View Full Version : The rhetorics of Brutus and Marcus Antonius

05-07-2006, 03:22 PM
Brutus and Marcus Antonius both give a eulogy over Julius in Act III, scene 2, but Brutus' is much shorter than Marcus Antonius'. Also Marcus Antonius wasn't quite honest about his intentions in giving his eulogy (to 'secretly' scandalize Brutus and the other conspirators).
At Shakespeare's time, rhetoric was falling from the position it had held in ancient times, it wasn't quite reduced to "window dressing" and "pure cosmetics" that the Enlightenment called it.

Yet, Marcus Antonius was clearly the better (in the sense of "more skilled") rhetorician of Brutus and he. Did Shakespeare make it so purposefully, using the dubious quality that was being attributed to Rhetorics, as a marker that Marcus Antonius was less honourable than Brutus?

The Unnamable
05-07-2006, 10:44 PM
All the other characters in the play were less honourable than Brutus. Brutus speaks in prose, Antony in verse. Antony succeeds in manipulating the crowd because he appeals to their emotions and exploits their stupidity. Brutus makes the fatal mistake of appealing to their reason. I donít think Shakespeare is suggesting that all use of rhetoric indicates lack of honour. Brutus uses rhetoric, as does Shakespeare.

01-27-2008, 02:03 AM
When Antony utters the words "I am no orator, as Brutus is," this is highly ironic, as he surely realizes that he is the much more cunning rhetoritician. From this it can be inferred, however, that Antony feels that it is necessary to imply that it is Brutus who is attempting to use rhetoric as a weapon. Given this denial, it seems that even Antony believes that attempting to win the heart of the people through clever speech is dishonorable or dishonest in some resptect. This suggests to me that Shakespeare did, in fact, believe that Antony's rhetoric was less honorable than Brutus' plainer speech. It is important to note, however, that the logic of Brutus' argument is very weak, and he therefore may be exhibiting flaws of his own even as he avoids the dishonor of manipulative rhetoric. I hope this helps.