Analysis of Marc Antony’s Funeral Oration
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“…Bear with me; / my heart is in the coffin there with Caesar, / And I must pause till it come back to me.” (JC III ii 47) Marc Antony’s speech at Caesar’s funeral was so cunning and powerful that it caused the crowd’s loyalties to sway. Prior to Marc Antony’s oration the crowd favored Brutus and the conspirators. However, Marc Antony’s compelling discourse caused the plebeians to support him, and not Brutus. Marc Antony used three literary devices during his funeral oration, rhetorical question, sarcasm, and repetition, to successfully persuade the crowd.
Although the crowd was supportive of the conspirators after Brutus’s speech, Marc Antony’s use of sarcasm in his funeral oration caused them to rethink who they should support. According to www.dictionary.com, sarcasm is ironic remarks used to gain someone’s attention and cause them to draw thoughts about someone of something. Marc Antony’s use of sarcasm during his discourse is evident in the following lines, ” For Brutus is an honourable man / So are they all, honourable men.” (JC III ii 46) Sarcasm is also evident in these lines, “…I rather choose/ To wrong the dead, to wrong myself and you, / Than I will wrong such honourable men.” (JC III ii 48) The use of sarcasm was a crucial element in Marc Antony’s speech. It caused the crowd to start feeling more agreeable towards Marc Antony’s opinion than Brutus’s. The crowd’s opinion of Antony is evident in the following line; ” There’s not a nobler man in Rome than Antony.” (JC III ii 47)
As the crowd starts to listen more attentively to Marc Antony’s speech, Marc Antony begins to use rhetorical question. According to www.dictionary.com, a rhetorical question is a statement that is formulated as a question but that is not supposed to be answered. Marc Antony’s use of rhetorical question is evident in the following lines, ” I thrice presented him a kingly crown, / Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition? (JC III ii 47) By rhetorically bringing to light the instance where Caesar refused the crown three times, it caused the crowd to rethink Brutus’s blatant accusation that Caesar was ambitious. It is obvious that the crowd has been persuaded to believe Antony in the following lines, “Mark’d ye his words? He would not take the crown; / Therefore ‘t is certain he was not ambitious.” (JC III ii 47)
Another clever element that Marc Antony uses in his oration is repetition. According to www.dictionary.com, repetition is reiteration, or repeating the same word, or the same sense in different words, for the purpose of making a deeper impression on the audience. An instance where Marc Antony used repetition is in the following lines, “For Brutus is an honourable man; / So are they all, all honourable men.” (JC III ii 46) During his speech Marc Antony repeats numerous times that Brutus “is an honourable man.” Preceding this statement is usually a line contradicting Brutus’s honorability. An example of this is in the following lines, “Yet Brutus says he was ambitious; / And Brutus is an honourable man.” (JC III ii 47)
Marc Antony’s speech at Caesar’s funeral was immensely effective. He successfully caused the sentiment of the crowd to go from supporting Brutus and the conspirators, to supporting Caesar and himself. An example of where the plebeians loyalties lied before Marc Antony’s speech is apparent in the following lines, “Live, Brutus! Live, live! Let him be Caesar.” (JC III ii 45) However, the crowd’s sentiments after Marc Antony was done is evident in the following lines, “We’ll burn the house of Brutus. Peace, ho! Hear Antony. Most noble Antony!” (JC III ii 50)