Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears

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. The speech is written in iambic pentameter. It means "Friends, Romans, fellow citizens, listen to me." It is taken from Act III, scene II.

About the speech


At this point in the play, the conspirators have murdered Julius Caesar. Against Cassius's advice, Brutus has given Antony permission to give Caesar's funeral oration provided he abides by the condition that he can praise Caesar how much ever he wants to but not blame the conspirators for Julius Caesar's murder. He also has to clarify to the citizens that he is speaking with the permission of the conspirators. Lastly, he has to speak from the same public pulpit as Brutus that too, after he finishes.

Brutus' speech, though an example of Brutus' oratorial skill, is cold, rational and aloof, while Antony's is personal, emotional, and appeals to the people, whose hearts he manages to sway through this speech and others throughout the rest of the scene.

As Antony's speech begins the Plebs are completely on the conspirators' side. Antony follows Brutus' instructions to the letter, but through a subtle shift of emphasis, most notably a continuous and intentionally ironic repetition of the phrase "But Brutus is an honourable man" (and variants), he manipulates the crowd, provoking their rage against the assassins and their grief for the lost Caesar. In so doing, he turns the tide of public opinion against Brutus, Cassius, and their confederates, and thus paves the way for the conspirators' defeat at the close of the play.

Relevance and cultural impact

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. It is also a demonstration of political populism.


The famous speech is alluded to 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 "high brow" for the crowd.

The speech

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears:
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:Bold text
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answered it.
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest –
For Brutus is an honorable man;
So are they all, all honorable men –
Come I to speak in Caesar’s funeral.
He was my friend, faithful and just to me:
But Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honorable man.
He hath brought many captives home to Rome,
Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill:
Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
When that the poor had cried, Caesar hath wept.
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honorable man.
You all did see that on the Lupercal
I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And, sure, he is an honorable man.
I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love him once, not without cause:
What cause withholds you then to mourn for him?
O judgment! Thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason! Bear with me;
My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
And I must pause till it come back to me.

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