Brutus: Good words are better than bad strokes, Octavious.
Antony: In your bad strokes, Brutus you give good words...
What does Brutus mean by "good words/bad strokes" in the above lines? & What is Antony actually indicating towards when he says "bad strokes"?
Here are the full lines.
Good words are better than bad strokes, Octavius.
In your bad strokes, Brutus, you give good words. Witness the hole you made in Caesar’s heart, Crying “Long live, hail, Caesar!”
Antony, The posture of your blows are yet unknown. But for your words, they rob the Hybla bees And leave them honeyless.
This is one of the great debates on rhetoric: what has more power, words or sword blows? Should a political leader engage in debate or let action speak intent? As a side note, the U.S. is facing this dilemma in the Iran situation. The Republicans want action (sword blows), while the Democrats want debate (good words). Brutus says that good words win out, even though he has used sword blows previously. Antony calls Brutus and Cassius "flatterers"; he says that Brutus's "good words" have been received as good by the listener(s) of Rome, but they have caused as much pain as sword blows (the assassination of Caesar), since Brutus lied when he told Caesar he hailed him as king. Obviously, Brutus was instrumental in the murder and seems a hypocrite to Antony. Cassius says Antony's words are like a bee's drone. He believes he is all talk.
This debate presents a triangle of argument, even though Antony is against Brutus and Cassius in the action of the play. Brutus is skillful at words and blows. Antony is skillful at words only. Cassius is skillful at blows only. Brutus, therefore, is the most politically adept and the most hypocritical.