Explain  Mark Antony's funeral oration in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar.

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare is a  drama  based on real events that occurred in 44 B.C. The characters in the  play were actual Romans who lived during the time of the assassination of Julius Caesar. Considered to be a political play, it  reaches a climax after the murder of Caesar by a  group of Roman senators who pursued his death for various reasons.

Brutus,  who was a trusted friend of Caesar,  chose to take part in the conspiracy because he feared that Caesar would become a dictator and rule Rome with an iron fist. After the assassination, Brutus makes several mistakes. Thinking that Marc Antony can be persuaded to understand the good intentions of the assassins, Brutus speaks to the people of Roman explaining the reasoning behind the assassination. He explains that the conspirators are allowing Antony to speak after him.

Shakespeare employs dramatic irony so that the audience already knows that Antony has promised Caesar's spirit that he will seek revenge for him. Unfortunately, Brutus chooses to leave the forum while Antony speaks to the mob of Roman citizens.

Thus begins one of the most memorable of all scenes in literature: Marc Antony's funeral oration.

Friends, Romans, Countrymen, Lend me your ears. I come to bury Caesar not to praise him.

Marc Antony, a Roman soldier and loyal and trusted friend of Caesar, employs many rhetorical devices within his speech building  toward a crescendo of spurring the audience to seek revenge for Caesar's death.

In the beginning,  Antony explains that whatever Brutus has stated Antony will go along with it. Antony begins a step by step denouncement of these "honorable men."

Brutus says Caesar was ambitious.

From his battles, he brought ransom and bounty home to Rome to reinforce the wealth of the city.

When the citizens have cried out to Caesar, he wept for them.

Caesar refused the crown three times before he finally accepted it.

Have the people of Rome ever loved Caesar?

Before Caesars's death, Romans would have done whatever Caesar wanted.

Is there no one now to pay Caesar homage?

Who are these men who killed Caesar?

They are all honorable men (sarcasm) who took their handerchiefs and dipped them in the blood of Caesar.

And they took a hair from his head to offer up for posterity.


Here is his will. (Reverse psychology)

 But I will not read it to you. You do not need to know that you are his heirs.

Antony brings out the covered bloody body of Caesar for its shock value.

Antony points out each wound attributing it to a different assassin.

Antony describes Caesar's final moments.

Caesar covered his face with his cloak.

He dropped at the foot of Pompey's statue.

Antony is ready to bring the mob to a frenzy.

He mentions treason.

He mentions the names of the specific murderers.

Antony does not know why they killed Caesar if not for their personal gain, but they have.

Antony takes on the role of humility.

He is no orator. He is not intelligent.

He is just a loyal friend of Caesars

If he could change places with Brutus and vice versa, Antony would strike out at Brutus.

Antony tells the mob exactly what he wants them to do: search out the assassins and kill them.

Just as the mob rushes to leave, Antony reminds them of Caesar's will. Do they want to hear it?

Caesar wanted every Roman to have a large sum of money.

He gave his gardens and land to serve as parks and recreation for the citizens.

The mob can no longer contain themselves. With hardened hearts, the citizens rush off to find the assassins and kill them. Finally, Antony has led the Romans to the conclusion that these are not honorable men but murderers who have taken the greatest Roman of all time away from the citizens.

And Antony knows that he has completed his task:

Now let it work. Mischief, thou art afoot.

Take thou what course thou wilt.


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