By Madhu Srinivasan
Topic: Write an expository essay on the role of persuasion in the play.
Julius Caesar is a tragic drama written by William Shakespeare in 1599. This tragedy takes place in ancient Rome around 44 B.C when Rome was a great empire. Julius Caesar was a very important figure at this time as he was a very successful general who helped spread the Roman Empire and after his defeat of his political rival Pompey, he took on the role of becoming a dictator of Rome. But many citizens “feared that Caesar’s power would lead to the enslavement of Roman citizens by one of their own. Therefore, a group of conspirators came together and assassinated Caesar. The assassination, however, failed to put an end to the power struggles dividing the empire, and civil war erupted shortly thereafter.”1 The tragedy explains Caesar’s declaration of a dictator and the events later leading up to his assassination and “the subsequent war, in which the deaths of the leading conspirators constituted a sort of revenge for the assassination”1 and how the characters use persuasion to emphasize a specific point.
Various characters throughout the story use rhetoric appeals to persuade others. Persuasion is used very effectively when Anthony addresses a speech to the citizens of Rome. He manipulates the crowd and uses persuasion effectively and he shows the use of irony to turn the crowd against Brutus and the conspirators. Antony states “He was my friend, faithful and just to me (III.ii.82–96)” ).Through this statement, he had grasped the audiences’ attention as this statement states Antony’s close relationship with Caesar. Antony later states “But Brutus says he was ambitious, And Brutus is an honorable man…When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept…Yet Brutus says he was ambitious, And Brutus is an honorable man…..”(III.ii.82–96). Antony uses repetition to persuade the audience that he thought and he believed Brutus to be an honorable man despite the fact that he killed Julius Caesar! Later in the speech, Antony states “I thrice presented him (Caesar) a kingly crown, which he did thrice refuse. Was this ambition? Yet Brutus says he was ambitious, And sure he is an honorable man.” (III.ii.82–96)” ). In this statement, Antony is trying to persuade the audience to think that Caesar is a good man as he refused the crown and through this he is trying to emphasize on the goodness of Caesar. So Antony, a friend of Caesar, when speaking a funeral oration over Caesar’s body, he spectacularly persuaded the audience to withdraw their support from Brutus and condemn him and the conspirators as a traitor. Antony engages masterful rhetoric to stir the crowd to revolt against the conspirators.”3
Another evident example of persuasion occurs when Cassius flatters Brutus. In this scene of the tragedy, Cassius is knowledgeable enough to know that Rome would be harmed if Caesar became the leader and that he (Cassius) would need Brutus’ help...