In the Tragedy of Julius Caesar, the power of persuasion works spectacularly in the eulogy oration performed by Marc Antony. In Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power, Law 12 reads: “Use selective honesty and generosity to disarm your victim.” The victim in this case would be the citizens of Rome; they lost their well-beloved leader. Greene also mentions: “One sincere and honest move will cover dozens of dishonest ones/ open-hearted gestures of honesty and generosity bring down the guard of even the most suspicious people/ once your selective honesty opens a hole in their armor, you can deceive and manipulate them at will.” Antony opens with one of the most warm and kind-hearted commencements in the English language promulagating to the Universe, “Friends Romans Countrymen, lend me your ears.” After his resounding greeting to the People, Marc Anthony proclaims, “I come to bury Caesar NOT to praise Him.” In reality he is being crafty. He has all intentions of praising Caesar, just not conspicuously. He uses covertly persuasive rhetorical tactics to convert the multitude to mutunity. When Anthony says, ‘He was my friend faithful and just to me,’ he is praising Caesar, but he follows it up with a clever circumvention by saying, “But Brutus says he was ambitious, and Brutus is an honorable man.” Think back to when Brutus told Antony, “You shall not in your funeral speech blame us but speak all good you can devise of Caesar.” Marc Antony’s speech starts out by promising not to praise Caesar, but he does not fulfill that request. He tells Brutus he would not blame the conspirators, yet he does by saying the words ‘honorable man’ repeatedly and sarcastically. Antony speaks his words that when taken at face value denote him ethical in keeping his promise of speaking the conspirators blameless, but the manner in which he extravagantly lauds Caesar with a rhetorical dexterity that might even make Aristotle jealous impugns Brutus’ integrity and makes Brutus look absolutely terrible to the people [remember he dealt the fatal blow to Caesar]. This makes any malicious motive on Antony’s behalf seemingly ridiculous to even consider. His rhetorical prowess is his secret weapon. As he’s getting the people to side against the conspirators he exclaims, “You all did love him once not without cause, what cause withholds you then to mourn for him.” Back to Robert Greene now, I want to mention the 13th Law and that is to, “Appeal to people’s self-interest.” Note the verbiage ‘appeal to’ not “satisfy” their self-interest. Anthony mentions that Caesar left a will for the people. He waits to disclose the will till the end of his dissertation in order to hold the people’s attention. In order to cement his place in the assemblie’s high esteem, he promises them an inheritance (one that Brutus neglected to mention *implying possibly he was hiding it from them); he reads Caesar’s will which renders to every several citizen seventy-five drachmas. This certainly appeals to everyone as it is an extremely generous gesture, and this completely wins even the hesitant crowd to Antony’s side. But just because the will says that the people will get that money, doesn’t mean that it will in good faith be executed. This is how he manipulates the throng of people. He never does render the people their seventy-five drachmas after making a definite declaration of their entitlement to it, but by promising it, he appealed to their self-interest, and because thereunto the people were so galvanized from Antony’s riveting delivery, they looted and burned the house of Brutus and the conspirators. The money wasn’t even on their mind; havoc was. In reality Antony satisfied his own self-interests; not only by keeping the money [with the other two trimvirs] but in turning the people against the conspirators causing them to flee and eventually conquer a war against them. In conclusion he uses selective honesty in his speech by making not so much his words incendiary but his delivery.
“Mischief, thou art afoot, take thou what course thou wilt!”