A Rhetorical Analysis of Julius Caesar

Abby Smith Mrs. Crank Phoenix II Pre-AP/IB/GT 2 24 February 2013 The killing of Julius Caesar was not so much an act of simple brutality as it was a significant turning point in history. The play Julius Caesar, written by William Shakespeare depicts various members of Roman society conspiring to and eventually killing Julius Caesar; subsequently causing chaos to spread in Rome. During their orations, Brutus and Antony employ various strategies in order to receive the crowd’s support in their respective causes. In Brutus and Antony’s speeches both men share the strategy of swaying the crowd.

In the middle of his speech, Brutus tries to quell the crowd’s anger because “as [Caesar] was valiant [he] honour him”, and because Caesar was “ambitious”, Brutus “slew” him. While speaking to the Roman citizens, Brutus places equal grammatical constructions near each other, and logically appeals to the crowd by showing a cause and effect for the killing of Julius Caesar.

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Although his efforts are seemingly effective, it is does not have the lasting impact of Antony’s appeals due to the fact that the roman people are not rational, because their emotions are running high.

Antony states that Caesar “hath brought many captives” to Rome, “wept” when the poor cried, and “thrice presented him” a crown which he refused. Antony’s explicit details provide examples of Caesar’s good deeds, which logically appeals to the crowd, and renders Anthony’s sympathy toward Caesar justified. Although Antony also applies logical rhetoric to his oration, his strategy is more effective than Brutus’s because Brutus provided hypothetical details of Caesar’s misdoings, while Antony shares his specific memories of Caesar’s kindness and humility.

Therefore, Antony’s strategy suggested Brutus and his fellow conspirators committed an unjust crime toward Caesar, and established a stronger impact on the crowd’s attitude. In addition, Brutus and Antony both share the strategy of using their relationship with Caesar to form their argument. Brutus asks the crowd if they’d prefer Caesar’s life and “die all slaves” or if they would want to “live all free men” with Caesar’s death. Brutus employs questions asked for effect, and consequently convinces the crowd that Caesar had potential for tyranny. Brutus effectively persuades the crowd because he provokes emotion by using commanding diction that plants images of persecution in the thoughts of the Roman citizens. Brutus effectively persuades the crowd to support his cause, but fails to reach the crowd as personally as Antony because he speaks superiorly to the crowd rather than a peer, as Antony does. Near the end of his speech, Antony breaks down because his heart “is in the coffin there” with Caesar, and must pause “till it comes back” to him.

Antony exaggerates to heighten effect, while emphasizing his own personal loss, in order to incite pity and sympathy within the crowd. His pause gives the crowd time to think about their previous actions and rally behind Antony’s cause. Antony’s emotional appeal, as opposed to Brutus’s, is more effective because Antony shows vulnerability by exposing his raw emotion instead of preaching to the Romans like Brutus. In essence, Antony’s strategy of emotionally appealing to the Romans more effectively communicated his message that Caesar’s conspirators murdered a good leader.

Many people are faced with the tragedy of losing someone they hold dear, however most cope with their emotions in different ways. In Julius Caesar, Brutus and Antony lose a prominent figure in their lives, Caesar. Brutus copes by trying to justify Caesar’s death, to right whatever wrongs he committed, even if he may not fully understand the error of his ways. Antony tries to make sense of his dear friend leaving him, and in the process finds himself as vengeful as Caesar’s conspirators. All in all, in the fight for emotional support, due to the success of various strategies, Antony comes out the winner.

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