Clever Rhetoric

Clever Rhetoric

Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar 3.2.42

Mark Antony

Mark Antony

  • Mark Anthony:
    Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears!
    I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
    The evil that men do lives after them,
    The good is oft interred with their bones;
    So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
    Hath told you Caesar was ambitious;
    If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
    And grievously hath Caesar answer’d it.
    Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest
    (For Brutus is an honorable man,
    So are they all, all honorable men),
    Come I to speak in Caesar’s funeral.
    He was my friend, faithful and just to me;
    But Brutus says he was ambitious,
    And Brutus is an honorable man.
    He hath brought many captives home to Rome,
    Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill;
    Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
    When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept;
    Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:
    Yet Brutus says he was ambitious,
    And Brutus is an honorable man.
    You all did see that on the Lupercal
    I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
    Which he did thrice refuse. Was this ambition?
    Yet Brutus says he was ambitious,
    And sure he is an honorable man.
    I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke,
    But here I am to speak what I do know.
    You all did love him once, not without cause;
    What cause withholds you then to mourn for him?
    O judgment! Thou art fled to brutish beasts,
    And men have lost their reason. Bear with me,
    My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
    And I must pause till it come back to me.

Clever Rhetoric

Depends on how it is presented, whether this is frankly manipulative, political, or if this is genuine. Or even clueless. Last time I saw it, I was entranced with the actor’s delivery, and upset that it wasn’t staged the way I thought it should be, wherein the theatre responds to the triplicate of calls, addressing every person.

Lear, out loud.

Like Lear, I was going to read and record me practicing this speech, more as a way for me to learn the words, but even as I rehearsed it, reading it out loud in my mind, looking for the stops and starts? I perceived, about halfway through, I was going to drop back into singsong.

A few weeks back, I was expressing the usual line, “I’m straight, white, male. Can’t dance — no rhythm and poor fashion sense.” One of the wholistic healers at my side, woman I respect greatly, huge props and shout-out, but she started on the on, “But you can…”

Shut. Up.

A person has to understand, respect, and embrace some limits. My lack of rhythm, or poor fashion sense? It’s not an obstacle — not a barrier. I understand that.

When I was thinking through reading this one aloud, after rehearing in my head, I realized I wasn’t going to do it justice.

Clever Rhetoric

First (probably only) audio version —

Click to hear

For a much better, more reasoned and logical discussion about this, there’s an older podcast, via In Your Ear Shakespeare, under the first of the Shakespeare Sunday selections, the second podcast in that series. Good discussion and far better reading of the text than mine. Far better. Hats off.

“I doff my hat to you good sir.”


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