Many critics argue that in Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar the key scene is in Act III Scene II when Brutus and then Mark Anthony address the crowd after Caesar has been murdered. I believe this is true because the whole play is dependent on the outcome of this scene, which becomes a war of words. If Brutus wins, the play is over, with him taking the role as head of the senate and then probably having to kill Mark Anthony, as he is too dangerous, and too much of a political threat.
But if Mark Anthony wins he gets his chance to revenge his beloved friend by killing Brutus and the other conspirators. I know that after Caesar’s assassination Mark Anthony is fuming with rage and wants nothing but retribution. ‘… Mothers shall but smile when they behold their infants quartered with the hands of war. ‘ This gruesome image portrays the feelings of Mark Anthony clearly grieving the fact that his friend has been murdered, and when someone is grieving such a great loss they sometimes wish to see others suffer as they are suffering.
This play depicts the turmoil within politics that we can still see today; many politicians lie and cheat to achieve their goals, certain western leaders have convinced soldiers to still keep looking for Nuclear weapons in Iraq. Many people say the first true political state was the Republic of Rome before it was malformed to the Roman Empire. Julius Caesar is set just before this transformation; the conspirators led by Brutus set out but fail to stop this. In my opinion they also assist it, by killing Caesar they demonstrate to the public the infectivity and corruption of politics.
Thus paving the way for an Emperor who comes in the form of Julius Caesar’s adopted son Octavius. In this play I will be looking at the political effect of this scene as well as some of the drama through many language devices. Such as the structure of the speech; how they were delivered and which speech was more effective in winning over he crowd. I will examine the structure of the actual scene; how the crowd behave and react to each speaker. Also I will look at the use of Shakespeare’s language within the speech. I will delve into the character of Brutus and Mark Anthony who are the main personalities in this play.
The character of Brutus I believe is a very honourable but nai?? ve one, through the beginning of the play Brutus is fighting with emotion and torn between two loves. On one side is his friend Caesar and on the other what he believes is the good of Rome. Which has been planted by the wickedness of Cassius who has been described by Caesar himself to have a ‘hungry look about him,’ meaning he looked greedy. Cassius is the only character to show a sign of true evil behind him as he manipulates men to form the conspirators.
Brutus in the end chooses one of his loves and explains it clearly in his speech to the crowd. Not that I loved Caesar less but I loved Rome more’. Brutus shows his naivety when he lets Anthony speak to the crowd even after Cassius warning, he overrules this to show honour in allowing Caesar to be buried properly. Many say Brutus is doomed from this point but others argue he has a chance as he is known as an orator, if he speaks last he may be able to get the crowd on his side. Again Brutus is nai?? ve when he lets Anthony speak last as he can calm the crowd down after Mark Anthony’s speech because they will be obliged to listen to both sides of the story.
At the end even Mark Anthony and Octavius have to agree that Brutus was a just man and a worthy opponent when they say ‘he was the most honourable Roman of them all. ‘ Mark Anthony on the other hand was a cunning and diplomatic man much more likely to be the villain and as it were not for the love and loyalty of Caesar maybe he would be. Anthony uses his cunning to get a chance to address the crowd he shakes the conspirators hands and bloodies himself to look as if he is one of them this pushes Brutus to accept his proposal.
We see after the conspirators have left him alone with the corpse of Caesar Mark Anthony apologies for shaking hands with what he calls ‘butchers’ and in a passionate speech he promises revenge. He says ‘… cry havoc and lit slip the dogs of war’. This means that he promises a bloody civil war another sign of his cunning as he pretends to be allied with the conspirators. During the speech Mark Anthony uses his cunning to manipulate the crowd very well. He knows they are simple folk who have know political power other than being voters so he pretends to be on of them; the average man.
He says, ‘I am not an orator like Brutus is’ when clearly he is as he has been delivering his speech for about ten minutes and carries on for about another ten minutes. From this we can analyse Mark Anthony as a very sly person. It is important to look at the first few words of Brutus’ speech, he says, ‘Romans, countrymen, and lovers’. This initiates the speech very well as this shows he cares for Romans and countrymen more that lovers such as Caesar. Than he meticulously goes through each of his points explaining why he did what he did.
At first he honours Caesar and praises him. ‘If there be any in this assembly that, any dear friend of Caesar’s to him I say, that Brutus’ love for Caesar was no less than his. ‘ Here Brutus is showing his love for Caesar to be on the same side as the crowd because at this time the crowd is still angry with the conspirators. Then he explains what Caesar has done wrong, ‘… death for his ambition’. Brutus accuses Caesar of being ambitious, as I have looked deeper into this I have realised that the ambition Brutus was talking about was the ambition to become Emperor.
This will mean that the Romans will be subjects a thought very foreign until recently to a Roman as they have had a political system in place for almost five centuries, since the time of King Tarquin in 509 BC. He asks many rhetorical questions to get the crowd on his side. ‘Who here is so base that he would be a bondman’. Brutus is saying that if Caesar had lived Romans would be slaves. Mark Anthony’s speech is much less tactful and much more emotional, as he desires to incite the crowd into a frenzy.
He comes forward as a man who has lost his best friend; from the start he shows this. Friends, Romans, countrymen lend me ears’. This is contrast to Brutus’ beginning where he says Romans first meaning Anthony favours friends more than Romans as Romans can’t be chosen and may be bad where as you can choose your friends. ‘I come to bury Caesar not to praise him ‘ Mark Anthony chooses his words carefully as the crowd are know on Brutus’ side and will not here anything against him. Anthony says ‘for Brutus is an honourable man’, the crowd is happy to hear that because they have said ’twere best he not speak no harm of Brutus here’.
Then Mark Anthony slowly and skilfully goes through answering every rhetorical Brutus has asked. Brutus has said Caesar was ambitious for this Anthony goes through many examples of Caesars kindness for the crowd. ‘He was my friend, faithful and just to me’, ‘ransoms did the general coffers fill’, and ‘when the poor have cried; Caesar hath wept’. These are examples of the good Caesar has done and how he has earned money for the public, which we will see later, is very much loved by the crowd. Anthony then says ‘ambition should be made of sterner stuff’.
This is the first time in his speech the crowd start questioning whether or not Caesar was in the wrong. Then Anthony gives another blow to Brutus as he reminds the crowd of what happened when he presented Caesar a crown. ‘I thrice presented him a kingly crown, which he thrice did refuse’. This is said to rid the crowd of their deepest fear that Caesar wanted to be Emperor and did and it did work with a lot of the crowd. ‘Mark’d ye his words? He would not take the crown; therefore he was not ambitious’.
Here we see the crowd turning against Brutus, furthermore they say ‘Caesar has had great wrong’. Now the crowd are siding with Anthony but they are not enraged enough to do the gruesome deeds that Anthony has promised so he appeals directly to their hearts. First he gets teary eyed and pauses the speech saying, ‘my heart is in the coffin with Caesar. This has the effect he desires as the crowd sympathise with him, ‘poor soul! His eyes are red as fire with weeping. ‘ As well as sympathising they acknowledge his nobility, ‘there is not a nobler man in Rome than Anthony’.
Then Anthony hits them with his secret weapon; that the public are the heirs of Caesar’s wealth. When the crowd hear this they go wild, they the conspirators ‘were villains, murderers’, and ‘traitors’. Followed by Anthony’s fake autopsy of Caesar’s stab wounds ‘in this place ran Cassius’ dagger’, ‘what a rent Casca made’, and ‘the well beloved Brutus stabb’d’. Al the stab wounds are covered with who stabbed where, this really hurts the crowd as they weep, ‘oh noble Caesar’. But this sadness is quickly replaced with hatred and there is a cry of, ‘revenge’.
The crowd start leaving yelling, ‘burn, fire, kill, slay’ ready to kill all the conspirators. But Anthony tells them to stay and reads them the well, which by the crowd’s reaction is a hefty sum of money. Then the crowd really go berserk and this time Anthony does not stop them. Instead he says ‘now let it work: mischief thou art afoot, take thou what course thou wilt! ‘ This is the bloody revenge Anthony promised. Both Brutus and Anthony to get the crowd on their side use Shakespeare’s language very effectively.
Brutus is very tactful in his use of language he first commands the attention and respect of the crowd. ‘Hear me for my cause and be silent that you may hear, believe me for mine honour and have respect to my honour that you may believe. Hear Brutus firmly takes control of the crowd but so they do not feel angry he compliments them. ‘Censure me in your wisdom and awake your senses that you may be the better judge’. He tells the crowd they are wise and have the power to judge him. Hear he uses the rule of three effectively; he also uses it with rhetorical questions with even more effect.
Who here is so base they would be a bond man? ‘, ‘who here is so rude that they not be a Roman’, and ‘who is so vile that they will not love their country. ‘ These rhetorical questions he asks as no one can answer against them or they would be branded as a traitor. Anthony uses very emotional language to stir the crowd into a violent mood where he can get revenge. To describe Caesar he uses words like ‘noble’, ‘sacred’, ‘kind’ and ‘great’. Later in the speech he slyly uses remarks like ‘brutish beasts’, ‘treason’ and ‘envious’.
He does this with out ever directly calling them anything but honourable men. Anthony repeats the phrase ‘Brutus was a honourable man’ through his whole speech. But each time he has done this it has been with an increasing amount of irony. By the end the crowd replied to the notion that Brutus was a honourable man. They said, ‘they were traitors: honourable men! ‘ Now even the crowd are using the words honourable men to describe Brutus with irony. I know this as they have used ‘they were traitors’ before it.