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Julius Caesar: Close Reading Questions

Julius Caesar: Close Reading Questions

8.              Romans, countrymen and lovers” (Act III Scene2, line13)

a.       This is a speech based on reason (unlike Antony’s later, which is based on passion).  Why does Brutus say the crowd should believe him?

Because he thought that Caesar was ambitious, and posed a threat to Romans.

b.      How many words can you find that are antithetical (that is, in strong contrast), such as “less”/ “more”, “living”/ “dead”?  What is the cumulative effect?

-living & dead--
-silent & speak--
-less & more--
the cumulativ effect is that main point of view is always changing

c.       Many words and phrases are balanced: for example, “As Caesar loved me, I weep for him ; as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was valiant, I honour him”.  Find more, and say why they are calculated to win over the crowd.


9.              “Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears” (Act III Scene 2, line 71)

a.       Antony uses the word “honourable” to describe Brutus and Cassius eight times.  Each time the way in which it is spoken is different, and with a different purpose.  Carefully trace the transition from the first “For Brutus was an honourable man” to “They that have done this deed are honourable”, explaining how Antony’s oratory has led the crowd from one point of view to another.

        Your hearts and minds to mutiny and rage,
I should do Brutus wrong, and Cassius wrong,
Who, you all know, are honourable men: he is saying that no matter what they do they will always be honorable men and you could count on them to do what they say they are going to do no matter what circumstances they are in.


o       I will not do them wrong; I rather choose
To wrong the dead, to wrong myself and you,
Than I will wrong such honourable men. 
he is saying that they are such honorable men that he would rather be untruthful to himself and others than he would to the honorable men that they are.

o       For Brutus is an honourable man;   he is saying that Brutus is an honorable man and he is talking highly of him and that since he is an honorable man than the others should be honorable men.

o       And Brutus is an honourable man.
He hath brought many captives home to Rome
Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill: he is saying that he is a good man and that he has helped out with Rome and that he can be trusted.

o       Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And, sure, he is an honourable man. he is saying that if you are ambitious and you have the drive to do whatever you think is right and you do it then you can be honorable just like Brutus was/is.

o       Good friends, sweet friends, let me not stir you up
To such a sudden flood of mutiny.
They that have done this deed are honourable: he tells the crowd that if you did the deed then you are honorable but those who didn’t are not, so he is trying to get the crowed to see it the way that he see it to get them on his side.

What private griefs they have, alas, I know not,
That made them do it: they are wise and honourable,
And will, no doubt, with reasons answer you.
I come not, friends, to steal away your hearts:
I am no orator, as Brutus is;
he is saying to trust him like they trusted brutus because he is trying to make them think that he didn’t come to them to steal there hearts, when in fact he is trying to do just that.

o       They that have done this deed are honourable he is telling the people that if they do what he says that they can become as honorable as Brutus.



b.      In his second sentence, Antony says he is content to let Caesar’s good points be buried with his bones.  How many good points does he in fact make before this 35-line speech is ended?

Four separate times, he comments on his loyalty as a friend, his success in battles, his compassion for the people of Rome, and his modesty in refusing the crown three times.

c.       How does Antony deploy the words “ambition” and “ambitious” to win over the commoners to hid point of view?

He shows that Caesar’s actions were not overly ambitious, for example he comments that Caesar denied the crown, but was still ambitious. He comments on the noble and righteous deeds that Caesar did, and then refers to his title of ambitious given by Brutus.


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