In what ways does the language and imagery of Antony’s speech demonstrate his manipulation of the crowd?
In Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Mark Antony’s speech at Caesar’s funeral, despite all his protestations to the contrary, is fuelled by one purpose: vengeance to those who murdered his beloved Caesar. He uses combinations of verbal irony, repetitive diction, and heavy emphasis on emotions to sway his audience. He does so without guilt or remorse towards the people to whom the crowd will direct their wrath. Not only does he think of nothing but revenge, he convinces the crowd that he wants no harm to come to Caesar’s murderers.
Antony starts by saying ‘If you have tears, prepare to shed them now.’ By beginning in a calm manner, it shows that he thinks this is a very sad moment, instead of making everyone angry. Also, the word ‘prepare’ is an effectively used word, as it is like an instruction for them that they must feel sorry.
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‘This was the most unkindest cut of all,’ he says. He says this, because Brutus and Caesar were such good friends, it was the most unkindest cut because Brutus betrayed Caesar. There is a triple emphasis used here from the words ‘most’, ‘unkindest’, and ‘all’. By using these words, Antony shows a great deal of how much Brutus deceived Caesar.
When Antony first talks to the crowd, it is obvious how much he is praising Brutus and the conspirators, but towards the end of his speech, he tells everyone of the wrong they have done. A great amount of irony is created here, and we see this when Antony says phrases like, ‘See what a rent the envious Casca made,’ and, ‘He plucked his cursed steel away.’ The word cursed in the last quote is quite an aggressive word, shows that Brutus is hateful, and deserves to be punished. By saying this, Antony encourages the crows onto his side.
In contrast to Brutus' speech, Antony's is excellent. Even before he began to speak, Antony faced two difficult problems: first was the fact that he said it under a set of unfavourable ground rules made by Brutus, and the second, that most of citizens was already on Brutus' side. Immediately, Antony is able to do what Brutus failed to do by connecting with the citizens instead of talking above them. Also, the mob is not confused as Antony speaks of simple concepts such as his friendship to Caesar. By using shared experiences of Caesar's lack of ambition, the mob starts to question whether Caesar was too ambitious or not. After questioning whether all the honourable things Caesar has done for Rome were ambitious, Antony attacks Brutus by pairing Caesar's ambition with Brutus' honour. This was very clever because it gives the notion to the crowd that if Caesar was in fact not ambitious then Brutus is in fact not an honourable man. All that is left to do is erase the idea of Caesar being overly ambitious, and that is exactly what he does. Everything Antony does builds a relationship with the crowd. When he weeps openly the mob can relate to emotion. He also uses the body of Caesar and speaks dramatically about each wound. All in all, because Antony makes a bond between him and the crowd, unlike the conspirators, he manages to please the crowd.