Free research paper sample on Julius Caesar:
In the opening situation of his funeral speech for Julius Caesar, Mark Antony quickly moves the hostile crowd from believing they are well rid of Caesar to questioning the assassination through his juxtaposition of experience versus opinion, and a repetition of key words that reverses their meaning.
Antony compares his concrete positive experiences with Brutus’s unsubstantiated opinion both in what he says and the way he presents it. Antony begins his speech by reminiscing of how Caesar was Antony’s “friend, faithful and just to me,” a fact that the crowd had long known. Antony always appeared to be at Caesar’s side, indicating that they were indeed close friends. However Antony continues on, speaking of how Brutus “told” the crowds that Caesar was ambitious. By saying these comments together Antony conveys to the crowd that he knew Caesar very well, a way that no one else did. Antony hints to the crowd that his solid facts take precedence over Brutus’s stubborn notions. Brutus’s mere ideas were not backed by any proof or experience, therefore Antony implies that Brutus’s statements could not be more valid than Antony’s. Then he talks of Caesar’s public good deeds. For example, Antony announces “when the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept,” demonstrating that Caesar had much compassion and pity toward the people. Immediately Antony declares that Brutus “said” that Caesar was ambitious. This displays that what Brutus merely thinks contradicts the well-known facts about Caesar.
Caesar is portrayed to be a kindhearted man by Antony, which is a direct implication that Antony obviously does not agree with the conspirators. By adding these intentional examples in his speech, Antony appeals to reasoning of the people to decide that he makes more sense than Brutus. Antony next uses his most powerful and effective example supporting his position, when Caesar was offered kingly powers. This event when Caesar was “thrice presented…kingly crown…which he did thrice refuse” was witnessed by almost all of the Roman community. The crowds could not argue with that fact, because they had seen with their own eyes that Antony had offered Caesar the crown, but he refused it indicating that Caesar was not very anxious to accept the crown. But once again, Antony quickly reminds the mass of people that Brutus “spoke” that Caesar was too ambitious. Antony’s intentional word usage in this statement does imply that Brutus had just told everyone his feelings, but that did not necessarily mean that it should be upheld. This final example completes the total transformation of the general public from Brutus’s side to Antony’s. If Caesar had refused the crown not only one or two times, but three times, how could he be accused of ambition by the conspirators? This indirect rhetorical question is posed to each person hearing the speech, exemplifying that Brutus’s simple opinions could not overtake Antony’s factual experiences witnessed by the public. The ultimate result of Antony’s implied reasoning with the crowd is that they unanimously change to be on Antony’s side. Not only does Antony present these juxtapositions to the crowd, but also the way that he presents the entire situation is extremely effective. Antony tells the crowd of how Brutus calls Caesar ambitious, and then slips his feelings in by adding “if” it were so, meaning if that was true. The crowds understand by this that ultimately, again, Brutus is simply speaking empty, unproven words that should not be heard. The “if” in the statement implies that Antony wants the crowds to question what Brutus said, after all it is only what he said and nothing more. Antony also talks of his friendship with Caesar, and then remembers “but” Brutus thought Caesar was ambitious. In this statement, the “but” means that maybe Brutus’s statements are not right, and a contrast begins to rise. Antony wants the vacillating crowd to understand that they should not blindly accept Brutus’s assumptions, rather they should question it and think of past facts and experiences. Antony continues to speak of how Caesar pitied and sympathized with the poor, “yet” Brutus called him ambitious. Antony illustrates the contrast in this statement, making the Roman people think of how exactly could empathetic Caesar be called ambitious? Through the intentional presentation of certain words, as well as the juxtaposition of Antony’s experiences and Brutus’s opinions, Antony is able to sway the crowd on his side, and begin really questioning the assassination of noble Caesar.
Antony repeats key words which in context actually reverse their meanings. He converts the negative meaning that Brutus gave Caesar when he called him “ambitious” into something to be admired and revered. Antony does this by first talking of his friendship with Caesar, and Caesar’s overall loyalty to Antony and other people. Antony juxtaposes ambition and loyalty by switching Brutus’s meaning of a power thirsty person to someone wanting to please his/her friends and will be there with them at all times. Antony next links ambition and pity by speaking of when Caesar cried for the poor when they were sad. Antony proves that if Caesar was so ambitious, then he would not have had any sympathy for other people, which clearly was not the case. Antony converts this ambition that Brutus denounced to actually be compassionate ambition, something that no one would refuse. Antony displays Caesar to be a caring and moral person, who strives to do the best he can for anyone, with an excellent and beneficial type of ambition. Last, but most importantly, Antony compares Brutus’s ambition to Caesar’s refusal of the crown. Caesar declined the throne three times, which absolutely cannot be mistaken for ambition. Obviously Caesar did not want to rush anything, and since he was a humble man he did not want to be portrayed as the exact image Brutus gave him. Antony changes the negative meaning of the word “ambition” to be positive types of ambition, all proven through Antony’s real experiences. Not only does Antony change the word ambition to depict Caesar, he also uses the word honorable. The word “honorable” is initially used by Antony to compliment the conspirators, but in the end it condemns them. Antony first announces of how noble Brutus is, and then immediately goes into the details of Caesar’s gory and brutal death. Antony originally reveres Caesar and then describes of how vicious the death of Caesar, which in turn permits the people to understand that no man who takes place in such a atrocious death should deserve the title of honorable. Antony continues his speech to thank the “honorable” men (conspirators) for allowing him to speak at Caesar’s funeral. This statement is actually an implied oxymoron by Antony, because it is contradicting. The conspirators supposedly killed Caesar because they did not want a dictator or a king for life, but what were they doing by having to allow people to speak? The people understood that the conspirators were opposing the very goals and ideas that they claimed to possess. Therefore, the purpose Antony was trying to get through was that Caesar should not have been murdered because there were not any good reasons for the death of such a great man. Antony includes in his speech of Caesar’s many personal and public attributes that had captured the hearts and minds of many Romans, and then once again calls the conspirators “honorable” men. When comparing the two statements, Antony is attempting to illustrate that these men were definitely not honorable because they assassinated the man who did no wrong. Antony wants the crowd to think how could these men, who brutally killed such an acclaimed man in all aspects of his life, be called honorable? Antony is effective and does persuade the crowd to switch sides through his sly reverse meanings as well. Antony does repeat key words that actually reverse the meaning to support his cause, and ultimately wins the support of the Roman people in his stance that Caesar should not have been assassinated.
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