How does the Roman mob react to Antony's speech in Julius Caesar?

2 Answers

andrewnightingale's profile pic

andrewnightingale | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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When Antony takes to the pulpit, a citizen mentions that Antony should not say anything negative about Brutus, which indicates that they believed him when he informed them that he and the other conspirators had assassinated Caesar for the good of all concerned. They warm to Antony, however, after he has made his introduction. A conversation between some of the citizens at this point indicates their response. 

The four citizens who are mentioned express their sentiments. The first one states that Antony's speech sounds reasonable, while the second mentions that if one should properly consider the circumstances of Caesar's death, it seems that the general suffered a great wrong. The third citizen disagrees and expresses the fear that Caesar's death has opened the way for a leader far worse than the assassinated Caesar. The fourth citizen feels that the others have not fully focused on what Antony has said. He states that if they had listened carefully enough, they would have heard that Caesar had thrice refused the crown. This, he believes, indicates that he was not ambitious.

It is clear that the citizens are, at this point, still somewhat ambiguous in their sentiments towards Caesar, the conspirators, and Antony. Once they turn their attention to Antony, however, their feelings change and it is quite clear that they feel compassion for him. They refer to his expression of grief and decide to give him a proper hearing. Antony then refers to the will Caesar had left behind. He hints at its contents and suggests that Caesar's testament was so generous that the citizens would forever honor him for the bequests he had made.

This encourages the citizens to urge Antony to read the will. He cleverly keeps them in suspense by stating that he is afraid that reading it will inflame them and make them mad. He is obviously implying that they will want vengeance against those who have so maliciously murdered the generous Caesar. Antony keeps on playing with the crowd's emotions and gets them practically begging him to expose the contents of Caesar's will. The crowd denounces the conspirators and calls them traitors, murderers, and villains.

Antony plays the crowd like a puppeteer would a puppet. He wants them to reach a point of no return and drives their emotions to fever pitch. He knows that once he has them at the pinnacle of emotion and at their most expressive, nothing will stop them. When he realizes that the time is right, Antony informs them of the contents of Caesar's will and the impatient crowd explodes into a frenzy. They decide to destroy the conspirators and everything they own.

billdelaney's profile pic

William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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At first the mob is hostile to Antony. Then they gradually become interested in what he is saying about Caesar, especially when he reminds them of how they used to revere Caesar and of the good things he did for them, such as bringing many captives home to Rome, whose ransoms filled the public treasury. They are also moved by Antony's obvious grief. But nothing has such a strong effect on the mob as Antony's production of Caesar's will and his statement that Caesar has bequeathed a great deal of money and property to the citizens. Antony pretends to be reluctant to read the will with the intention of playing on their emotions. When he finally reads the terms of the will he has the mob entirely in his control and ready to riot. The real Marc Antony turned the mob against Caesar's assassins with a speech, but Shakespeare had to recreate the speech in English and in iambic pentameter without knowing what the real Antony actually said. Antony's funeral speech in the play is one of Shakespeare most memorable achievements.

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