Essay, Research Paper: Julius Caesar Theme

Shakespeare: Julius Caesar

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The play Julius Caesar, by William Shakespeare, or as I prefer to believe Edward
de Vere, introduces many readers to a world where speeches are made on many
occasions. In this world of rhetoric, persuasive oratory, speeches help people
persuade crowds. However, a crowd is not always persuaded by speeches. If a
speech is poorly developed with no supporting evidence, a crowd may not agree
with an orator. They may instead support the ideas of another orator. In the
play Julius Caesar, two prominent figures, Decius Brutus and Mark Antony, try to
persuade a crowd of Plebeians. Both men use appealing tactics to sway the crowd.
Brutus appeals to the crowd’s love for Rome (patriotism), while Antony
appealed to their emotion and logic. Brutus’ speech is defensive and poorly
structured. He begins his speech by addressing the crowd as “Romans,
countrymen...” (Julius Caesar 3.2, 13), making it known that he is talking to
the crowd as Roman citizens. One of the first mistakes Brutus makes is he bases
his whole speech on his honor. He tells the crowd to believe and agree with
everything he says because he is an honorable man. This is not a strong line of
defense or persuasion because it is hard to believe the things someone says
especially if they do not offer you supportive evidence. Rather than giving
evidence, Brutus gives an arrogant request, “Believe me for mine honor, and
have respect to mine honor, that you may believe.” (Julius Caesar 3.2, 14-16).
This is interesting because Brutus does not back up his statement (that he is
honorable) with evidence. Already, Brutus is overestimating the trust of the
crowd. Brutus attempts to cover up his lack of evidence by flattering the crowd
by telling them that he will let them be the judge of his actions. (This is a
big honor because in Rome at the time, Plebeians receive horrible, degrading
treatment.) “Censure me in your wisdom, and awake your senses, that you may
the better judge.” (Julius Caesar 3.2, 16-17). Brutus continues to tell the
crowd that he wants them to know all the facts so they can “awake their
senses” and judge him better. This is rather ironic since Brutus never gives
facts in his speech. He gives his opinions about Julius Caesar’s ambition, but
not facts. Even so, the crowd begins to sway at Brutus’ flattery. Brutus moves
on and starts justifying his actions. He claims that he is responsible for the
death of Caesar because of Caesar’s ambition. “As Caesar loved me, I weep
for him; as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was valiant, I honor him;
but as he was ambitious, I slew him.” (Julius Caesar 3.2, 24-27). Brutus is
appealing to the crowds wish to be free men without Caesar rather than be slaves
under Caesar’s tyranny. However, Brutus does not cite any examples to support
his allegation of Caesar’s ambition. He instead leaves his statements
“open-ended”. Brutus seems to expect the crowd to believe his arguments just
because he is honorable. This is not a wise choice because the crowd is too
emotionally shocked (about Caesar’s murder) to excited about patriotism.
Brutus fails to incorporate “logic” and “emotion” in his speech. Many
critics believe that this is the factor that leads to the “mutiny” against
him. Brutus seems to have no other supporting arguments for his case, so he asks
the crowd questions like; who is so corrupt to want to be a slave under
Caesar’s rule rather than be free without him. Even if someone would rather be
a slave, it is not likely that they will admit to being corrupt. When Brutus
starts judging the crowd, he begins to lose his effect on them. “Who is here
so base that would rather be a bondsman? If any speak, for him have I offended.
Who is here so vile that would not be a Roman? If any speak, for him have I
offended. Who here is so rude that would not be a Roman? If any speak, for him
have I offended. I pause for a reply.” (Julius Caesar, 3.2,29-34) The crowd
responds to his questions by telling him that no one is base, rude or vile, but
then again who would agree with those statements? Brutus ends his speech saying
that he would kill for Rome and die for Rome. Funny, why should anyone believe
him? He doesn’t even have evidence to prove his honor or Caesar’s ambition.
On what should the crowd base their belief in Brutus’ loyalty, his honor? He
didn’t prove his honor, so the crowd shouldn’t base their belief in that.
Brutus gives an unpersuasive speech that lacks proof or emotion. Furthermore,
his arguments are groundless (due to the lack of evidence). Without proven
honor, emotion, evidence or grounded arguments, the crowd has nothing to be
persuaded by. That is why Brutus fails to sway the crowd. Just because one
attempts to sway a crowd doesn’t mean he or she will.
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