Comparative Essay on the speeches of Mark Antony and Brutus
Julius Caesar is one of Shakespeare’s greatest works. It is about a group of conspirators in Rome who kill their king, Julius Caesar. The play follows the life of Brutus (at the time) – a conspirator yet an honourable man. His rival throughout the novel is Mark Antony- Caesar’s good friend. The pair’s likeness and unlikeness becomes clear at Caesar’s funeral where both make a speech justifying what one another is doing. Brutus appeals to the plebeian’s minds unlike Antony who speaks to their hearts and ultimately wins them over.
Brutus was first to speak. He approaches the podium with his hands dripping in Caesar’s blood. Brutus began by stating his case for killing Caesar; the crowd was confused and curious as to the reason for his death. Brutus’ justification was not based on a hatred of Caesar, but because he loved Rome more, he would rather see Caesar dead than his own country. Specifically, he says, “Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more”. He then reasons with their mind saying that Caesar was ambitions and would become tyrannical in the future, “As he was ambitious, I slew him”. To furthermore convince the crowd he asks them to “censure me in your wisdom” meaning they can judge him. To round off he challenges anyone to say that they loved Caesar more than Rome herself. If anyone had spoken out it would be a direct act of treason. This was because Romans saw the state as a living thing- driven by the people, for the people. To achieve his goals, Brutus’ oratory techniques were simple, logical, and rational. His speech was formal, controlled, and it seems that all of the sentences are perfectly balanced. Although he did a very good job at explaining to the confused crowd that murdering Caesar was for the good of Rome, he hadn’t won them over completely, “As Caesar loved me, I weep for him”.
Mark Antony’s speech is a piece of rhetoric. He accomplishes his objective of convincing the plebeians that Brutus is a traitor. He masters the use of emotion, subtlety and logic. He uses emotional phrases such as, “My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar” and “Oh judgment, thou art fled to brutish beasts”. This gives him a connection with the emotion that the crowd is feeling at the death of Caesar. This is what makes him the opposite of Brutus, rather than using logic he uses his heart. He begins by praising Caesar. This gives him common ground with the crowd, who also remember the things that Antony speaks of. He provides many counter-examples to Brutus’s claim that Caesar was ambitious. “I thrice presented him a kingly crown which he did thrice refuse”. This tactic works with the crowd as they start to believe him “marked ye his words? He would not take the crown”, (quote by a plebeian). This indirect way of showing the crowd his feelings makes his speech more effective; the crowd is guided but not forced to his reasons. Antony is ultimately the better orator because of his understanding of the crowd.
Brutus is clearly overmatched at Caesar’s funeral, both by Antony’s duplicity and oration. Brutus gives a reasoned prose speech that convinces the crowd Caesar had to die. Brutus then yields to Antony who expends the 137 lines of verse using his rhetoric and his emotions to incite the crowd into “a mob frenzy”. Quite a masterpiece for a man who denies any ability to “stir men’s blood”.