How does Shakespeare use irony in Mark Antony's speech?

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Mark Antony’s funeral oration in Julius Caesar (act III, scene 2) is rightfully regarded as a masterpiece in the steady deployment of irony . Antony is both personally distraught over Caesar’s murder and deeply worried about the political future of Rome in the hands of the assassins. He does not...

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Mark Antony’s funeral oration in Julius Caesar (act III, scene 2) is rightfully regarded as a masterpiece in the steady deployment of irony. Antony is both personally distraught over Caesar’s murder and deeply worried about the political future of Rome in the hands of the assassins. He does not dare to challenge them openly, and he also wants to move the public to his side and away from the assassins’ position. Brutus and his co-conspirators have claimed that Caesar had to be removed because of his excessive personal ambition. Antony seems to endorse their views, tells the crowd that they have given him permission ("leave") to speak, and says that his intention is not to praise Caesar.

However, Antony proceeds to utterly demolish the conspirators’ claims, using irony in both direct statements and rhetorical questions. He sets up the rest of the speech near the beginning:

The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answer'd it.
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest—
For Brutus is an honourable man;
So are they all, all honourable men—
Come I to speak in Caesar's funeral.

Mentioning the wealth Caesar brought to Rome, Antony asks, “Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?” Similarly, regarding Caesar refusing a king’s crown, he asks, “Was this ambition?” On the third repetition of his statement about Brutus and honor, he adds one more word, “sure,” to emphasize subtly what his real meaning is:

Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And, sure, he is an honourable man.

By questioning “ambition” and repeating “Brutus is an honourable man,” Antony brings the assembled multitude around to thinking that Caesar was not ambitious but rather a humble leader who served his people’s interests, and that Brutus and the others are anything but honorable.

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