Evaluating the Rhetoric of Mark Antony in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar In Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Cassius and Brutus, along with other statesmen, conspire to murder Caesar. Following the murder, Brutus delivers a strong oration to his fellow Roman citizens explaining that he and his fellow statesmen assassinated Caesar because he was overly ambitious. Following Brutus's oration, Mark Antony delivers a rebuttal that exemplifies a mastery of rhetorical principles and succeeds in persuading his countrymen that Caesar did not deserve to die.
Mark Antony employs a variety of rhetorical principles in his speech. Like the Sophists, Antony works from exdoxa, or commonly held beliefs. Mark Antony uses events that citizens witnessed as support for his position. He states:
[Caesar] hath brought many captives home to Rome, Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill: When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept:
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff: You all did see that on the Lupercal I thrice presented him a kingly crown, Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition? (3. 2. 86-95).
Through using these specific events to support his position, Mark Antony advances his case significantly. Members of the audience recall these occurrences. By helping his audience remember Caesar's lack of ambitious behavior on these precise occasions, Antony is more likely to convince his audience that Caesar is not ambitious at all.
Antony also employs kairos, or correct timing, in his speech. He allows Brutus to speak before him, which gives him the opportunity to rebut Brutus's argument. Antony's entire argument hinges on providing examples to contradicting Brutus's initial claim that Caesar was ambitious. The content of Antony's speech lends itself to refuting an initial argument. Through choosing to speak after Brutus, Antony is able to use Brutus's words against him. For example, he continually injects the phrase "Brutus says he was ambitious; / And Brutus is an honourable man," into his speech (3. 2. 84-85). Furthermore, using Antony's rebuttal, the citizens decide that Caesar's assassination was not to protect Rome from an overly ambitious ruler and they do not give Brutus a chance to deny this. Had Antony spoken first, the citizens would have been more likely to allow Brutus a chance to refute Antony's arguments. The timing of Antony's speech is crucial to his persuasive power.
One can also find all three of Aristotle's appeals in Antony's speech. Most prominently, Antony appeals to logic. He clearly presents solid evidence against Brutus's claims in order to establish Caesar's innocence. He creates a logical chain connecting Julius Caesar's behavior to his lack of excessive ambition. Then from Caesar's acts to the vile nature of his assassins. Accord...