In The Tragedy of Julius Caesar written by William Shakespeare, there are two speeches relating to the same topic of which are both presented to the people of Rome following Caesar’s assassination. The play is deeply concerned with the idea of rhetoric, or persuasion. Cassius convinces Marcus Brutus that Caesar has to die, setting the story in motion. The resolution of the plot is set by Anthony’s speech to the plebeians. Shakespeare sees rhetoric as collectively, the foremost powerful force within the world; able to topple kings and crown them. The play, The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, examines what gives rhetoric its power by setting Brutus’s speech against Mark Antony’s. Shakespeare shows Anthony’s rhetoric to be superior by the impact he left on the plebeians.
Brutus’s speech does not win the support of the crowd because he does not understand them, which is something he should’ve been careful of. During the beginning of his speech when he asks the plebeians,’ Censure me in your wisdom, and awake your senses.’ it seems as though he does not realize that he is speaking to an angry crowd. He bases his argument on the cold and calculating reason. Brutus states that his love for freedom is greater than that of ties of friendship when he goes on to say, ‘Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more.’ but due to the emotions of the crowd and what they’re feeling, they are unable to comprehend this logic. Brutus proceeds to say to the plebeians, ‘Believe me for mine honor, and have respect to mine honor that you may believe.’ this honor which he had used could not be used as a reason for belief in the story he had given when something such as his honor is being questioned. What really caused Brutus’s speech to fail was when he failed to offer any proof of Caesar’s ambition, the central point of his argument. He ends his speech with a verbal attack on any who disagree with him, essentially calling them cowards. This silences dissension temporarily but when the other side is presented it does not help his cause. Brutus failed because he was much less of a man of the people than he would’ve like to think.
Mark Antony’s argument, however, is a great piece of rhetoric and an important part of the story. Not only does he successfully convince the plebeians that Brutus is a traitor, but he also has mastered the use of emotion, logic, and subtlety. He uses phrases that touch the crowd’s hearts, such as, ‘My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar’ as well as, ‘Oh judgment, thou art fled to brutish beasts.’ which not only helps to establish a connection with the emotional crowd but the emotion being felt after the death of Julius Caesar. This serves to give Antony a great common ground with the crowd, who must have also remembered the things that Antony had spoken of. He provides many counter-examples to Brutus’s claims that Caesar was ambitious by saying, ‘I thrice presented him a kingly crown when he did thrice refuse.’ these counter-examples give a warrant to the crowd’s rejection of Brutus. In the beginning, he refers to Brutus as an ‘honorable man’ but he slowly backs away from that statement and turns it from a simple statement into a keen denunciation throughout the remainder of his speech. His indirect way of showing the crowd his feelings makes his speech even more effective. The crowd is directed but not forced to believe in his reasoning so that when they accept his argument, they will accept it as their own opinion. Antony is in the end, the better speaker, due to his understanding of the crowd.
Throughout the story, the reader can start to come to the conclusion that loyalty is an anomaly. Some examples of this loyalty are true loyalty, some lasting a lifetime, and even acting as a person’s strongest driving force, or even being loyal to the point where it damages themselves and people around them. Loyalty can be false however, it can be used for theatrics, or maybe one bends the knee because of their inferior political position. After Caesar’s assassination, it became clear that some people weren’t as loyal as people thought they were. Brutus was loyal to both Caesar and Rome, but as he said, he loved Rome more. Cassius’ baleful loyalty to Caesar was due to his position, and word and action from his tongue were to meet his own needs, often to collect more silver. Antony’s loyalty to Caesar was true and undying. Going through any means necessary to avenge Caesar and bring his son to the throne.
Brutus and Mark Antony both as a whole struggle for the support of the plebeians, who are portrayed as dumb and changing frequently. This is at the heart of Shakespeare’s idea of rhetoric. Rhetoric is pure persuasion; it’s not confined by the same rules as discussion. Shakespeare doesn’t pass judgment on the plausibility of either argument in this scene. The people favored one speech: Mark’s, which led Rome’s people to side with Mark Antony. Both speeches were delivered very well and appealed to many different groups of people. This story not only continues to live on, but is also very popular to this day, while truly engaging the reader into questioning the correct decision at the conclusion of the play, but there is no doubt that Antony is the better speaker.