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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: September ::
Friends, Romans, Countrymen
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1658  Thursday, 29 September 2005

[1] 	From: 	Mari Bonomi <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 27 Sep 2005 11:35:06 -0400
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 16.1631 Friends, Romans, Countrymen

[2] 	From: 	Steve Sohmer <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 27 Sep 2005 12:04:18 EDT
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1631 Friends, Romans, Countrymen

[3] 	From: 	Colin Cox <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 27 Sep 2005 09:03:04 -0700
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1631 Friends, Romans, Countrymen

[4] 	From: 	Sarah Cohen <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 27 Sep 2005 11:17:55 -0700
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 16.1631 Friends, Romans, Countrymen

[5] 	From: 	Larry Weiss <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 27 Sep 2005 15:32:26 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1631 Friends, Romans, Countrymen

[6] 	From: 	M Yawney <
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	Date: 	Wednesday, 28 Sep 2005 04:44:37 -0700 (PDT)
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1631 Friends, Romans, Countrymen

[7] 	From: 	Joseph Egert <
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	Date: 	Wednesday, 28 Sep 2005 13:09:45 +0000
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1631 Friends, Romans, Countrymen


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Mari Bonomi <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 27 Sep 2005 11:35:06 -0400
Subject: 16.1631 Friends, Romans, Countrymen
Comment: 	RE: SHK 16.1631 Friends, Romans, Countrymen

I have always found this use to be ironic.

They are "honorable" men in that they've risen up through the cursus 
honorum and are literally "honorable" in Roman political-structure 
terms.  (I.e. the equivalent of "noble" as it could be applied to, say, 
Essex in the court of Elizabeth: a matter of rank)

They are "honorable" men in that they have all served Rome and its 
people with honor in the past.

They are "honorable" in their own minds, acting so they 
claim/believe/say in order to preserve the Roman Republic from this man 
who would seize it as his own-King Caesar.

But in acting as they have, Mark Antony wants the people to realize, 
they have acted without honor, they have dishonored themselves, Caesar 
and Rome.

He is asking the Roman crowd to move from supporting the conspirators 
b/c they are "honorable men" to understanding the depths of dishonor to 
which they have sunk.

Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest-for Brutus *is* an honorable 
man- come I to speak at Caesar's funeral.

Think of it w/ the emphasis on "is" instead of "honorable" (which is the 
usual reading in one flavor or another).

Mari Bonomi

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Steve Sohmer <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 27 Sep 2005 12:04:18 EDT
Subject: 16.1631 Friends, Romans, Countrymen
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1631 Friends, Romans, Countrymen

Dear Mark (and Friends),

The main thing to understand about Antony's speech in the Forum is that 
it is a tissue of lies from the very beginning to the end. That is 
Shakespeare's point. And that why Antony begins with "Friends" -- the 
same co-opting tactic Henry V employs when he calls his commoner- 
soldiers "brothers."

As to Antony's memorable play on the words "honorable men," this has has 
no basis in Plutarch, but is Shakespeare's invention. Bloom and Jaffa 
thought that the "honorable men," of Antony's  oration came from 
Philippic 2.xii.30-31, where Cicero says that Antony characterized the 
conspirators in this style (Shakespeare's Politics, p.110). But they're 
wrong; Shakespeare's wordplay on "honorable" would not have been 
possible in Latin. In fact, what Shakespeare's cue for Antony's word, 
"honorable"- which in Latin was pius -- can be found in Philippic 13, 
wherein Cicero reads aloud an open letter from Antony, and offers a 
running commentary comprising moral, political, and literary criticism. 
In the punchline Cicero characterizes Antony as 'piusissimus,' an 
invented word which must have struck his listeners as sharply sarcastic.

One would do well to remember that Antony is a priest speaking about the 
murder of the Pontifex Maximus of Rome. Caesar had been Pontifex Maximus 
for 20 years, and had appointed Antony chief priest of the Lupercii -- 
which is why Antony ran the race in Act One. Antony would also become 
Caesar's Flamen Dialis. Brutus, on the other hand, was never a priest. 
Remember that Brutus and the killers greet Antony with 'reverence.'

Antony's best lie, I think, is his lyrical description of Caesar's 'mantle':

You all do know this Mantle, I remember
The first time ever Caesar put it on,
'Twas on a Summers Evening in his Tent,
That day he overcame the Nervii. (1706-10)

The image is vivid and affecting-and a lie. As readers of Plutarch would 
know, the decisive battle against the Nervii was not fought in the 
summer, but during the winter of 58-57 BC (Plutarch 773). Nor could 
Antony have been present in Caesar's tent that night; Antony did not 
join Caesar's army until at least three years after this battle.

 From this point Antony's lies become increasingly transparent.

Looke, in this place ran Cassius Dagger through:
See what a rent the envious Caska made:
Through this, the wel-beloved Brutus stabb'd,
And as he pluck'd his cursed Steele away:
Marke how the blood of Caesar followed it,
As rushing out of doores, to be resolv'd
If Brutus so unkindely knock'd, or no:
For Brutus, as you know, was Caesars Angel.
Judge, O you Gods, how deerely Caesar lov'd him:
This was the most unkindest cut of all.
For when the Noble Caesar saw him stab,
Ingratitude, more strong then Traitors armes,
Quite vanquish'd him:  then burst his Mighty heart,
And in his Mantle, muffling up his face,
Even at the Base of Pompeyes Statue
(Which all the while ran blood) great Caesar fell.
                                                     (1711-26)

Antony was not present in the senate during Caesar's murder. He could 
not know which holes in Caesar's cloak were made by Cassius, Caska, and 
Brutus, nor could he have witnessed Caesar "muffling up his face," nor 
Pompey's statue running blood.

What happens in the Forum is this: Antony, a priest, lies about the 
Romans killing Divus Julius, the Pontifex Maximus, a man-god descended 
from Venus, whose initials were J.C. Later, Antony lies about the number 
of wounds Caesar received; Plutarch says it was 23, but Octavisu changes 
that to 'three and thirty' ... for a rather obvious reason.

Hope this helps.

Steve Sohmer

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Colin Cox <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 27 Sep 2005 09:03:04 -0700
Subject: 16.1631 Friends, Romans, Countrymen
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1631 Friends, Romans, Countrymen

I am not sure why Antony repeatedly calls Brutus and others "honorable" 
as in "Brutus is an honorable man" and "they are all honorable men".

The question starts with Brutus' address. Anthony has to undo Brutus' 
logos with ethos before he can turn the crowd with pathos. The repeated 
'honorable' mention causes the crowd to examine the ethos of an 
apparently logical act (according to Brutus), i.e. the assassination of 
Caesar.

Colin Cox

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Sarah Cohen <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 27 Sep 2005 11:17:55 -0700
Subject: 16.1631 Friends, Romans, Countrymen
Comment: 	RE: SHK 16.1631 Friends, Romans, Countrymen

"Honorable" is ironic, but not openly so - after all, Antony is trying 
to win over an initially hostile crowd. I would play the word simply, 
without sarcasm. Antony is a master manipulator, and the role he has 
chosen to play is that of the plainspoken mourner ("I am no orator, as 
Brutus is [ha!], but as you know me all a plain blunt man, that love my 
friend..."). The reasonableness of Antony's tone allows his hearers to 
listen to what he is saying, which is actually quite a strong indictment 
of those "honorable men". Sarcasm would only turn the crowd off. It is 
the very repetition of the phrase "honorable men" that turns it into a 
(stealth) insult. The rhetorical spell would be broken if Antony were 
sarcastic, or *appeared* anything other than sincere. I would play the 
speech as Antony pretending to be genuinely puzzled as to why such 
honorable men would kill his friend - they must have had a good reason, 
since they are honorable - but what exactly was that reason, again? The 
sarcasm can start to come in later in the speech, when the crowd has 
come over to his side - by the time he says "I fear I wrong the 
honorable men whose daggers have stabbed Caesar", the word can't help 
but have some bite.

As for Brutus, he has left the scene - the fool.

I hope this helps.

Sarah Cohen

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Larry Weiss <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 27 Sep 2005 15:32:26 -0400
Subject: 16.1631 Friends, Romans, Countrymen
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1631 Friends, Romans, Countrymen

I think the answer is a combination of your suggestions 1 and 2.  There 
is no reason to think that Brutus is lurking behind some pillar, 
although it is likely he had spies in the crowd, so a desire not to 
offend him may also have played a part.  Brutus, as we know, requires 
more than the ordinary degree of flattery.

But to the main:  I think the repeated "honourable"s start out as 
ostensibly sincere and gradually become ironic.  Just as it would be 
horrid rhetoric to begin a speech with the peroration, so too it is most 
ineffective advocacy to begin ad hominem.  Brutus has just made an 
effective speech explaining the assassination as a regrettable but 
necessary act of patriotism -- "not that I loved Caesar less, but that I 
loved Rome more" -- which won over the mob.  For Antony to begin with 
"Brutus, the bastard, is a murderer" would hardly have been persuasive. 
  But as he marshals the evidence contradicting Brutus's theme of 
ambition the repeated "honourable"s take on a hollow and ironic ring, to 
the point that a pleb in the mob shouts "They were traitors: Honourable 
men!"

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		M Yawney <
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Date: 		Wednesday, 28 Sep 2005 04:44:37 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 16.1631 Friends, Romans, Countrymen
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1631 Friends, Romans, Countrymen

Antony is trying to persuade the crowd to turn against the conspirators.

He does so by enacting the process of being persuaded.  He states the 
assumption of his audience "Brutus is an honorable man" then speaks on 
their actions, noting evidence contrary to the assumption of honor. He 
does this until the contrary evidence overwhelms the assumption. At this 
point the actor can choose to play the line in a variety of ways, some 
of which you have noted.

Since the crowd is against Antony at the start of the speech so any open 
irony or sarcasm against Brutus would not be effective.

Also, Antony has pledged not to say anything against the conspirators. 
The statement that they are honorable is one of those stage tricks where 
a character sticks to the letter of a promise while subverting the 
intent of the promise.

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Joseph Egert <
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Date: 		Wednesday, 28 Sep 2005 13:09:45 +0000
Subject: 16.1631 Friends, Romans, Countrymen
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1631 Friends, Romans, Countrymen

Mark Alexander asks re Antony's repeated use of "honorable" in whetting 
the Roman mob into swords, redirected against Brutus and brethren: "Is 
he [Antony] being ironic, sarcastic, or sincere?"

Answer: All of the above, or nearly so. The arch-demagogue's use of the 
word itself is, for the most part, pseudo-sincere in each instance. Yet, 
given the surrounding sentiments that belie the word's truth, the speech 
as a whole moves from pseudo-sincerity through irony ending in vicious 
inflammatory sarcasm. The breath of Antony artfully swells the Roman 
tide that will drown the con-spirators.

Joe Egert

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