Antony anticipates the crowd’s hostility when he tells the crowd that he did not come there to praise Caesar.
Mark Antony speaks at Caesar’s funeral after Brutus. He has made the arrangement because he knows he can use the speech to sway the people, but Brutus believes he will be persuasive enough that it will not matter what Antony says.
When Antony has the chance to speak, he immediately disarms the hostile crowd by telling them he is not interested in making excuses for Caesar.
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answer'd it (Act III, Scene 2).
Antony tells the crowd that he is not there to praise Caesar because they know how close Antony was to Caesar. The crowd also knows Antony is there to serve as the opposing viewpoint to Brutus, who represents the conspirators who killed Caesar. Antony meticulously paints Brutus and the others as murderers without seeming to do so. In fact, he calls them honorable men.
Antony also points out to the crowd that Caesar did a lot for Rome, carefully contradicting Brutus’s claim that Caesar was ambitious.
Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill:
Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept:
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man (Act III, Scene 2).
When Antony starts speaking, the crowd doesn’t even want to listen. By the time he finishes, though, the crowd is ready to burn down the houses of the conspirators. Antony is able to sway the people to his side and against the conspirators by reminding the crowd that Caesar loved them and they loved Caesar.