Critical Analysis of Marc Anthony’s Speech in Julis Caesar
Marc Anthony’s speech encompasses a multitude of rhetorical devices, and as a result wins the confidence and favor of his rowdy audience. He begins his speech with the ironic phrase
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
(3. 2. 81)
Anthony, contrary to what he says, actually means to turn the citizens of Rome against Brutus and the conspirators, revenging Julius Caesar’s death. Anthony continues his speech by using the idea from Brutus’ speech that Caesar was an ambitious man. Brutus used this thought to support his basis for killing
Julius Caesar. Anthony does not dispute Brutus’ respectable reputation, instead he says
For Brutus is an honorable man
(3. 2. 89)
However, Anthony does begin to disagree with Brutus’ comment on Caesar’s grievous ambition. He does this be appealing to the audience’s logic, and presents two strong examples of Caesar’s lack of ambition. He says
He hath brought many captives home to Rome,
Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill;
Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
(3. 2. 95-97)
Anthony also involves the crowd in his speech, asking them a question and forcing them to ponder whether the assassination of Caesar was nothing but a disservice to the Roman Empire.
Anthony continues to dispute Caesar’s ambitiousness, however still maintaining that the conspirator’s were honorable men. He says
Brutus is an honorable man
(3. 2. 101)
But he continually repeats this line, even after he has just disproved Caesar’s ambition, making the compliment sound sarcastic and mocking. By proving to the audience that Caesar was not full of ambition, he also proves that the conspirators were not honorable men, thus concluding that Caesar’s death was a futile murder, devastating to the welfare of Rome.
Anthony also uses parison, repeating the same idea continually, only rephrasing it slightly each time. He explains to the crowd
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious,
And sure he is an honourable man
(3. 2. 100-101)
By incessantly reiterating this idea, it becomes gradually engraved in the crowd’s mind. Again, Anthony says
But Brutus says he was ambitious,
And Brutus is an honourable man
(3. 2. 106-107)
Only somewhat rearticulated, Anthony again compels the same idea, gradually obtaining reservation from the crowd towards Brutus. To further gain favour from the crowd, Anthony appeals to the emotions of his audience, pausing dramatically to say
…Bear with me,
My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
And I must pause till it come back to me.
Marc Anthony’s speech calls for a dramatic pause, where he stops to ‘regain his heart.’ This line, however, is no more than a strategic and shrewdly placed break, where Anthony forces the crowd to decide if they are truly persuaded by his speech or not.
Anthony’s speech successfully incorporates a host of persuasive language devices, most important of them being sarcasm and irony. The great skill of rhetoric and oration Anthony displays triumphs in the seemingly impossible task of winning the audience.
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18 July 2014