The noblest Roman of them all
This was the noblest Roman of them all:
All the conspirators, save only he,
Did that they did in envy of great Caesar;
He, only in a general honest thought
And common good to all, made one of them.
The noblest Roman of them all, according to Marc Antony, was
Brutus—one of Caesar's assassins, and now a corpse at Antony's
feet. The note of regret here is ironic, to say the least, because
Antony raised the army which has destroyed Brutus.
Yet Antony now comes to praise Brutus, not to bury him. Of all
the conspirators, only Brutus thought of the "common good," and had
honest intentions toward the general populace [see THE
SERPENT'S EGG]. The rest merely envied Caesar's greatness; Brutus
thought it a real threat to the Republic.
Antony's words once again reveal his penchant for superlatives.
"The noblest Roman of them all" directly echoes "The most unkindest
cut of all" [see p. 173]. In effect, he paints Brutus, at
different times, both as a superlative villain and as a superlative
Roman. In both cases, Antony is supremely aware of the rhetorical
necessities of the situation.