In what light does Antony paint Julius Caesar in his oration in Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare?

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Act III, Scene ii, Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare, Caesar has just been assassinated by the conspirators led by Cassius and Brutus. Brutus has spoken on behalf of the assassins explaining why they murdered Caesar.  In his speech, Brutus repeatedly accused Caesar of ambition.  According to Brutus, this is the primary reason that Caesar was killed. 

Marc Antony comes to the steps of the Capitol with the permission of the conspirators. [This was a gross mistake by Brutus who under estimated the abilities of Antony.]

In Antony’s oration, he uses every ploy possible to prove that Caesar was a caring man who loved Rome and its people. Irony, repetition of Brutus’s name, use of the cloak and body of Caesar for sympathy and horror effect---these are the devices and techniques employed by the great orator Antony.

Antony declares that he has come just to bury Caesar not to praise him.  [This, of course, is not true.] He first points out that Caesar was a beloved friend who treated Antony fairly.

Is Caesar ambitious? This is the first point that Antony made; and he reinforced throughout the oration.

Antony’s answers "No!"

  • After his battle, Caesar brought captured nobles or royalty for which someone paid ransoms. Caesar gave the money to the Roman government.
  • Caesar showed great emotion when he learns of the struggles of the poor.  Caesar cries for them.
  • At the feast of the Lupercal, Antony offered the crown three times to Caesar.  He refused it.
  • Caesar’s reputation and words were admired throughout the world.

In his will, Caesar gave 75 drachmas to every citizen of Rome. In addition, he deeded his gardens and parks to the people to use as recreation areas and parks. 

Antony draws the crowd around the body of Caesar.  This great leader lay there covered by his own cloak. He was betrayed by those he loved and by those that he had helped when he was alive. His body is gruesome from the thirty-six wounds that cover his body.  He has been defaced by the assassins, who dipped their handkerchiefs in his blood and plucked a hair from his head to give to their heirs as a gift.

Caesar, who considered him an angel, was betrayed by his trusted friend Brutus. When this happened, Caesar’s heart burst in sorrow.

This was the most unkindest cut of all;
For when the noble Caesar saw him stab,

Ingratitude, more strong than traitors' arms

Quite vanquish'd him

He covered his face and fell down dead. 

After naming the conspirators and showing where each had stabbed Caesar, Antony created a monstrous mob of common people who will seek revenge for Caesar and kill all of the conspirators except for Brutus and Cassius. 

Antony’s portrayed Caesar as a great leader who loves his people. He shared his wealth with the Roman people. He was not ambitious but desirous of providing a better world for the Roman citizens.

Further Reading:
Read the study guide:
Julius Caesar

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