Julius Caesar Theme 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 crowds 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 Caesars 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 Caesars 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 Caesars tyranny.
However, Brutus does not cite any examples to support his allegation of Caesars 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 Caesars 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 Caesars 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 doesnt even have evidence to prove his honor or Caesars ambition. On what should the crowd base their belief in Brutus loyalty, his honor? He didnt prove his honor, so the crowd shouldnt 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 doesnt mean he or she will.