Discuss the relationship between rhetoric and power presented by Shakespeare in Julius Caesar.

Expert Answers
rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The orations delivered by Brutus and especially Antony after the murder of Julius Caesar are a strong statement on the power of rhetoric, as well as, one might add, a cynical commentary on the fickle nature of the people. After the murder of Caesar, Brutus tells the people that he and his co-conspirators murdered Caesar because his ambition represented a threat to the Republic:

Had you rather Caesar were living and die all slaves, 
than that Caesar were dead to live all freemen? As Caesar loved me, I weep for him; as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was valiant, I honor him; but as he was ambitious, I slew him.

The people in the Forum are convinced by this argument, and pronounce Brutus a noble man, and his murder of Caesar justified. But then Antony delivers his famous speech (with the approval of Brutus, and he demonstrates how rhetoric can sway the common people by appealing to pathos. He describes Caesar in misty-eyed, maudlin terms as a gentle leader who was brutally murdered by ambitious and devious conspirators. Over and over, he sarcastically repeats that Brutus is an "honorable man." He then wraps up his speech by referencing Caesar's will, a document that he says leaves the people such a generous legacy that they would be inflamed at his murder. He then shows the crowd the blood-soaked cloak that Caesar wore when he was assassinated. In short, he stokes the crowd to a murderous fever pitch through his oratory. This is a powerful commentary on the strength of rhetoric.

Read the study guide:
Julius Caesar

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question