Rhetoric is perhaps one of the oldest disciplinary regimes introduced on the human race. Rhetoric is the study of impressive writing or speaking as a means of communication or persuasion. In William Shakespeare’s very famous play “The Tragedy of Julius Caesar” Marcus Brutus and Marck Antony, both Roman Senators at the time; give a speech at Julius Caesar’s funeral. Both speakers introduce themselves to the crowd in their own unique way with the usage of prodigiously different rhetorical strategies, therefore arousing in the Roman crowd greatly distinct emotions and reactions. Antony’s pathetic speech proofed to be the most effective. He was able to turn the easily swayed crowd against the “honorable” conspirators, and he was able to portray Caesar as a non-ambitious caring and truly honorable roman man. In order to accomplish all his objectives Antony used in his speech a combination of verbal irony, repetition, connotation, and imagery rhetorical devices while strongly appealing to the plebeians “pathos” emotions.
The rhetorical device Antony took hold of and made the central device throughout his persuasive argument was verbal irony. The use of verbal irony in his speech is so strong that it borders on sarcasm. “Friends, Romans, countrymen,… I come to bury Ceasar, not to praise him.” (Act III sc II 80-84) says Antony when introducing himself to the crowd. Knowingly that at that point Brutus was to them an “honorable” man he makes sure that he does not allow his emotions to take in and destroy his real intentions. He addresses the plebeians as “Friends” with the purpose of persuading them into believing that they were equal, and that he just wanted to say farewell to his passed, and dear friend Caesar. As his speech develops, Antony begins to plant the seed of doubt and anger in the plebeians hearts towards the conspirators. “The noble Brutus hath told you Caesar was ambitious…It was a grievous fault, And grievously hath Caesar answered it, … they all are honorable men” (Act III sc II 84-91) Here very wisely Antony is telling the plebeians that Brutus’s is an honorable, and noble man thus may excuses his wrongful act when killing Caesar. These contradicting statements “Brutus an honorable man/killing Caesar was wrongful,” already begin to create confusion and distrust about the conspirators. Once he had aroused this feeling of doubt in the plebeians Antony was able to continue with his argument with much more strength and confidence. A point extremely important in Antony’s eulogy was persuading the crowd to view Caesar as the most honorable man in Rome, whom was not ambitious as claimed by the conspirators. The evidence that Antony gave the crowd which persuaded them into believing that Ceasar was not indeed ambitious ,was that “He hath brought many captives home to Rome, whose ransoms did the general coffers fill…a kingly crown…he did thrice refuse…Brutus is an honorable man” (Act III sc II 95-116) Here Antony is implying to the crowd that if Caesar would’ve been ambitious as the honorable Brutus claims than Caesar wouldve kept all the treasures acquired at war for himself, plus he wouldve never rejected the crown offered to him three times.
Antony’s plans were working to maximum excellency. The crowd was torn, angry, and believing each and every word the noble Antony spoke. To make his speech even more effective Antony emphasizes on a mixture of repetition and connotations, which makes of his speech even more pathetically appealing. A word that is extremely stressed in Antony’s speech is the word “Friends” which Antony refers to the crowd. This word has connotations of confident, familiar, and trust which make of Antony’s image in the commoner’s eyes a positive one. The word “honorable” is excessively present in Antony’s speech too. At first, Brutus and the rest of the conspirators are thought highly of for being honorable men. Nevertheless, with the manipulative strength that he continuously uses this word to describe Brutus, the word becomes petty, no longer symbolizing loyalty and good for the commoners. The commoner’s begin to think that Brutus was not dignant of this word at all. This reaction from the commoner’s was very positive for Antony for Brutus’s and the conspirators honor was the only trait that excused them for murdering Caesar. “Bloody” is another word Antony uses with great consistency throughout his speech because of their negative, gruesome, tragic connotations. “While bloody treason flourished over us” (ActIII. scII 193) These connotations along with the tone in which they are told create a feeling or thought of sadness, and atrocious events in the audiences souls. This growing emotion in the commoner’s makes the respect and honorable view they had for Brutus and the conspirators slowly fade more into nothing more than the want for revenge.
The usage of the rhetorical device, imagery was also a powerful turning point in Antony’s eulogy. “Through this the will-beloved Brutus stabbed, and as he plucked his cursed steel away, mark how the blood of Caesar followed it” (Act III sII 177-179) The form in which Antony exhibits the mantle which covered the dead body of Caesar, and explain to the commoner’s the way in which he was recklessly and wrongfully killed he was able to incite in them a rage inexplicable with words. Antony specifies to his listeners which one of the conspirators were responsible for the many stabs and wounds on Caesars body. Brutus being responsible for the one right on Caesars heart. Following this image Antony also makes sure that the crowd would believe that Brutus had committed this atrocious murder not for the sake of Rome but for the sake of his own personal ambition. The testament was also another very good device Antony used to further alter the emotions of his listeners. “…gentle friends…under Caesars seal. To every Roman citizen he gives…seventy-five drachmas…all his walks, private arbors, and new-planted orchards,…he hath left them you and to your heirs for ever…” (ActIII scII 253-263) This will immediately destroyed the honorability of the conspirators, this image demonstrated to the plebeians that Caesar was never ambitious as stated by the conspirators. This was the last drop, the Roman crowd left Antony enraged by the wrongful crime committed by the impostors, liars, and murderers of the conspirators and ready avenge Caesars death.
Marck Antony’s speech is truly one of the most passionate and moving speeches of all time. It is amazing how Antony was able to take hold of each and every word he said and in the tone they were said, to further pathetically persuade the crowd into siding with him, meanwhile maintaining his true intentions unrevealed. In the end of his remarkably emotional speech he was able to accomplish all of his goals. He turned the crowd against Brutus and the conspirators, plus he was able to convince the crowd that Caesar was not the ambitious one but that instead Brutus was. Irony, repetition, and imagery were just three of the rhetorical devices Antony used to convey his wants and needs to his listeners.