Mark Anthony’s Speech at Funeral in Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

October 17, 2013

Mark Antony's funeral speech

The art of public speaking and moving audiences with rhetoric has been on display since antiquity.  William Shakespeare, the brilliant English literary luminary, beautifully captured the art of speech writing along with the imagined histrionics in his epic play Julius Caesar.

Let us briefly discuss Mark Anthony’s Speech at the public funeral of Julius Caesar in the phenomenal literary masterpiece Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare.

Read and reflect on the opening lines of the speech,

“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ear…….”

Mark Anthony’s speech was in response to the brilliant oration by Brutus which successfully tried to justify Julius Caesar’s death by the conspirators.  Mark Anthony had a tremendous task in hand in which he had to win over the audience and turn the tables completely.  He echoes Brutus’ opening lines by rearranging the welcoming phrase but by beginning with “friends” instead of Romans for a greater emotional appeal.  He also immediately implores the audience to listen to him after the compelling speech by Brutus.  Mark Anthony then uses repeated phrases implying a mocking kind of sarcasm at the conspirators and deceptive language to defend Julius Caesar and to win the audience’s hearts and minds.  Read and reflect on the following lines uttered by Mark Anthony which refers to the conspirators and is filled with sarcasm and deception.

“For Brutus is an honorable man;

So are they all, all honorable men-”

Mark Anthony was literally forced to lace his speech with sarcasm and deception because of the dicey situation he found himself in.  Unlike Brutus who falls into the trap of the conspiracy party, Mark Anthony remains faithful to Julius Caesar until the end and never doubts Julius Caesar’s integrity or love for his people and nation despite his many faults.  This loyalty is clearly demonstrated in Mark Anthony’s speech.   The carefully crafted words of the speech infuriate the audience towards dissent.

William Shakespeare brilliantly crafts Mark Anthony’s funeral speech with rhetorical questions which try to prick at the conscience of the audience with respect to the integrity of Julius Caesar.  Read and reflect on the following rhetorical question phrase in the speech.

“I thrice presented him a kingly crown,

Which he did thrice refuse, was this ambition?”

The word “thrice” is used with great effect in the rhetorical question posed in order to stress on the fact that Julius Caesar was never hungry for power and never wanted to establish a monarchy in the Roman republic.

This is just a brief look into the famous Mark Antony’s funeral speech in Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare.  Read and re-read the speech to understand and appreciate the skillful use of language by William Shakespeare which he brilliantly puts to use in the art of speech writing and for further discussion.

photo credit: UMTAD via photopin cc

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