How is the purpose of Anthony's speech achieved with figurative language?Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Marc Antony's funeral oration after Caear's assassination is given with two intents:

  1. It is meant to disprove what Brutus says about Caesar's being ambitious
  2. It is meant to turn the people against the conspirators and cause civil unrest.

These intents are achieved by Antony's effective use of rhetorical devices and moving emotion:

Since Marc Antony has had to agree to follow the oration of Brutus and since he has agreed to not blame the conspirators and to "speak all good you can devise of Caesar" (3.1.245), Marc Antony uses verbal irony to disabuse the Romans of the belief that Caesar was too ambitious.  For instance, when he says

But Brutus says he was ambitious,

And Brutus is an honourable man (3.1.94-95)

Antony juxtaposes this remark with an example of Caesar's noble acts such as bringing home "many captives to Rome" and placing their ransoms in the general coffers.  Then he asks the rhetorical question,

Did this in Caesar seem ambitious? (3.1.98)

In a like manner, Antony says that Ceasar attended the cries of the poor, but "Ambition should be made of sterner stuff (3.2.100).  And, he uses antitrosphe (the repetition of same word or phrase at the end of successive clauses):

Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;

And Brutus is an honorable man

A third time Antony uses verbal irony as he recalls that he offered Caesar a king crown three times, but Caesar refused it.

...Was this ambition? [rhetorical question]

Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;

And sure he is an honorable man. (3.2.106-107)

At one point, Antony pauses emotionally, employing metaphor,

My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar

And I must pause till it come back to me. (3.2.115)

After he recovers, Antony brings out Caesar's body and points to the places where "envious Cassius" put his dagger and Brutus, too.  Employing apostrophe, Marc Antony calls close attention to the character of Brutus with irony:

For Brutus, as you know, was Caesar's angel,

Judge, O you gods, how dearly Caesar loved him!


Finally, Antony breaks his promise not to speak against the conspirators as he foments the crowd by showing them the wounds of Caesar; and, when he addresses them, saying that Caesar has been "marred as you see with traitors":

But were I Brutus,

And Brutus Antony, there were an Antony [anadiplosis]

[anadiplosis is the rhetorical repetition of one or several words;specifically, repetition of one word that ends one clause at the beginning of the next]

Would ruffle up your spirits, and put a tongue

In every wound of Caesar's that should move

The stones of Rome to rise and mutiny. (3.2.236-240)

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