In Julius Caesar Explain how Antony is able to work the crowd up into a frenzy with his speech.

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enotechris | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

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One of the many aspects of Shakespeare's masterpiece Julius Caesar is the theme of the manipulation of language.  Even at the top of the play, the tribune Marullus sways the plebeians from celebrating to mourning Caesar's triumph over Pompey.  This speech at the beginning exactly foreshadows how Mark Antony later sways the populace from accepting his version of Ceasar's assassination rather than that of Brutus.  His speech attempts to appeal to the reason of the crowd, wherein he explains the assassination to have been motivated by what was best for Rome. On the other hand, Antony's speech, which immediately follows, appeals to the emotion of the crowd and paints Brutus and the conspirators as "honorable men" -- used sarcastically to incite the crowd into condemning the conspirator's actions.  Antony point by point refutes Brutus, suggests to the crowd that Caesar was not "ambitious," had the good of Rome as his guiding principle, and implies that the conspirators should be punished for their deeds.  He further appeals to the crowd's powerful emotion of greed, by presenting Caesar's will.  He moves them to pity, by describing then showing Caesar's wounds.  Finally, he appeals to their gratitude by describing the parks that Caesar has left for the masses.  Clearly Antony knows he is manipulating the crowd through his words; at the conclusion of his speech, he says, presumably to himself, "Mischief, thou art afoot, Take though what course thou wilt."

 

Asimov's Guide to Shakespeare, Gramercy Publishing, 2003 ed., pg I-297.

 

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