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Mark Antony Funeral Speech Essay Question

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In the funeral speeches delivered in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar by Mark Antony and Brutus, what fascinates me the most is the differences between the two speeches...reflected not only by the different personalities of the men delivering the speeches, but (obviously) by their intent.

Brutus is a man who loves Caesar. But he loves Rome more than anything, including his own life. He is willing to kill Caesar because he believes Caesar will destroy Rome:

And therefore think him as a serpent's egg

Which hatch'd would as his kind grow mischievous,

And kill him in the shell. (II.i.32-34)

Brutus is naive, duped into joining Cassius who, for almost the entire play, acts selfishly and without nobility. Brutus also misreads how their actions will be viewed:

Since they all acted for the good of Rome, how could Antony, or any Roman, not understand?

Brutus is a man of conviction: he doesn't just talk about saving Rome, but puts his life on the line to do so. After the assassination, Brutus wants to speak to the people to explain—from his heart—why the conspirators acted as they did. Brutus is admirable in wanting to face any possible consequences, assuming the responsibility of his actions. His only demand is that Antony not turn the crowd against what they have done when he speaks:

BRUTUS:

Mark Antony, here, take you Caesar's body.

You shall not in your funeral speech blame us,

But speak all good you can devise of Caesar,

And say you do't by our permission,

Else shall you not have any hand at all

About his funeral. And you shall speak

In the same pulpit whereto I am going,

After my speech is ended. (III.i.263-270)

Antony, on the other hand, is a man motivated by power. He seems to like Caesar well enough, but when he is murdered, Antony sees this as an opportunity to advance his own position in Rome's political structure. (He will eventually plot to kill Caesar's nephew, Octavius.) Antony promises Brutus to be honorable in his funeral speech, in no way discrediting the conspirators; but he manages to do so anyway. (And privately he promises to avenge Caesar's death.)

What is so fascinating is the way Antony is able to take Brutus' honest, heart-felt words and twist them in such a way that they no longer resemble (in their intent) what they did when they were first spoken. Antony's gift of rhetoric (his ability to use language so effectively) is amazing. (Of course, it is Shakespeare's gift, really.) 

Shakespeare portrays two very credible personalities; he also brilliantly uses their speeches to reflect the character of each man. Brutus is forthright; Antony is manipulative and self-serving.

If I were to put together an essay question with regard to this scene, it would be something like:

In Act Three, scene one, of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, describe how the content of the funeral speeches delivered by first by Brutus, and then by Antony, reflect the character of each man. Support with specific examples.

Or...

In Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Brutus delivers his funeral speech and garners support from the crowd for the assassins' actions. Then, almost effortlessly, Mark Antony changes the opinion of the crowd to condemn the actions of the assassins. What literary device does Antony use in his speech to accomplish such a feat? Support with specific examples.

An Analysis of Marc Antony’s Funeral Oration during Julius Caesar

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Analysis of Marc Antony’s Funeral Oration “… Bear with me; / my heart is in the coffin there with Caesar, / And I must pause till it come back to me. ” (JC III ii 47) Marc Antony’s speech at Caesar’s funeral was so cunning and powerful that it caused the crowd’s loyalties to sway. Prior to Marc Antony’s oration the crowd favored Brutus and the conspirators. However, Marc Antony’s compelling discourse caused the plebeians to support him, and not Brutus. Marc Antony used three literary devices during his funeral oration, rhetorical question, sarcasm, and repetition, to successfully persuade the crowd.

Although the crowd was supportive of the conspirators after Brutus’s speech, Marc Antony’s use of sarcasm in his funeral oration caused them to rethink who they should support. According to www. dictionary. com, sarcasm is ironic remarks used to gain someone’s attention and cause them to draw thoughts about someone of something. Marc Antony’s use of sarcasm during his discourse is evident in the following lines, ” For Brutus is an honourable man / So are they all, honourable men. ” (JC III ii 46) Sarcasm is also evident in these lines, “… I rather choose/ To wrong the dead, to wrong myself and you, / Than I will wrong such honourable men. (JC III ii 48)

The use of sarcasm was a crucial element in Marc Antony’s speech. It caused the crowd to start feeling more agreeable towards Marc Antony’s opinion than Brutus’s. The crowd’s opinion of Antony is evident in the following line; ” There’s not a nobler man in Rome than Antony. ” (JC III ii 47) As the crowd starts to listen more attentively to Marc Antony’s speech, Marc Antony begins to use rhetorical question. According to www. dictionary. com, a rhetorical question is a statement that is formulated as a question but that is not supposed to be answered.

Marc Antony’s use of rhetorical question is evident in the following lines, ” I thrice presented him a kingly crown, / Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition? (JC III ii 47) By rhetorically bringing to light the instance where Caesar refused the crown three times, it caused the crowd to rethink Brutus’s blatant accusation that Caesar was ambitious. It is obvious that the crowd has been persuaded to believe Antony in the following lines, “Mark’d ye his words? He would not take the crown; / Therefore ‘t is certain he was not ambitious. ” (JC III ii 47) Another clever element that Marc Antony uses in his oration is repetition.

According to www. dictionary. com, repetition is reiteration, or repeating the same word, or the same sense in different words, for the purpose of making a deeper impression on the audience. An instance where Marc Antony used repetition is in the following lines, “For Brutus is an honourable man; / So are they all, all honourable men. ” (JC III ii 46) During his speech Marc Antony repeats numerous times that Brutus “is an honourable man. ” Preceding this statement is usually a line contradicting Brutus’s honorability. An example of this is in the following lines, “Yet Brutus says he was ambitious; / And Brutus is an honourable man. (JC III ii 47) Marc Antony’s speech at Caesar’s funeral was immensely effective.

He successfully caused the sentiment of the crowd to go from supporting Brutus and the conspirators, to supporting Caesar and himself. An example of where the plebeians loyalties lied before Marc Antony’s speech is apparent in the following lines, “Live, Brutus! Live, live! Let him be Caesar. ” (JC III ii 45) However, the crowd’s sentiments after Marc Antony was done is evident in the following lines, “We’ll burn the house of Brutus. Peace, ho! Hear Antony. Most noble Antony! ” (JC III ii 50)

Author: Brandon Johnson

in Julius Caesar

An Analysis of Marc Antony’s Funeral Oration during Julius Caesar

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