Mark Antony: Analysis Based On Shakespeare’s Play Julius Caesar
In this essay I will analyze and examine how Mark Antony shows signs of being an intelligent politician in Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar. I will examine how he uses his rhetorical skill to deceive the conspirators into believing that he is on their side, how he uses the same skills to win the crowd over to his side. The way he structures his speech is another key method of making sure that the crowd is in his corner. How he uses the effects of theater in his oration to impress the crowd. The way he uses the chaos to try and maintain power and how his military skills come in handy to make sure that he gets what he wants. Lastly how he loves being associated with people that are powerful and the extreme measures he is willing to take in order to be able get power or be associated with power.
Antony confirms Cassius’s discernment of him aa a ‘shrewd contriver’ when he meets the conspirators after Caesar’s murder. He states that he is now on ‘slippery ground’, in these words he means two things, one being that he opposes the conspirators but must make sure that they believe he is on their side. The other meaning is that he is literally on slippery ground with blood. Although he is shocked and at a loss of words at the moment, his skills as an orator, intelligence and ability to deceive and manipulate allow him to cover his feelings, successfully pretend to befriend the conspirators and persuade them to trust him. He commences by praising them in order to beguile them using metaphorical language, naming them ‘master spirits of this age’. He calls Caska ‘valiant’ even though he knows he is deceitful and shifty, and continues to praise Trebonius saying ‘good Trebonius’, despite knowing that Trebonius lead him astray so that they could kill Caesar. At this point Antony seems as if he has turned traitor to his memory of Caesar, he calls himself ‘Either a coward or a flatter’, bodly speaking aloud what is running through the conspirators minds. This decevious ability of seeing the argument from both perspectives give Antony some protection from the ill intentions of the murders. He realizes that he is in a delicate situation, but he keeps the conspirators on their defensive mode by demanding reasons wjy they saw Caesar as potential danger. Antony cleverly avoids dealing with Cassius by taking advantage of Brutus’ power and gullibility. He flatters him and attacks his weakness, nobility and naïve sense of honor. Antony knows that Brutus wants him by their side because he said ‘I know that we shall have him well to friend’, therefore he takes advantage of Brutus’s hope by deceiving the conspirators by telling them that ‘Friends I am with you all, and love you all’. This phrase enables Antony to receive permission to speak at Caesar’s funeral. He makes sure that he shakes hands with the conspirators so as to remember their names to use them in the speech he will deliver. This portrays that Antony is strong and cunning than any conspirators.
The way Antony structures his speech is so that he wins the crowd so that he can have enough support for the revenge he is planning. ‘Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears,’. Mark Antony begins his speech with desire fie attention of the crowd that is confused and hostile. The purpose of the commas punctuating his first line is to draw the attention of the crowd and to have them listen attentively. His speech takes form of a verse rather than prose, which gives emotion to his words, giving them a strong element and a poetic vibe. He immediately cancels all opposition by saying ‘ I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him’. However he shifts the minds of the crowd from the ‘evil ambition’ that Brutus highlighted in his speech by talking of Caesar’s legacy and reminding them of his heroism, kindness and honor. Having great rhetorical and political skill, Antony maintains Brutus’ arguments while pointing out their flaws and suggesting the opposite at the same time, thus he manages to stand out from the murderers while he stimulates the crowd to rebellion against the conspirators. Antony repeatedly refers to the conspirators as ‘honorable men’ so that he doesn’t go against crowd which initially is on Brutus’s side. He continues with flattering the conspirators by saying he is not an orator as Brutus is, this makes him comes across as someone who has a low self l confidence this evokes pity from the crowd which in turn gains him a bit of support. He introduces violence while claiming to prevent it. His gentle approach makes him appear as though as though he is not dictatorial but rather a statesman. He involves the crowd and makes the believe that they are in control. The way he consults the crowd takes significance, as he seems to care about the opinion. He uses the will for his mission of turning the mob more. When he finally reads the will, the generosity of Caesar fuels the anger of the crowd as they pickup the injustice of the assassination.
Most of the time action speaks louder than words, Antony uses the effects of theater in his oration to create a lasting impression on the crowd. He uncovers Caesar’s corpse to elongate contention following the assassination by narrating the death, claiming to know who was responsible for each wound. He uses the hyperbole ‘O, what a fall was there my countrymen’ to provoke the crowd into anger. The reason his speech is successful is because he uses colorful language and the effect of theatre in a powerful way that is attractive to the crowd. From this point it is visible he is not the plain man he claims to be rather he proves himself as eloquent and having a skill of managing crowds. His is well received and he succeeds in turning the public against the conspirators.
The chaotic situation allows Antony to seize the power he has been craving for. He even tries to stop Octavius from entering Rome because he did not want to share power. Antony’s ruthless nature is revealed when he personifies his mischief. He then thinks of how he can benefit from the chaos he then visits Lepidus and Octavius. Confident about his military strategy he readily trades the conspirators lives for his political success. Furthermore he uses his position as leader to defeat those of the opposing team.
In Act 5 we get to see him employ his military skills as a leader as he makes better decisions on the battlefield and how he has little to no care for the fellow men of Rome and how he would do anything for power. He again reveals how he doesn’t really care about the fellow men of Rome as he changes to will of to best suite his interests by keeping some money for the triumvirate and to cut costs for his army. He shows a hardened heart when he agrees that his nephew could be killed because he thinks he might disturb his reign. At this point he shows the same mentality as the conspirators which is to assassinate anyone he sees as a threat to him attaining power. He goes behind his ally’s back Lepidus criticizing him and planning to use him just like the conspirators did with Brutus.
The battle of power commences after the physical battle. At this point it is evident that though Antony initially planned to avenge his friend’s assassination but now his motive has completely changed as he adapted the whole benefits for his personal gain. Like any politician Antony shows that he would forget truth loyalty making him loose his nobility like politicians do for power. His climb for power indicates that he is capable of becoming a dictator like Caesar. He has little concern for the plebeians who will suffer because of the civil strife he has caused because he wanted power.
Throughout ‘Julius Caesar’ Mark Antony proves himself to be an artful public speaker, a successful military leader and a sly politician. He also proves that the political choices one makes are those that put him in a position where he will be exposed to power this is evident in how he associates himself with powerful leaders like Caesar and Octavius. I then conclude that Antony has always loved power and he proves that like any politician he is willing to do anything to be in power.