In "Julius Caesar," how does Act III, Scene 3 add to your understanding of the commoners and the effect Antony's speech had on them?

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Act III, Scene 3 shows the commoners happening upon Cinna the poet, an innocent bystander who has the very bad luck to share a name with one of the conspirators who murdered Caesar. They seize him, and despite his protests, tear him to pieces in revenge for Caesar's murder.

The function of this scene in the play is that of comic relief with tragic and farcial overtones. However, beyond making us laugh and shudder, it shows us that the effect of Anthony's speech on the crowd has been both strong and lasting. In the very first scene of the play, we are shown commoners rejoicing at Caesar's victories (even victories over fellow Romans), and Casca's sneering account of the common people's cheers when Caesar refused a crown (Act I, scene 2) further reinforces the impression that there is powerful sympathy for him among the Roman masses. The gruesome farce of Cinna the poet's murder shows beyond all doubt that the crowds, who have been fickle in the past (cf. their abandonment of Pompey, for which they were bitterly reproached in Act I, scene 1), have been confirmed in their love of Caesar and their hatred for his murderers by Anthony's oratory. We can now be sure that the conspirators have drastically misjudged the popular mood, and that their plans are not likely to be successful.

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Julius Caesar

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