Analyse Antony's speech and show how he turns the mob against Brutus and others.

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Doug Stuva eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Antony promises Brutus, in order to be allowed to speak at Caesar's funeral, that he will not speak in any way against the conspirators or blame them for assassinating Caesar.

Antony's goal when he does speak, of course, is to turn the crowd against the conspirators and thereby start a civil war.  In order to accomplish this, he uses irony.  He literally says one thing, while meaning another. 

Antony does this with a two-step process:

  1. He mentions good deeds Caesar did for Rome (make the people of Rome wealthy, turn down the crown three times, etc.).
  2. Follows the good things about Caesar he mentions with the refrain:  "Brutus says he [Caesar] was ambitious,/And Brutus is an honorable man," or some form of the same refrain.

Thus, the ideas that Caesar was ambitious and that Brutus is an honorable man are contrasted with Caesar's positive behaviors.  Here's an example:

...I thrice presented him a kingly crown,

Which he did thrice refuse.  Was this ambition?

Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;

And sure he is an honorable man.  (Act 3.2.97-100)

This verbal irony dominates the opening of Antony's speech, and the crowd begins to get the feeling that Brutus is not so honrable after all, and that maybe Caesar should not have been assassinated. 

In the speech, Antony also pauses so, he says, he can calm down and get his heart out of Caesar's coffin (metaphorically), produces Caesar's will which leaves money to each Roman, points out specific wounds in Caesar's body, and uses understatement by telling the crowd what a poor speaker he is, and that if he could speak as well as Brutus he would move the mob to riot. 

In the end, Antony's speaking strategies work, and the mob does riot.

Read the study guide:
Julius Caesar

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