17 December 2012
When Despair Turns Into Unity
Throughout history, many unjust and corrupt events have taken place, but along with this fact, many times, people come together and unite in such situations, despite their class or social stratum. In The Tragedy of Julius Caesar written by William Shakespeare, this universal truth is shown by Antony, a man who is thought to be nothing close to a threat, and the commoners of Rome, whose ruler has just been wrongfully murdered. While making an important speech at Caesar’s funeral, Antony speaks to the fickle and capricious plebeians in an attempt to convince them of the wrong committed by the men who conspired to kill their ruler. Antony’s speech is an emotional one, consisting of angry, vengeful, and sarcastic tones. Through his use of personification, both repetition and sarcasm, and personal pronouns, Antony successfully ventures to persuade the fickle denizens of Rome that Caesar was not only erroneously accused of ambitious intentions, but wrongfully murdered as well. To begin, Antony uses personification in order to connect with the plebeians and bring their emotions about Caesar’s death back to life. A prime example of this is when Antony tells the plebeians, “I come not, friends, to steal away your hearts: / I am no orator, as Brutus is” (3.2.99-100). Firstly, Antony creates an image of the plebeians’ hearts. He alludes to the necessity of the emotions that will ultimately lead to the plebeians’ altering decision. Also, Antony attempts to put a sort of fear in his audience in order to be able persuade them with his own intentions: that Brutus is on a mission to steal their “hearts” from them. He induces the people that he is addressing to harden their hearts toward Brutus, who is only trying to thieve them of their positive passion toward Caesar. Additionally, Antony withdraws the plebeians’ feelings by saying to them, “The dint of pit. These are gracious drops. / Kind souls, what, weep you when you but behold / Our Caesar’s venture wounded?” (3.2.89-91). In order to draw out the emotions felt for Caesar’s death, Antony tells the plebeians that their tears were not worthless, but are thought only normal as citizens of Rome who loved their ruler. He does this to help the people remember their fondness and affection for Caesar so that he could slowly muster them into a congregation that would not be swayed by the immoral minds of the conspirators. All in all, Antony is successfully helping the plebeians remember their feelings, thoughts, and why they were upset over Caesar’s death in the first place. In addition to helping the plebeians withdraw their emotions, Antony sarcastically repeats several ideas in order to keep these emotions at the front of their easily changed minds. Antony starts off by repeating the same phrase at the end of every thought when he is speaking to the people saying, “For Brutus is an honorable man”(3.2.10,15,22,27). Antony sardonically repeats this phrase over and over to insinuate to his audience that Brutus is the opposite of what is being said. He is planting an idea in their minds that will lead to the conclusion that Brutus is really a dishonorable man. In result of the stipulations that Antony has been given, his words turn sarcastic. He is obeying the rules given to him while, at the same time, subliminally accusing Brutus, as well as the rest of the conspirators, of their unscrupulous actions that result in the death of Julius Caesar. Likewise, Antony continues his sarcastic repetition while referring to Caesar in saying, “Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?” (3.2.19,20,25). Antony uses the repetition of this question to help the citizens of Rome take the evidence that he has given them against Caesar’s accused ambitious actions and aid them in determining their position on the matter. Moreover, Antony continuously hints at that suggestion that Caesar was not ambitious, but quite the opposite. His restrictions cause him to have to plant this contrasting idea in the minds of the plebeians and encourage them to make this assumption on their own, empowering them as mere commoners. As a result, the plebeians are now beginning to use the proof Antony is giving them to reconsider the last thoughts that they had accepted -- thoughts that were against the good of the late Caesar. Finally, Antony concludes his argument only after properly inserting the use of personal pronouns to better relate himself to his audience. He begins by saying, “I will not do them wrong; I rather choose / To wrong the dead, to wrong myself and you, / Than I will wrong such honorable men” (3.2.43-45). Here, Antony segregates himself and the plebeians from the conspirators. He lets the people know that he is not in the same category as the conspirators, but in the same category as the citizens of Rome. Because of this classification, the plebeians relate to Antony as a fellow man who believes that Caesar’s death was wrongfully committed. Although Antony is not brought down to the level of a commoner, the plebeians are momentarily raised to the status of a righteous man, such as Antony. He then again groups the plebeians in a different way then normally thought when he tells them, “Then I, and you, and all of us fell down” (3.2.86). Antony uses this sentence to first categorize the plebeians along with Caesar and Antony himself. After doing so, he uses a sad thought of them all falling with Caesar. Antony does this to remind the people that Caesar once stood for them, regardless of the possibility that he might have fallen, and that now they should do the same for him. Finally, Antony has proven to the plebeians that Caesar did not want to harm them because he felt as though he was one with them. To sum up, Antony’s success in convincing the easily swayed plebeians of Rome that their ruler was wrongfully killed, as well as accused of ambitious actions, is made possible by the use of personal pronouns, both repetition and sarcasm, and personification in his speech made at Caesar’s funeral. Antony not only categorizes himself with both Caesar and the plebeians, but he also separates himself from the conspirators responsible for Caesar’s death. This association allows the commoners to relate to Antony, as well as Caesar. Antony utilizes his sarcastic statements to suggest the dishonorable actions taken by Brutus without breaking his agreement with the conspirators. Repetition helps him to keep these ideas fresh in the minds of the plebeians. But in order to get the people to act on these ideas, personification allows Antony to make them into something that would tug at their hearts. All people are capable of realizing the right deeds and taking actions for them, but like the plebeians, they may need a little push. Wrong, immoral, and unjust events occur everyday. People need to not only fight for what they believe is right, but put aside their differences and amalgamate for it as well.
Shakespeare, William. “The Tragedy of Julius Caesar” Elements of Literature. Ed. Holt Rinehart. New York: Holt McDougal, 2002. 886-905. Print.