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The funeral oration of Marc Antony in "Julius Caesar" is an excellent example of rhetoric used solely to persuade. Antony's employment of the word honorable in reference to Brutus and the other conspirators is extremely effective because he repeats this word as well as others such as ambition/ambitious and manipulates them ironically to cause the Roman crowd to be swayed. For instance, Antony says,
But Brutus says he [Caesar] was ambitious,/And Brutus is an honorable man./He hath brought many captives home to Rome,/Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill;/Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?/When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept;/Ambition should be made or sterner stuff./Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;/And Brutus is an honorable man. (III,ii,87-92)
Here Antony takes what Caesar has done and skewers its presentation to make it an argument against his being ambitious. By repeating the phrase "Brutus is an honorable man" in juxtaposition with his twisting of facts, Antony creates doubt in the minds of the crowd about the integrity of Brutus.
The greatest irony of Antony's manipulation of the word honorable is that he later compromises his own integrity by sacrificing his nephew for his own designs, and, in the final act, he comes to the fallen Brutus to truly laud him in an eulogy:
This was the noblest Roman of them all./All the conspirators save only he/Did that they did in envy of great Caesar;/He, only in a general honest thought/And common good to all, made one of them...(V,v,68-72)
In Julius Caesar, by William Shakespeare, Mark Antony repeatedly refers to Brutus as "an honorable man" in his oration at Caesar's funeral.
So why is this mockery? It's mockery because he's using the phrase sarcastically rather than seriously. He says that Brutus and the rest of the men who conspired to kill Caesar are honorable, but yet with his other words he shows them to be traitors. Each time he calls Brutus honorable, he also points out something that Caesar did that was good and then follows with something like "but Brutus says Caesar's bad, and Brutus is an honorable man."
By doing this, Antony is able to stir up the crowd against Brutus and the assassins. In doing so, he helps to cause a civil war in Rome.
An honorable man.
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