What language techniques can be found in the speech of Mark Antony to Julius Caesar's dead body in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar? How do they add to the meaning of the speech overall and the ultimate...

What language techniques can be found in the speech of Mark Antony to Julius Caesar's dead body in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar? How do they add to the meaning of the speech overall and the ultimate understanding of an audience?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Rhetorical devices are language techniques an author or speaker makes use of to communicate the intended message to the reader or listener. The ultimate goal of the use of rhetorical devices is to persuade the reader/listener to believe in the writer's/speaker's point of view. Shakespeare certainly uses many rhetorical devices to make Mark Antony's speech persuasive as he addresses Julius Caesar's murdered body in the Senate House, found in Act 1, Scene 3 of the play Julius Caesar.

The very first rhetorical device we see in Mark Antony's speech is the use of rhetorical questions. Rhetorical questions are questions posed to the reader of which no answer is expected because the answer is already obvious. Rhetorical questions are often used to emphasize a specific point. Mark Antony opens the speech by posing the two following rhetorical questions that essentially ask if Caesar is truly dead, and the answer to both questions is very obvious--yes:

O might Caesar! Dost thou lie so low?
Are all they conquests, glories, triumphs, spoils
Shrunk to this little measure? (149-151)

But beyond emphasizing the fact that Caesar is truly dead, these questions allow us to see the shock and anguish in Mark Antony's heart. Mark Antony has just asked two obvious questions because he is as of yet too much in a state of shock and anguish to accept that Caesar is unalterably dead.

Parallelism is also a very common rhetorical device, and there are actually many different kinds of parallelism. In Antony's second rhetorical question stated above, we can see a form of parallelism called asyndeton, which is constructed when a writer/speaker does not use any conjunctions in a list as would be normal. Dr. Wheeler gives us the famous example spoken by the historic Julius Caesar, "Veni. Vidi. Vici," which translates to, "I came. I saw. I conquered" ("Schemes"). If we were to write that as a more typical list, we might have, "I came; I saw; and I conquered," which makes use of the conjunction and. Using asyndeton can create an effect of "speed or simplicity" or even emotional strength, as we see in Caesar's famous lines.

In Mark Antony's second rhetorical question, we see asyndeton being used in the following list: "Are all thy conquests, glories, triumphs, spoils, / Shrunk to this little measure?" Not only does the use of asyndeton make that list look very simple and briefly stated, it creates irony since that list of achievements is anything but simple. Hence, in using asyndeton, Mark Antony juxtaposes all of Caesar's achievements against his death to ask if all of his immeasurable achievements have truly been shrunk in value to be reflected in a murdered man covered in blood and wounds made by daggers, which is a very ironic truth.

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