Julius Caesar: Novel Summary: Act 3, Scene 2
Brutus addresses the crowd, saying that while he loved Caesar, he loved Rome more. He asks them whether they would prefer it if Caesar were alive and they all slaves, or Caesar were dead and they were free? Brutus honors Caesar for his bravery but says he killed him because he was ambitious. Who wants to be a slave? he asks. Who does not love his country? He invites a response from the crowd, which cries out in support of him. Brutus concludes that he can have offended no one by his act.
As Antony enters with Caesar's body, Brutus tells the crowd that he killed his best friend for the sake of Rome, and that he has the same dagger reserved for himself, when his country should need his death. He then leaves to the cheers of the crowd, insisting that everyone stay to hear Antony's speech. The crowd is convinced by Brutus's speech that Caesar was a tyrant.
Antony addresses the crowd. He says he came to bury Caesar, not to praise him. Brutus has said that Caesar was ambitious, and if that was true, then it was a bad fault in Caesar, and he has fully paid for it.
Antony points out that he speaks with the permission of the assassins, and he calls Brutus an honorable man, as are all they all. He says that Caesar was his friend and always behaved fairly to him. Then he repeats that Brutus said Caesar was ambitious, and Brutus is an honorable man. But then he begins to cast doubt on the case against Caesar. He points out that Caesar brought home many captives to Rome, whose ransoms increased Rome's revenues. Was that ambitious? When the poor suffered, Caesar pitied and wept with them. Did that seem ambitious? He repeats for a third time that that Brutus said Caesar was ambitious, and that Brutus is an honorable man.
Next, he reminds the crowd that three times he tried to present Caesar with a crown, and each time Caesar rejected it. Was that ambitious? Once more Antony repeats the reference to Brutus and the fact that he is honorable. He claims that he is not there to disprove what Brutus has said, only to speak what he knows. He asks the crowd that since they all loved Caesar once, why can they not mourn for him? For a moment he is overcome by tears and has to pause.
Antony's speech is beginning to have its effect. Convinced by the points he has made, the crowd is ready to change sides and denounce Brutus.
Continuing, Antony claims it is not his intention to stir up rage against Cassius and Brutus (who are honorable men). Then he produces Caesar's will. If the people could hear it, he says, even though he does not intend to read it, they would kiss Caesar's wounds, by which he means that they would be extremely grateful to him.
The crowd clamors to hear the will, but Antony says it is not good for them to know how much Caesar loved them; it will only inflame them and make them angry.
The crowd continues to call for the will. Persuaded by the clamor, tells them to form a circle around Caesar's corpse. Antony points to each of the many wounds in Caesar's mantle, describing which was made by which conspirator. He makes particular play with the wound caused by Brutus, whom Caesar loved. When Caesar saw Brutus stab him, he was overcome by Brutus' ingratitude far more than any physical wounds. For the first time, Antony refers to the assassination as treason.
Then he pulls back the mantle and shows Caesar's body. The crowd is shocked and calls for revenge. Antony asks them to restrain themselves, although as he explains himself, referring again to the "honorable" men who killed Caesar, and saying that he has no gift of oratory, unlike Brutus, to stir men to action. But if he were Brutus, and Brutus Antony, then he would speak with passion and call for mutiny in Rome.
The crowd is about to scatter and stir up a rebellion when Antony reminds them that they have not heard the will yet. Antony announces that Caesar gives to every Roman citizen the sum of seventy-five drachmaes. He has also left his forest and orchards to be public pleasure-grounds, where anyone can walk.
The common people rush off, vowing to burn down the assassins' houses. Antony is satisfied at what his words have achieved and waits for whatever events unfold.
A servant enters and tells Antony that Octavius, and Lepidus have arrived. He also says that Brutus and Cassius have fled Rome. Antony assumes it is because they heard of how he had stirred the people up against them.
Brutus makes an effective speech that appeals to reason. But he is far surpassed by the brilliant cunning of Antony, who plays directly on the emotions of the crowd. Through the use of irony, he not only manages to suggest that Brutus and his fellow conspirators are not honorable men, he does so without violating the conditions imposed on him: that he not speak ill of the assassins. Not only are Antony's words devastating in the way they undermine Brutus's speech, he is also a master actor. The pause for tears, for example, whether sincere or not, is dramatically effective, and Antony's use of his props, the dead body-who could not be moved by the sight of Caesar's bloody corpse?-and the will, are also superb in their timing and effect.
It is clear that Brutus has made a series of miscalculations. His biggest mistake is to allow Antony to speak at the funeral. He then compounds the error by leaving the scene after his own speech, which effectively gives Antony the last word. It seems that Brutus is so concerned with acting nobly (or perhaps trying to convince everyone, including himself, that he is doing so), that he makes the kind of blunders that Cassius, more ruthless and with a fiercer hunger for power, would never have made if left to himself. In the game of power politics, ruthlessness pays bigger dividends than nobility.