The Tragedy of Julius Caesar
The Tragedy of Julius Caesar is perhaps one of the most important dramatic compositions depicting the Roman world as a republic, and one of the most studied plays written by William Shakespeare. Famous not only for the story of the planning and killing of one of Rome”s most noted Emperors, Julius Caesar, but also for the speech given by the captivating Marcus Antonius. This speech is better known as Julius Caesar’s Funeral Oration, spoken eloquently to sway and bend the minds of the Roman citizens to whom it was directed. It consists of possibly one of the most well known lines in Shakespearean literature, the dramatic “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.” (Shakespeare Act 3 scene 2 p.61 lines 74-75). Because Marcus Antonious, better known as Mark Antony or Antony, was a true Roman, his Funeral Oration did not land on deaf ears and was able to appeal to the Roman mob, that was to form and question the death of Julius Caesar. Mark Antony’s speech appealed to the true nature of the Romans, the sympathy of the mob, the indirection, ignorance, and indecisiveness of the citizens in the mob, and the rage that blinded the mob.
Mark Antony’s Funeral Oration directly coincided with the mob’s sympathy. The mob surprisingly did not show sympathy for Julius Caesar, but for Brutus, one of Julius Caesar’s killers, especially after Brutus’ speech that preceded Mark Antony’s. The sympathy for Brutus is best shown in comparison because before Brutus’ speech it seemed that the mob had no particular emotion except respect for Brutus. One example of Brutus‘~ new found sympathy occurred after Brutus’ speech, when the Roman mob was screaming “Live, Brutus! Live, live!” in response to Brutus saying that he would kill himself (Shakespeare Act 3 scene 2 p.59 line 49). Also upon Brutus’ exiting and Mark Antony entering the pulpit, the crowd screamed a 'Twere best he speak no harm of Brutus here!” (Shakespeare Act 3 scene 2 p.60 lines 69-70). This is another example of the crowd’s sympathy for Brutus. It could be interpreted that the mob’s sympathy affected their decision of whom to give their loyalty to and believe. Mark Antony chose to draw upon and use the mob’s sympathy in his Funeral Oration. He clearly called Brutus noble in the first of his speech and later made many references to Brutus’ character by saying “Brutus is an honorable man” (Shakespeare Act 3 scene 2 p. 61-62 lines 84,89,96) three times in his relatively short speech and paraphrasing it one more time near the end of his speech. Because of Mark Antony’s ability to say good of Brutus, he not only related to the mob, but also gained sympathy for himself . The line “My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar, And I must pause till it come back to me.” (Shakespeare Act 3 scene 2 p.62 lines 107-108) and Antony weeping also gained tremendous sympathy from the mob. Thus contributing to Mark Antony’s success in winning the mob over.
Another quality of the mob that Mark Antony was able to present and work with in his Funeral Oration speech was indirection, ignorance, and indecisiveness. The mob in this act were not one sided. They tended to sway back and forth between sides and Mark Antony took advantage of this indecision. Mark Antony’s decision to talk to the Romans after Brutus was very strategic. Because the mob had listened and took in what Brutus said, they were already on his side when Mark Antony took the stand. So, Mark Antony made his point to appeal to the Romans and their nature by outdoing Brutus. Mark Antony was able to change the minds of the Romans in the mob by quoting them on Caesar in saying “You all did love him once, not without cause. What cause withholds you then to mourn for him?” (Shakespeare Act 3 scene 2 p.61 lines 104-105). By saying this Mark Antony used the mobs own actions against them, which forced the mob to backtrack and think about their choice. With this backtracking comes doubt of Brutus and willingness to side with Mark Antony especially to prove their old decision to love Caesar right, so as not to be wrong. The repercussions of this was that Mark Antony gained friends and Brutus gained enemies.
Blinding anger, the final and possibly most dangerous quality of the Roman mob. The mob having been left out on the action and story were not happy in this scene of the play, The Tragedy of Julius Caesar. This unhappiness was demonstrated at the beginning of scene 2 with the line We will be satisfied! Let us be satisfied! (Shakespeare Act 3 scene 2 p.58 line 1). The meaning of this line was the plebeians demanding answers as to what had happened and why. And, although Brutus answered the mob in his speech he also made, what would be proven by Mark Antony as false accusations. This could only heighten the mob’s anger. Not only did Brutus make false accusations, but he also riled up the mob with these accusations so that when Mark Antony came on stage he was bombarded with statements against Caesar such as “This Caesar was a tyrant.” (Shakespeare Act 3 scene 2 p.60 line 71). This, however worked in Antony’s advantage in that he would be known to calm the mobs image of Caesar and then, anger the crowd even more that Brutus had lied to them. This would then become fuel to go after Caesar’s conspirators.
A direct response to Antony working with each quality of the mob in his Funeral Oration speech was the newly won loyalty of the mob to Mark Antony. Though the mob had many qualities, Mark Antony was able to work with and pinpoint the major ones thus proving his public speaking skills. Mark Antony is therefore noted in history not only for his great leadership but the greatness and impact of his Funeral Oration. His character can be admired and modeled after. Marcus Antonious was truly a man as dear to Rome as he was to Julius Caesar. Mark Antony as well as the mob are true and important characters to contribute to The Tragedy of Julius Caesar.
Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Julius Caesar. New York: Signet Classic, 1998.
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