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All great speakers have one thing in common: a seamless ability to use persuasive techniques in order to push a point across. In William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, after Caesar’s assassination, nobleman and conspirator Brutus makes a speech announcing to the crowd the reasons for his treachery and his defence of his actions. He is immediately followed by an immutable ally of Caesar’s, Marc Antony, who subtly exposes the fallacies in Brutus” rationalization and inevitably convinces the crowd to riot and attack the conspirators. Antony’s speech was far more effective in persuading the masses due to his use of certain persuasive techniques that held far more value than those of his opponent. While both Brutus and Marc Antony made sufficient use of techniques such as loaded words and repetition, Antony’s advanced use of verbal irony and rhetorical questions help to push his point across to the audience far more than Brutus ever could hope to achieve. Both speakers make good use of loaded words and repetition, albeit for differing purposes. Brutus and Marc Antony both commonly use loaded words like nobility and honour to support their claims. Brutus does this when he says, “ believe me for mine honour, and have respect to mine honour” ( Act III. Scene 2. Line 4). Brutus is attempting to appeal to the masses by appearing genuine and just. Antony makes use of this when he mocks Brutus by saying, “ who, you all know, are honourable men” ( Act III. Scene 2. Line 53).
The two speeches both repeat these loaded words over and over again to strengthen their points. Brutus and Antony are both, by repeating these words, achieving in both raising and lowering their meaning and validity respectively. While Brutus and Antony are on opposite sides of an argument, them both using the same techniques speaks to the quality and effectiveness of these persuasive strategies. While both speeches share some similarities, there are a few key differences that ultimately determine the victor. While Brutus was being serious and arrogant, Antony made use of a ton of sarcasm and irony. Brutus expresses his seriousness by saying that Caesar deserved to die, “ nor his offences enforced, for which he suffered death” ( Act III. Scene 2. Lines 30- 31) . By speaking in such a way, Brutus distances himself from the people he is trying to get on his side. Antony also used a much softer approach in recruiting his followers. This is shown when Antony apologizes to the audience, “ Bear with me; my heart is in the coffin there with Caesar, And I must pause till it come back to me” ( Act III. Scene 2. Lines 32- 34) . By speaking with a much softer tone than Brutus, Antony makes himself much more appealing to his people. These differences are inevitably the reason for one speech’s validity to be in question compared to the other.Antony made the better argument based on his use of verbal irony and rhetorical questions. Antony made an extremely better use of rhetorical questions in his argument. One such example is when he questions to fickle nature of the crowd, “ what cause withholds you then, to mourn for him” ( Act III. Scene 2. Line 30).
Using rhetorical questions makes the audience have to think and provokes them to join on your opinion. Antony also uses verbal irony numerous times in his argument, being the vital point of his success. He falsifies Brutus” credibility as an attack on his character, “ And, sure, he is an honourable man. I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke. But here I am to speak what I do know” ( Act III. Scene 2. Lines 26- 28) . By discrediting Brutus, Antony makes it so he is the clearly better person to follow in the upcoming conflict. By using these specific techniques, Antony’s oration highly surpasses Brutus” in terms of persuasiveness and validity.In spite of this, there are some individuals that oppose this view and are in support of the superiority of Brutus” disquisition. One of their most used arguments is that Brutus” exceptional use of assertions and overwhelming self confidence make his argument paramount. There is little to no merit in this statement as by making numerous hypothetical assumptions, Brutus invalidates his otherwise sound argument. His overuse of disputable, indeterminate statements distance himself from the audience and makes his speech sound patronizing and almost oligarchic. In response to criticism, Brutus boldly states, “ Who is here so base that would be a bondman? If any, speak; for him have I offended. Who is here so rude that would not be a Roman? If any, speak; for him have I offended. Who is here so vile that will not love his country? If any, speak; for him have I offended. I pause for a reply… Then none have I offended” ( Shakespeare Act III. Scene 2. Lines 20-27). The way in which he states this makes him seem antagonistic and made of stone. This is the opposite effect of what Brutus was intending, as these statements make him come off more of a villainous big-bad type, like a mob boss or dictator, rather than a heroic icon sacrificing his friendships for the betterment of the people. He then has the gall to exclaim that all will benefit as a result of his doing, “ Here comes his body, mourned by Marc Antony: who, though he had no hand in his death, shall receive the benefit of his dying, a place in the commonwealth; as which of you shall not” ( Shakespeare Act III. Scene 2. Lines 32- 35).
This example alone, ignoring everything else presented, completely crushes this idea and solidifies Antony’s argument as the better. Marc Antony’s speech is indisputably superior, based on numerous claims and circumstances. Antony and Brutus both made use of loaded words and repetition. However, they differed in terms of tone and relatability to the audience. These differences along with Antony’s use of sarcasm make his argument more believable. This whole interaction is a perfect example of how subtle differences can completely change the outcome of an argumentative subject matter.
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