Julius Caesar Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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What Is The Dramatic Purpose Of His Speech

What is the dramatic significance of Antony's speech at Caesar's funeral in Julius Caesar?

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William Delaney eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In reading Plutarch as his source for all the factual information contained in his play, Shakespeare saw that Mark Antony's funeral speech was the critical turning point. Cassius and Brutus have control of events up until the assassination of Caesar occurs. But after Antony arouses the Roman mob to mutiny, it is Antony and Octavius who are in command and Brutus and Cassius who are in retreat. Since Shakespeare's plays were mostly in poetic dialogue, he must have welcomed the opportunity to recreate Antony's actual funeral oration in English blank verse. Shakespeare's version of the speech, beginning with "Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears," is probably the best thing he ever wrote. In the play, as in actual history according to Plutarch, Antony shows the mob Caesar's torn and bloody cloak and then reads them Caesar's will. These prompt the mob to mutiny, and the mob causes the mutiny to spread. Brutus and Cassius are forced to flee from Rome. From that point on they are fighting at a disadvantage because Antony, along with Octavius and Lepidus, hold the seat of power, while Brutus and Cassius are confined to the hinterlands, where they obviously have difficulties raising money and recruiting soldiers. Brutus made a fatal mistake when he granted Antony permission to address the mob at Caesar's funeral. Antony shows unexpected eloquence in his oratory--but he had several things to help him move the mob to violence. He had the bloody cloak. He had Caesar's mutilated body. He had Caesar's will bequeathing money and lands to the citizens. And perhap best of all, Antony had his strong emotions of love for his dead friend Caesar and hatred for the men who had killed him. These emotions--at least in Shakespeare's version of the speech--inspire Antony to be unusually eloquent, and that eloquence changes the course of history.

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Payal Khullar eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Mark Antony, who is a true friend of Caesar, promises Caesar’s soul that he’d seek revenge against the conspirators for his brutal murder. Shakespeare employs dramatic irony when Brutus takes Antony’s promise of not saying anything against the conspirators in front of the crowd for the audience/readers know Antony’s true intentions already. Unfortunately for Brutus (one of the conspirators), Antony gets a chance to address the plebeians alone.

Antony’s funeral speech (Act 3, Scene 2) is of great dramatic significance in the play. His speech is one of the finest and most remembered lines written by...

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