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 Shakespeare. The speech functions to nullify the effect of Brutus’ convincing explanation of Caesar’s murder, to hide his own intentions of revenge, to bring a culmination to the conspirators’ scheme of veiling their brutal act, and to shift the mood of the mob.
Antony knows that the crowd is convinced that Caesar’s murder happened in the best interest of Rome. He carefully tries to take a neutral ground to win the trust of the crowd-
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him
Antony says that Caesar is remembered for evil things after his death for the people of Rome forgot his good deeds. This directly calls for some reflection.
The evil that men do lives after them,
The good is oft interred with their bones;
Note that in the above lines, Antony uses the famous device “personification”. He personifies the attributes evil and good.
Another device he uses is "Tautology" for, as we see, he sends the same idea or emotion using different words and phrases in his entire speech. But, perhaps, the most powerful device used in his oration is “irony”. He calls Brutus and conspirators as “noble” and “honorable”, which, of course, he doesn’t mean at all. The intended meaning is divorced from the literal meaning and the audience understands it.
So let it be with Caesar.
The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious;
For Brutus is an honorable man;
So are they all, all honorable men—
As we see, after the end of every argument, Antony repeats the expression “Yet Brutus says he was ambitious, And Brutus is an honorable man”. This technique or device is popularly known as “Antistrophe”.
Antony’s oration is powerful, persuasive and has a strong emotional appeal (pathos). His also gets the advantage of giving the last word. He carefully presents his arguments that contradict Brutus’ claim that Caesar was ambitious and his assassination was noble.
I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
Which he did thrice refuse. Was this ambition?
He makes the plebeians believe that the act of murder was not noble and aroused from hatred by showing them the brutally stabbed body of Caesar.
See what a rent the envious Casca made;
Through this the well-beloved Brutus stabb'd;
He strategically reads out Caesar’s will in the end that piques the mob to seek revenge against the conspirators-
Moreover, he hath left you all his walks,
His private arbors, and new-planted orchards,
On this side Tiber; he hath left them you,
And to your heirs for ever; common pleasures,
To walk abroad and recreate yourselves.