Mark Antony’s Speech in “Julius Caesar” by William Shakespeare

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

So much we get caught up with the people that made history, that we forget the messages that made these folks famous. Apparently we’ve fallen for the adage of actions speaking louder than words.

Today that is not going to be the case as we take a quick glimpse into Mark Antony‘s funeral speech for Julius Caesar in William Shakespeare‘s play Julius Caesar.

So Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears!

In the turmoil surrounding the assassination, Antony escaped Rome dressed as a slave, fearing Caesar’s death would be the start of a bloodbath among his supporters. When this did not occur, he soon returned to Rome.

The conspirators, who styled themselves the Liberatores (The Liberators), had barricaded themselves on the Capitoline Hill for their own safety. Though they believed Caesar’s death would restore the Res Publica Romana (Roman Republic), Caesar had been immensely popular with the Roman middle and lower classes, who became enraged upon learning a small group of aristocrats had killed their champion.

Antony has been allowed by Brutus and the other conspirators to make a funeral oration for Caesar on condition that he not blame them for Caesar’s death. However, while Antony’s speech outwardly begins by justifying the actions of Brutus and the assassins (“I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him”), Antony uses rhetoric and genuine reminders to ultimately portray Caesar in such a positive light that the crowd are enraged against the conspirators.

Throughout his speech, Antony calls the conspirators “honourable men” with his implied sarcasm becoming increasingly obvious. Antony begins by carefully rebutting the notion that his friend, Caesar deserved to die because he was ambitious, instead claiming that his actions were for the good of the Roman people, whom he cared for deeply.

When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept: Ambition should be made of sterner stuff.

Mark Antony giving Caesar’s funeral speech in the Forum.

Antony then teases the crowd with Caesar’s will, which they beg him to read, but he refuses. Antony tells the crowd to “have patience” and expresses his feeling that he will “wrong the honourable men whose daggers have stabbed Caesar” if he is to read the will.

The crowd, increasingly agitated, calls the conspirators “traitors” and demands that Antony read out the will. After that Antony deals his final blow by revealing to the crowd Caesar’s will, in which it states:

To every Roman citizen he gives, To every several man seventy-five drachmas as well as land.

He ends his speech at which point the crowd begin to riot and search out the assassins with the intention of killing them. Pleased, Antony knows the course that will be played out.

If you have not yet seen, nor read, the Shakespeare play Julius Caesar we highly suggest you do so ASAP. We hope you enjoyed today’s journey and look forward to having you back again soon.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!