Why did Mark Anthony hold strong public support for the leadership role after Caesar was killed in Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare?
In Act III of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Marc Antony's excellent funeral oration convinces the commoners that he has been under-appreciated for his talents. In the scene before he comes out to speak, Antony is motivated by his promise to the spirit of Julius Caesar that he will make the assassins pay for what they have done.
In his funeral oration, Antony begins by complimenting Brutus so that he does not immediately anger the crowd. Then, he goes to work showing that the spoken word is more powerful than either the written word or the sword.
- Antony equates himself with the common people by calling them his friends and using words that make him sound like a peer to the common man.
- He cries over the body of Caesar which shows how much he loved Caesar. The crowd does not see weakness but a great love.
- He shows what he did for Caesar. He offered him the crown. He ran for him on the Lupercal.
- He fought side by side with Caesar in great battles.
- Antony procures Caesar's will and tells them that he has given the crowd money and lands. Antony is associated with this gesture and gift.
He uses the words that made all of the citizens weep: "He was my friend, faithful and just to me."
He names the most important of the conspirators and points out how they have wronged Caesar.
The commoners are willing to listen to anything that Antony has to say:
Poor soul, [Antony] his eyes are red as fire with weeping.
There's not a nobler man in Rome than Antony.
Antony has convinced the Roman citizens of his sincerity about Caesar and his wrath against the assassins. He knows that he has turned the dogs of war loose on all of the murderers.
After the crowd has gone to kill and hunt down the conspirators, Antony learns that Brutus and Cassius had fled from Rome. He takes the credit because of his speech.
One of his servants tells him that Octavius and Lepidus await him at Caesar's house. Octavius is the rightful heir of Caesar since the latter had no children with his wife. He will begin the journey with Antony. It is obvious that he has disdain for Antony because he crosses him at every turn.
Octavius will eventually cause Antony's downfall. Until then, they will be the new government or triumvirate along with Lepidus, another general and senator.