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Analyse the following passage in Julius Caesar: "Pleb. we'll hear him, we'll follow...

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semou1 | Student | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 29, 2013 at 1:01 PM via web

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Analyse the following passage in Julius Caesar:

"Pleb. we'll hear him, we'll follow him, we'll die with him.

Ant. Good friends, sweet friends, let me not stir you up

       To such a sudden flood of mutiny.

        They that have done this deed are honourable"

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William Delaney | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted June 8, 2013 at 9:52 PM (Answer #1)

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The passage in question shows Antony's cunning. He has been pretending since the beginning of his speech that he is humbly grateful for being permitted to speak and for being listened to. He assures the mob that he is not there to start any trouble.

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.

His first word is "Friends." He continues addressing this mob of plebians, whom he despises, as friends throughout his speech. This is something that Brutus very conspicuously does not do in his own speech. Antony appears to be using what is called "negative suggestion" when he asks them not to let themselves be stirred up  by his words.

Good friends, sweet friends, let me not stir you up
To such a sudden flood of mutiny.
They that have done this deed are honourable:
What private griefs they have, alas, I know not,
That made them do it: they are wise and honourable,
And will, no doubt, with reasons answer you.

He also seems to be using negative suggestion by constantly referring to Brutus and the other conspirators as "honorable men." In referring to them as honorable men, Antony is also reminding the plebians that he is speaking with the authorization of the men who murdered Caesar, and therefore that anything he tells them has the approval of the conspirators. When he comes to the end of his speech, he uses this trick again by virtually identifying himself with Brutus and Brutus with himself. Brutus has the best reputation of any man in Rome, and Antony seems to be telling the mob that Brutus is encouraging them to mutiny.

I am no orator, as Brutus is;
But, as you know me all, a plain blunt man,
That love my friend; and that they know full well
That gave me public leave to speak of him:
For I have neither wit, nor words, nor worth,
Action, nor utterance, nor the power of speech,
To stir men's blood: I only speak right on;
I tell you that which you yourselves do know;
Show you sweet Caesar's wounds, poor poor dumb mouths,
And bid them speak for me: but were I Brutus,
And Brutus Antony, there were an Antony
Would ruffle up your spirits and put a tongue
In every wound of Caesar that should move
The stones of Rome to rise and mutiny.

Antony has whipped the mob into a frenzy. He wants to make sure that their mutiny will have plenty of motivation to sustain it. He keeps holding them back when they show signs of rioting. He reminds them at one point that they haven't even heard Caesar's will. Then when they regroup to hear the will, he makes them gather around the coffin so that he can show them the bloody mantle and the mutilated corpse it has been covering.

Antony's funeral speech not only turns the mob around, but it also has to turn the theater audience around. Somehow Shakespeare manages to get the audience to sympathize with Antony and Octavius after they have been sympathizing with Brutus and Cassius right up to the time of the assassination. Part of the way that Shakespeare effects the reversal in the audience's sympathies is through pure terror. The mob is about to go on a rampage, and the people in the audience don't want to be among their victims.

At one point, after viewing Caesar's body, the ugly mob members actually turn and start moving towards the pit shouting

Revenge! About! Seek! Burn! Fire! Kill! Slay!
Let not a traitor live!

The word "About!" is evidently a cue from one mob member for all to wheel around together and face the audience. But Antony calls them back to stir them up a little more.

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