Julius Caesar Funeral Orations, Part Four: Antony (sections 4-6 in detail)

For the past few days, the focus has been the dual and dueling funeral orations in Act Three, Scene Two of Julius Caesar. I started with Brutus’ oration, followed that up with an overview of Antony’s, then yesterday took a deeper dive into the first half of Antony’s masterful rhetoric.

Today, let’s finish up with the last half of the oration (sections four through six–speeches six through ten)…

SECTION 4/SPEECH 6 (III.ii.166-94; 29 lines)

“If you have tears, prepare to shed them now” (III.ii.166), Antony says, beginning the second half of his oration, standing over the corpse of Caesar. The trochee (IF you) kicks off the section, propelling it into five straight lines of solid iambic pentameter. He holds up and begins to describe Caesar’s bloodstained cloak. It’s a nostalgic four lines, almost lyrical in tone (note the use of “summer evening” and two folksy elisions [“‘Twas” and “ev’ning”] in line 169). Then he begins to use that cloak as a prop to use as evidence against the conspirators; again, consecutive non-iambs propel the speech forward (LOOK, in THIS PLACE; III.ii.171). And this begins a pattern Antony exploits over the course of the next few lines. Whenever he wants to attack a different conspirator, he kicks off that line with trochee (or spondee) and more importantly a verb (LOOK, in || SEE what || MARK how || JUDGE, O; III.ii.171, 172, 175, and 179, respectively). It’s masterful oratory.

But bad journalism. Since Trebonius exits with Antony more than 50 lines before the assassination, it only makes sense that Antony gets some of the facts wrong. He says that Cassius was the first to stab, when we–as the audience–know it was Casca. Antony is a liar; we’ve seen that before. His instincts are good, however: since Caesar had warned Antony of Cassius, of course Antony would suspect Cassius of stabbing first … and if you count devising the conspiracy as an act of violence, then he did deliver the first blow.

While the wounds caused by Cassius and Casca are described with one line apiece, Antony saves most of his words for Brutus. The next eleven and a half lines are dedicated to Brutus and his attack, and the three and a half lines after that on the result of that specific wound. While embellished with descriptive flourishes, this portion follows the real events fairly well: it was after Brutus’ blow that Caesar seemed to give up the fight, and he died at the base of Pompey’s statue.

So why does Shakespeare have Antony obviously lie at the beginning of the speech but get the story right when it comes to the description of Brutus’ attack? Is it a lucky guess on Antony’s part? Or is something more at work here. Now, I can’t read the mind of a writer dead for almost four centuries, but I’d argue the rationale is to get us, the theatrical audience (and possibly Antony’s audience in the play as well), to accept as truth whatever else he says during this section as well.

Why would this be important?

Indulge me for a moment or two.

During this section of the speech, Antony uses one unusual word twice: “kind”–first as “unkindly” then as “unkindest” (III.ii.177 and 180, respectively). The first use extends Antony’s metaphor of how Caesar’s blood rushed out, as from a door to find out “if Brutus so unkindly knocked or no” (III.ii177). Time to dive into the ol’ Oxford English Dictionary, folks. This first use of unkindly uses the meaning of “kind” we currently use: “Exhibiting a friendly or benevolent disposition by one’s conduct to a person or animal” (“kind, adj.; 5.c” OED Online, Oxford University Press, September 2014. Web. 5 December 2014.). If Brutus would rudely knock upon Caesar’s door, Caesar would rush out. Completely logical.

The second use might still use this meaning–Brutus’s was the most malevolent cut of them all. However, the word had more meanings in Shakespeare’s day (note that the one I used earlier was listed as #5 in the chronological order of definitions). The first meaning of the word was “Naturally pertaining to, or associated with, a person or thing; proper, appropriate, fitting” (“kind, adj.; 1.c” OED). Still, this can be seen as associated with the meaning of the first usage of “unkindly”–Brutus’ cut was unnatural. But why? There’s another meaning, that’s why (you knew there would be!)…

a. Belonging to one by right of birth, descent, or inheritance; lawful, rightful;
d. Related by kinship; of kin (to); one’s own (people).
  • “kind, adj.; 2.a and d”

I’ll let that sink in.

In Caesar’s day, since Brutus’ mother had been a lover of Caesar’s, it was rumored that Brutus was actually Caesar’s son. It most likely untrue, but if it was the case, then Brutus’ attack would be the most unlikely to expect from one’s kin or family. It wouldn’t just be homicide, or even regicide, but patricide.

This parental interpretation fits the rest of the speech. Look at the first reference. Why else would Caesar “rush” to the door to see if Brutus knocked? Why does Antony describe Brutus as “Caesar’s angel” (III.ii.178)? And why does Antony exclaim, “Judge, O you gods, how dearly Caesar loved him!” (III.ii.179)? As we never see evidence of this in the play–Caesar and Brutus exchange words only three times in the play, and never is it personal in nature–it almost sounds like Antony was a jealous younger brother!

Now, it was rumored that Brutus was Caesar’s son, Antony’s audience would have known about it, and these subtle uses of “kind” would feed into the feeling that Brutus was a bad, bad man… so bad that Antony doesn’t even need to use the “honorable” rhetorical device he had leaned on during earlier sections. In fact, by the section’s line, he calls the conspirators “traitors” (III.ii.194) outright.

But before that, Antony pulls out a couple more rhetorical devices. He uses a shortened (four-foot rather than five) line to say where Caesar fell (“Even at the base of Pompey’s statue” [185]); this links Caesar to a place in history as Pompey was one of the other two triumvirs Caesar had ruled with (never mind it was Caesar who warred against Pompey). Antony links Caesar’s falling to “I and you and all of us fell down” (III.ii.188) in the only line of monosyllabic words in this section, pounding the connection home with extra stressed syllables.

And who caused this fall? The traitors mentioned in that last line of the section, of course. And by that moment Antony’s audience is willing to accept this assessment, as he has already used the term “traitor” in a more generic sense (III.ii.182), and “treason” which has flourished over Antony and the audience (III.ii.189).

By the time the members of the audience interrupt Antony’s oration to end this section, they are calling them “traitors” (III.ii.197), too.

SECTION 5/SPEECH 7 (III.ii.204-24; 21 lines)

Even as the crowd is calling to “let not a traitor live” (III.ii.200), Antony needs to hold them back with another all-monosyllabic line: “Good friends, sweet friends, let me not stir you up” (III.ii.204). He returns to the “honorable” rhetorical device: “They what have done this deed are honorable” and “They are wise and honorable” (III.ii.206 and 208, respectively). Only now their use drips with contempt as Antony says that they have “private griefs” and would give “reasons” (III.ii.207 and 208, respectively) for what they’ve done. Antony then tells the crowd that he is “no orator, as Brutus is” (III.ii.211), subtly implying that anything the traitors might say would be merely words, only oratory. As opposed to Brutus’s lofty rhetoric (ironic, since he spoke to the crowd in a short piece of straightforward prose), Antony says,

But, as you know me all, a plain blunt man
That love my friend, and that they know full well
  • III.ii.212-3

Again, he employs monosyllabic words to reinforce that concept of his plain bluntness. He has let Caesar’s wounds speak for him. But, he says,

                                                                                                        were I Brutus,
And Brutus Antony, there were an Antony
Would ruffle up your spirits and put a tongue
In every wound of Caesar that should move
The stones of Rome to rise and mutiny.
  • III.ii.220-4

Note the second line of the quote. It’s a long one, six-feet. It’s something he needs to trim down to get back to a regular rhythm. He does this through elisions in the next two lines (“spi’its” and “ev’ry”) to the to the final line, moving “stones of Rome to rise and mutiny.” Interesting choices, there, by ol’ Antonius. He used it earlier in his oration. Remember yesterday’s “mutiny and rage” (III.ii.122), something he said he was not “disposed… to stir” (III.ii.121) in the hearts and minds of his listeners. Right. Oh, and remember stones? Those senseless blocks that his audience members were most certainly not (III.ii.142)? Well, “(they)’ll mutiny!” (III.ii.225), so say the mob.

SECTION 6/SECTIONS 8, 9, and 10 (III.ii.229-32, 234-6, 239-44; 4, 3, and 6 lines, respectively)

The mob is ready to mutiny, but Antony isn’t done.

He uses the last three speeches to wind them up even further, reminding them they don’t know why “Caesar hath deserved (their) love” (III.ii.230), starting his speech with yet another monosyllabic line, “Why, friends, you go to do you know not what” (III.ii.239), and ending the first speech with a reminder: “You have forgot the will I told you of” (III.ii.232).

Antony reads what he claims is the will, saying that “to every Roman citizen (Caesar) gives, // To every several man, seventy-five drachmas” (III.ii.235-6), using multiple elisions in the lines (“ev’ry” in both lines, “sev’ral” in the second), to maintain that plain folksy bluntness Antony has created for himself.

In the last speech and lines, Antony continually links Caesar to the mob–”he hath left you” | “his walks // His private arbors” | “he hath left them you” // “your heirs”)–then asks “When comes such another (Caesar)?” (III.ii.244). And with that, he “let(s) (them) slip” (III.i.276), as he had promised a scene earlier, turning them into “Caesar’s spirit, ranging for revenge” (III.i.273).

It’s a masterful oration, an example of manipulation both subtle and blatant.