In the play Julius Caesar, what did Brutus tell the mob after killing Caesar?

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Jessica Akcinar eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Julius Caesar is known for it's speeches, rhetoric, and propaganda. Both Brutus and Marc Antony give speeches dripping with rhetorical devices and propaganda to the plebeians. However, Marc Antony, in the end, proves to be a far more effective speaker because Brutus fails to cover all of his rhetorical bases.

For example, Brutus begins his speech by calling the plebeians "Romans, countrymen, and lovers" (friends). This is his first mistake as later we see Marc Antony call the people "Friends, Romans, countrymen," using Plain Folks propaganda. By not addressing them first as "lovers," Brutus keeps a distance between the noblemen and the commoners, so they don't feel the personal connection to him that they eventually do to Antony.

Next, Brutus uses ethos by saying to the commoners to "Believe me for my honor." He counts on the fact that he has been an honorable Roman in the past, so he assumes that that will be enough to convince the mob that the conspirators had good cause to kill Caesar. He also uses logos in telling the plebeians that he loved Caesar, so he must have a good reason for acting as he did against the dictator. His reason, he finally reveals is the fact that he did not love Caesar less, but that he "loved Rome more." He follows this with the slippery slope fallacy, "Had you rather Caesar were living and die all slaves?"

He finally says that he "loved," "rejoiced," and "honored" Caesar for all of his good qualities, but killed him for his most evil quality: his ambition. He continues by asking the plebeians, using anaphora, "Who here is so base...rude...vile..." to be opposed to freedom, being a Roman, and his country. Of course, no one will agree to being these negative things, so they all have to agree that no one should be offended by the murder of Caesar.

Although he convinces the masses to not be angry at the conspirators for killing Caesar, he never gives actual facts and specific reasons for the murder. He simply states, "The question of his death is enrolled in the Capitol," meaning that the citizens can look up the records themselves. Antony, on the other hand, later shows the plebeians undeniable proof of the savageness of the plebeians, Julius Caesar's butchered body, showing far superior persuasive skills.

Brutus leaves the mob by telling them to listen to Antony's speech next, believing that Antony will only say positive things about Caesar and nothing negative about the conspirators. Unfortunately for Brutus, Antony has another idea altogether, and uses his exceptional orator skills to sway the mob in his direction. Ultimately, Brutus's fatal error was trusting that Antony was as "honorable" as he and would honor his word.

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Julius Caesar

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