In Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar, how and why is Antony a more effective orator than Brutus during the funeral speech?
In William Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar, Antony is usually considered the more effective orator than Brutus in their respective funeral speeches for a number of reasons, including the following:
- Brutus’s language tends to be more abstract and less colorful than Antony’s. Thus Brutus begins by saying, “Romans, countrymen, and lovers! hear me for my cause,” whereas Antony begins by saying, “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears” (emphasis added). Even in their opening words, then, Antony’s phrasing is more imaginative, more vivid, and more poetic.
- Brutus speaks in prose; Antony speaks in verse, a fact which already suggests that Antony’s speech will be more rhythmic.
- Brutus tends to use less imagery than Antony. Thus Brutus speaks in very abstract terms when he says, with very balanced phrasing, “believe me for mine honour, and have respect to mine honour, that you may believe.” In contrast, Antony’s words, while similarly balanced, rely much more heavily on imagery and metaphor:
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones . . .
- Brutus patiently explains Caesar’s alleged faults; Antony almost immediately begins to stir up sympathy for Caesar, as when he mentions how “grievously” Caesar has suffered for his supposed flaws. In general, Antony appeals much more to emotion, and much less to reason, than Brutus does.
- Antony frequently, but with growing irony and sarcasm, mentions Brutus and his comrades, praising them for being “honorable” men even as he insinuates that they are actually dishonorable. He thus uses wit and implication to a degree not typical of Brutus, who tends to be very plainspoken.
- Ultimately, Antony bribes his listeners with the promise that Caesar has left them money. Ironically, it is this blatant bribe, as much as anything else, that turns the crowd against Brutus.