12 December 2012
Words of Wisdom: A Rhetorical Analysis of Antony’s Speech
After hearing lie after lie from Marcus Brutus, Mark Antony addresses the people of Rome in an ironic manner implying that Brutus lies. When speaking to the people of Rome, Antony creates havoc amongst the crowd over the truth behind Julius Caesar’s death.
Antony opens his speech by justifying his reason to address the people of Rome. Antony uses antithesis to address the people of Rome of his intention: “I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him…” (JC 3.2.83). Contrasting the words “bury” and “praise,” Antony distinguishes his desires among the Plebes by appealing to their want to trust him. To later justify his intentions to speak among the Plebes, Antony must first establish his position on Caesar’s death. Next, Antony uses the asyndeton by saying,” Friends, Romans, Countrymen…” (JC 3.2.82). Here Antony appeals to the Plebes’ desire to trust him by naming each and every man in the audience personally to establish a relationship between them. By excluding conjunctions, Antony expresses a sense of urgency to the Plebes to trust what he is saying and believe what he is saying. Antony then uses irony to compel Brutus by saying,” The noble Brutus…” (JC 3.2.86). By saying that Brutus is noble, Antony creates a false interpretation of Brutus. The Plebes had developed a strong hatred for Brutus after he murdered Caesar, which Antony amplified by implying his ironic thoughts of Brutus.
Antony continues his speech to the Plebes with the use of rhetorical questions and repetition to reveal Brutus’ ambition. Antony repeatedly and ironically states, “…Brutus says he was ambitious…” (JC 3.2. 95). By Brutus repeatedly saying that Caesar was “ambitious,” Antony reveals that Brutus’ actions of murdering Caesar were not for the whole of Rome, but for betterment of himself. Antony repeats this to appeal to the Plebes’ desire to trust him. Next, Antony asks the rhetorical question of, “Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?” (JC 3.2.99). Here Antony appeals to the Plebes’ ability to reason and use logic by asking them if Caesar was “ambitious”– ironically. By asking the Plebes a question, Antony actually creates a statement saying that Brutus was the ambitious one, not Caesar. Antony correlates the differences in the cries between the Plebe’s and Caesar: “When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept…” (JC 3.2.100). By destroying the image of a strong and powerful leader through the image of tears and sadness, Antony redirects their sorrow for Caesar into anger towards Brutus. He creates the transformation from mourning to hatred by appealing to the Plebe’s emotions, confused and astonished, through the use of examples. By Antony’s power of his use of words,