Give a summary of Mark Antony's speech in Julius Caesar, mentioning some persuasive techniques found in it.

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Antony's funeral oration shows the power of persuasive speaking as he turns a hostile audience into true believers for his own purposes. Antony employs several persuasive techniques in his speech, including emotional appeal. After first claiming that his intention is not to praise Caesar, he says, "He was my friend, faithful and just to me." Antony's love for Caesar is an emotion with which the audience can identify. From that point forward, Antony's speech points out many of Caesar's acts that had benefited them as Roman citizens. He reminds them of their former love for Caesar. He tempts them by mentioning Caesar's will, hinting that Caesar had been generous to them.

Antony then employs another persuasive technique, anecdote. As Antony stands beside Caesar's body, he recalls the first time he saw Caesar put on the mantle that now covers him, ripped and shredded by the assassins' daggers. In this anecdote, Antony mentions it was the day that Caesar had defeated one of Rome's fiercest enemies. Using Caesar's body as a dramatic prop, Antony points out the tears in Caesar's cloak, relives the assassination from Caesar's point of view, and finally pulls away the cloak to reveal Caesar's mutilated corpse. Playing upon the crowd's new pity for Caesar, Antony then directs them to mutiny.

Throughout this speech, Antony very effectively uses rhetorical questions, repetition, and verbal irony to sway his audience. His insistence that "Brutus is an honorable man" takes on a tone of powerful sarcasm when juxtaposed against Caesar's good deeds and Brutus' betrayal of him. Antony returns again and again to this increasingly sarcastic observation. Antony's masterful use of the rhetorical question can be seen in this passage from his speech:

You all did see that on the Lupercal

I thrice presented [Caesar] a kingly crown,

Which he did thrice refuse. Was this ambition?

The answer to Antony's question within this context clearly is understood, driving home his contention that Caesar was slain for no good reason. As a speaker, Antony demonstrates he is a master of persuasive techniques, including emotional appeal, anecdotes, repetition, verbal irony, and rhetorical questions. He also employs figurative language to greatest effect: Brutus, he points out with irony, was "Caesar's angel."

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