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How the Parts of Cassius (in Act I) and Mark Antony (in Act III) should be played

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Cassius and Mark Antony are two very different characters. Cassius is a senator and shows bitter hostility and envy towards Caesar’s authority and power. This marks him as a malcontent character, which, simply means he is dissatisfied and an opponent to the existing society. In the play his emotions tend to determine his political leanings and so does not in the end achieve the success that he could.

Mark Antony on the other hand is acknowledged to be a good soldier, open-handed and popular with his men. He is known to like ‘the odd pint or two’ and enjoys the finer things in life. He is however, underestimated by both Cassius and Brutus, as you shall see later on.

Despite these differences Cassius and Antony still have things in common. They have the ability to charge emotions and persuade people to do their own bidding. They are both men of extreme talent and are able to use their skills to the best of their ability.

To topple Caesar, Cassius believes that he needs the help of Brutus. Cassius knows that Brutus is a man who is at war with himself. He knows that although Brutus loves Caesar, he also loves the honour of Rome and since he is not sure of Caesar’s appointment he is at that moment worried about this honour, it is in Act I Scene i that this becomes apparent. This is when Cassius sees his chance to persuade Brutus into joining his cause, which he does in Act I Scene ii.

He first suggests that Brutus is distant and somewhat estranged:

…You bear too stubborn and too strange a hand…

He also implies that he is someone that loves him and so, he is a friend and not an enemy. He does this in the hope that Brutus will then speak more openly about what he is thinking. He needs this information because for one he needs to know for certain whether or not he can persuade Brutus and secondly this will then determine what approach he needs to take.

…Over your friend that loves you.

He then asks him whether or not Brutus can see his face; Brutus replies that he cannot, since the eye does not see itself. Cassius agrees with this statement and in lines 54 – 63 follows by saying that Brutus has no mirrors to turn his hidden worthiness into his eyes. Cassius knows that Brutus is vain and is prone to flattery so in the first phase of his persuasion he throws praise to Brutus knowing that it will cause him to pull down his defences and listen to Cassius more openly. He also reminds him of his famous past (more praise) and how he has the respect of all of Rome except for the ‘immortal’ Caesar. The word immortal is used ironically and is the first sign of Cassius’s true intentions. In this first phase Cassius knows that before he can persuade Brutus into joining the cause he must first have him on his side and so he uses the praise and flattery to do this.

Brutus however is still not entirely impressed and asks Cassius more out of fear than anything else what he is implying. Cassius then calms the fears of Brutus by throwing yet more praise between lines 66 and 78. He also says that he does not often throw praise around. To the audience it is clear that Cassius is lying, however Cassius knows Brutus is blind and so uses this to imply that he is in elite company when receiving praise of Cassius.

…I your glass…

In the above quote he is trying to show the camaraderie between Brutus and himself this is done to try and make Brutus show love for Cassius over the love for Caesar.

Now that Cassius has got Brutus listening and on his side he begins to comment about the honour of Rome and the frailty of Caesar. This is done in the third phase of his speech between lines 90 and 131. In this phase he adds his personal experiences and opinions to try and persuade Brutus.

I was born free as Caesar, so were you;

He refers to the contrast in fortunes between the state of their lives and Caesar’s despite the fact that they all started out the same and have put in more work. He continues to put Brutus and himself in the same basket and then compares them together against Caesar. This togetherness is needed to persuade Brutus since Brutus is two minded and will need Cassius to hold his hand before he will enter any kind of venture. Cassius knows this and so uses this in persuading Brutus.

He then goes on to say how they are not just as strong as he is, but maybe even stronger.

…Endure the winter’s cold as well as he.

He then goes onto undermining what Caesar is. He does this by referring to the drowning incident, which he had witnessed first hand. Here Cassius is saying to Brutus that a man who cannot swim is not worthy of being the God that he is.

…Tis true, this god did shake…

The paragraph starting with the above quote compares this god (Caesar) with a sick girl. The reason why Cassius does this is to show Brutus that Caesar is just as human as the rest of us and so is not deserving of the throne. He also remarks about how he is actually physically and mentally very weak and so if he were to continue his reign it would be a disaster to the empire.

This phase of Cassius’s speech is vital to his persuasion of Brutus as it shows clear evidence to back up his claims it also bears the question of why such a feeble man should get to have all the power when he clearly is not fit to do so. The clever thing of this phase I think is on line 104 and 105, when Cassius says the following:

…Upon the word, Accoutred as I was, I plunged in…

This is clever statement in the sense that Cassius is trying to show Brutus that he loved Caesar once and is not doing this out of jealousy and hate (even though he is) but out of love for Rome. This also implies that Cassius too feels the pain of what he needs to do and so Brutus is not alone in this matter (camaraderie). However, the main emphasis of this section is on the undermining of Caesar and the bringing out of his weaknesses.

The next phase is the last in Cassius’s persuasion of Brutus. It stretches between lines 135 and 161 and the small section between 176 and 178.

What should be in that ‘Caesar’?

The above quote sums up the essence of this phase. Cassius is asking Brutus why Caesar’s name is sounded more than Brutus and Cassius even though they bear the same weight. He is asking why it holds more power than Brutus’s. This he knows will hurt Brutus since his vanity will want him to have a name that is as good as everybody else’s if not better. He also asks why they must act humble in his presence even though they are stronger, why should they be his slaves. Why has he grown so great? That is the question that will sway Brutus since there is clearly no difference between them and Caesar and so Cassius point this out to Brutus. The last thing he says is that it is wrong to have one person in power of such a huge kingdom. It has space for more leaders yet Caesar keeps it for himself. Cassius here is pointing out the key reason why Caesar is ambitious and the reason why he should be stopped.

Just to round of his pack of lies he also humbles himself to Brutus by stating that his words were weak when they were clearly very strong and dramatic. He does this so that Brutus can feel a sense of power that will keep him on Cassius’s side. This is how Cassius persuades Brutus.

The icing on the cake is the throwing of the fake letters through Brutus’s window, which, is mentioned in Cassius’s soliloquy at the end of the scene. He does this because he knows that Brutus will take those at face value and so it will easily persuade him.

Cassius also needs the help of Casca if he is to overthrow Caesar. He needs his help because it seems that Casca is able to acquire knowledge with relative ease and so having him as an informant would give Cassius a great advantage.

When persuading Casca (in Act I Scene iii), Cassius needs to take a different approach to the one used with Brutus. He knows that Casca will not fall the flattery that he used on Brutus will not work with Casca. Instead, he uses Casca’s belief in superstitions and belief of gods etc. And by curious quirk of fate a storm is brewing in the air that Cassius conveniently uses.

The persuasion of Casca can also be split into different phases. The first of these phases stretches between lines 56 and 78. Here, at first, Cassius uses a scornful tone (rather like that of the storm) to try and provoke Casca into joining the conspirators.

You are dull, Casca…

Cassius knows that this is the best way to persuade Casca, that here offence is better than the defence. He also says Casca is stupid since cannot see what is going on in front of his own eyes. He then preys on Casca’s belief of superstition by comparing Caesar with the storm in the air and saying that this is a warning from the God’s that this will be the fate of Rome and so the gods too are telling us to stop Caesar. However, he still shows his cunning since he makes Casca decide that it is Caesar he is talking about. This is a sure sign that Casca is being easily persuaded and is taking the bait of the storm without a fight.

Now could I, Casca, name to thee a man most like this dreadful night…

Since Casca is already taking the bait Cassius move quickly to phase two in lines 89 – 99.

I know where I will where this dagger then…

He starts talking about the killing of Caesar since he knows that Casca is already on his side and so the sooner he gets down to business the better. To make sure Casca does not go into this deed half-hearted Cassius again talks about how the Gods also agree with this deed and how he will feel no guilt in killing Caesar and will also tell the world of his task.

Cassius then puts the final agreement between himself and Casca in the final phase. This is between lines 103 and 115. He also uses further provocative sarcasm to persuade Casca one last time. He also comments on the terrible state of affairs and that the only way to stop this rot is to kill Caesar. He also says that he will answer for his deed when he kills Caesar and will tell people why he had to do it.

Cassius is a master of persuasion. He also very cruel, in the sense that he preys on peoples weaknesses when trying to persuade them, for example Brutus’s vanity and Casca’s superstitious mind. He uses these weaknesses to his advantage and persuades accordingly.

When persuading Brutus he uses Sarcasm (116 -17, 135, 149), contrasts and comparisons, rhetorical devices, flattery, questions, a variety of delivery, alliteration, repetition, emotive language and first-hand experiences. As you can see from the above list, Cassius has a large arsenal from which to choose and he uses them accordingly and with ease when persuading.

When persuading Casca he uses some of the above plus provocative language (57, 113) very assertive monosyllabic lines and plenty of figures of speech relating to the storm. Here to Cassius uses these in combinations that allow him to persuade people with relative ease.

When Antony needs to persuade the mob in Act III Scene II he has to disprove what Brutus has said and so has a different job to that of Cassius. He also knows that he needs to take decisive action quickly if he is going to succeed. So, as soon as Brutus has left Antony gets into the pulpit and begins. A big difference here is that Mark Antony’s audience is a huge mob rather the single audience that Cassius persuades. This means that Antony cannot prey on the individual flaws of certain people, but instead must work on the emotions that every single person has. Things like greed, love, pity, sorrow, hate, revenge, anger etc. He also works on the one major fault in the crowd and that is that the people within are not educated and so are easily persuaded if you give them what they want.

Again the speech he uses can be split up into distinct phases. The first of which is between lines 70 and 105.

Friends, Romans, Countrymen…

He uses the above line to get everybody’s attention. He needs to do this because otherwise he would only be persuading a few people and not the whole mob that he needs to persuade.

The key feature of this first phase is that Antony uses the constant repetition of ‘honourable’, ‘noble’ and ‘ambitious’. He does this for two reasons, one of which is that he knows the mob has already be persuaded to one end of the scale and so will not come over to the other end of the scale straight away, so he must first agree with and compliment the speech of Brutus before he can begin his persuasion. The second reason is that when something is repeated several times it begins to lose its effect and takes on a different meaning. In the beginning when honourable is said it is taken at face value by the mob however later on it is said as a sarcastic remark and the mob picks up subconsciously if not consciously.

The good is oft interred with their bones

This line and the one before it seem to accept the condemnation of Caesar, but it also quietly implies that Caesar did a lot of good as well and it is actually envy that has caused Caesar’s death.

When persuading Antony, like Cassius, brings in his own personal feelings and opinions. This is because people are more likely to listen to you if you speak from the ‘heart’ like Antony does in lines 82 and 103-4.

He then goes about trying to plant a ‘seed of doubt’ in the minds of the mob. He does this by disproving the ambitious statement made by Brutus. In lines 91-3 he reminds the citizens of how he had presented Caesar with the crown three times and how Caesar had refused three times. How can such an action be seen as ambitious?

Antony also uses provocative language. In lines 99-100 he reminds them of how they loved Caesar yet they do not mourn for him. He puts them in a lower position than an animal because even animals have enough judgement to mourn whereas the mob does not even do this and seems to have lost its reason.

At the end of the phase Mark Antony turns away from the crowd to ‘mourn’. He does this because he wants to know how well his persuasion is doing and whether or not it is working. He also wants to let the minds of the people think about what he has said in this phase, he hopes that their thoughts will further reiterate his words. This timely silence is a key persuasive tactic and can even hold more weight than words it self.

The second phase that lies between lines 115 – 157 he changes his approach. For the majority of the first phase Antony was being very subtle in his attack, however he changes towards trying to provoke anger, restlessness, expectation and the want for revenge

In this phase he continues the sarcastic use of honourable and noble hoping that it will lose its effect as it is repeated over and over again. He also implies that he does not want the people to mutiny after hearing his words. The use of this word is a sign of the fact that this is eventually what Antony wants the people to do. In lines 120 – 4 he openly puts the issue to the citizens; it is a simple choice between wronging Caesar and wronging the ‘honourable’ men of Rome. He then contradicts himself by showing the citizens the will of Caesar. This is a crucial section of Antony’s speech. This is because he knows that there is not much in the will for the citizens and so he must not reveal it yet but must instead provoke expectation, rage and really build up the power of the will before he reveals it to the citizens. He does this by what he says in lines 127 – 134. He then does this again between lines 138 -141.

This is a key phase in Antony’s speech and is one that could make or break his persuasion of the people. This is because he needs to reveal the will to the people to keep them listening nut at the same time needs to make sure that he really builds up the expectation and more importantly builds up rage before he reveals the information within it. This is because if reveals the information now while the mob have still got some rational thought they will realise they are not getting much from Caesar but a timely revelation will cause them to think of him as their saviour and the conspirators as the traitors to Rome.

This is what the third phase (lines 166 -194) then becomes about, trying to invoke as much charged emotion as Antony possibly can. He does this by actually using Caesar’s body as a ‘prop’ towards his goal.

If you have tears, prepare to shed them now.

He now holds back the will and invites pity and grief. He also reminds them of his great victory over the Nervii and how they had once loved him and had celebrated in his triumphs. He then invokes rage and the want of mutiny by showing the crowd where Caesar had cold steel put through him.

For Brutus, as you know, was Caesar’s angel.

In line 178 (above) and 179 Antony reminds people of how Caesar thought of Brutus as a son and how the most painful blow of all was to see his angel cut through him. Here Antony is comparing Brutus to Caesar’s son, a son killing a farther how can that be right and honourable to Rome? The repetition of the word blood throughout this phase invokes strong feelings as people always react to the sound, mention and sight of blood.

In this phase Antony manages to charge up the emotions of the people, mainly due to the fact that he uses Caesar’s body. But isn’t this as disrespectful as what Cassius and Brutus are. However, it works to his advantage and he soon has the mob eating out of the palm of his hand.

Everything is now set-up for phase four (lines 207 – 227, 233 – 236, 238 – 240 and 245 – 250) in which Antony covers his own back and to add fuel to the already raging fire reveals the contents of the will.

In lines 207 – 208 Antony appeals to the people to have peace and appeals for them not to mutiny but he does this deliberately knowing that it will cause them to do so.

He then begins to cover hi own back by saying that he is no orator as Brutus is but knows full well that he is and has already charged up the emotions of the people.

Just before the citizens leave him Antony shouts for them to keep order as he reads the will. But since he has caused them to have so much emotion within themselves they hear but do not listen. They merely want to go and seek out the traitors of Rome and so they regard any gift by Caesar as a great one.

Here was a Caesar! When comes such another?

Here uses this last line to as a reminder to the citizens that they must avenge Caesar’s death and so they exit with his body.

When persuading Antony uses Sarcasm, contrasts and comparisons, rhetorical devices, questions, a variety of delivery, alliteration, repetition, emotive language, monosyllabic lines and first-hand experiences. He also uses the emotions of the people to help with his persuasion. It is an amazing thing to persuade a person but to persuade a huge mob is a different story. Although the same techniques are used they need to be implemented in such a way as to affect everybody and so that is the reason why he cannot exploit the individual weaknesses as Cassius did but instead must use our collective weaknesses.

Overall, both men are skilled orators; they both plan their speeches thoroughly and execute them with quick wit. The one key thing that stands out here is that both persuade people for their personal gain and that greed is the strongest persuasion of all.

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