Both Brutus and Mark Antony have two entirely different purposes and agendas in each of their speeches to the Roman citizens. Brutus’ aim is to convince the throng of restless Romans that Rome has been saved thanks to the gallant conspirators for slaying the avaricious, power-hungry, Caesar. However, Antony, a loyal friend of Caesar’s, wants to show Brutus and the conspirators for what they really are: nothing but savage murderers who killed Caesar out of spite and jealousy and not for the good of Rome.
By doing this, Antony hopes the fickle mob will turn into a bunch of irate demagogues that will settle for nothing less than the revenge and deaths of the conspirators. Brutus’ speech is a useless and ineffective from start to finish. Approaching the citizens as intelligent scholars, when in fact, the mob consists of nothing but illiterate commoners, who cannot figure out for themselves what is right from what is wrong, was Brutus’ fatal mistake. Throughout the duration of the speech, Brutus mentions how he loves Caesar and how no one has more remorse for the death of Caesar than himself.
After paying tribute to the miraculous life of Caesar, Brutus explains that he killed him because he loves Rome more than Caesar, and that Caesar had become ambitious. Of course the gullible crowd is pleased to hear that Brutus loves Rome. But they cannot grasp the concept of being assassinated for ambition, as Brutus did not say in what way Caesar was ambitious or why he should be so severely punished. Brutus left a half-witted moronic mob all the pieces to put together, but they cannot think for themselves, and therefore, cannot comprehend his speech.
The aftermath of Brutus’ speech is a discombobulated crowd that all have jumped on the “ambition bandwagon” due to a few appealing words of Brutus’ passion for Rome, when in reality, they did not understand the meaning of the speech at all. Using ambition as his sole reason for backstabbing Caesar, perhaps single handily, caused the downfall of the Roman Republic. All Antony had to do now was persuade the mob that Brutus was wrong about Caesar’s ambition, and the mob would turn against Brutus and the conspirators.
In contrast to Brutus’ speech, Antony’s was brilliant. Even before he began to speak, Antony faced two difficult problems: first was the fact that he conducted it under a set of unfavorable ground rules made by Brutus, and the second, that the throng of citizens was already on Brutus’ side. Immediately, Antony is able to do what Brutus failed to do by connecting with the citizens instead of talking above them. Also the mob is not confused as Antony speaks of simple concepts such as his friendship to Caesar.
By using tangible shared experiences of Caesar’s lack of ambition, such as the refusal of the crown at Lupercal, the mob starts to question whether Caesar was too ambitious or not. After questioning whether all the virtuous things Caesar has done for Rome were ambitious, Antony attacks Brutus by pairing Caesar’s ambition with Brutus’ honor. This was very clever because it gives the notion to the crowd that if Caesar was in fact not ambitious then Brutus is in fact not an honorable man.
All that is left to do is erase the idea of Caesar being overly ambitious, and that is exactly what he does. Everything Antony does builds a rapport with the mob. When he weeps openly the mob can relate to emotion. He also uses the body of Caesar and speaks dramatically about each wound. The will is another tactic in Antony’s speech as it shows how much Caesar cared for Rome. Once he has the mob on his side, he makes them think that mutiny is their own idea and this is what the mob finally does.
These two speeches manifest what a potent weapon language is if it is used in the right style that fits the circumstances. Brutus’ speech was a failure because he was unable to communicate on the same level with his audience. On the other hand, Antony said what the people needed to hear in a clear and distinct way that the crowd could interpret for itself. The civil war that was to erupt had already been won, not with swords on the battlefield, but with choice words from Mark Antony.