The Rebellion in Act 3 Scene 1 of William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar
The speeches take place at Julius Caesar's funeral, Brutus is one of
the leaders of group of conspirators, who assassinated Julius Caesar
in the senate. This would be like John Prescot stabbing Tony Blair
during Prime Ministers question time. Antony who was one of Caesar's
heir apparent and so was deeply upset by the murder. The conspirators
allowed Antony to speak at the funeral as long as he did not criticise
what they had done. Brutus allowed him to go second, which was a
mistake as it allowed Antony to contradict what he had said with no
chance of a return argument.
This instantly begins
to cast doubt in people's minds as to how Brutus can be right, for "an
honourable man" would not stab someone. This first example is
relatively subtle in it criticism of the conspirators. However this
becomes more and more blatant criticism as his speech goes on, until
finally it reaches a pinnacle, " I fear I wrong the honourable men
Whose daggers have stabb'd Caesarâ€¦"
This obviously is an absurd idea as how could a group of men who are
son noble commit such a barbaric act, these sarcastic comments
undermine Brutus's credibility and thus making his argument
implausible and unbelievable.
Sarcasm is used in a different way but with much the same affect when
Antony tells the crowd that he had "â€¦thrice presented him a kingly
crown" that Caesar refused "Which thrice he did refuse". He then uses
logic, as if Caesar had been ambitious then would he not have taken
the crown, again he weakens Brutus's position by saying
"Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And sure he is an honourable man"
He has just convinced the plebeians that Caesar was not ambitious but
then he says if Brutus said he was then he must have been, either that
or Brutus was not such an "honourable man". Also he says that Caesar
has filled the "general coffers" and he wept when "the poor cried"
none of these traits are those of a tyrant as Brutus tried to make
Caesar out as.
After he has done this he says: -
"My hart is in the coffin with Caesar
And I must pause till it come back"
In the BBC screen version of Julius Caesar you can see Keith Michelle
looking to see how the crowd is reacting, he does this so that he know
if it is safe for him to start a more direct and open criticism.
When Antony returns he uses a new method, he plants ideas in the
plebeians heads, "O masters, if I were dispos'd to stir
Your minds to mutiny and rage
I should do Brutus wrong, and Casius wrong"
This is clever, as it makes the crowd think of starting riots, but
what he is saying is that he does not want them to, as this would be
in violation of his agreement that allowed him to speak at the
Now that he knows the crowd is turning to his side he can bring out
his trump card, Caesar's will. This plays on the general people's self
interest, but he tantalises them, not reading out the will. He
explains that as by "â€¦hearing the will of Caesar
It will inflame you, it will make you mad."
Again he subtly hints that murder should take place, but as ever this
is not an open incitement to violence.
He uses the crowds begging for the will as an excuse to come down to
their level, thus making himself seem more trustworthy and less
pompous than Brutus. When...