In the play Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare, what does "If you have tears, prepare to shed them now" mean?

Expert Answers
carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Act III, Scene ii, in Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare might be labeled the funeral orations.  It is in this scene that both Brutus and Marc Antony speak on the death of Caesar.

Marc Antony uses much more emotion in his speech than Brutus does.  He appeals to the crowd through humility, greed, and sarcasm.  He also uses three properties to sway the audience: the mantle or cloak of Caesar, his body, and Caesar’s will. 

Toward the end of his speech, Antony intends to shock the crowd by displaying the body of Caesar. It would be extremely gruesome because Caesar had been stabbed approximately 35 times. This should move the crowd to want revenge because this was, to use today’s terminology, "overkill." 

Antony begins by saying:

If you have tears, prepare to shed them now.

He hopes that the mob or crowd of commoners will see the body and feel pity for the terrible death of this great Roman. He wants to cause them to weep for the death of their once beloved Caesar.

He begins by talking about Caesar’s cloak that is covering his body. Antony remembers when he first saw Caesar wearing the mantle. It was after a battle that Caesar won. He shows different holes in the cloak and mentions for the first time the names of the assassins besides Brutus.

  • He begins with Cassius who was the leader of the conspiracy.
  • Envious Casca (He actually stabbed Caesar first)
  • Well-beloved Brutus (Caesar thought he was his friend)

Here Antony really fires up the crowd by pointing out that Caesar thought Brutus was an angel and a good man. Caesar loved him and so this was the worst stab wound of all. 

Antony hints that this caused Caesar’s heart to burst from grief. He also begins to speak negatively about the assassins.  In this case, he says that Brutus was ungrateful to Caesar for all that he had done for him.

Antony continues, saying how Caesar took his mantle across his face and fell down at the foot of the statue of Pompey.  Using a pun and irony, Antony states that Caesar’s fall or death became the fall of Romans and Rome.  Antony now uses the word treason for the conspirators who up to now he had called honorable and noble.  He says that treason has thrived around them.

Antony looks out and sees the crowd weeping.  He says it is good that they weep because it honors Caesar.

Then Antony pulls the cloak off Caesar's body.

Kind souls, what weep you when you but behold they are crying and feeling pity for him.

Our Caesar’s vesture wounded? Look you here,

Here is himself, marr’d as you see, with traitors.

The crowd is shocked by the gruesome corpse. Antony finishes by saying that these wounds were caused by traitors.

Read the study guide:
Julius Caesar

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question