''Oh mighty Caesar! Dost thou lie so low?'' (3.1.148)1 are the first words which Mark Antony2 says after Caesar's death. He now becomes one of the main characters in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. Antony is a noble man, he is married to his faithful wife Octavia and is loved by his soldiers. (Shakespeare 25,82) At the beginning of the play, Antony has very little to say, only 19 words es-cape him before the tyrannicide. (Shakespeare 68)3 He is mentioned rather seldom, but nonetheless plays an important role, for he offers Caesar the crown thrice. His career was impressive and so was his talent of speaking. ''Antony's words are always engaged with the feelings of his audience, and chosen for that reason.'' (Shakespeare 73) He knows how he can control his listeners and therefore his funeral oration is one of the most remembered speeches in history. (Humes xvii) Although he is not present at the assassination, he afterward shakes hands with the conspirators to be safe from any punishment and to assure them that he wants to do them no harm. Therefore, and because he is one of Caesar's closest friends, Brutus allows him to hold a funeral oration.
This paper will show which rhetorical strategies Antony uses to convince the plebeians of his opinion, that Caesar was murdered and no tyrant and therefore should be avenged. After Brutus' speech the audience is sure that it was tyrannicide and that they should be happy, so Antony did not have an easy task in convincing them, especially because he could not plot the rebellion openly because then he would have broken his word not to blame the conspirators. (3.1.245) So he has to use several stylistic devices and pretend that the audience plots it all by themselves and to analyze how the mood in the public changes throughout his speech is fascinating to retrace.
2. The Funeral Oration
Antony's speech is highly poetic, he uses various stylistic devices to make the audience believe his point of view of the tragic events. It has the remarkable length of almost 1,100 words and is divided into four parts, always interrupted by Antony's curious audience. (Shakespeare 72)
He starts his speech by addressing his audience, but he does so in a very clever way: Brutus earlier started his speech the other way round and addressed the audience first in a political and then a more private way. (''Romans, countrymen and lovers, . . .'' 3.2.14) Antony however, first addresses them in a friendly way and makes them listen to him not as a political person, but as a human per - son, grieving about Caesar's death like they do. Therefore, ''Friends, Romans, countrymen'' (3.2.74) is the more appropriate start for this oration. He then asks for their attention, as every skilled speak- er should.
He starts with his most important stylistic device: irony. His next words ''I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him'' (3.2.75) are in so far ironic, because he afterward does exactly what he said he would not: he remembers Caesar as the great man he was and reminds his audience of all the battles Caesar won and what he did for his subjects and the empire. Irony is important because the audience does not know stylistic devices. ''To the Roman mob, . . . there is no device in the speech, no irony. For them, Antony is innocently pointing out some obvious facts about his dead friend . . . To us, this is irony, a device; to the mob, it is merely plain speaking.'' (Gross 323) In the sentence, another figure of speech is hidden which is called praeteritio: Antony talks about not talking about Caesar's victories and thereby highlights them.
Antony then uses his next device in constructing a refrain. He keeps on repeating that Brutus earlier said that Caesar was ambitious and that ''Brutus is an honourable man'' (3.2.83,88,95) and therefore can be trusted. But Antony's intention is not to support the conspirators, but ''to inflame the Roman mob against the conspirators'' and therefore ''he must show that the real character of Caesar was such that the conspirators were murderers, rather than assassins, criminals rather than patriots.'' (Gross 122) He also recalls the most recent event, when he offered Caesar the crown ''[w]hich he did thrice refuse'' and leaves the conclusion to his audience: ''Was this ambition?'' (3.2.97)
After Brutus' speech, the audience clearly agrees to the murder of Caesar.
This Caesar was a tyrant.
3 Plebeian Nay, that's certain.
We are blest that Rome is rid of him. (3.2.69-71)
But after Antony's speech they are no longer sure about their opinions. This is another important character trait of Antony: ''Aware of the respect the plebeians have for Brutus, Antony does not directly contradict Brutus’s claims, but the plebeians become unsure of where the truth lies.'' (Yu 99) Antony uses this confused state to convince them of his opinion.
He then accentuates his grief through different stylistic devices. At first, he says that his ''heart is in the coffin there with Caesar'' (3.2.107). This is of course not meant literally but a metaphor, a strong and often used resource wherein a subject stands for something else, in this case Antony's heart stands for his good mood, his friendship to Caesar and love to him. To stress this even more he could go on to talk about it, but instead he uses another poetic medium: he clarifies the loss by making a pause. ''And I must pause till it [the heart] come back to me.'' (3.2.108) This trick is an - other rhetoric figure called aposiopesis which means the artful placing of pauses.
The plebeians can empathize with Antony and believe his words because he is personally affected. ''Poor Soul, his eyes are red as fire with weeping.'' (3.2.116) He now reached another goal: Antony confirmed his ethos, which means his integrity as a speaker. The audience believes him and trust in what he tells them. Antony does so by using pathos, a very emotional form of speaking. ''There's not a nobler man in Rome than Antony.'' (3.2.117)