(Article published in the Feb 14, 2007
issue of Manila Standard Today)
The question I asked last Wednesday was answered by the lecture given by Atty. Eugenio Villareal, Jr., the first of nine mandatory continuing legal education talks organized by the Romulo Mabanta Buenventura Sayoc & De Los Angeles in Baguio City last week-end providing its lawyers and their guests with 18 units of compliance with Bar Matter No. 850.
Mark Anthony is not held up by the law schools as the model oral advocate because, although his oration at Caesar’s funeral was long in skills, it was short on values. Not without reason does Richard A. Possner agree, in his Law and Literature, with Nicolas Brooke’s assessment in Shakespeare’s Early Tragedies, that Mark Anthony’s speech was “an exhibition of the destruction of reason by rhetoric.”
Right from the start, he lied. “I come to bury Caeser, not to praise him,” Mark Anthony says at the beginning of his speech. But, he immediately proceeds, not just to rebut Brutus’ contention that Caesar was ambitious, but also prove the contrary, that Caesar was very generous. By the time he finished, Mark Anthony had so canonized Caesar that all he had to do, in order to get the crowd wanting to kill Brutus and the conspirators in revenge, was to ask the rhetorical question, “Here was a Caesar! When comes such another?”
he argued his case, Mark Anthony was similarly less than truthful. True,
in seeking to convince the audience that Caesar was not ambitious, Mark
Anthony cited specific events that seem contrary to being ambitious.
He recalled that the ransom for Caesar’s captives enriched, not
Caesar, but the public treasury; that Caesar wept when the poor cried; and
that Caesar thrice refused the kingly crown that Mark Anthony himself
presented during the recent feast of the Lupercal.
But, Mark Anthony craftily omitted to say that Caesar went to the
Senate on that fateful ides of March precisely because he was told by
Decius Brutus that the Senators intended to make him king on that day.
Caesar decided to go to the Senate, contrary to the pleadings of his wife Calpurnia and the soothsayer’s advice to “beware” that day, after Decius Brutus told him, “…the senate have concluded to give this day a crown to mighty Caesar. If you shall send them word you will not come, their minds may change…” Caesar was unable to resist the inducement and walked right into the conspirators’ trap.
Moreover, Mark Anthony violated the conditions of his permit to speak at the funeral. Brutus told him, “Mark Anthony, here take you Caesar’s body. You shall not in your funeral speech blame us, but speak all good you can devise of Caesar.”
Instead of complying, Mark Anthony, before reading Caesar’s will, asks the crowd to look at Caesar’s mantle and assigns one hole after another to the stab of each of the conspirators. He was not a witness to the killing, so how could he know? But, he ignores this detail, and says,“Look, in this place ran Cassius’ dagger through; see what a rent the envious Casca made; through this the well-beloved Brutus stabb’d; mark how the blood of Caesar follow’d it, as rushing out of doors, to be resolved if Brutus so unkindly knock’d or no.”
content with stating the fact that Brutus was one of many traitors, Mark
Anthony paints him as the most wretched of them. “For
Brutus, as you know, was Caesar’s angel. Judge, O you gods, how dearly
Caesar loved him! This was
the most unkindest cut of all; for when the noble Caesar saw him stab,
ingratitde more strong than traitors’ arms, quite vanquish’d him: then
burst his mighty heart.”
Finally, the speech of Mark Anthony is pockmarked by discrepancy of the action with the word. Aside from the famous manipulation of the word “honorable” which by ironic repetition he skillfully converted to “hateful”, Mark Anthony said one thing and did another. For instance, he said, “if I were disposed to stir your hearts and minds to mutiny and rage, I should do Brutus wrong and Cassius wrong…I will not do them wrong; I rather choose to wrong the dead, to wrong myself and you than wrong such honorable men.” But then, he proceeded to whet the crowd’s curiosity about Caesar’s will, by saying he did “not mean to read” thereby putting them in unbearable suspense and telling the crowd it was not good for them to know of its contents. And, after further heightening the suspense with a digression on the brutality of Caesar’s death, ended up with reading it anyway.
Mark Anthony tells his audience “I come not, friends, to steal your hearts away,” and, in false humility, professes that he had “neither wit, nor words, nor worth, action, nor utterance, nor power of speech, to stir men’s blood…” But he makes up for his pretended inability to persuade by making an argument most difficult to rebut, namely, exposing the wounds of Caesar, saying “Show you sweet Caesar’s wounds, poor poor dumb mouths, and bid them speak for me…” In less poetic words, lawyers say, when they run out of logical arguments, “res ipsa loquitur.”
In contrast to Mark Anthony who attacked his enemies, Brutus, in his speech that was delivered ahead of Mark Anthony’s, limited himself to justifying his deed. “If there be any in this assembly, any dear friend of Caesar’s, to him I say, that Brutus’ love to Caesar was no less than his. If then that friend demand why Brutus rose against Caesar, this is my answer:---Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more.”
Brutus did try to be convincing through the use of repetition and antithesis, but, because he was so transparent, he came out all the more emotionally detached from his audience.
As a consequence, his appeal to emotion became more general and invoked only his audience’s sense of patriotism, leaving them with no more than the assurance that “as I slew my best lover for the good of Rome, I have the same dagger for myself when it shall please my country to need my death.”
His less than virtuous speech at the funeral notwithstanding, however, I am personally not prepared to abandon Mark Anthony as an advocate. At the end of Julius Caesar, after Brutus had committed hara-kiri Roman style, i.e. running on his own sword, Mark Anthony gives Brutus the ultimate tribute.
was the noblest Roman of them all. All
the conspirators, save only he, did that they did in envy of great Caesar.
He only, in general honest thought and common good to all, made one
of them. His life was gentle
and the elements so mix’d in him that Nature might stand up and say to
all the world, ‘This was a man!’
Anthony knew how to recognize a man more noble then himself when he saw
one and had the moral strength, at the end of the day, to give credit
where credit was due. No too
many of the self-righteous among us are on record doing that.