Rhetorical Analysis Of Antony’s Funeral Speech
On the Ides of March in 44 B.C., Roman Emperor Julius Caesar was stabbed to death by a group of prominent politicians led by Marcus Brutus. The sudden death of Caesar created a power vacuum which gave rise of a two factions, one headed by Brutus and Cassius and the other by Antony and the future triumvirs. Shortly after Caesar’s death, Antony spoke at his funeral and used the opportunity to lead the Roman people away from Brutus and back to believing in Caesar and consequently, the Second Triumvirate. By combining a subtle use of questions and interjections to keep audience engaged, a variety of rhetorical devices devices that dignify Caesar and himself, and an effective use of all three modes of persuasion, Antony is able to convert the audience to his cause while destroying the conspirators’ credibility.
While Mark Antony’s speech is a eulogy Caesar’s funeral, it gradually develops the energetic tone of an epideictic (praise-and-blame speech), which points to an ulterior motive. He draws in his audience with a solemn introduction that is meant to defer any bad feelings the Roman’s have towards him, and then he begins to exemplify Caesar’s good character. However, his tone soon becomes more passionate and he begins to use interjections to arouse the listeners. By shouting “O judgment!” as he questions the Roman’s loyalty, Antony is making use of ecphonesis to force a reaction: hopefully one that supports Caesar. Antony strategically spaces these throughout the course of the speech to ensure their enthusiastic spirit, yet hide his own zeal from the audience. Most notably, he exclaims “what a fall was there, my countrymen!” to emphasize the magnitude of Caesar’s death and in the last line he shouts to them “here was a Caesar!”, which serves to remind them of his legacy. Along with the well-placed ecphonesis, Antony utilizes the rhetorical question to stimulate thought with the audience and keep them involved. He first uses it when he asks the audience “did this [military spoils] in Caesar seem ambitious?” so that he can start to have them question Brutus’s accusation and draw them to his subsequent examples. However, the most important use of a rhetorical question is in the last line where he challenges his audience if there “comes such another [Caesar]?”. Here the rhetorical question serves to summarize the greatness of Caesar and to pass the responsibility for future actions onto the listeners. As a result, the people will be more likely to act against the conspirators after they have realized there will not be anyone as good as Caesar.
By keeping his listeners thoroughly engaged, Antony is able to further develop on his purpose by utilizing diverse rhetorical devices. Near the beginning, he makes effective use of parallelism to list Caesar’s selfless deeds, like “when that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept”, which gives the effect that the list is so long that Antony cannot describe it in unique detail. Additionally, his parallel...