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Julius Ceasar 2 Essay, Research Paper

Caesar’s Funeral Speeches – “Justification versus Manipulation”

In William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, one of the most important and significant orations are the funeral speeches given by both Brutus and Mark Antony. At first glance, the funeral speeches seem to have no true significant meaning. However upon further investigation it is established that the speeches ultimately serve as the basis for the final outcome of the play. By exploring the speeches of both Brutus and Mark Antony we are able to focus on the key components which differentiate one from the other. Through this examination we are also able to comprehend why Brutus’ speech becomes one of justification and explanation, while Antony’s becomes one of manipulation and skill.

In order to evaluate each of the speeches, we must first distinguish the general purpose each serves. It is known that both Brutus and Antony desired to appeal to the Romans (or the people). However, the way in which each man went about it differs drastically. Not only did it influence the outcome, but each speech also offers a unique insight on each of the speakers.

Brutus’ speech becomes one of strict vindication, not only for the people of Rome, but for Brutus himself. He uses his “honor and nobility” as a shield to defend and justify his actions to the crowd. Brutus states that he has carried out this heinous act because of his love for Rome, and for the good of the people. (This is my answer, not that I have loved Caesar less, but that I love Rome more…” 3.2.21-22) In his speech he requests that the people use their “reason” to judge him. Although this captivates the crowd, it is not until after one of the plebeians cry “Let him be Caesar.” (3.2.51) that it is realized the speech is “merely too good for them.” (Goddard pg.322) Brutus begins to realize that liberty is not what the people wanted, but rather that they desire a powerful leader.

Although his speech serves the purpose for its practical effectiveness, Brutus later comes to discover that his lack of insight of human nature aided in the apparent hopelessness of his cause.

In comparison Mark Antony fully understands human nature and utilizes his awareness of it in his speech. Antony appeals to the passion and the distress of the people. What Brutus failed to recognize in the people, Antony used to his best interest. He realized that the people of Rome were completely incapable of acting with “reason” and he employed this inability to manipulate and control their emotions and actions. By using Brutus’ own explanations for Caesar’s death to begin his speech, Antony proves his validity to the crowd. By questioning Caesar’s “ambition,” yet never actually debasing the conspirators; He succeeds in “intentionally leading the crowd away” from any “rational” defense provided by Brutus. (Scragg pg. 78) Antony uses his own grief along with a series of fabrications to evoke the sympathy of the people. Through his eloquent and “honest” speech he is able to plant the seed of doubt into the minds of the people, and the crowd begins to contemplate the true motive behind Caesar’s murder. Antony understands the needs and wants of the people and uses this to prey upon their emotions and passions. He “dangles” Caesar’s Will in front of the people and then quickly “reels” it in again, knowing that the crowd will demand that it be read. Antony also recalls memories of the cloak Caesar now wears, while revealing his bloodied body, fully aware of the havoc it will reek, but unrelenting in his quest for revenge.

Although both of Caesar’s funeral speeches seem to serve the basic purpose of appealing to the people, their dissimilarity serves as a great significance. Brutus’ speech which appeared to be honest becomes a speech of “symmetrical structure, balanced sentences, ordered procedure, rhetorical questions and abstract subject matter, a speech of a man whose heart was not in his

words,” and ultimately became a speech of utter dishonesty.(Goddard 322) This along with Brutus’ lack of human insight aided in his inevitable downfall. Mark Antony’s speech on the other hand, “for all its playing on passions and all its lies,” proved to be at the bottom a truly honest speech because of Antony’s unconditional love for Caesar. (Goddard pg. 322) To that extent Antony had truth on his side, making him concrete and real rather then abstract, (Brutus) and with this aided in his successful victory.

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