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Irony in Julius Caesar

Irony Examples in Julius Caesar:

Act II - Scene II

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"How foolish do your fears seem now, Calpurnia! I am ashamed I did yield to them...."   (Act II - Scene II)

A major source of irony in this scene lies in Caesar’s insistence on making decisions of his own will. He wants to decide for himself whether to go to the senate-house. Yet his decision is swayed in one direction upon Calpurnia’s insistence, and then the opposite way by Decius’s words. By the scene’s end, it can be argued that Caesar has no agency.

"I am no orator, as Brutus is; But, as you know me all, a plain blunt man,..."   (Act III - Scene II)

Once again, a stunning oratorical move by Antony. By depicting himself as plainspoken, he is concealing the subtle trickery woven throughout his speech. Antony knew precisely how to turn the crowd’s favor to his side. But, having done so, he pretends to be blind to his own charisma, which makes him all the more popular.

"If I were disposed to stir Your hearts and minds to mutiny and rage,..."   (Act III - Scene II)

Here is another brilliant rhetorical move by Antony. What he wishes to do is stir the hearts and minds of the public to mutiny and rage. By framing the possibility of mutiny as a hypothetical condition, he plants the seed in the mind of the public. He then deftly backs away, citing the nobility of Brutus and Cassius once more.

"For Brutus is an honorable man;(90) So are they all, all honorable men—..."   (Act III - Scene II)

Thus Antony begins to unspool a brilliant line of rhetoric. He punctuates his speech by returning again and again to the idea that “Brutus is an honorable man.” As Antony comes to reveal his true beliefs, the statement of Brutus’s nobility becomes increasingly ironic.

"Judge me, you gods! Wrong I mine enemies?(40) And, if not so, how should I wrong a brother?..."   (Act IV - Scene II)

Brutus’s rhetorical question drips with irony. In the wake of Brutus’s murderous treatment of Caesar, whom he had also considered a brother, these words offer no reassurance.

"Love, and be friends, as two such men should be;(145) For I have seen more years, I'm sure, than ye...."   (Act IV - Scene III)

While both Brutus and Cassius berate the poet for his sappy message of love and communion, it turns out that Brutus and Cassius finally come together over this shared disgust. Indeed, this instance of irony is the turning point in the scene. Note how the two men patch up their disagreements in the lines to follow.

"I am...."   (Act IV - Scene III)

The irony in this exchange is in the infantile nature of the back and forth between Brutus and Cassius. Their dispute is over which man is older and more able, and yet they argue the point much in the way a pair of schoolboys would.

"There is so much that thou wilt kill me straight: Kill Brutus, and be honor'd in his death...."   (Act V - Scene IV)

The driving force of this scene lies in the confusion Lucilius creates by convincing Antony’s soldiers that he is Brutus. In a touch of dramatic irony, the audience sees clearly that Lucilius is not Brutus. The trick works until, as we’ll see at the scene’s end, Antony recognizes the fraud.

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