What did Shakespeare actually mean when he wrote Antony's speech -- "the evil that men do lives after them and the good is often interred with their bones."

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Shakespeare's famous lines extracted from Marc Antony's funeral oration are, indeed, profound. For, more often than not, people are remembered more for the mistakes they have made or the bad deeds they have committed rather than for the good works or positive contributions that they have made to society.

With these words from his oration, Marc Antony wishes to discredit the charges of Brutus against Julius Caesar in the speech previous to his in which Brutus accuses Caesar of being so ambitious that he might become tyrannical. Brutus then asks the Romans,

Had you rather Caesar were living, and die all slaves, than that Caesar were dead, to live all free men? (3.2.21-22)

Antony contends that Caesar's ambition was not present in many previous acts such as his conquering of other nations and bringing the "ransoms" back to Rome; he was presented a "kingly crown" three times at the feast of Lupercal, yet Caesar turned it down each time; furthermore, he gave money to the poor in the past.

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Julius Caesar

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