Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears
Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears is the first line of a famous and often-quoted speech by Mark Antony in the play Julius Caesar, by William Shakespeare. It is taken from Act III, scene II.
About the speech
In Antony's funeral oration, he makes an agreement with Brutus not to place blame on the conspirators. However, he manages to turn the mob against the conspirators.
Antony persuades the people of Rome to follow him and Caesar instead of Brutus. Brutus is a respectable man and is himself honourable, but most importantly he has mastered the art of rhetoric. Antony states in his speech that "[Brutus] Hath told you Caesar was ambitious", and then Antony retorts with "I thrice presented him [Caesar] a kingly crown which he did thrice refuse." By doing that, Antony carefully rebuts Brutus' statement that Caesar was ambitious and starts turning the crowd against the conspirators.
Throughout his speech Antony calls the conspirators honorable men. He then says, "You [the crowd] all did love him once, not without cause. What cause withholds you then to mourn for him?" This question goes against Brutus by questioning his speech when he betrayed Caesar. Now the crowd is starting to turn against the conspirators and follow Antony.
Antony then teases the crowd with Caesar's will, which they beg him to read, but he refuses. Antony tells the crowd to "have patience" and expresses his feeling that he will "wrong the honourable men whose daggers have stabbed Caesar" if he is to read the will. The crowd yells out "they were traitors" and have at this time completely turned against the conspirators and are inflamed about Caesar's death.
To refute Brutus' claim that Caesar was a heartless tyrant Antony recounts "how dearly he [Caesar] loved him [Brutus]". Next, Antony humbles himself as "no orator, as Brutus is" hinting that Brutus used trickery in his speech to deceive the crowd. After that Antony deals his final blow by revealing to the crowd Caesar's will, in which "To every Roman citizen he gives, to every several man seventy-five drachmas" as well as land. He then asks the crowd, "Here was a Caesar, when comes such another?", which questions the conspirators' ability to lead. Finally, Antony releases the crowd and utters, "Now let it work. Mischief, thou art afoot. Take thou what course thou wilt." After this the crowd riots and searches out the traitors in an attempt to kill them.
Even though in his speech Antony never directly calls the conspirators traitors, he is able to call them "honourable" in a sarcastic manner that the crowd is able to understand. He starts out by citing that Caesar had thrice refused the crown, which refutes the conspirators' main cause for killing Caesar. He reminds them of Caesar's kindness and love for all, humanizing Caesar as innocent. Next he teases them with the will until they demand he read it, and he reveals Caesar's 'gift' to the citizens. Finally, Mark Antony leaves them with the question, was there ever a greater one than Caesar?, which infuriates the crowd. He then turns and weeps.
Antony uses the "Ceremonial" mode of persuasion in order to convince his audience that Caesar is worthy of honour and praise. Antony must use "pathos" in order to appeal to the emotion of the audience. He must understand the disposition of the audience in order to successfully persuade his audience that Caesar truly was not an ambitious man.
Relevance and cultural impact
The line Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend your ears to me appears in "Stabbed in the back" song about the murder of Julius Caesar in "Histeria" TV series.
In the song "Act III Scene 2", by Saul Williams, he sings the lyrics "This one goes out to my man, taking cover in the trenches with a gun in his hand. Then gets home and no one flinches when he can't feed his fam. But Brutus is an honorable man." The title of the song refers to Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar", Act 3 Scene 2, the very scene the "honorable man" quote derives from.
The line "Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend your ears" appears in the Talib Kweli song, "Listen" from the 2007 album, "Eardrum."
James Joyce also references the line 'Brutus is an honourable man' in his book Ulysses
As an icon of rhetoric
The speech is a famous example of the use of emotionally charged rhetoric. Indeed, comparisons have been drawn between this famous speech and political speeches throughout history in terms of the rhetorical devices employed to win over a crowd; see, for instance, the 1935 essay by Kenneth Burke titled "Antony in Behalf of the Play," which ventriloquizes Antony's speech in order to reveal its manipulative devices (in Kenneth Burke on Shakespeare 2007). Bertolt Brecht has a demagogue trained in political rhetoric by an actor using this speech in The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui. Canadian politician Justin Trudeau also employs the speech in a eulogy to his father Pierre Elliot Trudeau. It is also a demonstration of political populism.
The famous speech is alluded to in the television series Rome, though the speech itself is left unheard. The character of Antony is later seen mocking Brutus, saying that maybe his speech was too "cerebral" for the crowd.
- Works related to Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears at Wikisource
- Julius Caesar, Act 3, Scene 2, Line 73.