Why Mark Antony's Speech so Effective in Persuading his Audience
Length: 856 words (2.4 double-spaced pages)
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The ability of Antony to convince an audience, who at the beginning were against him, of his point of view is remarkable. I particularly love the way in which he is able to turn the word honorable around to in fact mean dishonorable.
Antony confronts a crowd that is against him. In order to turn the crowd to his side he uses irony and rhetorical questions but without breaking his
word, not to wrong Brutus,
?I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke?
Antony indirectly persuades the crowd that Brutus was wrong in killing Caesar and that Caesar's death should be avenged. The use of rhetorical questions in Antony's speech causes the crowd to question what they once thought.
"You loved him once, not without cause
What cause withholds you then to mourn for him??
This rhetorical question goes against Brutus by questioning his speech in which he so greatly demonized Caesar. Now the crowd is starting to turn against Brutus in favor of Antony. The audience question themselves. This in turn makes them question what Brutus once told them. ?Perhaps Brutus manipulated us to make us think along his lines?, they may have questioned.
He repeatedly states that ?Brutus is an honorable man?. The quote reveals much about the character of Brutus. Not only does Antony?s quote point, obviously, to the fact that Brutus is seen as an honorable man, but in its tone, it also raises questions as to whether this honor is suitably placed.
Brutus is seen by all of Rome as a good man and Antony sees the self-important side of Brutus which has developed from this. He notices this and uses it against Brutus. Through repeatedly stating the idea that ?Brutus is an honorable man?, he then points out the fact that Brutus is claiming to be so ?honorable? because he murdered Caesar.
Antony impressively turns the people from Brutus?s line of thought to his own. The respect from the people is not quite strong enough to hold when Brutus takes his supposed moral intentions and kills his friend Ceaser. Brutus? reputation, although good, is not good enough to cover such blatantly faulty motives, which were unnoticed before they were subtly pointed out by Antony.
?Brutus is an honorable man?. It is paradoxical how his words ring true with both truth and sarcasm. With Antony?s one brief line an entire portrait of Brutus is created.
?Brutus is an honorable man.? The statement is true. Brutus is honorable, but the underlying meaning behind Antony?s words is also true--Brutus is not honorable enough to decide the fate of all of Rome. Shakespeare?s ability to add depth, dimension, and humanity to a character in such few words is remarkable.
?Bear with me,
My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
And I must pause till it come back to me. ?
Marc Anthony?s speech calls for a dramatic pause, where he stops to ?regain his heart.? This line, however, is no more than a strategic and shrewdly placed break, where Anthony forces the crowd to decide if they are truly persuaded by his speech or not. It also shows how much Antony really cares for Ceaser. Antony wants emotion to override the crowd?s common sense.
To counter Brutus' claim that Caesar was a heartless tyrant, Antony says,
"How dearly he [Caeser] loved him.? Next, Antony humbles himself as "no orator, as Brutus is"
He hints that Brutus lied in his speech to deceive the crowd.
After that Antony deals his final blow by revealing to the crowd Caeser's will, in which
"To every Roman citizen he gives, to every several man seventy-five drachmas"
, aswell as land. He then asks the crowd,
"Here was a Caesar, when comes such another?" , which questions the conspirators ability to lead.
Antony then teases the crowd with Caesar's will, which the beg him to read, but he refuses. This make him out to be an honest and principled man and he tells the crowd to "have patience" and expresses his feeling that he will "wrong the honorable men whose daggers have stabbed Caesar" if he is to read the will. The crowd yells out "they were traitors. 'Honorable men" and we know that at this time they have completely turned against the Brutus and are incredibly angry about Caeser's death
One thing that is particularly noticeable throughout Antony?s speech is that he levels himself with the audience. Unlike Brutus who speaks in an intellectual manner, Antony speaks in the way his crowd would. Simply and easily understood. He treats the crowd as his equal and towards the end he flatters them,
?These are gracious drops.
Finally, Antony releases the crowd and utters, "Now let it work. Mischief, thou art afoot. Take thou course thou wilt." After this the crowd riots
After Antony gave his speech, his purpose was accomplished. He revenged Caesars death. This would not have been possible if he hadn't given his speech. For his speech to work he had to have an audience, a purpose and he had to use persuasive techniques.