This scene is one of the highlights of the play “Julius Caesar” by Shakespeare. It follows the climax of Caesar’s death, and a great amount of tension builds up as the audience waits to find out if the conspirators, led by Brutus, succeed in their cause, or if they are punished for their crime. The main threat to the conspirators after Caesar’s death is Anthony, a very loyal friend of Caesar’s. Previously in the play, we have not heard much about Anthony, and this scene introduces Anthony’s character. As a director, I must emphasise his actions to show his personality clearly to the audience.
The story of Julius Caesar is very well known, so to keep the audience interested in the play can be quite hard to achieve. Although the storyline cannot be changed, there are other aspects of the play which are open to interpretation, such as the personalities of the characters. Before discussing the presentation of the speeches, I must analyse the characters’ personalities. When considering Brutus, I first thought that having taken part in the conspiracy and killed Caesar, he would be nervous and frightened of how the citizens and Caesar’s friends might react, and would plan carefully on how to keep himself safe.
His fear might also have diminished his belief in his actions. I thought this because he begins his speech to the people by defending himself and gathering people’s support-“Believe me for mine honour” and “Brutus’ love to Caesar was no less than his. “-instead of going straight to his reason for killing Caesar. Shakespeare also writes out Brutus’ speech in prose-this suggests that Brutus was trying to bring himself down to the people’s level to gain trust. Up to this point, Brutus has defended himself quite successfully, but then his naivety showed as he allowed Anthony to speak.
The fact that Brutus allowed Anthony to speak but told him to not blame the conspirators-“You shall not in your funeral speech blame us,”-might show that Brutus wanted the people to know that he has nothing to hide, but I think that it is a mixture of his belief in his actions and a fear of being blamed. His idealistic belief of what is right-killing Caesar and “protecting” Rome-led to his downfall and thus makes him the tragic hero in the play. Anthony’s character is simpler than Brutus’. He loved Caesar dearly, hated the conspirators for what they have done, and seeks revenge.
Anthony is very clever. Although his speech is full of emotion, he is still in control of himself and pauses frequently to listen to how the citizens respond. Anthony fully believes that murdering Caesar is wrong, but knows that to persecute the senate with a hundred percent honesty is not always the best solution, and lies during his speech. Brutus’ honesty (naivety) gives Anthony the advantage. After Anthony’s speech, the citizens’ would be completely persuaded and the audience should worry about Brutus’ and the other conspirators’ safety.
To achieve this, Anthony’s character should be commanding, yet also able to be sentimental, to gain the citizens’ pity and support. The crowd of citizens plays a very important part in this scene. Both Brutus and Anthony try to gather the support of the crowd. The crowd, however, is very simple minded and only respond strongly to statements made by the two speakers affecting them, such as Brutus’ comment on the citizens being turned into slaves by Caesar and Anthony’s comment on Caesar’s donation of seventy-five drachmas to every citizen in his will.
The crowd’s response and opinion is a test of the two speakers’ rhetoric skills. Brutus wanted to establish a clear and convincing tone to his case, and began his speech by addressing the crowd, “Romans, countrymen, and lovers,” This sets up his argument for the Romans’ honour (citizens, not slaves) well as he suggests that being a Roman is the most important of all, and Caesar would have denied them their honour if he was in power. Brutus is a good speaker, and should be confident and sincere at the beginning of his speech.
The crowd at this point should seem anxious and confused because Caesar has been killed by the conspirators led by Brutus, who was a noble and honourable person, they should a quiet sense of anger towards the conspirators but would still maintain their respect for Brutus. As mentioned in the character of Brutus, instead of stating his case first, he first sets up a defence for himself. Part of the reason Brutus did this was that his case for the killing of Caesar was very weak.
His only argument for killing Caesar was the assumption that Caesar would become tyrannical, therefore his speech would be focused on these assumed “facts” and would lack emotion, although his argument was convincing enough to fool the simple minded citizens. To further point out the fact that he killed Caesar for the good of Rome and not for personal reasons, Brutus praises Caesar for his good qualities-“as he was valiant, I honour him”-this comment makes Brutus seem fair, and would persuade the crowd to agree with Brutus.
Brutus should say this with an honest tone of voice and stress the word “honour”, as it was seen as the greatest value a person can have, and the crowd should nod and murmur in agreement. Making the crowd agree with him on a subject is also another tool Brutus uses to persuade the crowd, as it creates a “mood” of agreeing with Brutus, the crowd gets into a “habit” of agreeing with Brutus. This attitude is stressed more when Brutus makes a point about Caesar as a tyrant-“Had you rather Caesar were living, and die all slaves, than that Caesar were dead to live all free men? This clever rhetoric question balances “Caesar living, citizen die, all slaves” with “Caesar dead, citizens live, all free men” The citizens’ human nature of selfishness immediately leads them to the obvious answer, and agrees with Brutus again. It should be asked in a “surely not… ” tone, as if the suggestion itself was completely ridiculous. Brutus then makes his most direct, almost shocking statement-“but as he was ambitious, I slew him” To deliver this phrase convincingly, I don’t think Brutus should say it with aggression.
Instead, he should say in an almost regretful tone, as if killing Caesar was a duty he had to perform in order to keep Rome safe. The regretful tone can be achieved if Brutus slows down on the words “I slew him”, and should bow his head and pause before going on. The audience, at this point, would want to know the reactions of the citizens, and is quietly confident that Brutus is successful in persuading the citizens.
The crowd, if they were sensitive, “noble” people, would remain silent and mourn the loss of a great person, and accept that Caesar had to die, but the crowd in the play is a gathering of rough peasants, so for them to remain silent would not seem realistic. Therefore, there should exclamations of shock, but would soon settle as they realise the reason behind the conspiracy. Brutus then repeats his previous statements to reinforce his argument and to give the crowd time to think. This time, however, he should say the words, “honour, for his valour; and death for his ambition. in a much more strict, harsh way, because having explained it to the crowd, he can now be much more critical of Caesar. To completely turn the crowd in his favour, Brutus follows his statements with a series of rhetorical questions, “Who is here so rude that would not be a Roman? … Who is here so vile that will not love his country? ” He should ask these questions confidently, with passion, and should not give the citizens much time to think about them, so the citizens will go with the easy option of agreeing with Brutus again.
Having gained the crowd’s support, Brutus even vows to give his life, “I have the same dagger for myself, when it shall please my country to need my death. ” The purpose of Brutus’ speech was to make the Roman citizens realise Caesar’s faults, that Caesar was incapable of becoming a good leader. By doing this, Brutus clears himself and the other conspirators of the crime. But Brutus stressed on his defence too much, and made himself seem too “honourable”, so the crowd’s reaction to his speech was, “Let him be Caesar. This is not what Brutus intended the crowds to think, because making a new king would make the whole conspiracy pointless, as Brutus’ purpose in joining the conspiracy was to stop Rome from turning into an autocratic society. Having heard the crowd’s response, Brutus shouldn’t appear happy, but should be content that he has cleared the conspirators of the crime, so he steps down to let Anthony speak. Since Brutus’ argument for killing was that Caesar was too ambitious, Anthony must convince the crowd that this was not the case.
As the crowd was already in Brutus’ favour, persuading the crowd with force and aggression is not very likely to work, so Anthony based his argument on emotion and pity. His speech was in blank verse, showing that he is very serious about his intent. Anthony should appear sad and helpless at the beginning of his speech. If he started his speech by criticising Brutus, the crowd will not support him, as they have been fully convinced by Brutus’ argument. Anthony started his speech by declaring his “intent”-“I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him. This was a clever phrase, as it made the citizens look at him in a different way, made himself seem innocent of any motive and Anthony does praise Caesar later on. Anthony then gave the statement, “Brutus is an honourable man, so are they all, all honourable men” Anthony should say this phrase in an honest tone, and the crowd should agree. With this statement, Anthony begins his defence of Caesar.
First, he says, “He (Caesar) hath brought many captives to Rome… did this in Caesar seem ambitious? ” suggesting that Brutus was wrong. This should be said in a kind, persuading tone, as it is his first reason. When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept; ambition should be made of sterner stuff;” Anthony should say this in a questioning tone. He is gently reasoning with the citizens, not directing attacks on Brutus, making himself seem fair and “honourable”. He then cuts off his thoughts by saying, “Yet Brutus says he was (ambitious), and Brutus was an honourable man. ” He should say this thoughtfully, putting doubts into the crowd’s mind.
Giving another example, he says, “I thrice presented him with a kingly crown, which he thrice refuse. Was this ambition? followed by the statement of Brutus being honourable, though this time it can be made to be very sarcastic, he might even say it with a laugh. He then hints at Brutus’ faults, “O judgement, though art fled to brutish beasts,” stressing the word “brutish” would be effective, as it is an obvious pun, linking Brutus to “beasts” would make Brutus seem to be in the wrong. After his first section of speech, Anthony pauses, and hears that he has convinced the crowd that Caesar was not ambitious-“Therefore ’tis certain he was not ambitious. ” He then carries on his speech, focusing on the faults of the conspirators.
Anthony gave the citizens a false sense of power. This was shown as he began one of his statements with, “O masters… ” said in a pleading tone of voice. This was very clever as it made the crowd think that they were in charge, so afterwards, when Anthony makes another comment, it would seem that the comment was the citizens’ own opinion. During his speech, Anthony produced a powerful piece of evidence-Caesar’s will. He teased the crowd by saying that he will not read it. This makes the crowd frustrated, and when Anthony says, “I fear I wrong the honourable men whose daggers have stabbed Caesar;” This might be said sarcastically.
One of the citizens exclaimed, “They were traitors! Honourable men! ” This comment by the citizen “crossed the line”, and the citizens were immediately stirred up by it. Having led the crowd around the body of Caesar, Anthony told the crowd about Caesar’s victory over the Nervii, and casually slips in some of the conspirators’ names, “Look, in this place ran Cassius’ dagger through. See what a rent envious Casca made. ” He should say the names with hatred, and the crowd should look angry. Caesar’s bloody mantle is a very powerful device used by Anthony, and makes the citizens realise the full shock and horror of the murder. Here is himself, marred as you see with traitors. ” should excite the crowd, and cries of killing the conspirators should be heard clearly.
A very clear example of Anthony’s tactics of saying he won’t do something and then does it is shown when he says, “let me not stir you up to such a flood of mutiny. ” when mutiny is his purpose, and “I am no orator as Brutus is” makes himself seem innocent when the whole speech is leading the people to hate the conspirators, which is exactly Anthony’s motive. The climax of his speech is reached when the crowd roars, “We’ll mutiny. Anthony’s speech was carefully paced. He talked in a fast pace when criticising Brutus and the conspirators to build up the people’s emotions, and then slowed down when mourning Caesar to make the people regret the loss of a great leader, to feel sad and to hate the conspirators. Anthony’s speech is very successful. It has turned the people completely against the conspirators. After his speech, the audience would be impressed by his rhetoric skills and would fear for the safety of the conspirators.
The hardest part of persuading people is how to state your intentions while convincing people that it is definitely the right thing to do. Brutus achieved this by stating that if Caesar was left in power, then the citizens would be turned into slaves. The rest of his speech was based on this assumption-he cleverly made the people believe in his cause without giving a clear reason apart from stating that Caesar was ambitious. If the people took time to think about Brutus’ argument, they would have realised how weak it actually was.
Since Brutus’ argument was weak, Anthony could exploit that and cleverly used emotions to gain the citizens’ support. Shakespeare portrays the Roman citizens very much like the ordinary population of the Elizabethan society. Distinct characters of human nature are clearly shown by them. They have a sense of pity for the weak, but would still follow the strong and successful because they are selfish and want to succeed. They have a fickle nature because they do not give much thought to problems, and would agree with anyone who is slightly reasonable, regardless of their actual intentions.
Modern politicians are very good at exploiting this weakness in human nature, and can manipulate people easily. Great leaders, such as Hitler and Churchill, are famous for their speeches. Great rhetoricians could be given almost any subject and could persuade the people to agree with them. Even more important then rhetoric skills, a good speaker should understand human nature, and should know what the audience is thinking so he/she can adjust the balance of his/her speech to guide to audience to his/her intentions.