In Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare, what does caeser's wounds "beg" Antony to do in act 3?

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare denotes the death of Caesar and the aftermath concerning the retribution of Antony and Octavius on his behalf. The play’s climax in the third act details the assassination and the orations given by Brutus and Antony. 

After Caesar’s death, Brutus made a grave mistake in allowing Antony to live and speak at the funeral. Although Brutus’s oration was effective, his philosophical beliefs place him as a stoic who does not easily show his emotions or lean toward the dramatic to make a point. He honestly and carefully explained why he chose to be a part of the assassination and why it was necessary. 

After his speech, the crowd is not really interested in listening to Antony. Brutus asks them to listen to him talk about Caesar because he deserved a funeral.  Antony walks out carrying the body of Caesar covered with his cloak. 

Antony begins by showing an air of humility.  He covers the things that Caesar has done for Rome.  He interjects several times words that were used by Brutus to describe the assassins: noble and honorable. At first, he uses them as compliment, but as he becomes more emotional these words become knives in the backs of all of the conspirators. 

He further mentions how the conspirators bathed their hands and swords in the blood of Caesar to show that this was all the blood that needed to be spilled.  In addition, they took a hair from Caesar’s head to show as a souvenir of the occasion.  Antony’s tells this was to show the gruesome way that the assassins handled themselves.  Antony also uses the Caesar’s will to entice the Romans into understanding that Caesar loved them and wanted them to be happy after he died.

Then, Antony uses his primary weapon---the body of Caesar--- to shock the crowd into understanding that these men were supposed to be supporters and friends of Caesar.  How could they do this to the great man?

The wounds of Caesar

When he is preparing to show the grotesquely wounded body of Caesar, Antony points out each of the cuts that were made by the different assassins.  Then he takes the covering  from the body of Caesar, and the crowd becomes hysterical.

Then Antony tells them that he is not a great orator but he does know what is right and wrong:

I only speak right on;
I tell you that which you yourselves do know;
Show you sweet Caesar's wounds, poor, poor dumb mouths

And bid them speak for me. 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.

He tells the citizens of Rome that Antony will speak for Caesar.  Each of Caesar’s wounds [approximately 36 knife wounds] cry out for Antony to avenge him and bring down the assassins who killed him.  Shakespeare uses the metaphor of comparing Caesar’s wounds to each one serving as a mouth of Caesar crying to be avenged. These mouths beg for justice.

Antony finishes with the idea that if he were Brutus and Brutus were Antony, he would use Brutus’s oratory abilities to make the people rise up and strike down all of these murderers. 

Of course, Antony effectively sends the citizens out into the street to find and kill any of the assassins that they can find.

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Julius Caesar

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