Contrasting the Orations of Brutus and Anthony #
Each of those orations is exactly what the character would then have made and each reveals at once the strength and the weakness of the speaker who makes it.
Subject-Matter of Each #
a) He asks for silence and a respectful hearing.
b) He says that he loved Caesar but loved Rome more.
c) He killed Caesar because he was a danger to Rome.
d) He says they had to choose between Caesar alive and slavery on the one hand, and Caesar dead and freedom on the other.
e) He protests that he has been quite impartial and just.
f). Caesar will be suitably honoured now that he is dead.
g) He bids them all stay to hear Anthony’s oration in honour of Caesar.
ANTONY a) He gains a hearing by using Brutus’ name-”for Brutus’ sake”.
b) He says he is not going to praise Caesar.
c) He admits that ambition is a grievous fault.
d) He shows that Caesar was not ambitious by referring to:
a) his public distribution of ransoms.
b his sympathy for the poor.
c his refusal of the crown.
e) He refers to their former love for Caesar and his own love for him.
f) He pauses to see how the crowd is affected.
g) He hints at the contents of Caesar’s will.
h) He pretends to be unwilling to read it but, as if by accident, tells them that Caesar has left all his wealth to them.
I) He consents to read it but first asks leave to show them Caesar’s body.
j) He calls attention to Caesar’s robe, showing where each of the conspirators stabbed through it.
k) He shows them the body.
- He disclaims all intention of stirring them up to mutiny.
m) He stops them to hear the will.
Brutus is a vain man though noble; he has no sense of humour, does not understand the crowd. Important points about his speech:
It is an appeal to reason not to the emotions, hence it is not suited to his audience.
It is in prose, as you would expect in an appeal to reason.
It is cold and rhetorical, merely a fine piece of logic.
It is egotistic.
It shows a complete ignorance of the psychology of the crowd.
6 It deals with abstractions—”the cause”, “Honour”, “Wisdom” “Freedom” etc. These terms meant little or nothing to the commoners.
His speech shows signs of being carefully prepared beforehand.
It is very straightforward; he does no hinting.
It does not move his hearers at all.
10 It is not at all dramatic.
Antony is a very clever speaker; he knows his audience perfectly; he is sincere in his affection for Caesar, but he makes capital of his own sincere feeling; he is cunning and resourceful; he is burning for revenge on the conspirators and at the same time means to profit by the whole affair.
Important points about his speech:
It is an appeal to the emotions and passions, not to reason; hence it is particularly suited to the audience he has.
Note the poetic quality of expression.
It is swift and fiery; it appeals to imagination and passion.
He depreciates his own gifts as an orator in comparison with those of Brutus, i.e. he appears very humble.
It shows a fine understanding of the psychology of the crowd. He plays on them as on an instrument.
He avoids all abstractions, giving concrete illustrations to show that Caesar was not ambitious, showing them Caesar’s cloak and body, and rereading the exact words of the will. He offers the material possessions instead of honour and freedom.
It bears no signs of having been prepared; it is evidently extemporaneous
He insinuates repeatedly that Brutus and the others are not honourable and disinterested.
It arouses his listeners to a frenzy.
It is very dramatic. Note the action and the pauses and the changes of tone.
THE POWER OF PERSUASION #
In the art of persuasive power we have learned a great deal. Mark Antony’s funeral speech is an exemplary masterwork of persuasion. Had he stated at the outset what his intentions were, he would have been ambushed and killed. Rather he carefully adopted a cautious lateral approach; adapted his approach by appearing to go along with the conspirators and ironically using Brutus’s words to make it appear he accepts their justifications for the brutal slaying of Caesar. To turn the fickle crowd around to his way of thinking he continues to use the words of the conspirators against themselves and instead of lofty abstract principles, appeals to concrete examples of Caesar’s generosity and good governance.
While Shakespeare has Brutus speak in prose, Antony speaks, as most great Shakespearean speeches; in poetry; high, classical iambic pentameter. He is out to win their hearts and minds and subtly appeals to their personal self – interest. His first statement “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears” has become a time cherished phrase of intimacy and a call to patriotism.
Antony’s disarming and disingenuous statement “I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him” is followed by a subtle shift:
The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious.
If it were so, it was a grievous fault, 3.2. 79 – 80
The small subordinate conjunction “if” casts the first doubt on the claims of the conspirators. This is followed by proclamations of friendship; “he was my friend, faithful and just to me”.
On firmer ground Antony turns his attentions to concrete undeniable evidence of Caesar’s benevolence and altruism;
He hath brought many captives home to Rome,
Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill:
Did this in Caesar seem ambitious? 3.2. 89 - 91
Further, Caesar was in tune with the people;
When the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept;
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff… 3.2. 92 - 93
Yet, Antony admits, Brutus says Caesar was ambitious “*and Brutus is an honourable man”. * It is the repetition of this ironic mantra that gradually becomes hollow and sways the audience against the conspirators. While Antony assures his audience *“I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke” * this is exactly what he is doing. Combined with his self deprecation as a speaker, and his emotional breakdown (..Bear with me. My heart is in the coffin with Caesar, and I must pause till it come back to me.), these tactics work in tandem to endear him and his cause to a malleable fickle mob’s mentality.
Continuing to appeal to their emotions, Antony plays his highest card, his produces two tangible pieces of evidence to clinch is argument; Caesar’s will and his brutally massacred body. All his tactics have had one aim in mind; to incite the mob to riot, and to revenge Caesars brutal murder. His exploitation of group psychology by appealing to their non-rational aspects yet providing them with rational proof of Caesar’s generosity and selfless deeds, work together to achieve his ultimate objective.