In Mark Antony's funeral oration from Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare, explain how sarcasm  persuades the audience

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According to historians, Marc Antony actually spoke in 44 B. C. on behalf of Caesar and against the assassins.  In Julius Caesar by Shakespeare, Marc Antony’s funeral oration stands as one of the great dramatic monologues in literature. Antony’s speech dooms the conspirators.

From beginning to end, Antony uses many...

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According to historians, Marc Antony actually spoke in 44 B. C. on behalf of Caesar and against the assassins.  In Julius Caesar by Shakespeare, Marc Antony’s funeral oration stands as one of the great dramatic monologues in literature. Antony’s speech dooms the conspirators.

From beginning to end, Antony uses many rhetorical devices to win the hearts and minds of the common people.

The oration can be divided into five parts:

The introduction

In this movement, Antony must get the attention of the crowd.  He calls them his friends, fellow countrymen, and patriots.  He tells the audience that his purpose  as Caesar’s friend is not to attack anyone.  In addition, he establishes that usually the good things that are done by a person are forgotten only the bad things are remembered.  Cleverly, Antony begins to name off all the good things that Caesar has done.

  • Caesar gave all of this money to Rome.
  • He was humble.
  • He longed to help the citizens of Rome.
  • He refused the crown.
  • Repetition and argument

In this aspect of the speech, Antony establishes a pattern of repetition.  By repeating words that Brutus used in his speech, Antony will begin with the words honorable and ambition in a non-threatening way; the he will move to sarcasm to prove that the conspirators were not honorable and Caesar was not ambitious. 

The argument established by Antony portrays Caesar as the greatest Roman of all times.  By pointing all of the things that Caesar did for Rome, he disproves everything that Brutus tried to explain.  Whereas Brutus killed Caesar for his desire for power, Antony will denote that everything that Caesar did was for the Roman people.

Pathos

Antony cries.  As one of the great generals and athletes of his time, this was an appeal to the emotions of the mob.  A hulking specimen of a man actually having to stop in the middle of his speech and move off to the side to shed tears for Caesar.  Every Roman in the crowd would have been weeping alongside of Antony.  Of course, Antony did feel sadness for Caesar’s death, but this was another ploy to gain support from the common man.

Feelings and emotions were running high during the speech.  When Antony brings out the body of Caesar covered with a bloody sheet, the crowd is mesmerized.  Then, he dramatically pulls back the sheet.  Antony was not present when Caesar was stabbed, yet he knows where each one of the conspirators stabbed Caesar.  When he mentions the wound made by Brutus, the crowd is ready to tear down the houses of the conspirators.

The Will

Antony brings out the will of Caesar twice.  The first time is a “teaser.” The second time the crowd begs to hear what Caesar has given them. The money was needed by the commoners. The added bonus of the recreational parks and land sealed the fate of the conspirators. 

But were I Brutus, 
And Brutus Antony, there were an Antony 
Would ruffle up your spirits and put a tongue 
In every wound of Caesar that should move 
The stones of Rome to rise and mutiny.

The Closing

The crowd is poised to be a murderous mob.  The last sarcastic remarks  tell the people  the assassins have killed the greatest Roman who has lived.  Here is his dead body.  When will there ever be another man as great as Caesar?  Then, Antony steps down into the crowd as though he is their equal.  The crowd breaks up to go to the assassins’ houses and kill them.

Marc Antony used rhetoric to manipulate the commoners to help him to punish the assassins.

 

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