Mark Antony and the Thirst for Vengeance Shortly after his beloved friend’s death, Mark Antony delivers a magnificent and powerful speech to the people of Rome, mocking and undermining the previously well regarded actions of Brutus and the conspirators. Julius Caesar as a play focuses thematically on the idea of power and how it affects people. This speech is a result of dramatic changes within the character of Mark Antony, and an example of his revenge-fuelled, self-created power.
Antony employs a variety of effective rhetoric techniques in his quest to win over the plebeians. These include a combination of repetition, antithesis, emotive language and mockery. In fact, Antony’s speech is one of the best examples of rhetoric within Shakespearean tragedies. He remains indirect throughout the speech guides rather than forces his opinion onto the plebeians, who then accept it as their own. He relates with them and appeals to them on a stronger level than Brutus, and this is why his speech is much more effective.
He achieves this indirect approach mainly by antithesis – contrasting realism with the repeated and increasingly mocking phrase of “Brutus is an honourable man”. Such an antithesis occurs from line 87-91 in Act 3, Scene 2. “I thrice presented him [Caesar] a kingly crown, Which he did thrice refuse. Was this ambition? Yet Brutus says he was ambitious, And sure he is an honourable man. ” This is an example of realism as the plebeians were present in the earlier scene of the play, when Caesar ‘thrice refused’ the ‘kingly crown’.
Antony uses the rhetorical question of ‘Was this ambition? ’ to suggest the idea that Caesar was not ambitious, rather than force his opinion upon them like Brutus had done prior to Antony’s speech. The effect of this is that the plebeians start to question whether Caesar was ambitious themselves, and in turn question Brutus’ actions. The words Shakespeare has put in Antony’s mouth are not only persuasive in a logical manner, but are emotive as well.
He establishes an empathetic connection between himself and the plebeians through phrases such as “My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar” [III. 2. 98] This depicts Antony as the protagonist as the situation, and they realise the injustice that has occurred at the hands of Brutus. Shakespeare utilises theatrics in Antony’s speech to further enhance the meaning of his words. The dramatic device of the will, and the way Antony plays the Roman audience in relation to it, is one of the driving forces for the plebeians’ “mutiny”.
The use of Caesar’s body and the description of wounds enhance the sense of injustice of his murder, which also contributes towards Antony succeeding in his objective. Overall, Shakespeare has done exceptionally well in writing Mark Antony’s speech. Its significance within the play cannot be underestimated, as it is substantially important for the plot. The speech is also an example of how power can be recognised and taken up by a person, and also how fickle, yet important, the public is. This speech in the context of the play is a brilliant work of literature.