Brutus makes the mistake of appealing to the intellect of the people rather than to their emotions. It's actually a case of the psychological mechanism of projection. Brutus himself is an intellectual, who agreed to join the conspirators because of an internal, rational process in which he weighs the checks...
Brutus makes the mistake of appealing to the intellect of the people rather than to their emotions. It's actually a case of the psychological mechanism of projection. Brutus himself is an intellectual, who agreed to join the conspirators because of an internal, rational process in which he weighs the checks and balances of the matter and concludes that doing away with Caesar will be for the good of Rome, not for himself personally. So he attributes to the crowd this ability to reason things out, just as he has done. Brutus is the one conspirator who did not wish to kill Caesar. And when he lays out to the crowd his dispassionate reasons for having acted, he does strike a chord with them, to the degree that at first, they don't even want Antony to speak, and he must quiet them down with the famous opening of his oration, "friends, Romans, countrymen."
The problem with Brutus's approach is that he doesn't understand "mob psychology." Especially in the midst of a crisis, the feelings of people when they are gathered together can turn on a dime. Antony appeals to their emotions. It's significant that Shakespeare has Brutus speak in prose. This conveys the dryness, the lack of visceral feeling in his words despite his sincerity. In the blank verse he gives to Antony to speak, Shakespeare uses the extravagant and untrammeled expression that is the essence of poetry, as distinct from ordinary, prosaic language.
Antony's method is to start quietly and gradually build to a frenzy of expression. His ironic repetitions of "and Brutus is an honorable man" work slowly upon the crowd, with each restatement punctuating the basic point that Brutus has essentially deceived the people through his outward respectfulness and the esteem in which he has been held. Antony's main point, however, is that Caesar, for all his supposed "ambition," was on the side of the people, the plebeians whom he is addressing. He also emphasizes his own personal connection with Caesar. In this, Antony is calculating but truthful. We know from his soliloquy in the previous scene that Antony himself has been torn apart by Caesar's death. His statements ring true, and when he weeps before the crowd, it's genuine:
My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
And I must pause till it come back to me.
Two things prove ultimately decisive. The reading of the will, to which Antony has been building up with his extended words, is the proof of Caesar's generosity; but the horrific sight of Caesar's body and the words with which Antony describes the wounds would be moving even to those members of the crowd who did not particularly favor Caesar to begin with:
This was the most unkindest cut of all!
These words with their double-superlative have, like so much of Shakespeare, become a part of our language, an emblem of the description of cruelty in any context. But the most remarkable thing is the dual implication of Antony's speech. His purpose, as he has told us himself, is to "let slip the dogs of war." But he is not doing this cynically; it is, rather, out of his love for Caesar and for Rome. The intensity of his language conveys a realistic joining of the positive and negative in human experience—in this case, to avenge the death of "the noblest man that ever lived in the tide of times," and to start a bloody civil conflict.