Irony in Julius Caesar's Antony Speech

Irony in Julius Caesar's Antony Speech
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  • 0:00 Antony's Speech
  • 0:45 Verbal Irony
  • 1:30 For the Love of Caesar
  • 2:20 Who is Marc Anthony's Target?
  • 2:55 Marc Antony's Ultimate Goal
  • 3:25 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kaitlin Oglesby
This lesson focuses on the irony found in Marc Antony's great speech in 'Julius Caesar'. We'll examine what irony is and how it was used in the play to unite the plebeians to help Marc Antony get revenge against Caesar's assassins.

Antony's Speech

Some of the most famous words from Julius Caesar, by William Shakespeare, are spoken in Act III, Scene 2 as Marc Antony, a loyal friend of Julius Caesar, eulogizes his lost mentor.

'Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears!', he starts in one of the most remembered parts of the whole play. Of course, Marc Antony wants to be remembered when he says those words, as he is essentially throwing down the gauntlet against those who assassinated Julius Caesar. In doing so, Marc Antony employs a great deal of irony, making it clear to those targeted that they are on notice, while appealing to the masses that loved Caesar so greatly.

Verbal Irony

The most obvious use of verbal irony, when a character says one thing but means another, is the seeming defense of Brutus. Throughout the speech, Marc Antony repeats several times that Brutus is an honorable man. However, if the reader could gain a glimpse into Marc Antony's mind, it is very clear that he does not believe that. Instead, he is mocking the idea of Brutus having honor, perpetually reminding people of what Caesar had done for them and how that was considered to be cause for assassination by Brutus and others. With every one of Caesar's virtues that Marc Antony lists, he provides a counter view from Brutus, then seemingly defends Brutus. For example:

He was my friend, faithful and just to me:

But Brutus says he was ambitious;

And Brutus is an honourable man.

For the Love of Caesar

Another example of irony is found when Marc Antony says that, the good men do is often interred with their bones, then he proceeds to remind the masses of all the great things that Julius Caesar did for them. If Caesar's greatness is buried with him then why talk about it? Well, the plebeians all still love Caesar, dead or not, and Marc Antony is trying to convince them that through their love of Caesar, they can grow to love him.

More than just verbal irony, Marc Antony also seeks to downplay his own abilities in order to help motivate the crowd. He claims to not be an orator, but it's clear that he is exceptionally talented. He wants to disabuse the masses of the idea that he is somehow just another rich person trying to convince them to do something.

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