Julius Caesar: Metaphor Analysis

The leading characters in the play are all public figures, and as such they are practiced speakers. In his book, Shakespeare, Mark van Doren points out that the characters all tend to talk in the same efficient, carefully structured way. But if all the characters are in a sense orators, some are better at it than others. The supreme orator is Antony.
Antonys funeral oration contains one of the most famous examples of irony in all literature. Irony occurs when the real meaning of the words is the opposite of the literal meaning. In his speech in Act 3 Scene 2, Antony plays on the word “honorable” like a musician extracting different nuances from the same repeated note. The first time he uses it (“For Brutus is an honorable man, / So are they all, honorable men”) the ironic intention is not yet apparent, at least to his audience. The audience in the theater will be alert to it, however, since Antony made his feelings and his intentions known in his last speech of the previous scene.
Before pausing to weep, Antony repeats the phrase “Brutus is an honorable man” three times, by which time his meaning is clear to everyone. But through his use of irony he  has managed to keep, at the literal level, his agreement not to speak ill of the assassins.
In the remainder of his speech, he repeats the word “honorable” no less than five times, in reference to Brutus, Cassius and the rest of the conspirators. The word acquires more and more ironic force with each repetition,  until it rings out as a fierce condemnation of the murderers.
Antony is also the master of another device often used in oratory, the rhetorical question. A rhetorical question is one that is posed for its effect; it does not require a reply since the answer is obvious. The effect gained through the rhetorical question is greater than would be the case if it were rephrased as a direct statement. For example, imagine Antonys rhetorical question, “Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?” rephrased as a statement, say, “This shows that Caesar was not ambitious.” Which is the more effective?
Brutus also uses rhetorical questions in his speech that precedes Antonys. An important distinction between the two speeches is that Brutus speaks in prose, whereas Antony speaks in blank verse.  The difference in the content and effect of the speeches is that Brutus explains his actions in a straightforward, logical, well-reasoned way, whereas Antony uses every trick in the book to stir up passion and create drama.