “Caesar was ambitious” (pg. 117, line 80), and calls Brutus an “honorable man” (pg. 117, line 89). Eventually, the plebeians will realize that “honorable men” is used ironically. When Antony says “they all, all honorable men (pg. 117, line 85)” the meter is choppy, and it has hints at his scorn. He then starts to use pathos to appeal to the emotions, such as Caesar crying with the poor. Then Antony says “yet Brutus says he was ambitious/and sure he is an honorable man” (pg. 117, line 88-89) He goes on to say that Caesar rejected the crown 3 times. He then asks the crowd, “Was this ambition?” which is a rhetorical question. He is subtly making the crowd doubt if Brutus is really honorable.
Most of Antony’s introduction was a portrayal of Caesar as a good ruler that did many things for Rome. Antony mentions many good deeds Caesar has done, including the following examples. “He hath brought many captives home to Rome” (pg. 117, line 90) and “When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept” (pg. 117, line 93). Antony says that Caesar did everything he could for the Romans. Antony calls the commoners “brutish beasts” (pg. 117, line 106) because they are not properly mourning for Caesar, because they all had loved Caesar. He says “My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar/And I must pause till it come back to me”. He is displaying pathos, to persuade the crowds. The commoners think he is truly mourning, but the audience sees the opposite. Antony is not mourning, for he has already mourned for Caesar. He is full of anger, and he wants the crowd to revolt and destroy the conspirators.
Antony then reveals the will, and tempts the people. He says that it is part of a “rich legacy” (pg. 121, line 138). These words make the people want to hear the will. Antony holds back on the reading of the will, saying that “it is not meet you know how Caesar loved you” (pg. 117, line 143). He asks the plebeians “what would come of it” (pg. 121, 148) if he did or did not read the will, but he knows that they would avenge Caesar’s death. Antony then claims that “I have o’ershot myself to tell you of it/I fear I wrong the honorable men/Whose daggers have stabbed Caesar; I do fear it.” (pg. 121, lines 152-154). Antony says that he has said too much, which only makes the crow beg him to read the will. Antony claims he fears the “honorable men”, or the conspirators, and the daggers that stabbed Caesar. He then urges the people to make a ring around the body of Caesar.
All the plebeians urge him to come down, and Antony descends the steps. This is nomos, because he is setting himself as equal to the plebeians. He begins to use pathos, as he talks about the death of Caesar. The crowd begins to side with him and trust him more, because they see that he is also very upset. The crowd is now mesmerized and they are listening to everything he says. Caesar lifts the mantle, exposing the bloody corpse. He claims that “in this place ran Cassius’ dagger through” even though Antony himself was not there to witness it, which shows dramatic irony. The audience knows he was not there to witness it, but the plebeians believe every word. Again, this shows his manipulation of the people; however, the people believe and fall for it. He continues by pointing out where Brutus stabbed Caesar, and the crowd is still transfixed. When Antony says, “I am no orator, as Brutus is, /But, as you know me all, a plain blunt man/” (pg. 125 lines 118-119) he is lying, because he is not being blunt. A vast majority of this speech had been composed of loaded language and subtle clues. His oratorical skills are quickly crumbling the conspirators’ house of cards, as the crowd gets angrier and angrier. The crowd is ready to destroy the house of Brutus, and the conspirators. The crowd now sees Caesar’s dead body and they share the same grief and horror as Antony, so Antony knows that the crowd will identify with him more. The crowd is now even more riled up, and they are ready to storm the house of Brutus. For the last time, Antony stops them to read the will.
Although he had tempted them with the will previously, he had been planning to read it all along. He reveals that “every Roman citizen he gives, to every several man, seventy-five drachmas.” (pg. 127, 242-3). Antony also reveals that he has left his walks, private arbors, and orchards to the people. This time, the plebeians are very furious, because they now think that Caesar was a great leader. Antony uses rhetorical questioning and asks the crowd “here was Caesar! When comes such another?” (pg. 129, line 153) and almost immediately, a plebeian shouts “never, never, come away away!” (pg. 129, line 154). This is the response Antony wants, because they now fully believe him, and they are furious. The crowd now wants to storm the conspirators’ houses and kill them for murdering Caesar. The plebeians exit with Caesar’s body, to anoint and bless it. They want to burn the body, and using the fire, burn Brutus’s house. This shows the crowd’s immense anger towards the conspirators, especially Brutus. This scene ends with the crowd encountering a man named Cinna, a poet. The plebeians immediately question him, and Cinna responds. Upon learning his name, the plebeians want to kill him, because one of the conspirator's names is Cinna. The poet then protests that he is “Cinna the poet” (pg. 133, line 30), but the crowd is so angered they yell, “Tear him for his bad verses, tear him for his bad verses” (pg. 133, lines 31-32). This merely shows how great an orator Antony was, that the crowds would be this ruthless and savage.
As George Bernard Shaw once said “Words are the postage stamps delivering the object for you to unwrap.” one can see it is very true in Marc Antony’s funeral oration. He delivered a speech full of loaded words, the “object” unwrapped by the plebeians is the shared feeling of anger towards the conspirators for killing Caesar. Antony holds his promise that he “shall not in your funeral speech blame us, but speak all good you can devise of Caesar” (pg. 106-107), thanks to his use of persuasive devices. Marc Antony, although he claims otherwise, is an excellent manipulative speaker.

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