Mark Antony, following the murder of Julius Caesar, confronts a hostile crowd of Romans. In doing this Antony looks to salvage his friends great reputation and turn the crowd against the conspirators responsible for Caesar’s death. Through the use of pretentious Ethos and diction in the form of hackneyed verbal irony and repetition as he builds his argument Antony is ultimately able to shift the crowds opinion in favor Caesar.
In trying to convince a savage crowd of Roman’s that Caesar is not the horrid man Brutus has made him out to be Antony resorts to the classical appeal of Ethos. Through the use of this classical appeal he first establishes his argument by giving himself credibility. Antony begins his argument by saying, “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears” (1). He is trying to assert himself as an equal to the crowd. Antony is know as trustworthy and honest man in Rome and looks to use that to his advantage. This is continued into the next line when he states, “I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him” (2). Antony looks to open his speech by asserting himself as a man of ethics, not the friend to Caesar that he was. By establishing himself in this way Antony looks to slowly win the crowd over through word play as opposed to trying to out right convince them of his stance. This stance is revealed through verbal irony in the lines to follow.
Mark Antony looks to reveal his stance on Caesar’s death by using verbal irony. He does this by targeting Caesar’s assassin Brutus. He repeats the claim, “For Brutus is an honourable man” (3) throughout his speech. In doing so he looks to target the public perception of Brutus. He’s considered honorable but Antony wants his audience to lose this conception of him. In doing so he initiates verbal irony into his speech. As the speech moves on Antony slowly pushes the claim that Brutus is not honorable. He asserts that, “Brutus says he was ambitious” (14). By establishing Brutus’s opinions of Caesar he looks to disprove it. He provides sources of Caesar’s positive contributions to Rome such as, “He hath brought many captives home to Rome”(16). In doing this Antony looks to build up Caesar as an individual while tearing Brutus apart. This ultimately leads up to the main argument of his speech.
As Antony continues to build up Caesar this eventually concludes with a definitive climax. Antony states, “I thrice presented him a kingly crown, Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?” (23-24). Antony, by establishing himself as a trustworthy individual and tearing apart Brutus as an honorable one, finally brings his argument to a head. The Roman citizens were always afraid that Caesar was gaining too much power. Antony explaining that this wasn’t the case helps to turn the crowds opinion against Brutus. This argument is heightened through the verbal irony targeting Brutus from before and his characterizations of himself as being an honest man. These arguments of credibility through the use of ethos help drive his argument and ultimately sway the crowds unfavorable opinion of Caesar.
Through the use of Ethos to establish and take away credibility along with the repetition of verbal irony to strengthen his stance Mark Antony is able to shift a crowds opinion in favor of Caesar and against his assassin Brutus.