Julius Caesar: what was Mark Antony's aim at Caesar's funeral oration?
Antony's aim is to start a mutiny which will drive the conspirators out of Rome and enable him and Octavius to seize power in the city. He had that intention at the time he humbly asked Brutus for permission to speak in Caesar's funeral. Antony does not, however, think this will settle everything. He foresees a long period of civil wars because he expect Brutus and Cassius to raise armies to try to regain power in Rome. This is forecast in Antony's soliloquy spoken over the body of Caesar in Act 3, Scene 1. The most pertinent part of that soliloquy is the following:
Over thy wounds now do I prophesy
Which like dumb mouths do ope their ruby lips
To beg the voice and utterance of my tongue,
A curse shall light upon the limbs of men;
Domestic fury and fierce civil strife
Shall cumber all the parts of Italy;
Where he says that Caesar's wounds "beg the voice and utterance of my tongue," he shows that he intends to be the one who will cause all the troubles he foretells in the soliloquy. Antony is telling what really happened in history as if it is yet to happen and he is describing it in a "prophesy."
In Act 3, Scene 2, when Antony has succeeded in stirring up the Roman citizens to the point where they go off to various quarters to recruit more rioters, to burn the houses of the conspirators, and to create widespread destruction, he says to himself:
Now let it work. Mischief, thou art afoot,
Take thou what course thou wilt.
Antony has gotten what he wanted. He does not know what the final result will be, but he wanted to create rioting and chaos in the city, which was exactly what Brutus in particular did not want. Brutus and Cassius are forced to flee the city and relinquish this vital power base to Antony, Octavius and Lepidus. Order is not finally restored until Brutus and Cassius are defeated at the battle of Philippi and both have committed suicide.
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