How did Antony convince the crowd in his funeral oration to seek revenge in Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare?

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Marc Antony's funeral oration is the emotional high point of Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare.  Brutus made the arrangements for the speeches and foolishly chose to let Antony speak after his speech. In addition, Brutus decides to leave the Senate area, so he does not hear Antony's speech. 

Antony has a mission. He wants to accomplish two things: prove that the assassination of the greatest Roman was a terrible wrong and then to move the crowd against the conspirators.  His oration accomplishes not only those things but elevates him to the status of the head of the government.

The crowd is still feeling the effects of Brutus's oration when Antony begins to speak.  Initially, he has to get the attention of the mob.

Antony begins by complimenting Brutus and calling him honorable.  His other strategy is to tell the crowd that his only purpose is to bury Caesar not to compliment him.

At every twist and turn, Antony will connect the killing of this great man to the name of Brutus.  The crowd will hear him saying it without prejudice but eventually they will not connect the two things together: assassination of the great Caesar and Brutus the assassin.

Antony lists all of the things that Caesar has done for Rome. He uses words of Brutus and twists them to show that Caesar was anything but ambitious.  He had refused the crown...did the crowd not see this happen. How is this ambition?

He asks important questions to the crowd:  Did you not once love Caesar? What has made you change your mind?

Antony uses his own emotions to show that he is a man that actually loved Caesar and is mourning his loss. Antony teases the crowd by showing them the will of Caesar.

You will compel me then to read the will?
Then make a ring about the corpse of Caesar,
And let me show you him that made the will.
Shall I descend? And will you give me leave?

He puts it away and instead brings out the body of Caesar. As he pulls away the cloak, he indicates where each of the conspirators has stabbed Caesar with special emphasis on the knife wound of Brutus.

His feigned humility comes to the forefront when he tells the audience that he is not the great orator that Brutus is. If he were, he would incite the crowd to seek revenge. Using reverse psychology, Antony reminds the crowd about the will and notes that they may not be interested in what Caesar’s will states. Of course, the crowd responds begging to hear the will. Antony tells the citizens all of the things that Caesar has left to the people of Rome. It is then that Antony’s oration sends the crowd out to find and seek vengeance for Caesar.

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Julius Caesar

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