In Act III, Scene 1, the conspirators kill Caesar in the Senate. Shortly after the killing, Mark Antony appears on the Senate floor. As far as we can tell, he is genuinely shocked at what the conspirators have done. He also has to worry about what the conspirators have in mind for him, since he is an ally of Caesar’s. In fact, before killing Caesar, the conspirators discussed what they should do about Antony. After talking, they decided that Antony would not be a threat to them with Caesar dead.
Antony turns out to be much cleverer than the conspirators ever imagined. While he talks to the conspirators, he is thinking fast, trying to figure out how to turn the situation to his advantage. Once he ascertains that the conspirators are not going to hurt him he makes a request:
"And am moreover suitor that I may
Produce his body to the marketplace,
And in the pulpit, as becomes a friend,
Speak in the order of his funeral."
He is asking that he be allowed to take Caesar’s body to the funeral and speak to the crowd. Brutus grants the request, but Cassius pleads with him not to, knowing that Antony may still be a danger to them. Brutus, who makes a series of tactical errors, disagrees, saying:
"By your pardon,
I will myself into the pulpit first,
And show the reason of our Caesar's death.
What Antony shall speak, I will protest
He speaks by leave and by permission,
And that we are contented Caesar shall
Have all true rites and lawful ceremonies.
It shall advantage more than do us wrong."
Brutus feels that by speaking first, he will insure the safety of the conspirators against anything Antony might say.
Unfortunately for the conspirators, they have no inkling of how persuasive Antony can be. His speech on the steps is a masterpiece of persuasive rhetoric
, and it dooms them