How do the citizens feel about Caesar after Brutus's speech in Julius Caesar?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The citizens are supportive of Brutus and seem to accept his characterization of Caesar after his speech.

Brutus has an uphill battle in his speech to the people after killing Caesar.  Most of the people are afraid because they do not know what is happening and their leader is dead.  Brutus, the head of the conspiracy, has to explain to the people why they killed him.  It is important to him to win over public opinion.  His speech is very aggressive, but seems to do the trick.

Brutus attempts to justify the killing of Caesar by explaining that he did love Caesar, but that Caesar was ambitious and dangerous.  To live under him was akin to being a slave.  Brutus considers the assassins liberators.

If there be any in this assembly, any dear friend of
Caesar's, to him I say, that Brutus' love to Caesar
was no less than his. If then that friend demand
why Brutus rose against Caesar, this is my answer:
--Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved
Rome more. (Act 3, Scene 2)

Brutus seeks to explain to the people that he did not kill Caesar out of his own ambition to take his place.  He connects himself to Caesar throughout the speech, using repetition to demonstrate that he is totally in control and not a murderer.  He loved Caesar, but he loved his country more.

Brutus’s biggest justification is that Caesar was a king, and that living under him made them all slaves.  This is powerful rhetoric, and exonerates Brutus and the others.

Had you rather Caesar were living and
die all slaves, than that Caesar were dead, to live
all free men? As Caesar loved me, I weep for him;
as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was
valiant, I honour him: but, as he was ambitious, I
slew him. (Act 3, Scene 2)

How do the people respond?  They are quiet during Brutus’s speech. No one heckles him as they do Antony.  This could be interpreted as respect and support, or as fear.  However, the people do not seem to want to even hear Antony speak, and this would seem to indicate that Brutus has won them over, or at least the most vocal ones.

Brutus’s power over the people is short lived.  He made the crucial error of allowing Antony to speak after him.  Whereas Brutus uses logic to try to sway the people, Antony uses pure emotion.  His speech is flamboyant and tears at the people’s heartstrings.  It also reminds them of why they loved Caesar.  Antony does not excuse Caesar, but he does accuse his assassins.  He turns the tide of public opinion against Brutus and the others, so that by the time the speech is over they are an angry mob—a weapon he points directly at the conspirators.

Read the study guide:
Julius Caesar

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