Julius Caesar, a Roman tragedy was written by William Shakespeare in 1599. It was one of the earliest of Shakespeare’s three Roman history plays. The play is based in real events the assassination of Julius Caesar, the Roman dictator on 15th March 44BC. Although Julius Caesar is set in Rome over 2000 years ago it explore themes that have a contemporary relevance to the Elizabethans. Julius Caesar is murdered and has left no heir or successor. Queen Elizabeth of the Shakespeare time also did not leave an heir to the throne, which caused a lot of confusion for the Elizabethans.
The Elizabethans appreciated the play as it was covering the same situation they were in. Four hundred years before the play was written, the last king of Rome had been removed as he had proved to be like those before him. The Monarchy was replaced by the republic and the Senate took charge. This shows how easy it is to get dispose of rulers who become to powerful and tyrannical.
Brutus and Mark Antony are the primary sources of the plays plot. The play is tightly constructed. It establishes the dramatic problem of alarm of Julius Caesar’s ambition to become “king” or dictator.
In the very first scene Caesar has become so powerful and liked by the Senate and the people of Rome that it is likely he will be declared king. The Republicans however do not like this idea of him becoming king, as their republic, a system of government with a careful balance of power may be at threat; so a group of conspirators (Cassius, Casca, Trebonia, Caisus Ligarius, Decius Brutus, Metlus Cimber, Cinna and Caesars great friend Brutus).
The two characters Brutus and Mark Antony (who was not part of the conspiracy) both speak at Caesars funeral.
Each had his own reason and purpose for doing so. Both speeches had their own addressing the crowd as well as differing styles. Therefore, differing effects on the crowd as a result of their differing styles and techniques. Brutus was first to speak. If the play was staged he and the conspirators would approach the stand with their hands dripping in Caesars blood, creating a victorious effect. Brutus approaches the crowd by stating his reasons for killing Caesar. He explains to the crowd that Caesar was removed due to his ambition and that if he were to become king, Rome would be destroyed.
Brutus speaks in ‘prose’ (lower class language) so that he is able to speak and communicate with the crowd properly. He begins his speech with ‘Romans, countrymen, and lovers’; this shows he loved Rome more and addressed them a Romans first because it was more important to him, it shows he is patriotic. His reason for killing Caesar was not because he did not love him, but because he lived Rome more. He says: ‘Brutus rose against Caesar, that is my answer: Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more’ (Act 3 scene 2 lines 21-22)
This quote basically proves and summarises Brutus’ point to his speech. His speech was very formal, and it seems that all of his sentences were balanced. Although Brutus did a very good job in explaining to the crowd that murdering Caesar was for the good of Rome, he still hadn’t won them over. Brutus explained that he loved Caesar and cared for him but his death was for the good of Rome. ‘As Caesar loved me, I weep for him’ Brutus explains here that he still cared for him and he also claimed that Caesar was not good for Rome because he was ambitious.
Brutus came into a confused and curios crowd. After he explained himself and his purpose, the people were reluctant to believe him, however they were convinced for only a short time. Mark Antony makes a speech after Brutus. He has a difficult task of speaking to a hostile crowd outside the Roman Parliament where Caesar was stabbed to death. Anatony’s speeches are very different from Brutus’ and are far more subtle than Brutus’. They were full of clever techniques to manipulate the audience. Brutus spoke to the crowds about honour, patriotism and history.
Antony’s speeches were more emotional and by being emotional it manages to be more powerful and have a greater impact on the crowd. Julius Caesar and Antony were very close friends; and were always seen together. At the Feast of Luperculia Caesar and told Antony to touch Calpurnia during the race and Antony replied ‘I shall remember: when Caesar says, ‘do this’, it is perform’d’. This shows that Antony has great love for Caesar and Caesar also trusts Antony. Antony is much angered at Caesars death but skilfully hides his true feelings from the conspirators.
When he was with Brutus and the conspirators he said he is does not doubt them and believes their reason for killing Caesar and he also shakes hands with each one of the conspirators. Antony vows to make the conspirators pay for the death of Caesar and plans to cause havoc and chaos and will not stop until the conspirators are killed and Caesar death is fully avenged. ‘Domestic fury and fierce civil strife shall cumber all the parts of Italy’ (Act 3 scene 2, lines 263-264) Caesars death is then followed by a time of confusion and bloodshed as the Republicans and Antonys supporters struggle for power.
There are many questions that can be asked: what is best for ordinary people? Who will be the next heir, as Caesar has not left one? The audience of Shakespeare’s time would be asking themselves these same questions as Queen Elizabeth I was coming to the end of her reign. There was an argument about who the successor would be, as she had no children. It was the same with Julius Caesar. Who would be the heir Mark Antony or Brutus? Antony uses his opportunity to make as speech at Caesars funeral to manipulate the crowds way of thinking. He enters the scene with Caesars body, creating a dramatic effect.
He starts his speech with ‘friends, Roman, countrymen’ because he wants to come to them as a friend rather than a ruler trying to gain power and by doing this he puts them at ease. He speaks in blank verse and tries to flatter the crowd. He then continues by saying that he has come ‘to bury Caesar’ and ‘not to praise him’ so he can ease in praises of Caesar without the crowd stopping him. It also grabs the attention of the crowd who thought he would praise Caesar and not speak ill of Brutus. He starts off by saying negative things about Caesar but slowly and skilfully begins to talk about his positive side more.
The noble Brutus hath told you Caesar was ambitious ……. For Brutus is an honourable man. ‘ – Antony sound very sincere when he says this. He repeats this statement three more times which becomes increasingly sarcastic, he finishes with, “yet Brutus says he was ambitious, and sure he was an honourable man. ” Since people were persuaded by Brutus’ speech, Antony could not insult Brutus’ honesty. Antony says, “I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke”, but that is exactly what he does. Antony uses emotional words and many dramatic devises to win over the crowds.
He pretends that he is no good at public speaking. This creates sympathy for him, as the crowd will think it was hard for him to speak to them. ‘For I have neither wit, nor words, nor worth. Action, nor utterance, nor the power of speech’ (Act 3 scene 2, line 118-119) As a condition for doing the speech, he is not allowed to blame the conspirators; Antony gets round this by subtly changing meanings of words such as ‘honourable’. Honourable is a very strong word and it is Brutus’ best quality. Antony degrades this word by making a point that Caesar was not ambitious and then adds that Brutus was a honourable man.
This effect creates doubt in the audiences mind. He uses techniques like sarcasm. Antony talks about Caesar very passionately to give the impression that Caesar is a hero and causes the crowd to think about how they lost such a great man. ” He hath brought many captives home to Rome, Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill. Did this in Caesar seem ambitious? ” (Act 3 scene 3, lines86-88) This quote tells us the audience that Caesar brought captives and money, which he gave to the public funds. Caesar wanted nothing but the best for the people of Rome.
Antony wants to show that Caesar was not ambitious by providing four reasons as evidence. These are: * He brought many prisoners whose ransoms filled the treasury. This makes the audience realise that what ever Caesar done was for Rome * When the poor cried Caesar wept in sympathy. This shows that Caesar was concerned about the citizens and the welfare of Rome, it also shows that Caesar was emotionally weak, but ambition should be made of sterner stuff. * When Caesar denied the crown three times. I f Caesar wanted to be come king and if he was ambitious, why didn’t he take the crown at the feast? The will Caesar left for the people.
If Caesar was ambitious and greedy why did he leave the people of Rome 75 Drachmas and his private walks? Antony deals wit Caesars worst point, his desire to become king of Rome by making you believe he denied the crown three times at the feast of Lupercal because he had no desire to become king. The use of Caesars will as a stage prop arouses a lot of attention from the crowd. He tells the crowd about it but then deliberately changes to another point. By using this delaying tactic he keeps the crowds attention. He continuously prolongs them and builds up a climax.
He also asks the crowds permission to read the will ‘You compel me then to read the will? ‘- This technique makes the crowds think that he is a helpless man and he has no power over anything. It makes the crowds believe they are telling him what to do. After mentioning the will he tells the crowd to gather round Caesar’s body. He uses Caesars body as a tool of manipulation. This creates a very dramatic effect as the crowd see what the mighty Caesar has been reduced to. Antony continuously uses repetition and questions Brutus’ honour. He uses many dramatic devices, which Brutus doesn’t use.
By the end of his speeches the crowd are against Brutus. This shows that the crowds are not strong in their convictions and Antony is able to fickle the crowds easily. Antony uses a dramatic effect on the people, first by entering the stage with the body if Caesar and then at the end stating his heart is still with the body of Caesar, ending his speech weeping. The effect of Antony showing the crowds Caesars cloak, full of knife gnashes, is very dramatic and emotional. He talks of blood to move the citizens to pity and anger. He describes the killing as ‘brutal’ and unforgivable.
He is able to get the people to question the killing of Caesar. The crowd begin to doubt Brutus. “If you have tears, prepare to shed them now” (Act 3 scene 2, line 167) Antony tells them they will be overcome with emotion. By mentioning the bloody cloak he makes it more visual and brutal. He mentions the cloak deliberately and tells us about the first time he wore the cloak, when he defeated the Nervii, as Caesar was known for his skill at war. He reminded them what Caesar had done for them. Antony opens the appeal for sympathy by using emotive words and exaggeration, which make you feel sorry for him.
He tells the crowd about the first time Caesar wore the garment in which he defeated the Nervii, but then dramatically starts telling the audience about the rips in the torn and bloody piece of cloth. “That day he overcame the Nervii. Look in this place ran Cassius’ dagger through” (Act 3 scene 2, lines 171-172) Antony continuously uses emotive language and devices to steer the crowds. While speaking he stops and says: … “Bear with me. My heart is still in the coffin there with Caesar” (Act 3 scene 2, lines 103-104) This shows how distraught he is that he has to stop before continuing.
This gives time for the crowd to stop and observe his behaviour. The crowd begin to question themselves and are deeply affected by his emotion; and when people are emotional they cannot think rational. Antony pretends to know who made which wound and pretends to recall each little detail, which causes the audience to become angry and pitiful. He makes it up in order to make it seem more barbaric. “Look, in this place ran Cassius’ dagger through: See what a rent the envious Casca made” (Act 3 scene 2, lines 172-174) Antony gives a very detailed account of when Brutus stabbed Caesar.
The image of blood stir the crowds up and it makes you think about inhumane way Caesar was killed. He gives a detailed account of when Caesar stabbed him so the crowds realise what a traitor he was and how he rose against his friend because of jealousy. “Mark how the blood of Caesar follow’d it, As running out of doors, to e resolv’d If Brutus so unkindly knock’d or no” (Act 3 scene 2, line 176-178) At this point the crowd is so emotional that Antony no linger needs to use the word ‘honourable’ after criticizing Brutus.
Antony also says in his speech: “For Brutus, as you know, was Caesars angel. He says this to show that Caesar loved him greatly and trusted him. He was betrayed by his best friend, Brutus; He was a traitor. ‘Traitor’ is a very strong word. The Elizabethans believed that if someone was put in power, God put them there and no one could remove them. If you tried to remove them you were classified as a traitor, which was the worst thing for them. All of these tricks used by Antony were successful and were able to steer the crowds to think that Brutus and the conspirators were nothing but brutal murderers and they killed Caesar due to jealousy.
After showing the crowd Caesars cloak, Antony removes it showing the disfigured corpse of Caesar. The crowds’ horror and anger reaches its highest climax and the crowd want revenge Antony again pretends to know who made which stab in Caesars body. He talks about blood, which again causes the crowd to become emotional and pitiful. “O woeful day! O traitors! Villains” (Lines 198-199) This quote shows that Antony was successful in his aims. He has the crowd so wound up and fumed with anger they will do what Antony could not do. Antony uses words such as “Good friend, sweet friends” to make the crowd feel at ease and make them trusted.
He tells them he is a friend and means no harm. Antony is easily able to fickle the crowd as they are not strong in there convictions. Antony is able to prove to the audience that the conspirators are not honourable, but were heartless butchers. “They who have done this deed are honourable. ” (Line 209) He also exaggerates and lies in his speeches. He says “I have neither wit, nor words, or worth. ” These are used to create sympathy for himself. Antony has these qualities and proves it by using them. “But were I Brutus And Brutus Antony, there were an Antony Would ruffle up your spirits. (Lines 223-225)
Here Antony tries to say that Brutus would cause a riot and tell them lies, but he has done this himself. This also shows how hypocritical Antony is and the amount of lies he tells to sway the crowds to believe him. The use of rhetorical devises and persuasive language in Antony’s speeches create great emphasis on the innocence of Caesar. The repetition of the word ‘ambitious’ keeps the reader wondering if Antony is correct, that Caesar was murdered for no reason except treason. Brutus’ speech involved taking a defensive approach, leaving people to their own conclusions.
However, Antony takes a prosecuting approach against Brutus, so sneaky that you don’t even notice it. Antony’s examples give him an advantage over Brutus because he backs up his statements with examples while Brutus leaves his statements open-ended. The people find it easier to accept Antony, an emotional and sincere speaker, than Brutus who appears to be arrogant and forceful. Antony talks about Brutus first and slowly talks about how bad he is while he is doing this he starts talking about the noble Caesar. He uses many positive adjectives such as ‘Mighty Caesar, Great Caesar, and Noble Caesar’.
He fits them into sentences unnoticeably. Antony has got what he wanted; he has succeeded in his plan to manipulate the crowd. “Now let it work. Mischief, thou art afoot, Take thou what course thou wilt! How now fellow” (Lines 258-259) Antony does not care of the plebs. All he cares about is his success and his ability to avenge Caesars death. The crowds will burn down houses and kill people but he is not worried about that. Antony proves he has been successful when the crowds disperse to look for the conspirators; they come across a poet called Cinna.
They kill him just because he bears the name ‘Cinna’ even though he has no contact with any of the conspirators. These shows how powerfully manipulating his speeches were. The crowds become brutal and blinded by this manipulation. “Revenge! About! Seek! Burn! Fire! Kill! Slay! Let not a traitor live. ” (Lines 202-203) Antony was successful in his aims to manipulate the crowds after the murder of Caesar. He had a hard task of making a speech to an unruly crowd who had been turned against Caesar by Brutus. He easily changed their way of thinking and succeeded in his plan.
I have found that Brutus was honourable but was blinded by his love for Rome and was also easily persuaded by Cassius and the conspirators. He did not think of the consequences and though that the people of Rome would see through his eyes and believe that this was his true reason for killing Caesar. However, Antony was very manipulative and persuasive in changing thee views of the crowd easily. His repetition, positive adjectives, rhetorical questions, sarcasm and pauses all combined to have a very great impact on his speeches, which influenced the crowds.
There is a contemporary relevance of Antonys’ speeches to how modern politicians influence people to vote for them. Modern politicians promise to do the best for the people i. e. improve healthcare, schooling etc and also promise to right the mistakes of the past leaders. They use persuasive language and say the benefits the people will receive if they will cast their vote towards them. Antony used this technique and told the people of Rome what they had inherited from Caesar, but did they receive anything what Antony told them?