Julius Caesar is a famous play written by the respected William Shakespeare in 1599. The drama is based on real events concerning the assassination of Julius Caesar, the Roman dictator, on March 44 BC. It is an epic tale about a Roman tragedy. My main aspect within this essay is to emphasise on how Antony manipulates the Roman plebeians by giving a speech after Caesar’s death which is the core of the play. He is left with a daunting task due to the highly persuasive speech which Brutus delivers prior to him.
Julius Caesar is about power, fear of dominance, betrayal and conspiracy. It portrays the time in which the Romans dominated the world.
Caesar returns from the battle field ending a civil war between his forces against Pompey’s forces who was the current emperor of Rome at that time. Julius Caesar was feared by many after his victory over Pompey. The demolition of Pompey meant that Caesar would be the new emperor.
It was his arrogance which leads him to his death. He is warned by his wife and the soothsayer about the possibility of his assassination but due to his ignorance he fails to understand that he is a target for many. He ignores their advice not knowing what his destiny will be. His arrogance leads to the fear of his dominance and many are appalled by the fact that he has become the new emperor and refuse to accept this. This is due to the fact that they believe he will become a tyrant if he is to have power to such an extent.
The initial people who reacted to this were Flavius and Marullus. They warned the fickle plebeians about Caesar’s potential of becoming a tyrant. Subsequently they were instantly assassinated. This created many reasons for a conspiracy to kill Caesar.
The conspirators who planned to kill Caesar were Marcus Brutus (Caesar’s dear friend), Caius Cassius, Decius Brutus, Metellus, Cinna, Casca and finally Trebonius. Marcus Brutus Caesar’s dearest friend is the leader of the conspirators. He’s a patriotic Roman citizen and values nothing above his love for his nation. Cassius persuades him to join the conspiracy and due to his agreement in the belief of Caesar’s potential of becoming a tyrant and that the Romans are to become slaves without freedom if Caesar were to be crowned he decides to join Cassius and his companions. Cassius uses Brutus’ love for Rome as a key to make him join the conspiracy because he’s realised that that Brutus has love for Rome to such an extent that he would be prepared to kill his dear friend Caesar for the good of Rome. The conspirators needed someone wise and of high knowledge. They found these qualities in Brutus therefore they gave him the authority to be their leader.
Eventually they succeed in their objective as they manage to kill Caesar on the day that he was to be crowned at the senate house. This built up tension between the plebeians as they were curious about the murder and why it occurred. Brutus calms the atmosphere immediately by delivering a powerful speech and concluding it with the mistakeby letting Antony speak which leads him to his death further in the play.
He uses clever manoeuvres to persuade the crowd in order to retain his innocence. He talks about the importance of Rome and how Caesar’s dominance would’ve affected it dramatically.
“Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more” (Act 3 scene 2)
Brutus gains the crowd’s belief that Caesar was to become a tyrant if he were to become the emperor of Rome as he is highly persuasive with his speech. He gives the crowd the impression that he was a great friend of Caesar and that he must’ve had a major reason to kill him if he was acquainted with him to such an extent. He further emphasises on how Caesar’s dominance would’ve lead to slavery and a state without freedom.
“Had you rather Caesar were living, and die all slaves, than that Caesar were dead, to live all free men?”(Act 3 scene 2)
He uses this to create a scenario within the minds of the plebeians making them think about the possible future if Caesar was to live. He gains there trust and their agreement in the murder of Caesar by using these clever techniques. The people are stunned and are left with a lot of thoughts to consider. What Brutus mentions during his speech is unimaginable to the Roman citizens and to its effect they have no objections and start believing Brutus and praising him to such an extent that what initially was believed to be a vicious act had turned into a praiseworthy achievement due to Brutus’ ability to persuade and manipulate the crowd.
“Let him be Caesar!” (Act 3 scene 2)
This is the reaction of a Roman citizen after Brutus’ speech followed by another citizen saying:
“Caesar’s better parts shall be crowned in Brutus” (Act 3 scene 2)
Brutus knows that the Romans are fickle therefore he uses this weakness as a key to persuade them. He is now respected an honoured by the people and has proven himself to be innocent as he has gained the trust of the citizens.
Now Antony arrives at the location with the realisation of the knowledge that he is left with a daunting task if he is to turn the crowd against Brutus. Instantly after Caesar was killed Antony was present and was devastated by seeing Caesar’s dead body. He shook hands with the conspirators indicating that he will take revenge on each of them one after the other.
Brutus doesn’t kill Antony because he considers the risk of people acknowledging that his plan would seem too bloody. Additionally it would make his task much more difficult in proving himself to be innocent to the plebeians. Antony also didn’t seem like a threat to him.
When Antony arrives at the scene he carries Caesar’s dead body and lays it down to express his love for Caesar and displaying to the crowd how horrifically he was killed. It shows his devastation about Caesar’s death. He uses the body as a base to indirectly challenge Brutus because he’s showing that he’s aggrieved by Caesar’s death and wants a chance to express his feelings.
Brutus makes the most crucial error of his life by allowing Antony to speak and leaving the scene without knowing the impact that Antony is about to have on the crowd which is the upcoming cause to his death.
Antony acts humbly like a Roman plebeian. The crowd is eager to listen to what he has to say since Brutus the honourable one has appointed him to speak. Antony begins his speech with the tone of passion and dignity. He embodies the spirit of persuasion as the flow of his speech is constant and highly persuasive. He starts his speech in a formal manor.
“Friends, Romans, countrymen lend me your ears” (Act 3 scene 2)
This is a pleasant start to his speech. He’s emphasising that he is equal to everyone and is speaking to them as a fellow citizen. He appears to be in favour of Rome. He uses this order of words to be polite towards the crowd which is vital because he has a great task ahead of him if he is to turn the crowd against Brutus.
“Friends, Romans countrymen I’ve come to bury Caesar not to praise him” (Act 3 scene 2)
He says this in order to assure the crowd that he is just expressing his feelings. This is needed because Antony cleverly adapts to the situation as he knows that at that present moment the crowd is infuriated about Caesar’s intentions and satisfied about his death therefore it would be a major error if he was to praise Caesar at that time. He uses clever pauses within his speech to read the mood of the crowd and ensure that the next step that he will take will be successful
He uses rhetorical questions several times during his speech. A fine example of this is when he builds up Caesar’s ambition and then refers to him as refusing the crown three times he says:
“Was this Ambition?” (Act 3 scene 2)
By going along with the crowd’s mood and at first agreeing with them, helps him to gain their attention. Then he proves his point by justifying it in a way that the crowd can’t disagree with him. Rhetorical questions are very effective in that way and he uses them immaculately.
As he delivers his speech his intention is to persuade the crowd to turn against Brutus. In order to do that he indirectly attacks Brutus. He disproves Brutus rather than talking against him with the knowledge that the crowd knows how much Brutus loved Caesar. A fine example of this is:
“You all did see that on the Lupercal I thrice presented him a kingly crown, which he did thrice refuse. Was this ambition? Yet Brutus says he was ambitious and Brutus is an honourable man.” (Act 3 scene 2)
From this quote we can see that Antony is proving Caesar’s innocence and disproving Brutus which shows that he is indirectly attacking him yet at the same time persuading the crowd. He’s techniques are clever because he is gradually turning the crowd against Brutus psychologically because he doesn’t directly go against Brutus. He continuously uses repetition because he mentions several times that Brutus is an honourable man yet at the same time he is disproving him making the crowd think that if Brutus is such an honourable man then how could he kill Caesar his dearest friend and make such a great error. Antony builds up Brutus’ reputation and at its peak he lowers it by disproving him. Antony continues talking convincingly knowing it is going to be a difficult task as the crowd were already brainwashed by Brutus. His approach with the citizens is very polite.
“You are not wood, you are not stones, but men” (Act 3 scene 2)
Unlike Metellus who approached the crowd very abruptly, this quote shows how polite Antony is with the crowd in order to gain their sympathy and attention.
Within his speech Antony also talks in detail about the wounds which Caesar’s body suffered from after the murder. He mentions about Caesar’s beautiful designed cloak and how it got ruined by the conspirators. He talks to the crowd as if he knows who made which wound.
“If you have tears, prepare to shed them now. You all do know this mantle: I remember The first time ever Caesar put it on; ‘Twas on a summer’s evening, in his tent, That day he overcame Nervii: Look, in this place ran Cassius’ dagger through: See what a rent the envious Casca made: Through this the well-beloved Brutus stabbed”
Here Antony attains the crowd’s sympathy by going into detail of how the murder of Caesar occurred. He mentions the names of the conspirators in order to make the crowd feel the conspirators are guilty. He explains how painful Caesar’s death was which deeply affects the crowd as they start to sympathise for Caesar. He tells the crowd that if they have any tears then they should shed them now because he knows that they will agree with him that it was a horrific act. He again says that Brutus is loved making the crowd realise that they have love for a butcher not an honourable man. This was his first emotive approach tot the crowd to attain their sympathy. He individually talks about Brutus to emphasise on the fact that Brutus is being mistaken for being honourable.
“And as he plucked his cursed steel away, Mark how the blood of Caesar followed it, As rushing out of doors, to be resolved If Brutus so unkindly knocked, or no: For Brutus, as you know, was Caesar’s angel: Judge, O you gods, how dearly Caesar loved him!”
Here Antony subtly directs the crowd towards sympathising for Caesar and gradually developing hatred for Brutus. He describes how Caesar’s blood was flowing and uses emotive words to create a sense of imagination of how vicious the act was. He talks about how immensely Caesar loved Brutus. By this he evokes more aggression within the crowd towards Brutus. His flow is immaculate and each step that he takes has a successful result. He again shows the crowd that he isn’t attacking Brutus even though he is indirectly demolishing him. He asks for the gods to judge Brutus not the crowd. These emotive words prove to the crowd that he is telling facts as he is expressing his own feelings yet he has such an impact.
Initially Antony is talking about the good of Rome, but as he attains the crowd’s interest his method changes. His aim is to manipulate the crowd in order to demolish Brutus. As Antony smoothly continues his speech he builds up the tension by mentioning something which entices the crowd to listen to him with full attention. He uses a clever manoeuvre to turn the situation around. He pretends that Caesar had left a will behind for the citizens of Rome. The crowd becomes hyper by this statement and is eager to hear more about it and command Antony read out the will immediately.
“But here’s a parchment with the seal of Caesar; I found it in his closet; ’tis his will” (Act 3 scene 2)
“Which, pardon me, I do not mean to read” (Act 3 scene 2)
“I have o’ershot myself to tell you of it” (Act 3 scene 2)
Here we can obtain that Antony uses Caesar’s will as a method to resurrect Caesar’s innocence after the crowd believed he was guilty due to Brutus’ persuasive words.
However Antony is clever and keeps the crowd in suspense; he tells them that he will read out the will but that he has already gone beyond the limit simply by just telling hem about the will which the crowd appreciates yet they are impatient to hear it. Their impatience of hearing the will shows how clever Antony was to use the will in order to make the people go mad and make them think that Caesar loved them immensely.
This is the turning point in the drama. Antony now takes full command of the scenario and has persuaded the people to believe that Caesar was innocent and a man of high essence. Here Antony has fulfilled his objective due to the immaculate techniques he used. He has laid out a foundation for himself on which he can now stand and be assured that he can take his revenge on the conspirators. He becomes successful in his speech as we can see.
“They were traitors. ‘Honourable men’!” (Act 3 scene 2)
Here a plebeian reacts to Antony’s persuasive words. The situation turns into a chaos as it is clear that Antony has become successful in his task. It was Antony’s determination and motivation that made the people turn against Brutus. Brutus underestimated Antony and was unaware of Atony’s skills and that was a key point to Antony’s success as he took advantage and redeveloped the entire scenario to his will. The plebeians decide to rebel against Brutus as they are outraged by the facts mentioned to them by Antony.
“O piteous spectacle! O noble Caesar! O woful day! O traitors, villains! O most bloody sight! We will be revenged. Revenge! About! Seek! Burn! Fire! Kill! Slay! Let not a traitor live!” (Act 3 scene 2)
This is the crowd’s reaction to Antony’s speech. He has gained total control of the scenario and has now encapsulated the support of the plebeians. He has all the force and ability to take revenge on the conspirators. He has been successful by using his phenomenal skills to turn plebeians who are fickle yet still hard to convince against the conspirators.
To conclude I would like to emphasise on the immaculate techniques used by Antony within his speech. Every step he takes has a goal and an achieved target. He arrives with Caesar’s body to show how severe his wounds are to indicate to the people how viciously he was killed. The turning point in his speech is when he mentions Caesar’s will despite the fact that he made it up. At this stage he had already gained the crowd’s attention and this kind of statement would settle his position as a person demanding for revenge.
The vital dramatic pauses which Antony uses during his speech had a great effect as it gave him time to read the mood of the crowd enabling him to continue his flurry of persuasive techniques according to the current mood of the crowd. He acts humbly like an average Roman plebeian to show he is on the same level as the people. A fine example of this is:
“Will you give me the leave to speak?” (Act 3 scene 2)
He mentions this to assure the crowd that he wants them to allow him to speak as he only wants to express his feelings even it though was Brutus who appointed him to speak. Yet in order to make the people eager to listen to him he asks for their permission.
Antony is an expert at building up the tension during his speech as he holds the crowd back three times from leaving and vandalising the surroundings. He uses repetition when he uses the word ‘honourable’ several times to build up the irony that these men are praiseworthy and honourable yet they have committed such a horrific act.
It is significant to analyse these techniques and obtain that contemporary politicians at present also use similar skills in order to attain the citizens’ attention. Many use repetition like Antony did in order to emphasise on a negative or positive point to express their views about something with the hope of gaining the support of the citizens. Many politicians give speeches in similar fashion to Antony. Initially they express general points on which anyone would agree and as the speech flows successfully they gradually gain support and then fully express their views as the support increases.
All the sublime techniques which Antony uses are a key to his success and after winning the civil war he has avenged Caesar’s death and brought an end to this epic tale of drama.