How did Brutus and Antony use rhetoric to achieve their objectives when addressing the people at Caesar's funeral in William Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In William Shakespeare's play "Julius Caesar", the funeral of Julius Caesar occurs in Act III, Scene 2. Brutus was one of the conspirators who killed Julius Caesar, despite being his friend and protege, because he felt that that was the only way to avoid the Republic being replaced by an empire. Marc Anthony was one of the supporters of Caesar.

The term rhetoric is the study of the different persuasive devices used in communicative acts. In ancient Rome, it was the center of the secondary curriculum, and most educated Romans were familiar with rhetorical textbooks, such as those of Cicero, the most widely admired Latin orator (and a character who appears in the play as a friend of Brutus). 

Brutus' objective in his speech was to make the citizens understand the motivations behind the killing of Caesar, and that it was necessary for the benefit of Rome, most particularly to avoid Caesar becoming a tyrant. Brutus attempts to establish sympathy with the audience by acknowledging Caesar's virtues, but also suggesting that his ambitious was destroying the Republic. Brutus relies heavily on argument from ethos, and appeals to patriotism. His tone is rational and placatory, trying to defuse the sort of mass emotion that leads to riots.

Marc Anthony is a more ambiguous character, himself a demagogue and somewhat power hungry. In his speech he tries to inflame the populace against Brutus and the conspirators, mocking Brutus in an ad hominem attack, and arousing passion by a pathetic description of Caesar's will. He uses several persuasive devices including a feigned reluctance to speak and ekphrasis, a dramatic visual rendering of the dying Caesar. 

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