JV – Rhetorical Devices in Antony’s Funerary Speech from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar

First Folio of Julius Caesar (http://commons.wikimedia.org/)

At 12, JV worked really hard to piece together the types of rhetoric used and the styles of rhetoric.  He found the work on the play to be rewarding for his precision oriented mind.


The play, Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare, is an interpretation of the last days of Caesar, his murder, and the aftermath. The part I’m interested is the beginning of Antony’s funerary speech and the rhetorical devices used in it.  Antony’s speech takes place near the end of the third act. It is appealing to the rhetorical devices found in primarily in pathos.

Pathos is one of three main rhetorical devices. The others being ethos and logos. Ethos is the ability of a speaker to gain agreement based upon his reputation, Logos is based on logic and pathos is based on emotional pleas. Antony’s argument against Brutus was so convincing that Antony made the people burn down Brutus and Cassius’ houses and chase them out of Rome. I will summarize the speech and then show you how Shakespeare spices it up through the use of pathos based rhetorical devices.

When Antony begins his speech, he addresses the citizens as friends and then asks them to listen.  After that he implies that he respects Caesar but does not love him. Antony then begins his argument against Brutus, the man who killed Caesar. As he begins his attack, Antony plainly states what his problem with Brutus is.  He then poses several questions about Caesar that he proceeds to answer.  The first two are about Caesar’s ambition and the last one is aimed at the audience.

“What cause with hold you then to mourn for him?” is Antony’s first rhetorical question.  He immediately answers and then gives the crowd time to talk.

He then begins again, “But yesterday the word of Caesar might have stood against the world; now lies he there. And none so poor to do him reverence.”

He tops this section off by producing Caesar’s will that he says he found in his closet.  But he refuses to read it to the clamoring crowd. Then he picks up Caesar’s cloak and shows the crows where Brutus stabbed Caesar. He goes on about how Brutus did the actual gory deed.  He holds the crowd back as they begin to discuss pillaging Brutus’s home.  He does this by reading them Caesar’s will.  The crowd will not be stopped now, and out of anger they burn Caesar’s body and using the fire brands from his pyre, they burn down the houses of Brutus and his friends.

The scene closes when Antony’s servant comes and tells Antony that Octavius has arrived and Brutus and Cassius were chased through the gates of Rome in fear of their lives.

Let’s look at how Shakespeare brings out the emotion of the first part of this scene.

The speech can be broken down into three sections.  In rhetoric, the first is call the Proemium.  This is the introduction where the original case is presented to the audience. Antony carefully presents the murder of Caesar to the people.  He will go on from there to convince the crowd further but we will limit our discussion to the Proemium.

Bust of Mark Antony (http://commons.wikimedia.org/)

“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
He begins with an Asyndeton. This is when you make a list but don’t put conjunctions.

I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is often interred with their bones;
Antony combines two Rhetorical devices here: 1 Personification: attribution of personality to an impersonal thing.  Making the evil and the good living things and 2 he uses Tautology which is the repetition of an idea in a different word, phrase, or sentence. He is essentially saying the same thing with different words in each line.

So let it be with Caesar.
The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answer’d it.
In this original statement of grievance, Antony uses a Syllepsis: use of a word with two others, with each of which it is understood differently.

Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest–
For Brutus is an honourable man;
So are they all, all honourable men–
The most common Rhetorical Device used by Shakespeare in this monologue is Irony. This is an expression of something which is contrary to the intended meaning; the words say one thing but mean another. And your audience knows what it means.  Shakespeare uses this line as an Antistrophe through out the speech.  An Antistrophe is a repetition of the same word or phrase at the end of successive clauses or stanzas.

Come I to speak in Caesar’s funeral.
He was my friend, faithful and just to me:
But Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
Here is irony and antistrophe again.

He hath brought many captives home to Rome
Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill:
Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
Here Shakespeare begins a series of Rhetorical Questions so the crowd can prove to themselves that Caesar was not ambitions.

The Booth brothers, of the assignation of Lincoln fame, posing as Antony, Caesar and Brutus. John Wilkes was Antony. (http://commons.wikimedia.org/)

When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept:
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
Here is irony and antistrophe again.

You all did see that on the Lupercal
I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?
Rhetorical Question.

Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And, sure, he is an honourable man.
Here is irony and antistrophe again.

I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
Antithesis is the opposition, or contrast of ideas or words in a balanced or parallel construction.

You all did love him once, not without cause:
What cause withholds you then, to mourn for him?
Rhetorical Question.

O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason. Bear with me;
My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
Hyperbolic Metaphor is used here.  Hyperbole is the exaggeration for emphasis or for rhetorical effect.

And I must pause till it come back to me.
Aposiopesis caps off this part of the speech.  Aposiopesis is a form of ellipse by which a speaker comes to an abrupt halt, seemingly overcome by emotion.

This paper shows you the importance of rhetorical devices in any kind of speech or literature. The key remember the three main rhetorical devices, Ethos, Logs, and Pathos. Using these you will become a better speaker and writer – convincing your audience, pulling readers in to your book or speech.

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Filed under European History, Geography and World Studies, JV

3 responses to “JV – Rhetorical Devices in Antony’s Funerary Speech from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar

  1. Franklin Herrera

    This really helped me with My AP English 3 project. I thank you for that.

  2. Chlokey-Dokey

    Yeah seriously that helped a LOT!! Thanks so much!

  3. chris

    Yes thanks bro. I had a 40 point assignment on this stuff and now I think I’m going to good so thank you. :]

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